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Advertising Once Is Not Enough – Get Your Frequency Up!!

Advertising Once Is Not Enough – Get Your Frequency Up!!


by Hugh Duffy


When it comes to advertising, most small business owners think about the miraculous television commercial that was a home run and created a mountain of business. Examples of one hit wonders in advertising include Apple's Super Bowl commercial in 1985 for the Macintosh personal computer. The ad mocked Corporate IBM users as lemmings walking off the cliff. By all means, tiny Apple Computer used the "spray-and-pray" approach and hit the jackpot. This hail mary pass became a hit and is often considered one of the best ads of all time. In other words, they focused on reach rather than frequency and got lucky.

In marketing your accounting business, one of the concepts that many accountants lose sight of is frequency of their message. In other words, how many times does their target audience need to be exposed to their message before it triggers a response? All too often, accounting firm owners will try something once, expect immediate results, and then draw the conclusion after a couple of weeks that it was not effective. The reality is that advertising works on frequency of delivering the message over and over again to break through the clutter. Building a trusted brand and strong reputation locally is a journey, not a one-time test.

Advertising works on frequency. Yes, your message and positioning need to be compelling and timing is key but advertising and marketing work gradually over time. Frequently, accounting firm owners promote their business using a spray-and-pray methodology. For example, they will try a direct mail marketing program and expect immediate results. While this occasionally happens, the reality is that you need to create multiple touch points whereby your message reaches your target audience from a combination of mediums. For example, your target audience might receive a couple direct mail letters from your accounting firm, check out your firm website, stumble upon online reviews written in Yelp or Google, saw that you are speaking at an upcoming meeting, noticed retargeting advertising for your firm and you have ten contacts in common on LinkedIn. Yes, many small business owners are nosy Rosie's in small communities so feed their curiosity. In other words, using a diversified marketing approach starts to create awareness of what your accounting firm does, makes your firm appear larger than it is, and creates a local buzz gradually over time with frequent messages that reach your "target audience", the small business owner in a particular industry.

To illustrate my point on frequency, how many times were you subjected to the following marketing campaigns:

- Got Milk? - Milk mustache campaign in television, magazines and elsewhere - 20 year campaign

- Joe Camel cigarette advertising – magazines and billboards

- Progressive Insurance featuring Flo

- Dunkin Donuts featuring Fred the Baker

- ED ads for Viagra, Levitra and Cialis

- Where's The Beef for Wendy's – Clara Peller – mid-1980s

All of these examples were supported by very high frequency rates over extended periods of time.

If these campaigns don't resonate with you, how about some of these classic Nike campaigns:

- "Just Do It" – Started with 80 year old jogger – Late 1980s

- "Bo Knows" – Bo Jackson duz it all. Cross training (1989)

- Michael Jordan and Mars Lee (Spike Lee) – Air Jordan – Late 1980s

- Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi – Guerilla tennis (1995)

- If You Let Me Play Sports – Let girls play sports (1995)

- I'm Tiger Woods and Nike Golf (Late 1990s)

- The Jordan Shrug (2006)

If you are one of those accountants that struggles with using examples outside of the accounting industry. Here is a campaign that has been extremely effective for generating national awareness for BDO and elevating their status within the industry.

- Forensic commercial

- Governmental Contracting

- E-tailer and tax commercial

- Accounting audit services

- Multi-national commerce and accounting

So how frequent must your message reach and activate your audience? Most research indicates that a frequency of less than three is a waste of money and more than seven in a very short period of time starts to have diminishing returns due to wear out. In working with small accounting firms, the challenge with limited marketing budgets is to reach the target audience 2-4 times within 2-3 months. The other factors to consider as part of this equation are the creativity of your message, how compelling it is, how memorable, and is your message consistent.

At the end of the day, your target audience wants to categorize your accounting firm into a box. Your local reputation and image will gradually take shape if you select a compelling message, stick to it for several years, and build on it over time with repetition (aka – frequency). And when the prospective business owner needs your service and transitions into search mode, you want to be at the top of their consideration set.

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Hugh Duffy, BYF CEO and Co-Founder

Hugh is the consummate marketing coach for accountants and takes pride in the impact that it has on their practice, and lives. Hugh has more than thirty years of marketing experience. Since 2003, he has been teaching accountants on how to improve their marketing and make more money from their accounting practice.