When marketing, travel through the four dimensions of time

We all know the importance of good timing. But for marketers, timing is also comprised of four dimensions, each of which is critical to the success of your programs. Smart marketers who understand, deploy, test and measure the four time dimensions of marketing can deliver breakthrough results without breaking their budgets. First, a quick overview of the dimensions:

Timing – Defined as the nearness of a message to a customer event that triggers that message, i.e., send an e-coupon for wireless computer peripherals within 72 hours of the purchase of a laptop computer with built-in wireless. This is the most commonly used and understood temporal dimension of marketing. While timing is important, it is not by itself a silver bullet for success.

Frequency – Defined as the number of times you choose to send a similarly themed messages before you stop further attempts, i.e., customers who purchased a laptop with built-in wireless should receive three messages within the first ten days of purchase, and at least one message per quarter for the first full year of the relationship.

Pacing – Defined as the amount of time between messages of a similar theme,  i.e., send message #1 for wireless peripherals 72 hours after purchase, and if no reply, then send message #2 seven days after purchase, and if still no reply, send final wireless message #3 ten days after purchase. The implication is that Pacing and Sequencing (see below) are tightly tied as the content of messages #1 through #3 changes.

Sequencing – Defined as the act of coordinated, separate but related content, i.e., send email message A prior to sending email message B. Often, these messages escalate in urgency. A point of caution about Sequencing; try to avoid escalating economic incentive as you run the risk of training your audience to wait for better offers and deeper discounts.

Here’s a good example of how well the four dimensions can work together:

Working recently with two Boston-based agencies on a Green campaign, we started a program by having consumers sign up via a website to receive a free “energy audit” of their home which focused on finding high-consumption appliances that could be replaced with Energy Star efficient models. 

Timing: Within 24 hours of completing the audit, the consumers received an email with a savings-focused message and a link to the audit results and recommendations on products. 

Frequency: Three emails were sent over the period of a month, each emphasizing a slightly different value point around conservation. Themes explored were Green Responsibility, Savings, and Future Generations. 

Pacing: In this case, the messages were spaced every week leading up to the expected payment of the next utility bill,

Sequencing: Using segmentation and psychographic models, the proposed sequence emphasized Green and Future messaging content ahead of economic incentive. The resulting program was well developed, well balanced, and certainly positioned to produce significant learning.

There are no silver bullets, but there are incredible gains to be made if you understand and enable the temporal components of marketing.  In addition to the utilities industry, clients in both financial services and retail have been able to achieve double digit lift without increasing their economic offer simply by getting their “Timing” right. The good news is that you can do the same. The better news is that you don’t need specialized tools or technology. The best news is that it isn’t as hard or as expensive as you think.

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