(Updated: December 13, 2016)
B2B PR tactics are all about getting your name into people's minds. For example, what pops into your head when you hear such phrases as "Just do it," or "Breakfast of champions"? No doubt specific brands come right to mind. Why? Repetition.
The same is true of plays, movies, and books. Think of the simple lines, "Show me the money," "Elementary, my dear Watson," or even "Wax on, wax off." These can't help but conjure up cozy scenes and even familiar emotions within us. Why? Repetition.
I was reminded of the importance of repetition when I read an interview in Newsweek with former president Bill Clinton where he talked about the need for the Democrats to practice what he called “relentless explanation” to cut through the fear and confusion sown by the Republicans.
Now whatever your political persuasion, there is something powerful about the term “relentless explanation.” We see it all the time throughout political campaigns, which are in essence marketing campaigns -- with a brand (the candidate) and a message. We saw a prime example of this in the recent 2016 election. Amid everything that happened, we will probably never forget Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again!" How many times did he say it? You can't deny that repetition of his key message worked in his favor.
In marketing, this idea is known better as effective frequency. Whatever particular phrase you might use, the process is the same. You hear it a couple of times in the background, and you may even be oblivious to it at first -- but as it continues to return, it sinks into your subconscious, and becomes a part of your mindset.
Now, I'm not talking about brainwashing. Rather, this is a reasoned argument that cuts through the clutter and noise of day-to-day life, and leads to an "Aha" moment. In essence, you're left thinking, "So that's what it means."
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If you’re a would-be athlete, as I am, you would have had the experience of being given instructional tips that initially don’t quite make sense but eventually, through trial and error, sink in and become part of your own tool set. As an aspiring tennis player, for example, pros have serenaded me with instructional tips like “low to high,” “brush up on the ball,” “twist." And while my body seems to want to do everything but, I at least now think about the terms as I’m hitting and they have become internalized.
All of which brings me back to marketing. Here we get into how repetition works effectively for some of the best B2B companies. Just as repetition works in teaching, it’s also one of the most influential PR tactics to keep on hand. Now I’m not just talking repetition for repetition’s sake. But repetition that is packaged into clear, coherent statements. When it encapsulates what you do and why it matters, that is the right kind of repetition.
Let me explain.
How to Use Repetition In Your B2B PR and Marketing
Create a Memorable Message
B2B PR prospects often ask us how we begin work with new clients. Our answer is that we spend time learning their business, and as part of that process, conduct a messaging workshop. In the workshop, we drill down and create the words and phrases that best define what the company does and what differentiates it from everyone else. Out of the workshop come the words and phrases that are relentlessly used – we couldn’t resist – in all the client’s communications.
Even though there may be several possible phrases or words that fit what the client does, it's important to whittle it down to the best two or three as to not overwhelm your potential B2B leads. The power of repetition is most potent when you use a few phrases frequently in your PR tactics, as opposed to using so many different phrases that it becomes an incoherent mess.
Take, for example. State Farm insurance, with its memorable jingle, "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." We see these words everywhere -- we could probably sing it on cue. Why? It's catchy, and with the repetition, it has wormed its way into our heads. And these simple words embody what State Farm is offering : reliability. We hear that jingle, and we feel like we can trust the company.
This messaging doesn't just include the words of your message. Research shows that color has an incredible impact on memory recall. Make sure that your brand's colors are all represented repeatedly throughout your message -- in text, image, or video form -- to make an even more memorable impression.
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Repeat It Enough Times...
By now, you probably understand the importance of repeating your message. But the question now remains -- what's the magic number? How many times should you repeat your message before you see results? As advertisers know, you typically need to see an ad five to seven times to remember it. It's what advertisers call the rule of 7.
Back in 1885, one of the great influencers and early pioneers of marketing, Thomas Smith made a similar observation. In fact, he specified that most people need to see or hear an advertisement about 20 times before they're compelled to make a purchase. His formula worked something like this:
1. The first time a man looks at an advertisement, he does not see it.
2. The second time, he does not notice it.
3. The third time, he is conscious of its existence.
4. The fourth time, he faintly remembers having seen it before.
5. The fifth time, he reads it.
6. The sixth time, he turns up his nose at it.
7. The seventh time, he reads it through and says, “Oh brother!”
8. The eighth time, he says, “Here’s that confounded thing again!”
9. The ninth time, he wonders if it amounts to anything.
10. The tenth time, he asks his neighbor if he has tried it.
11. The eleventh time, he wonders how the advertiser makes it pay.
12. The twelfth time, he thinks it must be a good thing.
13. The thirteenth time, he thinks perhaps it might be worth something.
14. The fourteenth time, he remembers wanting such a thing a long time.
15. The fifteenth time, he is tantalized because he cannot afford to buy it.
16. The sixteenth time, he thinks he will buy it some day.
17. The seventeenth time, he makes a memorandum to buy it.
18. The eighteenth time, he swears at his poverty.
19. The nineteenth time, he counts his money carefully.
20. The twentieth time he sees the ad, he buys what it is offering.
A recent study from Microsoft confirms Smith's original findings, noting that depending on the person, it takes between 6 and 20 times of repeating a message before you achieve your desired result.
Yet, do you hold back for fear of sounding like a broken record, and scaring off B2B leads? In reality, it sounds more like that to you because you're surrounded by this message on a daily basis. For your audience, this could be the first time they hear it. And when they do hear it repeatedly, it only serves to lend an air of credibility to your message. Because of this repetition, you ascend the ranks in listeners' minds and secure a spot as one of the best B2B companies they know.
Take, for example, the ever-popular Verizon Wireless commercial, with its message, "Can you hear me now? Good," used upwards of seven times in just one commercial. I don't think that actor ever said anything except those six words -- and it worked! Verizon became known and trusted as the "everywhere" network of cellular phones.
And In Multiple Ways
So now that you've determined what the key words of your message are, your customers need to keep hearing what you do. Years ago, you were limited to print publications, television and radio to get your message out. The digital age has made brand messaging more far-reaching and diverse than ever before -- meaning that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, a brand can reach you with its message.
It’s helpful not only to repeat the words but to say them in multiple venues – be it in a video, podcast, article, or white paper. People have different learning styles and may prefer one medium over another. In short, make it accessible to everyone, no matter their preferences.
Think of popular brands and how they reach you. Do you see them on social media? Do you read their blogs? Do you see them in print publications? How about native advertising? It just goes to show you how it pays to be in multiple venues. In one venue, an audience may be oblivious to you, while another venue absorbs them into your message.
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So I won’t be accused of not practicing what I preach, here’s a quick summary of my key points.
- Define what you do in a way that is clear, engaging and understandable, honing in on key words and phrases.
- Explain it in multiple venues
- Repeat, Repeat, Repeat, Repeat, Repeat….
There you have it -- now you know one of the major keys to success for many of the top B2B companies. How are you using repetition in your business? I'd love to hear from you.
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