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What Does it Mean to be Top of Mind?


Being “Top of Mind” is a marketing concept that suggests that we all have certain go-to names in our heads for differing needs and services in our lives.  If you are thinking about selling your house, a real estate agent’s name pops into your mind.  When your toilet needs repair, you have a plumber in mind.  Need a handyman, “Who you gonna call”?  These are all services I hope you need infrequently, but there are others that are more constant relationships you have developed over time: pharmacist, dentist, nail salon, tailor, hair stylist, etc…

There are other products that we are loyal to as well.  You probably have a preferred bath soap, soft drink, cereal, battery, and toilet paper.  All of these people and products have earned some level of respect with you, and they are the ones you look for when you need them.  Studies have shown that it can be difficult to replace what people consider Top of Mind, but it can be done.

After all, people are busy, and not always as loyal as they pretend to be.  If a new cable company comes along, with better service and better rates, I’d drop my carrier in a heartbeat.  Is my dentist the best in town?  Perhaps not, but I like her.  I’m going to be much more loyal to her than to my electric company.  Where are you on that scale with your customers?

The trick appears to be that if you are presenting something completely new, marketing may be able to help you rise to that level of notoriety and make you or your product Top of Mind for many customers on a national or global level.  But what if what you are trying to sell isn’t new at all, and there are big, established names you are competing with?  What if you make facial tissues, and your brand isn’t Kleenex?  Who’s going to buy “Mary’s Toothpaste”?

As creatives, we may need to look at our branding differently.  If you ask me who is a great artist, I’ll answer Rembrandt, or Picaso.  But if you ask me who is a great artist I know, or a great artist in Houston, I have a very different answer.  So as we try to market ourselves, we need to do so in a very deliberate and strategic way.  I’m not competing with Picaso, I never will.  But I do have a circle of people around me, accessible to me by proximity, or around the world by means of social media.  I can certainly become Top of Mind in those tighter circles.

I think as creatives, we need to not overestimate the depth of our relationships with our clients or collectors.  But there is a definite bond between you and them.  What they purchase from you is not a toothpaste or a gel tip pen.  They are buying you, your talent, your artistic vision, and their relationship to those things are what brings them back. 

So if our main commodity is our relationship with our customers, then by golly the answer is clear.  Staying Top of Mind with your buyers is simply about maintaining contact with them.  We know how to do that.  We do it all the time.  All that needs to change is perhaps doing that relationship building on a schedule, and on purpose.

So what does that look like to a creative?  A regular newsletter is a start.  Make sure not to send them out too often, but they need to be regular.  Make certain too that the content is good, and includes some insight to your life.  They are buying you after all.  Is that it?  Well no.  To be honest, I don’t tend to read newsletters myself, so if that’s your only contact with me, you’re probably not reaching me.  Mix it up.  Have a newsletter monthly, or quarterly, but follow that up with a blog, a vlog, and updates on your website.  Send out postcards of new releases, and birthday or holiday cards in the mail.  Drop them a handwritten note telling them you thought of them, or with a referral for them.  Invite them to participate in events with you, or ask their advice on a subject.  Start recording live streaming sessions allowing people to get to know you better, and see what you’re working on.  Create subscription based groups to make people feel like VIPs.  Buy personalized swag and send out gifts… perhaps of your own art, or an e-book you’ve written.  Stay in touch in seemingly unrelated ways, and you will become Top of Mind in your niche. 

None of this is new.  In 1732, Benjamin Franklin released his “Poor Richard’s Almanac” as a way of promoting his printing business.  All you need to do is create a process that you do every day, so that it becomes a permanent part of your work-flow.  I know you don’t have time, nobody does, until they make time.  I am constantly amazed at how easy it is to make time magically appear when it’s something you want to do.  If you don’t have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software package, get one.  I use HUB Spot’s free version, but there are many others.  You can also create an Excel sheet or a rolodex.  Find a way to organize your mailing list, and come up with a strategy of when, and how, you’ve communicated with each person on it.  Some people may weigh more heavily on that list than others, so perhaps a tiered communication approach makes more sense. Whatever you come up with, start it today, and tweak the system as it becomes more entrenched in your daily schedule, and as you begin to see the effects and return on the investment of your time.

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