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Waiting for Marketing Results: 
How Long Does It Take?

by Marcia Yudkin

The Question Put to Marketing Minute Subscribers

Six weeks ago, I began to run, after not having done so for more than 20 years. At first I could run just one block. Then I could run several. Several blocks turned into a few more, and slowly, slowly I improved my endurance. Now I can run two miles. 

So far, I have not noticed any loss of weight or gain in muscle tone - the goal of this new endeavor. Even so, I plan to keep running, confident that the results I want will occur. 

Marketing resembles running: it also has a delayed effect. Some people get frustrated, doing the things I and other marketing specialists recommend, yet seeing no immediate changes. With both running and marketing, persistence is the magic ingredient that brings on results. 

If I were to quit running, I might complain, "It doesn't work." What a shame that would be, stopping just before the process of cause and effect yields visible evidence!

In your mind, how long is long enough to wait for publicity, publishing, networking, mailings, your web site, etc., to yield tangible results?

Selected Responses from Subscribers

Here, slightly shortened in some cases and with some spelling corrections, are opinions and experiences of Marketing Minute subscribers. Please feel free to send me your comments so that I might add them to the collection.


I work with many customers who want some guarantee that what I suggest will work. Marketing to them is some magic formula. The customers alas are the final jurors. I am reading My Life in Advertising by Claude Hopkins, and of course his very popular Scientific Advertising. If one follows what he is saying you will do the following:

  • Learn as much as you can about the product or service

  • Learn about the people who would use the product or service

  • Write simply

  • Be truthful in your presentation

  • Eliminate empty statements like "better than" and "high quality" which play absolutely no part in differentiation

  • And above all test each approach

Most people never get to testing. They try two, perhaps three approaches and then give up.

Giselle Hudson, Purple Marketing Limited
Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies


In 2001, I was just starting out as a full time freelance writer. I contacted several designers by phone and several of them asked for my card. Only one of those prospects became a client at the time.

In January this year, I was contacted by one of the people I'd sent my card to - in the meantime my phone number and postal address had changed, making the card irrelevant except for my website address (Thank God for the Internet!).

So, two years. But it's been worth the wait. I'm also experiencing similar
'out of the blue' leads coming from more recent marketing efforts that I'd
almost given up on. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

Simon Young, Auckland, New Zealand

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Our company distributes medical educational products to the European
pharmaceutical industry. We have never really allotted too much revenue or time to our marketing endeavours.  However, last year I decided to publish a full page colour spread in a specialised journal in Sweden throughout the span of 2002 (6 issues). We spent a lot of time putting together what seemed like a very simple ad and were confident that our phones would soon start ringing. They didn't! 

Still in Sweden, our test market, we sent out brochures, mailings and free reading copies (protected) of selected products on cd-rom. The beginning of this year we decided to stop all marketing activities in Sweden. Guess what? The phone started ringing, emails started to arrive as well as a couple of faxes. 

We only started getting pleasing results after 14-15 months. We tried to effectively use several strategies at the same time. Together we got the results that we went after.

Nicholas Webb


Some marketing efforts pay off immediately, but the true rewards can come after time.

I readily hand out my card whenever it seems appropriate. So back in 1996 when my child was just learning the game of soccer at age 5, I gave one of my cards to another soccer dad -- just in case he wanted to car pool and needed to contact me (our home line is unlisted / unpublished). His child never needed a ride, but last summer the dad called me to give me some prestigious & lucrative business.

He was a custom home builder and was chosen to build the Southern Living Idea Home for 2002. He needed copywriting, graphic design and other services to properly promote his work.  It was a nice piece of business -- and it took only 6 years to get it!

Patricia Parks DeNucci, Resource / RainMaker


Reminds me of what I once heard about a water pump.  You can pump and pump and if you give up too soon and stop pumping, all the water just goes back to the bottom of the well.  When you start pumping again, you are starting from the very beginning.  So don't give up... You'll eventually see the fruits of your efforts.   

Barbara McGinley 


I started my marketing and PR company over two years ago and the first year was a struggle.  Luckily my husband paid all the bills, so everything I was earning was just for savings.  But I kept writing articles, sending out press releases and so on and in the second year my business just took off.

People had read about me in various business magazines and called to say
that if I was featured in almost every magazine they opened, I must be good!

This year has been even better.  I made a plan to earn a certain amount each
month, and so far (touch wood) I have exceeded that each month.

Persistence works.

Ms. Mangla Sachdev
Dunfermline, Scotland, UK

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For e-mail I wait two days for results: It's such a fast medium . . .

