Expose Yourself: The Bottom Line On Staying “Top of Mind”

In a 1997 episode of the Seinfeld sitcom, Jerry and the gang wrestled with the notion of “good naked” vs. “bad naked”. What on earth does that have to do with business? Well, it occurred to me that the same critical eye might be applied to marketing exposure, specifically to the concept of “top of mind” awareness. What is good “top of mind” to one might be bad (i.e., overexposure) to another. Eye of the beholder, you know.

If you’re the marketer, of course, being “top of mind” is typically a good thing (if it holds that “there’s no such thing as bad press,” how can there be bad top-of-mind awareness?). If you’re the marketer’s target, however, too much information is, well, TMI.

Where’s the middle ground? How can a marketer — and that should include all business professionals — create awareness that’s generally respected and positions the sender as a trusted authority?

Provide inherently valuable content. Content is king. In fact, in today’s barrage of information, the thoughtful crafting of content (determining the right message time after time) is more vital than ever. Think of it this way: with so many information channels — from print to electronic media, from visual to auditory, from experiential to subliminal — each of us must turn on filters. We must weed out anything that doesn’t seem important, relevant and timely. From the marketer’s viewpoint, we’d love for every email to be opened, for every direct mail piece to generate a response, for every ad to be viewed and every word of every article to be read. Reality demands more reasonable expectations. Industry standards for email “opens” are generally between 15 and 20 percent (though TipTopics clients enjoy average open rates between 35 and 40 percent). Successful direct mail response rates typically run in the one to two percent range. Your print ad’s success depends on many factors: design, placement, frequency, etc. And readers are likely to reward — with their attention — those articles that deliver perceived value by being relevant, timely and interesting.

Here’s how to make that happen (read on for a 10-point action plan):

Respect your audience. Before we get to that action plan, a few words about your audience and your media choices. First, keep in mind that while it’s okay from time to time (and especially in context) to remind people of the business you’re in, what usually works better than the hard sell is giving away information, tips, and general guidance based on your experience and expertise. Remember, you’re asking your audience to grant you little corners of their lives, if even for just a minute or two with each message. Make sure your content respects them, values their time, and rewards them for that privilege.

Know your audience(s). Of course, crafting successful messages demands first understanding your targets. By segmenting your overall contact list of friends, family, acquaintances and associates into meaningful sub-groups, you can enhance relevance via different messages per segment. For example, you can take your list of contacts and designate each individual as a Suspect, Prospect, Key Prospect, Ally, or Client. I consider a “Suspect” to be an acquaintance, a friend or someone who could benefit from, but has not demonstrated a near-term interest in my services; a “Prospect” is someone who has either expressed some interest, or whom I perceive as potentially needing my services in the not-too-distant future. A “Key Prospect”, on the other hand, is someone I believe has both a near-term need for my services and has expressed interest. “Allies” are those persons who could influence others to utilize my services (Allies can, naturally, also be called “Influencers”). Clients, of course, are just that, but fall into one of two camps: current and former. Obviously, as interactions, interest and relationships change, your targets can and should move into different segments over time.

Choose your media. In general, how do you communicate? In person? By phone? Via email? Texting? Tweeting? On the printed page? All of the above? Knowing your audience and understanding their preferences as well as the relationship between message and media should give you a sense of which platform is appropriate at any given time.

Bottom Line:

Okay, here’s that ten-step action plan to help you — in the context of the information above — expose yourself (think good “top of mind”) as a go-to expert/trusted advisor in your area of expertise:

  1. Know thyself (what you’re good at and why targets should contact you when they need your services)
  2. Determine your key branding messages
  3. Identify and regularly update your targets by segment
  4. Determine frequency of contact by segment</li><li>Determine your best communications vehicles
  5. Plan and carefully craft your messages
  6. Work your plan
  7. Get help if needed; it can save you time and money
  8. Follow through
  9. Above all, believe in yourself
  10. Now go conquer the world. (Need help? I’ve got you covered. Contact me.)
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~ by Bob Chenoweth on 03/27/2010.

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