of the most common dilemmas I encounter with many clients is the
preconceived notions of what it takes to make sales. The problem with
these preconceived notions is that they often misdirect people into
thinking there is empirical evidence that lays out the sales cycle in
absolutes. But, that just doesn’t exist.
So, what IS real? Exposure is a real tangible element in a marketing and
sales cycle, because without it, you can’t sell a thing. Just as a candle
under a bucket yields no light, a product or service that no one knows
about will yield no sales. People have to know about you to do business
Whether you are selling a book, a product or a service – exposure is the
first and primary goal of marketing. While exposure doesn’t guarantee
sales, any hope of generating sales can only result from getting in front
of your potential consumer. But, when your product receives that coveted
exposure to the masses, the X-factors in play become whether or not
consumers will like what they see. Your product will either be exactly
what the consumer is looking for, or it won’t.
I was talking to my senior strategist and he reminded me of the launch of
New Coke back in the 1980s. Coca-Cola decided that Pepsi’s gains in the
marketplace meant that consumers wanted a sweeter-tasting soda pop than
Coke’s patented formula delivered. So, they scrapped their mainline
product altogether and introduced New Coke with a multi-million dollar ad
campaign featuring prime time darling Bill Cosby.
Their new product launch tanked. Consumers wanted their old Coke back. The
moral of the story is that everyone in America had been exposed to New
Coke. But, it also appeared that no one in America wanted to buy it.
That’s the flip side of exposure, because great marketing doesn’t make
something a quality product, nor can it fool people into wanting something
they wouldn’t ordinarily buy. Your product must be able to stand on its
own once it receives the exposure.
In the absence of empirical data, let’s take a look at some anecdotal data
– specifically, your own. Ask yourself some simple questions. When was the
last time you made a purchase of anything after being exposed to it only
once? When was the last time an advertisement or an article about a
product or service made SUCH an impression on you that you immediately
made arrangements to buy it? If you’re like most consumers and business
decision-makers, the answer to that question is either never, or rarely.
The first step was that you were made aware of it, and perhaps after
several exposures to that item, you then became interested in it.
Interest is what comes as a result of exposure, but interest doesn’t
necessarily get you reaching for your check book. Interest usually spurs
you to get information. You research it online, you ask friends about it,
you ask business associates to weigh in on it – you collect your OWN data.
And if you still want more information, you may decide to contact the
company and ask them about it. My point here is that there are hundreds of
ways to act on interest that does not involve making a purchase, and each
of those actions represents a series of decision points, at which you may
still decide not to buy.
Short of climbing inside our heads, which some researchers are doing these
days under the category of “behavioral research” to track how consumers
make buying decisions, there is no ironclad way to track what happens with
the consumer from the point of exposure to the point of sale. In the
advertising world, you’ll find a wide range of references about the
frequency of advertising required to CAUSE a sale. But, my problem with
those theories is they don’t take into account what actions the buyer took
during the “interest” phase of their buying process that really caused the
decision to buy.
And that is my point, and it’s why I know the value of PR and it’s how
I’ve been able to sustain and grow a thriving PR agency over the course of
20+ years, through recessions and economic downturns and absolute market
upheaval. It’s because of this one truth: You can’t sell anything without
exposure that creates interest in the minds of the consumer. And PR is the
most cost-effective and successful way of achieving that exposure and
So, while good marketing and PR may not make record-breaking sales a
mortal lock, you will never even be in the game without it.
Marsha Friedman, CEO of
Relations, is a 20-year
veteran of the public relations industry, who provides PR
strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers,
authors and professional firms.
She is also the author of the book, Celebritize Yourself.
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