Publicity: Two months

Networking: One month

The others I haven't measured success ratios as diligently as I should. But I have consistently received results in the time frames above.

Lisa Sparks


Of course, the answer isn't going to be X number of days/weeks. It will
depend on what is being done. I would suggest that the free or cheap methods be continued forever regardless. The more expensive ones should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they are current and relevant.

Phil Allen


Your message, which I've heard many times from many marketing gurus, is to stick with something until it's paid off.

But what if the marketing message is ill conceived for any number of reasons? Sticking with it would be a waste of time and money, and an obstacle in the way of a better message.

I say, never underestimate gut feelings. If you're unsure of the message and trying it out, get rid of it sooner rather than later if there's no sign of a payoff. If in your gut you think it's right, stay with it longer.

Jim Olsztynski, Business News Publishing Co.
Bensenville, IL


One rule of thumb I share with my clients:  When you are absolutely sick to death of hearing or seeing your own ad and you don't think you can listen to it or see it one more time without screaming, it is probably just beginning to be recognized and remembered by your audience! 

Susan Miller

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We rely heavily on inside sales to schedule meetings with our sales team and the prospect's "C" level management.  We use mailings, white papers, shows, conference presentations, etc. as a vehicle to give inside sales a reason for a follow-up call.  We have found that although the direct response rate to mailings is typically low (where the prospect contacts us), mailings do yield results in 4-8 months in that inside sales can schedule an appointment with upper management and our sales team.  New leads from shows do not turn into contracts for 12-18 months.

Connie Todebush


My "delay time" is anywhere between 6 months to 5 years! My marketing style is laid-back, but persistent - letting people know what services I offer, what's new, and that I'm still around it they need me.  With 11 years under my belt, and having to turn business down, I guess it's working.

Marianne Smith, Creative Resource Seminars and Consulting
Houston, TX


I am a national speaker and spend my days (when I am not traveling),
promoting myself to groups and organizations. I constantly remind myself
that I am planting seeds, and that their timing is not necessarily my
timing. Last week, I received an inquiry for my services from a prospect I
had communicated with, some 10 months ago.

The secret is to not let up in marketing efforts even though it may appear
that immediate results are not forthcoming.

Roy Prevost


Why are some houses on the market for years while others sell in one day? Why does it take some buyers so long to find you?

A few weeks back I received a phone call from a gentleman from a newspaper seeking a speaker for his upcoming sales meeting. He mentioned that he first heard me speak nearly five years ago in a European city. He kept one of my postcards handed out during that meeting. FIVE YEARS LATER he gets around to calling me.

Find a strategy that you feel comfortable with, can live with on a consistent basis and get started with it at once. (I am particularly fond of postcards.) In other words, the quicker you run that first block (as in Marcia's initial analogy), the quicker somebody will knock on your door inquiring about the sale of your house. 

You must consistently remind your targeted audience that "you are alive" and "eager" to be of assistance when they are ready. Buyers have, do and will continue to do things on their terms ... when they are ready. You can only hope that it doesn't take them five years. 

If that guy from the newspaper never heard me speak, or did not have a postcard to hold onto, he would have never called me with an intent to do business. And yes, I did get the job. The paper was the Washington Post.

Mike Marchev, Author,  Become The Exception 

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Your message is a great reminder of patience.  It is a virtue I do not have
but have learned somewhat over the last few years.  One way it has paid off is through my newsletter/e-zine.  I get new clients with every issue and they are usually people that have signed up 6 months or 1 year ago.  So, while I might think no one is reading it or no one is calling, I realize
that they have to keep reading my newsletter and eventually they will come.

Galia Gichon, Down-to-Earth Finance


Last year I started a new business, and moved to a small town in a different state all at once. I had an extremely small list of contacts so I really had to start my marketing from scratch. (I'm a virtual assistant, by the way).  I started traveling 2.5 hrs to a larger city to attend monthly networking events last July. By October I had my first client from this group, and by this past
February, I had five clients from this group. I'm now receiving regular referrals from the people I've met, so I know my efforts are paying off.

It's taken several months for my marketing efforts to see tangible results, and they've come by building relationships with people, one person at a time.

Jean Hanson


Marketing is like steering an ocean going supertanker - you turn the wheel
(or should that be rudder?) and five miles later something happens!

Try not to expect or plan for immediate results, instead look a little
further down the road.  If you'll pardon the analogy, prepare for a long run rather than just a sprint!

Paul Williams
SNG Marketing


Right before I opened your newsletter, I was responding to an e-mail where a prospect was soliciting information and samples of our products.  She mentioned they ran across one of our flyers.  Our last flyer mailout was 4 months ago, and the last time I handed these out by hand at a trade show was 3 months ago. 

