Timing is everything, they say. And they say that about EVERYTHING -- relationships, comedy, real estate, health treatments, economic reforms, and of course, sales and marketing.
So, let's talk about timing in your marketing communications.
Before we do, I want to make it clear what we're NOT going to talk about: we're not going to discuss which days of the week to post on social media, or what time of the day is best to get the most email opens.
Not that those details aren't important, but there are literally tens of thousands of blogs that talk about that kind of timing, and I don't think you need another article telling you generalized info like "Thursdays are great to send marketing emails" because of x-y-z.
No, today we're going deep into a concept that will transform how you approach and execute your marketing communications FOREVER.
And that's Ideal Duration.
In this article, I am going to break down one of the most important timing strategies you need to keep in mind for marketing success. Those are Ideal Duration and Max Duration.
Even though I developed these intertwined approaches to be used within a complete marketing blueprint -- a proprietary process called the Marketing RAMP® -- both the concepts of Ideal Duration and Max Duration can be used with almost any marketing campaign or sales funnel. Provided that your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) has automation capabilities intelligent enough to handle it, that is.
For that, my personal recommendation is HubSpot, which is one of the most versatile and powerful CRMs. It seamlessly marries marketing, sales, and services so everyone on your team is working off the same system record. This makes life easier for everyone and most importantly, it improves prospective and existing customer interactions and relationships.
Other CRM systems like Keap/Infusionsoft, Klaviyo and Active Campaign are also capable of incorporating the timing and logic rules of Ideal Duration and Max Duration,
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Back to Ideal Duration and Max Duration...
As mentioned, even though I created Ideal Duration as a valuable function within the Marketing RAMP®, the concept can be applied to any singular marketing campaign for more success.
But in order to demonstrate how Ideal and Max Duration work in their "ideal" form, I'm going to explain them within the framework of "Mapping the Customer Journey," which is one vital step in the Marketing RAMP®.
A Note on Mapping the Customer Journey...
What I'm about to describe below is explained in detail in last month's blog. If you'd like to read it first for the complete breakdown of how to map the Customer Journey, click here.
Within the framework of the Marketing RAMP®. we typically draw a picture of the customer journey using 10 highly targeted micro-funnels called stages.
Each stage has a "goal."
That goal is determined by what the stage is intended to accomplish to move each individual prospect toward becoming a loyal customer and raving fan.
So, one stage's goal might be to get the prospect to answer a segmentation question, while another stage's goal might be to schedule a call, while another stage's goal might be to sign a proposal, or provide a testimonial, and so on.
See the example image below:
The key to these stages is that they're non-linear by design, just like real human behavior with shopping and buying patterns.
That means prospects can go in and out of different stages, skip some entirely or repeat some if necessary.
But one thing they will never do is get STUCK in one.
And that is thanks to Ideal Duration and Max Duration.
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How Ideal Duration Works to Improve Customer Interactions
Merriam-Webster's definition of each of these words is as follows:
- Ideal: "a standard of perfection"
- Duration: "the time during which something exists or lasts."
So, let me ask you a few questions...
- What is the perfect amount of time to engage a prospect about a product or service?
- How long is too long to market to a prospect when they're not taking action?
- How long is too long to maintain a conversation if they're ignoring you?
- How long should we wait between each communication?
Unfortunately, too many marketers and business owners don't know the answer to that question and believe it's too complicated to figure out.
But it's not so complicated. Let me use an example to explain...
Say you're at a party for a friend's birthday. I'm there too and we begin chatting.
After introductions, I immediately launch into talking about my vacation to Cancun.
You're a polite person, so you engage for a bit, but you actually have no interest in tropical vacations.
You hate the heat, the bugs, and you're not interested in being anywhere near a drink with a little umbrella in it.
Perhaps you're more of a cold-and-rugged environment, solo adventure, strong-dark-beer type of person.
But I wouldn't know that because as soon as we shake hands, I'm already well into my first sentence because I'm VERY into my hot, tropical vacation, because it was "the BEST." "The resort we stayed in had amazing Margaritas, just a fantastic tiki bar, the water was the perfect temperature, we swam all day because it never cooled down! And the cenotes -- wow -- just the bluest color I've ever seen, and it was so nice to just pad around in flip-flops and shorts for 10 days (you know what I mean?). If I had to go again, I'd go to the same resort, everyone was very social and friendly, everywhere we turned there was someone to talk to and have a drink with. we probably met 10 new friends..."
The whole time I'm droning on and on about all the "features" of my vacation, I haven't noticed that I've completely lost you.
Your arms are crossed, you're fidgeting and looking over my shoulder for an escape. (Heck, you probably even skimmed that paragraph above just now, because it was a brick of text, as if someone was talking "at" you!)
Now, if my goal was to have a meaningful conversation with you, or build rapport of any kind, I would want to pay attention to these tell-tale signs.
Better yet, I would ask before assuming, but that's another conversation (one that can be answered by my previous blog post - click here to read it!).
But, if I don't care about engaging you with something you're actually interested in, you WILL find a way to end our conversation. And, if you're smart, you'll actively try to avoid me for the rest of the party!
