In marketing a business, one of the concepts that many business owners lose sight of is the frequency of their message.

In other words, how many times does their target audience need to be exposed to their message before it triggers a response?

All too often, small accounting firm owners will try something once, expect immediate results, and then draw the conclusion after a couple of weeks that it was, or was not, effective. This is analogous to a weight loss program when someone gets discouraged with the results after two or three weeks and they draw the conclusion that the weight loss program does not work. Building a brand and strong reputation locally is a journey, not a one-time test.

Advertising works on the basis of frequency.

Yes, your message and positioning need to be compelling and timing is key, but advertising and marketing work gradually over time. Frequently, accounting firm owners promote their business using a spray-and-pray methodology. For example, they will try a direct mail marketing program and expect immediate results. While this occasionally happens, the reality is you need to create multiple touch points whereby your message reaches your target audience from a combination of mediums.

For example, your target audience might receive a couple of direct mail letters from your accounting firm, notice a “new” sign in front of your office, stumble upon your blog post while researching a financial issue, see that you are speaking at an upcoming trade association meeting, and they are connected to the same people on LinkedIn. Yes, many small business owners are nosy Rosie in small communities so feed their curiosity.

After hearing the accounting firm name multiple times like a hot new restaurant in town, the prospective business owner conducts an online search and reads several online reviews about what a great accounting firm you have and places your firm’s reputation into the memory bank. In other words, using a diversified marketing approach starts to create awareness of what your accounting firm does, makes your firm appear larger than it is and creates local buzz gradually over time with frequent messages that reach your “target audience,” the small business owner in a particular industry.

So, how frequently must your message reach and activate your audience?

Most research indicates that a frequency of less than three is a waste of money, and more than seven starts to have diminishing returns. At small accounting firms, the challenge with limited marketing budgets is to reach the target audience two to four times within a short period of time (say, eight to 10 weeks). The other factors to consider as part of this equation are the creativity and consistency of your message, and how compelling and memorable it is.

At the end of the day, your target audience wants to categorize your accounting firm into a box. Your local reputation and image will gradually take shape if you select a compelling message. Stick to it for several years and build on it over time with repetition and frequency. When the prospective business owner needs your services and transitions into search mode, you want to be at the top of their consideration set.

Hugh Duffy

Hugh Duffy

Hugh Duffy is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Build Your Firm, a website development and marketing company for accounting firms.