Reaching Multitaskers

Consumers juggle all kinds of media these days. So how can you get noticed and influence their purchases?
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the October 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

With so many forms of media clamoring for their attention, consumers are multitasking more than ever before. If you think your cable TV or magazine ad has their full attention, you're living in the past. Simultaneous media consumption is way up and continues to climb as consumers cope with the deluge of media options available. Today's consumers check their BlackBerry news updates while they read the newspaper and catch what they can of the TV show that's on in the background. And as new-media options such as mobile messaging and blogging grow in popularity, the competition for your potential customer's attention grows fiercer.

How can you get decent exposure for your ad campaign? In today's market, suc-cess depends on grabbing attention by choosing the right mix of traditional and new media to influence consumer purchase intent. Follow this advice to ensure your best prospects see, remember and act on your marketing messages.

Learn the Rule of Engagement
Imagine you're watching television while opening a piece of direct mail from a local bank. Which will get your full attention, the TV show or the letter? In all likelihood, the answer depends on how engaged you are with each medium. If you're watching a how-to show about your favorite hobby, the program and its commercial breaks may claim your attention. But say you're actively shopping for a new house, and the direct-mail piece from the bank offers you a great interest rate. In that case, the letter may be the most engaging advertising medium for you.

With simultaneous media usage, one medium always gets more attention, though it may shift from moment to moment. To get noticed by multitaskers, select media that engage your best prospects when they're in the right frame of mind to learn about your product or service. Consumers are engaged when they're actively seeking something, such as when they're searching online or they're involved in the subject matter of a magazine or radio talk show, for example. Consumers are also highly engaged by marketing media that deliver a desired result, such as direct-mail coupons that allow them to save money. And engaged prospects are more likely to see and remember your marketing message.

Use Influential Media
TV advertising, formerly the 800-pound gorilla when it came to impacting purchase intent, is slipping, according to the "Simultaneous Media Survey" released by Bigresearch in January. In a slow economy, customers look for ways to stretch their personal budgets, and media tactics that deliver value grab more attention than messages that focus on building a brand. While TV is still a powerful influence, e-mail and internet advertising are cited by new-media consumers as major factors affecting their intent to buy.

Other new media, including web radio and blogging, are beginning to gain a foothold. An April benchmark study from BlogHer and Compass Partners showed that more than 36 million women blog every week, and half of those surveyed say blogs influence their purchase decisions. Indeed, they're so passionate about it, approximately half would give up alcohol or their PDAs to keep blogging.

As the use of new media continues to increase and affect purchase intent, it's important to mix new-media marketing with proven, traditional-media tactics. Among those with the highest influence on purchase intent are PR, along with magazines, direct mail, in-store promotions, newspaper inserts and TV ads.

Many multitasking consumers go online while using a variety of other media. Want them to visit your website? Just be sure to include your URL--and a great reason to visit--in all your marketing messages. The "Simultaneous Media Survey" shows that the top three media for triggering an online search are magazines, articles about products and TV.

Contact marketing expert Kim T. Gordon, author of Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars: The Top 50 Ways to Grow Your Small Business, at smallbusiness Her new e-book, Big Marketing Ideas for Small Budgets, is available exclusively from Entrepreneur at


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