Six, seven, eight, nine, ten, then we start all over again

The importance of multiple touchpoints in marketing campaigns

Getting the post in the morning? You’re probably seeing dozens of messages from all sorts of businesses. Brochures, direct mail, coupons — you name it.

Commuting to work? Yep, you guessed it — billboards, radio ads, people handing out flyers.

At your desk, reading your emails? You can’t escape them.

Consumers are bombarded with messages all day, every day. They flick past, half noticed, the memories of them stored away for later acknowledgement — soon to be forgotten. We simply don’t pay them much attention.

As designers, we’re especially aware of this thanks to a phenomenon called banner blindness. Lots of bits of content fight for people’s attention online. Anything that looks even vaguely like an ad often gets glossed over in favour of other elements users think are more important.

If you’re trying to convert prospects or get your audience to take some kind of action, you’re facing an uphill battle getting a response from them. A lone email, no matter how good, simply won’t cut it.

Overcoming lazy and forgetful consumer behaviour

From the burgeoning movie studios of the 1930s to those click-bait ‘news’ sites that just won’t go away, savvy organisations know that, in marketing, persistence is key. If you want to engage people, you need to make sure they come across your brand not once, not twice, but six, seven, or eight times.

The first time, people might notice you, then soon forget you exist. Next time there may be a vague sense of familiarity. Much later, when they’re finally ready to take action, you need to be there, front and centre. If you gave up contacting them months ago, another brand will swoop in.

Some call it the rule of seven. Others think nine might be the magic number. Hubspot say eight. Salesforce say six to eight. The Online Marketing Institute say it could be more than 13.

Whatever the number of touchpoints you need to turn your prospects into customers, it’s a lot more than the couple of emails many marketers have in their campaign plans.

At Integral, we’ve often been asked to develop an isolated email or a postal mailer. But a single piece, no matter how well designed, often isn’t the answer. You can optimise it as much as you like, but it simply won’t have the impact it would have as part of a longer multi-touchpoint campaign.

How many touchpoints is enough?

The rule of seven might be the most common figure thrown out there. But there are lots of factors involved.

If you’re selling a low-value product, you can probably get away with fewer touchpoints. People don’t need to think for very long if something isn’t going to cost them much. On the other hand, prospects will need a lot of convincing before committing to a high value ask. Double digits is a safer bet for a complicated proposition.

The number of asks also depends on how engaged your audience is. With a campaign targeted at people you know are interested in your brand you might just get away with a couple of emails and a landing page as a minimum.

Increasing the number of touchpoints

Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to reach people multiple times across different channels. Anyone with an account can post updates. Anyone with a credit card can buy ads. Of course, we’d always recommend finessing your approach with help from external experts, but the important thing is to keep the momentum going.

Social media is useful for maintaining a presence, but don’t forget the tried and true channels. If you’re running an email campaign, think about adding in a direct mail element. Follow up with phone calls. Buy some bus stop ad space. The more opportunities you give people, the more likely it is they’ll remember you.

Word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways of guaranteeing a new conversion, and a direct endorsement is worth a lot more than a cold email. That’s one of the main reasons for the rise of social media influencers. Although they’re being paid, the message can be very powerful if it has the feel of a personal recommendation.

Although you can’t make people talk about your brand, you can maximise your chances of it happening. A clear message, a well-thought out website, a strong visual identity — all these elements make sure that when your moment comes, you’ll be ready to make the most of it.

Think quality over quantity

While more touchpoints is usually a good thing, they shouldn’t come at the expense of quality communication. Don’t compromise your brand just for the sake of getting someone’s attention. What sort of message are you putting out there once you’ve got their attention?

If all you ever do is the hard sell, you’re going to put off a lot of your potential customers. For many businesses, a content marketing approach works best — give people something valuable to read, watch or listen to and they’ll warm to your brand. Keep doing that and you’ll have lifelong fans.

And don’t forget to mix things up a bit! Email after email might be the cheapest option for you, but people will quickly get bored. Why not create a campaign video? Or write a how-to guide on something you know a lot about. You could even start your own magazine on a topic related to your industry.

Key takeaways

We’ve only lightly touched on some big topics. People have written entire books on how to perfect the sales funnel. But it all boils down to one point: keep trying new ideas until you stop seeing profitable returns.

Next time you’re in the planning stages for your campaign, push things a bit further. Can you add in a mailer or another few emails? Until you’re well into double digits for your number of touchpoints, anything more you can do to extend and join up your campaign will make it all the more effective.