Classic Marketing Rules – The 40/40/20 Rule

What is the formula for a successful marketing program?  Well, back in the day (‘80’s and ‘90’s), direct marketers talked about the 40/40/20 rule.  This taught that 40% of the success of a campaign is due to the audience, 40% is due to the product/offer, and 20% is due to the creative/format.  Time and again, marketers found that hitting the right people with the right message (timing, offer, etc) was much more important than the format of the package, colors used, and any other factor.  Sure, creative is incredibly important, but if you’re not talking to the right people or your offer is weak, it was a very good-looking waste of money.

Flash forward to 2014 and look at how marketing has changed.  There are thousands of marketing channel options to choose from, including many ways to reach a massive audience at a low cost.  Yet, so often we see programs miss the mark.  And the sad thing is:  Many of the problems could have been avoided by keeping in mind this “old school” direct marketing rule.

Think of this rule as a “share of effort” guideline.  That’s really where the timeless beauty of 40/40/20 comes in.  When you are planning a marketing program, spend 40% of your time really trying locate and reach the specifically appropriate target audience.  Whether it be from your past customer database, web site visitors, trade show attendees, or anywhere else, spend time pinpointing and prioritizing your ideal target market.  Budget another 40% on the product and offer.  This is the all-important messaging component.  Even though it may be easy to send your message to people, it does not mean they will receive it.  Be sure that what you saying is both relevant and compelling.  Finally, budget the remaining 20% of your time on getting the formatting right.  Ensure the message is visually and/or audibly appealing.

Try this exercise:  Think about an upcoming marketing program or one that you really want to do.  Write down the top ten most important things you need to do to make sure it’s successful.  Odds are that somewhere around 4 of them have to do with targeting the right audience, 4 have to do with getting your messaging right, and 2 focus on the “vehicle” in which your message gets to your audience.

The beauty of the 40/40/20 rule is that it’s simple.  Try it out.  And be sure to check out our presentation on this and other classic rules in our Resource Center.

– The JAY Group team

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