Are You Top of Mind?

Quick! Name a soft drink. Chances are you thought of Coke or Pepsi. These beverage giants have spent millions in advertising with the goal of being at the top of your mind. You can repeat this exercise in any product category—tennis racquets, carpet cleaners or ballpoint pens, for example. If someone asked your customers to name a company in your product category, would you be top of mind?

Top-of-mind-awareness, or TOMA, is a traditional measure of marketing effectiveness. Brands with a high level of unaided recall have a distinct competitive advantage. You will be the first—and maybe only—source your prospect thinks of when it’s time to purchase. TOMA strongly correlates to brand preference, which correlates to increased market share. Low TOMA might be the result of misdirected marketing. Perhaps your message had little exposure to your target population as a result of poor media selection, or weak messaging simply didn’t capture their attention.

There are many ways to achieve and maintain TOMA.

1. Find your unique selling proposition. Consider what makes your company special, whether it’s price, product availability, location, quality or speed, so you can clearly articulate it to your prospects. This exercise is more difficult for businesses selling in a crowded product category so consider creating your own niche. 7UP conceived the “Uncola” label so they no longer would have to compete head-to-head with the colas. Once you’ve created solid positioning language, stick with it even if you get tired of it. 7UP used the Uncola line for three decades!

2. Be consistent in design. Make sure everything from your Web site to your customer literature to your stationery has a similar look and feel. Use templates to ensure that your image is constant.

3. Proactively send messages into the market. It is the frequency of customers hearing your company’s name, product or service that will make them take action and buy from you. While a one-time advertising blitz can get your message out quickly to a large number of prospects, you will build credibility and stay in customers’ thoughts with a series of timely communications. There are a number of print solutions that can help you achieve your goals.

4. Use multiple communication tools. Each marketing element should support the one that came before. Direct mail is particularly effective in reinforcing a personal bond between your company and your customer. Send a customized letter giving your best prospects the inside track on a new product or an upcoming promotion. Follow up with a postcard or brochure when the product is available or the promotion launches, then send a note of thanks when the client makes a purchase.

5. Timing is everything. You must strategically plan repeated communications so customers perceive you as a provider of useful information rather than an intrusive pest. This requires both organization and dedication.

Gaining top-of-mind-awareness should be a top goal of your marketing efforts. Never before have consumers had so many choices. They need your help to know where to look and what to believe. TOMA will help customers notice you in a noisy marketplace, increasing customer retention and response rates.