Margery Woodin, VP of Marketing & Sales
Identipak, Inc.

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From my latest book, How to succeed as an independent consultant (Kogan Page):

When I was in charge of sales training at Merrill Lynch in Toronto, I started a program where we rewarded new brokers for making phone calls rather than for getting business. What we knew was that if you made 100 calls, you would get to see three people. If you saw three people, you would open two accounts. A year later, one of those would still be a good customer. The problem was that making a lot of phone calls and getting nowhere was demoralizing. The constant rejection was tough to take. But by changing the dynamic to one where the job was to make calls, not to open accounts, it became much easier for them. And sure enough, when they opened an account, it was like a bonus. It made them feel good, and this had a positive effect on the way they worked, and soon they were opening four accounts for every 100 calls. So when you are in KIT (keep in touch) mode, and you can't get through, not no how, put a notch on your phone and dial the next number. 

Timothy R V Foster, ADSlogans Unlimited


I started my business in January with a perfect zero marketing budget.  I did join the local Chamber.  It was my only cash outlay.

I began to work the Chamber networking luncheons with very slow results.  I never sat with the same people twice.  I moved from group to group in the room and waited for my turn to talk.  I passed out my brochure at every opportunity there.  The results were minimal but by this time, I had a pipeline that was filling up.

I sent out Press Releases - no cost.  My local paper picked it up and did a feature article about Virtual Assisting, my business.  Not one call came in from that article. :(  Several Chamber members told me they had seen the article.

I joined a Leads group.  I searched for one without a huge join up fee, trust me.  In May, I began to get leads from them.

Today, I have manifested 9 customers.  I have squeaked out my bills each month.  I am in the black.  I refuse to let myself get down when the phone doesn't ring.  Last Friday, I got 4 of those 9 customers, and yesterday I got 1 of those 9.  You absolutely must persist and you must smile while you are doing it or people won't be attracted to you.  I have done a lot of mental work to establish the value of me, my skills, and my offering. It is working.

Pat Matson


Last September, I had Upper Access send out 150 media kits and copies of my book,  The Savvy Woman's Guide To Owning A Home. The first reaction was immediate -- from Country Living. The book was recommended in their Dec 2002 issue. The June 2003 issue of Better Homes & Gardens features my book! While it took 9 months to get in, it has shot sales up considerably. Ingram can't fill the orders fast enough. ran out of books. There were orders for 189 books this past weekend alone. Nice!

Kitty Werner, Author, The Savvy Woman's Guide To Owning A Home

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During the almost 20 years I spent in local radio, this was one of my
greatest frustrations.  Folks would buy a few spots a week, run them for a couple of weeks or a month and when customers didn't break down the door they'd quit.  "Advertising doesn't work" or "Radio doesn't work".

Today I work in a church environment (I work with teens at  the diocesan
level).  After almost three years I've seen some definite changes, youth ministry is more high profile, it's become a "major issue" for our churches.  But attendance at youth camps and events remains lower than we want it.  So have we succeeded?  Partially.  Now comes the phase where we turn interest into action.

Effectively I'm a start up business.  What's the turning point for most
small businesses?  5 years?  Well I'm 60% of the way there.  I'm in favor of long term planning and patience.  Plus good marketing plans, of course!

Jay Phillippi, Youth Missioner
Episcopal Diocese of WNY


Some of my surprises are coming 3 years into the job with explanations such as "you are persistent, always there, and I know now I can count on you." Or, things like "It's nice to hear from you again, thanks for keeping me in tune. I think it is time that I give you a try."

Sandy Babuka


In my experience, being in business for myself for about 18 yrs, it can take up to three years (or more!) for a client to respond to a marketing effort. Psychotherapy clients come to me during a time of crisis and distress and leave therapy when the challenging situation has been resolved and they are back on track in their lives. However, when another stressful situation in their lives arrive - such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job, transition into parenthood etc-, they will come back - often five years later or more!  

Just recently, someone called to sign up for a Reiki class with me who had been receiving my newsletter for three years. It took her three years to decide that she wanted to learn Reiki. The continued regular newsletter mailing she read with interest over a three-year period made the difference.

Ulrike Dettling, Arlington Reiki Associates


I started part-time last summer: built a Website, printed a brochure, took some courses, read lots of books (including yours), did some non-profit work pro bono, tried out a variety of networking and writers groups, etc.  I have a
journalism background, so I felt things would work out eventually -- it just takes a long time to spread the word around a large city like Atlanta.  And finally, in early May, it paid off (due in no small part to the post-war economic upswing). I added 6 new PAYING clients in May and have several qualified prospects in the pipeline for June, so things are finally coming around.

