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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistMon, Apr 14, 2014 7 min read

How Many Times Do Prospects Need To See Your Stuff Before They Buy?

Inbound Marketing TacticsThis is one of the age-old questions for marketers, CEOs and business owners all over the world. One study indicates that subjects “voiced a greater preference for the product after receiving three ad exposures” compared to those who received “either one or five.”

Other experts contend, however, that “a consumer won’t purchase your product or service until it has been a part of your campaign seven times.” Still others say that 20 is the magic number.

For inbound marketers, the question becomes a little less complicated, and when you factor in today’s buyer behavior, I think the magic number of exposures actually becomes completely irrelevant. Let me help you see why.

While there are a lot of theories and hypotheses around this number, our perspective is a little different. People make purchase decisions ONLY when their pain becomes acute. This event (the pain becoming acute) is impossible to predict and impossible to influence. Marketers might think they can influence it, but that remains to be proven.

Here is an illustration: I have been looking for a programmable thermostat for my home HVAC system for months. I am past the awareness stage (I know about them, what they can do and how they help). I am past the consideration phase (I know enough about them to make a decision, have looked at specific brands, have talked to experts and know what features I want). But I haven’t bought one yet. Why?

First, I’m not "safe" yet. I can't install it myself (I am project impaired). But, more important, my pain isn’t acute. My current thermostat is just fine. My house is warm when I want it to be and cold when I want it to be, and my energy bills are within reason. No amount of advertising is going to get me to buy -- not one more impression, not 20 more impressions.

Should my pain become acute, I would likely go with the company that has been helping me or with the unit manufacturer that did the best job of educating me on the features it offers. Now, what might move me is strong messaging directed at my concern -- like free installation when I buy a unit or free programming, setup and app installation on my iPhone.

This story teaches us that the marketing is more about understanding your prospects' pain, developing messaging that assuages their pain and, most important, creating an experience for your prospects that gets them to feel safe. I would continue to argue that the more quickly you get them to feel safe, the less marketing touches you require in order to get them to want to buy your product or service.

Inbound marketing or, more specific, the content marketing part of inbound marketing does an amazing job of creating the experience, educating your prospects, moving them down the sales funnel and getting them to feel safe -- as opposed to the traditional stuff that tries to sell to them, entertain them or grab their awareness as many times as possible.

Inbound marketing’s application of content all throughout the buyer’s journey makes it much easier to earn a prospect’s attention. Here is how inbound marketing and content could have been applied to my thermostat search:

Take a look -- I saw an ad on TV for the Nest. I noticed an end-cap at Home Depot for the Nest. A few months later, I saw an end-cap at Lowe's for a Honeywell product. I went online and did research, read reviews, looked up product features and checked out the pricing. Then I spoke with my HVAC guy to get his opinion. Here I am today, still not a customer. But what if the Nest had handled me differently? What if in the TV ad, there was a free report or e-book on how easy the product is to install or to be programmed on my device? I would have visited the company website (which I did later anyway) just to get that info. I would have downloaded it, and the company would have received my email address. They could have been emailing me for months with tips, insights and other information that would have nurtured me along.

Even the current site, which looks great and has amazing videos, still doesn’t have any offers other than "Buy Now!" Had the video on installation included a gate for my email address, I gladly would have provided it. Speaking of videos, this one (linked above) did exactly what I was looking for: It showed me how easy it is to install the product. I’m almost feeling safe.

Today’s marketers should worry less about how many times people see your ads and more about creating a remarkable and amazing experience for all your prospects. It’s the content that becomes the backbone of this experience, including videos, infographics, e-books and other tools strategically placed up and down the sales funnel, all with one goal in mind: Make them feel safe.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.