Market research continuously proves the obvious: a person needs to know you, your reputation, and your product or service before he/she is willing to make a purchase. Building visibility, familiarity and a positive reputation takes time and a series of memorable contacts. How many contacts (or “touches”) it takes depends on many factors, such as price, complexity of product, “need vs. want,” competition, etc. But the truth is, the sales process is exactly that – a process.
How many touches are required on average before the sale? In the case of an impulse purchase, only one contact is needed, but this usually happens inside a favourite store where there is already a level of confidence and trust, or the price is so low that it does not matter to the buyer.
Research suggests that three touches are needed; or is it five, or eight, or twelve? The only right answer is “it depends.” But, following a schedule and maximizing the value of each contact will decrease the time, effort and total cost of each sale.
Let’s assume that the goal is to create an efficient selling engine generating the most revenue at the least cost of sales. This is often called “maximizing ROI.” Return On Investment or Return On Interest is optimum where the three primary components of the sales triangle (Advertising, Publicity, and Sales) intersect. When they are in proper proportion and balance, the result is maximum income at minimum expense.
Most marketers agree that there should be a blend of advertising and publicity (or public relations), which eventually brings a customer and a salesperson together at the point of sale. A good starting point for thinking about this blend is the ‘Rule of Seven,’ formulated by marketing expert Dr. Jeffrey Lant. Lant states that to penetrate the buyer’s consciousness and make significant penetration in a given market, you have to contact the prospect a minimum of seven times within an 18-month period.
Each component has its strengths:
- – The job of the Sales department is to close the transaction: overt and costly, but necessary.
- – Advertising is overt, and has a wide reach at a reasonable cost per contact.
- – Publicity tells your story in depth, increases credibility and visibility. When done right, it has a very low cost per contact.
The goal is first to build familiarity and trust. Each type of contact has its own level of importance. Aggressive display ads get attention, but not as much as personal sales calls. The cost of such ads can be quite high. A 500-word PR article about your company has a different effect and can be quite cost efficient. A well-orchestrated sales plan uses a mix of all types of contacts (touches), including social media.
Advertising sells – PR tells – Sales Takes the Money
Advertising – The traditional advertising media are print and broadcast, but online advertising is now taking over the ad budgets. Advertising messages tend to be explicit and directed. Their intent is to initiate the sales process, which would be fine if the customer were also ready to take action.
Public Relations – PR tells your story, delivers information, builds familiarity and confidence, and generates credibility. Publicity is an integral part of the sales process because it can be the most cost efficient and persuasive.
Sales – The function of Sales is to cause the exchange of money for goods or services. A sales call series usually consists of an introduction, a presentation, and a close. These are almost always live events between a sales person and a prospect. And, because of the personal nature, they tend to be the most costly part of the sales mix.
Much of social media can be categorized as “light touch” in that a Facebook wall post or a Twitter Tweet can go by so quickly that the message is not absorbed, except perhaps subliminally. The unanswered question is how are these social media actions valued, if at all. Do they just create more noise in the channel that causes the buyer to overlook the message completely? For that matter, how many banner ads do people actually see?
So, which part of the entire sales process is best? The most cost-effective? The most productive?
Obviously, the answer is…
Footnote: Comparative Ad Rates (examples)
Of the four following examples of print and online advertising, and online publicity, which meets your criteria of a wise media buy?
Note: Media figures in this table were taken from publishers’ websites and are believed to be accurate. However, they are for illustration only.
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