Focus on Share of Mind, Not Reach and Frequency

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Harrod's is every American's vision of a stuffy British retailer. Walk in and you can buy a scone, a pair of rubber Wellington boots or a uniform for your kid's school. Five floors jammed with beautifully arranged, very proper British wares. If you need to go to the loo, they'll charge you a pound to get in. And there, among the spotless sinks, toilets and urinals, on the wall, in a plastic case, you'll find an ad for Givenchy!


If advertisers have become this desperate to grab our attention, we're all in trouble, aren't we?


Think for a second about the number of trade magazines you get. Junk mail. Voice mail. And of course, unsolicited e-mail messages. I got more than 50 today. Even if I did nothing else all day, I'd be hard pressed to spend more than a few minutes with each one of these well-intentioned, focused pleas for my business.


Spam, as I explained to my son Alex last week, got its name from the Monty Python sketch in which a restaurant serves just about anything you'd like - but it always comes with Spam. Eggs and Spam. Duck liver with Spam. Bacon and Spam. You get the idea.


Spam, in all its forms, is our arch-enemy as advertisers. It is a marketing problem that no amount of money can solve. The more we advertise, the worse the problem gets.


The Internet was supposed to solve our clutter problem. The Internet, with its vast, unsullied, non-geographical boundaries, was supposed to have enough room for all the ads we'd ever want to run. And of course, it does. Unfortunately, while the Internet is huge, our brains our not.


There are currently 37 million .com Web sites. That's about two Web sites for every person online. Obviously, with 37 million sites to choose from, it's not likely that every person you're hoping to reach is going to stumble onto your site.


What to do? I have two suggestions.


First, invest in your media footprint. Just because there's a lot of clutter doesn't mean you have to be invisible. There are some big winners on the Net, and in each case they've succeeded because they've identified key traffic hubs and spent big to make noise there.


Without these hubs, you're invisible. Without them, you have no chance to grab the consumer's attention before they make decisions about who to trust and what to buy.


Second, we all need to alter our thinking. It's much less important to think about reach and frequency in this world than it is to think about share of mind among target consumers. To put it differently, after you've got a consumer's attention by buying media, what are you going to do with it?


The old way of thinking was to just interrupt as many consumers as possible and hope a few buy. We can't afford that any more.


Instead, marketers must actively shepherd the consumer, moving them from stranger to friend and friend to customer. Once you've got permission to market to a consumer, you're required to use it over time to teach, cajole and persuade that consumer.


This seems so obvious, but I bet you're not doing it. Do you know the lifetime value of every customer? Have you discovered the best possible way to turn a visitor to your site into a first-time buyer?


The portals and other advertising platforms do an amazing job of delivering an audience. It is perhaps the most measured, most coveted, most interactively focused audience in the history of media. And now it's up to you, the marketer, to take this opportunity and run with it. Because the advertising is interactive, it's not as easy as designing some ads and running a slate. You've got to use direct-marketing tactics to test and measure and determine which works best. And then there is the key moment when you've got enough of a relationship to turn that hard-won attention into permission to sell, and, ultimately, a sale.


As a percentage of your media budget, this process isn't unbelievably expensive. But it is important.


So, the next time your friendly restaurant offers you Spam, bacon, Spam and eggs, politely decline. And remember that attention is precious and permission is an asset.

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