Marketing for Shelf Life

Online ads are measured by impressions. Impressions are the number of times something is seen. Generically, the more impressions something gets, the more visible (and perhaps successful) a marketing campaign has been. When we think of our own work, it can be useful to also think in terms of impressions. How many times has our customer engaged with what we’ve created?


We’re not just thinking of the physical documents we’ve sent them (as exciting as those legal disclosures are), we’re also including the less tangible subject matter we’ve talked to them about and how it lingers after the conversation has ended. In order to capture multiple impressions, especially for a repeat customer, we have to really think about what we are going to do, say and give to create a lasting impression.


Maria Popova of fame (she reads more widely than all of us combined) set a great example with her book Figuring. Popova explained how she only wanted to make a book that people would keep going back to versus one that was more timely but disposable. She wanted to create multiple impressions with one piece of work. As she put it, 


Long ago, a kindly interviewer asked me why I routinely declined offers for the types of easy, marketable books I am frequently approached about doing. I told him (please suspend judgment: I was in my twenties) that I had no interest in putting into the world a book that has the shelf life of a banana. I hope Figuring has the shelf life of a shelf.


No matter what we are making, if it is intended for someone else we should have a similar goal. Whatever we do, say or give should not be generic, disposable, or impossible to share. We have to aim for lasting impressions, not just an impression. By focusing on the meaning of our work in the customer’s eyes, we can create work that doesn’t have the shelf life of a banana, but the shelf life of a shelf.


We have a structural advantage by being in the relationship business. The ability to follow up and stay in regular contact means our odds of creating and capturing meaningful impressions is way better than what companies chase online with pop-up ads. We would be fools to waste that opportunity. 


Shelves > bananas. 


Congratulations to Maria for writing the book. Do check it out. If you’ve got a mind for literature and you don’t already know Brain Pickings, spend some time there and consider signing up for her mailing list.