Whether you contact your prospects via direct mail, print advertising, e-mail, sales calls, matter how you contact them, it’s important that you contact them frequently, according to a recent article by Larry Merserearu—small business consultant, speaker and author in the field of marketing and promotion.

Your prospects are inundated with promotional messages. Estimates have run from 200 to over 1,000 messages per day. Even at the low end, you are competing with at least 200 pitches a day. If it’s been three months since your prospect has heard from you in some form and your competition has been in their face a dozen times in the mean time, who do you think will come to mind first if they’re ready to buy?

Larry Merserearu believes that prospects have to receive a message from you at least once a month through the year just to keep your name in their cerebral database. Just because you mail them a postcard every month, don’t assume they received the message each time. Just because you ran a monthly ad in a trade publication they’re likely to read, don’t assume they saw it every month. Now, if you run that ad and mail that postcard, odds are pretty good that they caught your message at least once. And if they saw both, it’s that much better.

What if you ran the ad, sent a postcard and sent an e-mail? How about a weekly email? Now the odds are really in your favor. The message: Don’t rely on one medium to do all of the work. Gatekeepers sometimes throw direct-mail pieces away. People don’t read their trade magazines absolutely every month...and don’t read absolutely every page when they do. E-mail is easy to delete or “unsubscribe,” or worse: “block sender.” But if you’re hitting them with three or four different media, you’re going to be hard to miss.

For those of you who sell products that are seasonal, or that fall into specific cycles, it’s important to maintain contact all year. Don’t let your name fade from memory. Then in the weeks leading up to the buying season, intensify the contacts. Increase the ad size. Mail more frequently. When it’s time to make the buying decision, you’ll have that “top-of-mind” awareness we all hope for.

Don’t let up during your slow times or off-season. If you let them forget about you, you have to start all over again when the “season” rolls around. You make life difficult for your sales people when they have to remind prospects who you are and what you can do for them every time they call!

However, there is such a thing as too much contact, says Larry Merserearu. It’s especially true if you contact people by telephone. There’s a fine line between “persistent” and “pain in the butt.” In print, broadcast or in the mail, there’s a point where you’ve done enough and to continue to rack up contacts would be a waste of money. Overkill can even be damaging.

Let’s talk about telephone first. If you’re trying to reach a prospect you’ve never spoken to before, you should never call more than once a week. They may have been out of town the first time, or just not ready to talk. Or, the worst scenario: they don’t know who you are. If they don’t know who you are, you have to do more marketing.

The next question is, “How many weeks do I keep trying?” The old wisdom was that people said “no” four or more times before they said “yes.” And the same old wisdom said that most sales people quit trying after two or three calls. After leaving five or six messages, it’s easy to get discouraged. At that point, Larry suggests that it’s time to look for a new contact in the organization.

Larry says that he always tries to enter at the highest level possible. For him, the ideal contact is the vice president of sales and/or marketing. If he can’t get to first base with them, he’ll try to talk with their assistant. If he can’t get to first base there, he’ll drop down to a marketing or sales director or manager. (Yes, a director or manager is a step DOWN from the vice president’s assistant.) The mission changes when you drop down a level: Now you’re trying to get someone to be your advocate and get you in to the vice president.

The assistant and the director probably don’t have buying authority, so don’t waste your breath trying to make the sale. You have to make them understand how much you can do for the vice president, and how important it is for you to get to talk to them...and what a hero they’ll be for putting you through.

In advertising and promotion, anything more than about two contacts a week is overkill. Again, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advertise or mail more often than that. They won’t see you every time. But there is a point where they are seeing you often enough to know you and love you. Surely you’ve seen TV ads that got really old after about a dozen exposures. It may have been effective the first few times. But it can start to wear on you after a while. Don’t waste precious resources on overkill.

Source: Larry Mersereau (July 3, 2007). How Often?. “Bringing In More Business…”(electronic newsletter); Larry Mersereau (July 10, 2007). How Often? Part 2. “Bringing In More Business…”(electronic newsletter)