Frequency or Reach – Deciding Based On Your Campaign’s Goals


Feb 20, 2017 | Programming & Outreach

Any time you set out to create and run a marketing, public relations, or media campaign, you likely have a big picture idea of what you want to accomplish. Increase your prospective customer base, boost your sales, increase visibility and strengthen customer loyalty are all worthwhile goals of any such campaign, and many well-executed campaigns will hit the mark in several of these areas.

Having just a rough idea, though, of what you want to accomplish isn’t the best way to run an effective campaign. “When it comes to creating and launching a good campaign, two big factors to be tracking, in order to assess the campaign’s effectiveness, are frequency and reach,” says Taigen Thorne, Director of Public Relations & Media at SageAge. “Understanding both of these metrics can help you create more powerful campaigns and better evaluate how those campaigns perform in the short- and long-term.”

Having a clear and defined picture of your campaign’s goals and tracking metrics can lead to more effective campaigns that actually accomplish what you set out to do. Too many marketers throw things at the wall to see what sticks, but if you’re armed with thoughtful planning and a way to measure success, you can not only be more successful, but you can grow your success through learning!

What do reach and frequency mean?

Before we can talk about how to set your campaign’s goals and tracking, we need to be clear on what these two figures actually mean. Put most simply, they are the following:

  • Reach is the number of people you touch with your message or the number of people who are exposed to your message via your campaign.

  • Frequency is the number of times you touch an individual person with that message.

In the ideal world, we’d be able to create campaigns that maximize both of these critical metrics. However, most of us live in the real world, with very real constraints on our budgets and manpower, so some critical decisions must be made regarding which of these is most important to prioritize.

Here’s an example to give you a clearer picture: One company may decide to run a direct mail campaign that could either 1. Cover an entire, huge metro area once, or 2. Cover a smaller, more targeted geographic area three times.

Which is more important?

As mentioned, both of these metrics are key parts of creating a successful campaign, but we all know that hitting “infinity” for both would require, well, “infinity” dollars, and none of us are that lucky!

A popular analogy for comparing reach and frequency draws upon gardening as inspiration. If you were given 100 seeds with enough water to water each of them once, would you plant all 100, water them once, and hope for the best? Or would you plant 25, water them all four times, and watch your garden grow?

In general, most marketers would agree that the latter makes sense, and as such, place emphasis on frequency over reach. Better to hit a targeted group of prospective customers several times, with a targeted message, than to “spray and pray” with a broad campaign.

How this applies to your campaign

One factor to consider when planning your campaigns for reach and frequency includes the amount of time you’ll have to run your campaign. When you are running a shorter campaign, you inherently are working with less time to get your message out, to make an impact. That means if you put up 5 signs in a 20 mile radius, there will be less time for your audience to see those signs, and shrinking your radius may be more impactful.

Conversely, if you have time and budget for a longer campaign, you have more time for your audience to see those signs, so you’d have more impact if you spread your signs out and used time to your advantage – meaning, the more time the signs are up, the more often your audience will see them.

Other factors to consider include the relationship you have with this audience already. Are they accustomed to hearing from you often, and will they know you upon first glance? Or, are you venturing into a new market, looking to make an impact with a new group of potential customers? The answers to those questions not only inform your decisions regarding reach and frequency, but also what messages you focus on and how to best share them.

Any seasoned marketer knows there are lots of metrics to consider when running a campaign, but two of the most critical ones are reach and frequency. In general, consider the effectiveness of “drip” style marketing, and focus on frequency in order to have a true impact on your audience over time.

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