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For Advertisers: Once is not enough: The Importance of Frequency in Advertising

“I just want to try advertising once to see what kind of results I will get.”

This is a statement I hear from business owners all too often that will, in the end, cause a huge deal of aggravation, wasted expense and ultimately disappointment with an advertising campaign. What’s the reason for this? In advertising, once is just not enough.

A successful advertising campaign has so many variables to consider: Where do you advertise? What size is the ad? What product or service are you advertising? How does your message and call to action relate with your target audience? These are all important questions, but one of the most important (yet often overlooked) questions when considering the effectiveness of your campaign is: What is your ad frequency?

How often you advertise and how consistently your target audience engages with your brand through advertisement is one of the keys to a successful program.

A Common Misconception

We all advertise for the same reason, right? We want to bring customers through the door and sell more products (or services)! Most business owners I have spoken with over the years grasp that concept. What I’ve noticed, however, is those same business owners don’t truly understand the process a customer goes through, starting way before seeing an advertisement, leading up to purchase. In their minds it’s a seemingly simple equation:

–  I take out an advertisement.
–  Targeted potential customer, John, sees the advertisement.
–  John walks in to my store and buys my goods or services. 

If the first-time ad doesn’t go according to this equation, then the advertising doesn’t work and I just lost money. In fact the only true part of that last sentence is – If you only ran the ad one time, you probably did just waste your money. In reality, your advertising did better than you thought, but without frequency you never got the chance to experience it.

So, why is frequency so important?

It all comes down to the buying cycle.  Research shows a consumer goes through a similar process every time they consider a purchase.  The higher the ticket price or the more personal it is, the longer the buying cycle.  A typical buying cycle a new advertiser must take into account is:

#1 – Awareness – Before a potential customer even enters the buying cycle they must know you exist. This means they will consider your company once they enter the cycle and also allows you the ability to bring potential customers into the purchase cycle for your product or service (See #2).

#2 – Interest – After your customer realizes you exist; you have the opportunity to then influence the buying cycle by creating interest in what you are selling.

#3 – Need – If you have done a good job of creating interest, it will push the customer to determine if they have a need for your product or service.

#4 – Comparison – This is the point at which knowing your competitor is crucial. The value of the product and buying risk for the customer will determine how thorough this stage will be.

#5 – Purchase – The customer has satisfied the previous four steps and makes the purchase.

#6 – Satisfaction – Once the purchase is made the customer then enters post-purchase mode, in which they determine whether the product lives up to their expectations.

#7 – Referrals – This is also a post-purchase activity, but extremely important with the rise of websites like Yelp (a recent study showed nearly 90% of customers are influenced by a positive review online). If everything is as “advertised” customers will gladly send their friends and family to you. Momentum begins from this point.

So what does frequency have to do with the buying cycle?  Depending on budget and urgency there could be weeks, months or years between Step 1 and Step 5. Frequency in advertising is what pushes you through the steps and why the more you advertise consistently, the better your results become. Different studies have suggested the frequency of advertising should range from three to seven times depending on the product, cost, target audience and medium. Industry opinion can dictate up to eleven impressions before action is taken.  After this, however, consistent advertising serves to reinforce your brand, and provide top of mind awareness among your current customers while simultaneously engaging new customers in the buying cycle.  

Here today gone tomorrow advertising is one of the most expensive actions that a business owner can take.  Patience and effective frequency pays off in the long run, generating new business and building a sustainable foundation for your brand. 

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