The marketing rule of 7, and why it's still relevant in B2B

The marketing rule of 7 is one of the oldest in the book. Jonathan Hedger explores how relevant it is for B2B businesses today, and how marketers can execute it

Experienced marketers know that your chances of converting a prospect to a customer at their first interaction with your brand are extremely low. There are exceptions to this, but they generally exist with low-value consumer products that can elicit a spontaneous purchase decision. A chocolate bar at the checkout is a classic example.

So what about high-value B2B products? We know that a B2B purchase is more complex than a B2C one. The time-to-purchase tends to be much slower and there are usually multiple decision-makers involved. This makes converting B2B customers much harder. It’s also why the 'rule of seven' is your friend.

What is the marketing rule of 7?

The rule of seven quite simply states that it takes an average of seven interactions with your brand before a purchase will take place.

This makes sense. How many of us would buy a highly priced item from an unfamiliar brand? It’s likely we would do some research and gain a certain level of familiarity before we go ahead and make a purchase. By that time we should have the confidence to know the price is fair, the quality is good enough and anything else that may get in the way of making a decision.

"Most B2B buyers are already 57% of the way through the buying process before the first meeting with a representative"

Accenture, 2018

What defines an interaction?

An interaction is literally any mention of your brand, either positive or negative. For example:

  • A TV advert
  • A call from a company representative
  • Reading a review about your company
  • Seeing an advert in a magazine
  • Receiving an email from the brand
  • Hearing a friend mention the brand
  • Seeing the brand mentioned in an article online
  • Seeing a billboard on the side of the road
  • Seeing a banner online
  • Seeing the company come up in a google search
  • Seeing the company exhibiting at or mentioned at an event

The list is almost endless. Any one of these brand interactions, as long as it’s positive, will nudge the prospect towards a purchasing decision.

Why do we need a rule of 7?

We live our lives standing mid-flow a torrent of information. If someone heard about our brand and thought “that’s a great product, but I just don’t need it right now”, would it be reasonable for us to expect them to remember the name of the company three month later? Probably not.

That’s why the rule of seven is useful. Just because someone matches your target buyer persona doesn't mean they are ready to buy your product or service right away. It may just be that at this moment in time, their pain is not great enough for them to prioritise a purchase.

You need to maintain visibility, remind prospects of your existence, and ensure that when that pain-point reaches a threshold, you are the company they think about – not one of your competitors.

What is the psychology?

What happens when we encourage repeat interactions? 

  • Your brand remains front of mind. People can be forgetful and easily distracted. A bit like learning lines or a new language, repetition aids recall. It’s no different with your brand.
  • It makes sales conversations easier. Any salesperson will tell you a sales conversation is infinitely easier when the prospect has heard of your brand. Your sales conversions will increase if you become better known amongst your target market.
  • It generates awareness across multiple decision-makers. In B2B it’s rarely one person involved in the decision-making process. Make efforts to ensure you are appealing to and visible to every type of decision-maker.
  • It enables you to be visible over long periods of time. Given the slow time-to-purchase in B2B; a marketing strategy that supports the rule of seven means you can maintain visibility for long periods of time. 
  • You handle various objections over time. There may be a variety of reasons why the prospect doesn’t want to do business with you. By encouraging multiple interactions, you can make efforts to address various objections using blog content or case studies for example.

What marketers can do to capitalise on the rule of 7

So if the rule of seven comprises of encouraging repeat interactions with prospects, how do you do this?

  • Have a very clear idea of who your customers are. You need to clearly define the characteristics of your target customer in order to help you understand where they hang out. A good way to do this is to develop buyer personas.
  • Develop a plan to make yourself visible amongst your target customers. Using your buyer persona, you should be able to develop an idea of which events your target customer attends, which magazines or journals they read, which websites they visit etc
  • Activate your digital remarketing channels. According to Brafton, the average bounce rate for a B2B website is 61%. That means that six out of 10 website visitors leave without visiting another page. Digital remarketing on Google, Facebook and Linkedin in the weeks after they have left the site is a low cost, low effort way to give you visibility among people that have shown some previous interest in your brand.
  • Activate your digital prospecting channels. You can use your buyer persona data to develop a plan for digital prospecting. Using channels like Google, Facebook and Linkedin, you can make yourself visible amongst new prospects that fit your buyer profile.
  • Have a content marketing plan that covers the whole buyer lifecycle. There are various stages that the customer goes through as they consider a B2B purchase. Make sure that you have the customer lifecycle covered in your content plan.
  • Amplify your content into social channels. Ideally your content will get you some SEO visibility, but you should also amplify your content into social channel using both organic and paid techniques. With budget you can get your content in front of your target profiles using Linkedin and Facebook.
  • Have an email nurture campaign. Don’t think of email as an opportunity to make sales. Think of it as a way to help and nurture your prospects and customers. You should try and target people with relevant content based on their stage in the buying cycle. Drive email opt ins by offering helpful free content that they can subscribe to.

With these initiatives in place, you will start to develop a level of visibility that will mean your prospects are being more frequently exposed to your brand. The result will be an increase in brand searches, an increase in the number of enquiries, and an increase in sales. Don’t expect overnight results, this requires a consistent, long term effort.

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