One 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 with you.
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 interest.
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.