That's because your attention span has a limited duration.
So, let's try this scenario again.
We begin chatting at a mutual friend's birthday party.
After introductions, I mention I just got back from a wonderful vacation to the Yucatan. You are unenthusiastic, so I say one more thing about the Yucatan to make sure you heard me.
You stare back at me, unblinking, still disinterested.
So, this time, I change the subject. I ask you what your dream vacation is.
At this, you lean forward excitedly and mention you've always wanted to go ice-fishing.
That window of time where I capture your attention is known as IDEAL DURATION.
In the real world, most of us instinctively make conversation adjustments based on others' cues.
In the online world of sales and marketing, it's not as straightforward.
That's where metrics, such as Ideal Duration and Max Duration, can help to determine if our conversation is hitting (or missing) the mark on their interest.
Within the Marketing RAMP®, if a prospect isn't hitting the desired end goal in a stage within the Ideal Duration, this system knows to change topics and continue delivering value and nurturing ideal buyers based on where they are.
So, back to our party scenario from above...
Once I've realized you're interested in ice-fishing, I can pivot the conversation away from the tropical zones and speak about places like Minnesota, Michigan, Alaska, or other popular ice-fishing locales.
And I bet if I sold vacation rentals, by the end of the night I could have gotten you into one by wintertime. Or, if you had indicated you were interested, but wouldn't be able to do another vacation until next year, I could offer a "free" reservation for next year and note that I'd call you in 6 months to check in and confirm.
Either way, I would have naturally and easily moved our relationship from the "new lead" status closer to "raving fan."
That, of course, is only if I was intelligent enough to first "qualify" you as an ideal buyer and then engage with you on your timeline, not mine.
That is exactly what the Marketing RAMP® is designed to do...
Once we know where a prospect fits, and what they're looking for -- even if it's just more information -- the RAMP takes over to guide them to where they want to go.
We keep them engaged by using Ideal Duration.
Okay, but what about when we get no response or engagement at all?
That's when Max Duration comes in.
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More About Max Duration
The most time we wait to either take the next step or respond is called the Maximum Duration.
When we talk with a prospect about the same sale, product or service multiple times and the prospect stops engaging altogether (i.e. they're not clicking, not taking any action, not giving us any kind of response), they are STILL communicating.
And what they're telling us is that they're not interested.
Let's take our party example and put it to work in a digital marketing campaign.
Let's say we actually ARE selling vacation packages.
We get a lead through an ad or other lead magnet about "Top 10 Vacation Destinations for 2021." Using my favorite strategy of Segmentation (often Stage 2 in the Marketing RAMP), we lead with a question.
In the face-to-face party interaction example above, I asked you what your dream vacation was. We can do that with our marketing campaigns as well.
So, our segmentation "micro-funnel" personalizes and qualifies the new lead, by asking what their personal dream vacation is. In this example, we then give them 4 options:
- I love tropical locations - the more lounging the better!
- I'm interested in outdoor adventures like fishing, hiking, or kayaking!
- Give me culturally rich sites, museums, and fine dining and I'm happy!
- I'll go anywhere, especially if there's a killer deal or discount package!
What would the max duration be to wait for a response to this question?
Now, just because someone doesn't answer this question promptly, doesn't mean they're not interested. People are often busy and they forget. Short and sweet reminders are great for this.
Perhaps we set the ideal duration at 3 days, and max duration for one week.
After 3 days if they haven't answered, we follow up with an automated reminder. Something succinct and direct. Again, ideal duration for the follow-up email is set for 3 days.
After 3 more days, you may want to send a final reminder letting them know that if they answer they're more likely to get relevant offers. Ideal duration is set for 1 day.
If we still get no response after that final email one day later, then we will have reached our set Maximum Duration of 1 week.
At Maximum Duration it much is safer to assume the prospect has lost interest or is busy with other concerns.
Either way, it makes no sense for us to continue bothering them with the same question.
We need to move this person to another stage of the Customer Journey before they disengage forever.
We change the conversation.
Maximum Duration is the digital version of "eyes glazing over". It's the signal that lets us (and our automated system) know when to switch gears and change the conversation, so we can start communicating more effectively with the prospective customer.
And by utilizing Ideal Duration and Max Duration, you will be better equipped to hit the sweet spot of: "right place, right time, right customer in the right frame of mind."
Creating a marketing strategy based on customers' real actions and expectations makes it much easier for you to craft messaging and create content your prospects are actually interested in!
And to them, it will seldom, if ever, feel like they're getting "sold to."
Instead, it will feel like an engaging relationship. One in which your company provides relevant solutions and surpasses customer expectations.
If you're curious about how Ideal Duration and Max Duration can be applied to your business for better marketing results, schedule a consult with me to learn more.
My team and I can help you map your customer journey with ideal and max duration in place. And, if preferred, we can do all the work for you including the marketing automation, copywriting, asset design and much more.
In the meantime, if you want instant access to free marketing resources and training courses, don't forget to sign up for my marketing agency's free learning center below.