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How Visibility Pays Off

By: Marcia Yudkin

Marcia Yudkin's nine books include Six Steps to Free Publicity, Persuading on Paper and Marketing Online, all from Plume/Penguin Books. Based in Boston, she serves as a commentator for WBUR radio, and her Marketing Matters column is syndicated by Paradigm, The Syndicating Agency. Her Web site is at http://www.yudkin.com/marketing.htm.

The following formula describes the role of visibility in building a profitable business reputation:

VISIBILITY + COMPETENCE + WORD OF MOUTH = REPUTATION.

Advertisers and marketers have proven that the more times someone runs across your name, the more predisposed they are to buy. The effect grows when your name appears in contexts that imply that you are highly competent. If you speak before a group or publish articles in your area of expertise, you have a direct opportunity to demonstrate your competence.

Because of media publicity's indirect indication of ability, someone who hears about your work in the Dallas Morning News and then on Dateline NBC is more greatly influenced than by encountering your own advertisement or sales letter twice. The impact grows again if uninvolved third parties praise you, whether that's at a cocktail party where someone asks if anyone can recommend a good veterinarian, or in your brochure where named customers give your cleaning service rave reviews.

Thus, familiarity matters, but it performs the most magic when linked with demonstrations of competence and recommendations that can be trusted.

The impact of visibility cannot, however, be quantified and judged the way you can compare the circulation of a publication in which you've placed a classified ad, the number of readers who responded and those who ultimately bought. But don't be fooled by hardnosed marketers who argue that therefore publicity is not worth your time. Just be patient while the impressions add up. A large number of small mentions tend to produce a greater memorability than a small number of big "hits."

Whether you're just launching a business, or have a lengthy track record, you can take advantage of this marketing dynamic.

Inventory your preferences: Do you enjoy speaking in front of groups? Writing? Talking head to head with prospects? Basking in the media spotlight? Pursue your most comfortable opportunities first, and stretch a bit with an option that feels like a challenge.

Consider ways to ensure that prospects will not only have heard your name but know you're good at what you do. If you're a designer, make your business card a knockout sample of your work; if you're a consultant, create a newsletter that highlights your strategic thinking.

Invest time and energy in integrity and smooth customer relations so that your word of mouth is positive. Unfortunately, dissatisfied customers tell many more people how they feel about you than do the happy ones.

Resolve to keep at it whether or not the strategy feels like it's working.

Go to another networking dinner and another even if you didn't appear to turn up a hot prospect; send out another press release even if not one person called after your media appearance. You're only getting close to the critical level of visibility when people say, "Gee, you really get around, don't you?" or "I see your name everywhere!"

© Copyright 1999 Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.

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