Get Back to Basics With the Rule of 7

Are you setting yourself up for failure because of a short-term marketing strategy?

How familiar are you with the Rule of 7 as it pertains to marketing?

It might be considered an old-school marketing methodology, but if you take a moment to understand what it is, you’ll appreciate the fact that it’s a sound concept that works, and should be followed.

In short, the Rule of 7 is a basic principal that addresses consumers’ need to hear and see a marketing message several times (at least seven) before they consider buying from you.

Why seven? I don’t think the number really matters, as much as the message.

In order for consumers to really hear and retain your message, they need to be exposed to your marketing enough times so it resonates. So, when the time is right to buy your product, your business is top of mind.

As a 20-plus year automotive marketing veteran, my observation about dealership marketing is that dealers have a tendency to roll out a lead-generation campaign for 30 days, and if it doesn’t produce an return on investment within this time frame, they move on to something else. I like to call this the “on-and-off marketing” strategy.

It’s my belief that dealerships are missing the point of marketing. As a general rule, prospects are in the pipeline for 90 to 180 days, which for many dealers could be three to six different campaigns that are completely missing their targets due to a constant strategy changes.

Consumers are not getting enough exposure to the same message in order for it to adhere. Each month, dealers may run multiple campaigns with multiple messages targeting different people.

This is problematic because prospects only get the opportunity to see one or two of the campaigns one time—if you’re lucky—and they are not exposed to the message long enough to remember it.

My assessment for the quick-changing marketing practice is simple: Dealers are paying a lot of money to multiple vendors to drive new leads through the door.

With the average dealership spending between $7,000 to $12,000 per month on marketing (and much more for larger metro area dealerships), it’s understandable that instant ROI is desired.

The question is: Are you setting yourself up for failure due to the short-term strategy?

With the advancements in marketing data analytics and the success digital marketing delivers, dealers now have more robust resources available. And they don’t cost a fortune or leverage multiple vendors to achieve the end goal.

Automotive marketing partners are available that can provide insightful business intelligence, manage all channel marketing, and most importantly, deliver real buyers while providing monthly savings of $3,000 to $8,000.

Don’t miss the point, however—inexpensive doesn’t mean you will be successful by rapidly changing strategies. You need to create a campaign that is consistent and has a shelf life to target all your prospects multiple times (following the Rule of 7) in order to allow the message to stick.

If you find your marketing isn’t working and you’re throwing darts to see which message will bring customers to your showroom, it’s time to take a new approach. Consider this: Stop wasting money by blindly targeting individuals on whom you have no true business intelligence.

As you know, this approach gets expensive, and can lead to low ROI. Instead, incorporate solutions that provide predictive analytics that identify consumers who have a high propensity to buy within the next 90 to 180 days.

Follow the Rule of 7 by communicating consistent messaging that speaks to these known buyers during the time they’re in your sales funnel (typically 90 to 180 days). Continue to utilize all forms of media—email, text, digital display ads, retargeting ads, and direct mail—but consider using one business partner as opposed too many, which can save on expenses.

Be repetitive and persistent to the right audience, because it is proven to pay off in dividends.

As senior vice president of marketing solutions for National Credit Center (NCC), Jim Cunningham is responsible for NCC’s Marketing Solutions. As a seasoned automotive veteran, Jim has extensive experience overseeing digital and predictive analytic marketing solutions that enable dealerships to market, and acquire new customers through innovative marketing tools.

Jim Cunningham


  1. Avatar
    J W Weeks March 06, 2017

    Insightful article Jim. As a 20 year plus vveteran of retail automotive advertising i understand the mentality to consistently move the sales needle. This leads to rapid creative change and, to your point the failure of messages to have the time to resonate.

    My approach to this situation was:
    1) Consistent media coverage to a well researched target audience.
    2) Building “branding elements” into the creative.
    The price and item portion of the message, the middle, would change but the open and close would be consistent with the dealership branding elements. I found a musical signature was helpful in all broadcast media as well as graphic elements and the use of consistent spokes people. I approached the challenge by making the dealership the brand no matter what manufacture they represented. This way we might change the tactic of the campaign weekly but the campaign strategy remained consistent.

  2. Avatar
    Jim Cunningham March 10, 2017

    Great insights JW. Indeed it is a challenge to build the branding portion into campaigns while still keeping the campaign fresh so it doesn’t cause clients to become numb to your message. It is a tough balancing act: you want to run long enough to resonate but also be fresh enough that you still get noticed.


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