It’s not easy getting consumers’ attention. There are a seemingly endless number of marketers battling for people to “Look at me! Look at me!” And marketing companies come up with new tools all the time, so that consumers are surrounded by messages. You can’t get money out of the ATM, take a ride in an elevator or even go to the bathroom without being hit with marketing messages.
There are a number of things you can do to help you get peoples’ attention, but today I want to focus on what I refer to as “connecting the dots.”

To illustrate what I mean by “connecting the dots,” let me give you two scenarios.

Scenario 1

A consumer – we’ll call her Mary – sees a particular company’s trucks a few times a week (let’s call them the XYZ Company). XYZ’s bright colors and large graphics catch her attention. She thinks to herself, “That’s a big, bold, happy company.”

Mary has also heard XYZ’s radio commercials a few times, which feature an announcer giving a hard hitting, straightforward presentation of the many reasons why Mary should call them. She thinks to herself, “That’s a serious company.” She hears the name of the company, but doesn’t connect it with the name she saw on the trucks, because the commercial sounds like it came from a different company.

Meanwhile, Mary has received three postcards from the XYZ Company in the last year, but they look dissimilar from one another. They’re different sizes; they have different messages; and the tone and personality of the cards are quite different. Even XYZ’s logo looks unlike the logo that appears on XYZ’s trucks. Mary assumes these cards came from three different companies. She didn’t connect the dots.

This morning Mary needed to call someone in XYZ’s trade, but she couldn’t think of the name of any companies. She knows she’s seen and heard marketing messages, but none of them stuck, because they seem to have come from a number of companies. She picked up her yellow pages and turned to XYZ’s ad, but nothing looked familiar. XYZ’s yellow pages ad has a main message and tag line that she hasn’t seen anywhere else; the ad uses different colors from their other marketing materials; and the writing style and content seem very different. Mary wanted to hire a company that she felt familiar with, so sadly, she turned the page. She called one of XYZ’s competitors, the ABC Company.

Scenario 2

I’m guessing you know the name of my Scenario 2 company. Yup, it’s the ABC Company.

ABC knows that the average consumer is subjected to literarily thousands of marketing messages every day. ABC also is sensitive to the fact that a consumer’s attention is fleeting. People are busy, and most marketing messages aren’t a high priority. Given these realities, ABC knows that they have to touch their customers regularly, and that their marketing communications have to tie together; they have to be consistent. For example:

• ABC has settled on one main message that’s used often, so that consumers will see and hear it over and over and over, and they’ll connect it with the ABC name.
• ABC works hard to make sure that their logo, which appears prominently on their trucks, is presented consistently everywhere else: on uniforms, in advertising, on magnets and stickers, even on their invoices.
• They use the same colors, typeface and design approach in all their marketing materials.

ABC’s opinion is that they want a consumer to recognize their marketing materials even if she sees them out of the corner of her eyes…even if she sees them quickly… even if she sees them at a distance.

ABC believes in the concept of “One company, one look.” They believe in helping consumers connect the dots.
Please indulge me for a moment while I give you a real life example of a company that does a great job helping people connecting the dots. That company is Nexstar.

For example, we have very strict guidelines about how our logo can and can’t be used. The following is from Nexstar’s Identity Guidelines; it describes how the Nexstar logo should be positioned:

• The logo should never be compressed or stretched out of its original proportion.
• The Nexstar logo should never be positioned at an angle.
• The logo should never have individual parts altered or added.
• The logo should not be combined with other type or graphic elements.

We have similar guidelines regarding the Nexstar colors, typeface, text grid system (“essential for a consistent Nexstar visual image”), photography, illustrations (which defines how we present charts and graphs), and much, much more.

If you’ve not been connecting the dots for your consumers, don’t feel bad. Many large companies make the same mistake. For example, according to an article that ran in Advertising Age entitled “’Ferrets’ of Car Industry Can’t Quite Ad Tinkering: Automakers Struggle for Consistency in Marketing Messages” (by Jean Halliday) a number of American auto manufacturers have been inconsistent with their marketing. The author states:

“…the key to auto advertising is consistency of brand message — and it’s more critical than ever in today’s fractured media environment where consumers are bombarded with marketing wherever they turn.”
“With the amount of money spent on automotive advertising ($13 billion measured U.S. media in 2010, according to Kantar Media North America), how do you expect to build a meaningful relationship with consumers if you are constantly changing the meaning of your communications?”

You probably know more about connecting the dots than you realize. You work hard to connect the dots for your customers everyday through the unique, consistent experience you deliver.

You connect the dots by being consistently friendly, intelligent, observant, respectful, clean, caring and more. Unlike most of your competitors, you unfailingly deliver the highest level of professionalism. This experience is delivered through each of your people, every day.

Your people, your procedures and your products all paint a consistent picture that communicates you’re raising the bar not just for your industry, but for all small-service companies.

Help your customers connect the dots by bringing that same consistency to your marketing materials.