To me, it's like sowing wildflowers: you throw a lot of seeds into unknown terrain, and wait for something to start growing. And eventually, it's harvest time!

Bobby L. Hickman

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I think it takes at least 1.5 years before potential referral sources trust that you are there to stay, that you are dependable, that they can count on you to be professional in your treatment of their clients, etc. Same with newpaper sources.  A newspaper reporter has said to me, "I am just checking to make sure the event is still a 'go'" when she calls a week before the event is scheduled to begin.  This reflects the reality that non-profits may cancel an event if there are not enough registrations, and the reporter does not want people calling her to say "Your article was wrong, they are not having that event."

Chris Vogelsang, Director, Family Life Center
Cincinnati, OH 


When my website went live last August, I began a campaign to get the word out.  By November I had one tiny piece of business from that effort. By February I had follow-on business from that same client, plus work from four new clients. Two of those came from active prospecting; the other two found me online. By March I had two more clients, both from prospecting, plus follow-on business from one of the others. It's now June. My dance card is full for this month, and is filling up for the rest of the summer. Much of this business comes directly from the prospecting I started almost a year ago.

Leslie Limon, Writer


Public relations is about positively influencing your public (whatever market that might be). And that's not something that happens quickly.  It requires repeated application. I encourage clients to make a one year commitment, because once the results begin to become evident, there's a snowball effect.  So you can expect to see small results in six months, but continue the effort for another six months and you *will* see measurable results. 

I recommend that clients evaluate their PR investment only after a two-year period.  Anything short of that is misleading.  Sometimes clients come to us thinking that PR is a quick fix, and that's wrong on two accounts.  First, it's not quick.  And second, it's not meant to fix anything.  PR is something that complements healthy businesses as they go forward.

Gaye Carleton, Mantra, Empowered Public Relations


What I've learned over time is that some people respond immediately
and others think for a long time.  It also depends on what you are
selling.  I'm selling psychotherapy services and people generally
have to be ready to delve into themselves and make a time and energy
commitment.  That's quite different than if I were selling designer
wallpaper.  However, timing is everything and when someone is ready
for what you are selling, having your name in their pocket, even if
it's been there for a while, is better than they're not knowing your
name at all.  

Joan Rubin-Deutsch, Psychotherapist and Author 
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I have been working and consulting in new business development for nearly ten years after coming from product management.  To succeed you must believe in the process and have persistence and passion to see results.  New business development can take months, even years in some cases, but like running ... you must have faith in success.  Those who do not understand timing as a critical piece of success are in the wrong business or fail.  It's that simple.  

Letty Gutierrez
Gutierrez Enterprises


We as marketers cannot expect to use any single tactic once, or even several times and have a sense of its value for our own goals unless we first define what our measurable goals are and then manage to them. Before deciding that a given tactic just "doesn't work" we need to be honest with ourselves. Did we do the work? Was the tactic appropriate to the goal and targeted correctly? Was our offer the best it could be and presented in the best way possible? 

As you pointed out in the original question, it is the persistent pursuit of our goals in the form of ongoing testing, measurement and continuous improvement that will produce the champions, whether the marketing challenge is a sprint or a marathon.

Susan F. Heywood

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I remember when we had a full-page color spread of our food from my first business in the 1980's (high-end catering in Boston) presented in Boston Magazine,  business went up 400% the next month! But, we already had a reptutation for quality, and that was spectacular coverage---the kind, as they say, you "could not pay for". No amount of advertising could match that type of unsolicited editorial coverage.

On the other hand, now that I'm a management and marketing consultant, I tell my clients who may be new to marketing that it takes time to build up a critical mass of information about them in the marketplace, until the public has a perception about them, and they may even begin to develop  a "brand". You know the rule of thumb--it takes 7-10 views of an image before the consumer notices it, and hopefully, buys what is being sold.

Note also, however:

  • In addition to time spent in the marketplace to develop a reputation, the more tools that a business can put together to work synergistically to create movement from their potential customers or clients, the better.

  • Last but not least, all the publicity and marketing in the world will ultimately fail if the product or service being sold is not inherently superior, competitive, and genuinely what it purports to be.

Ann L. Vivian, Principal, The Ellsworth Group


For my website a lot of my exposure comes from "networking" online in
suitable newsgroups and making contact with other website owners who
offer a similar website to mine.  All this does take time, but I am now starting to see tangible results after 4 months!

Do I get frustrated? - YES
Do I wish things moved much quicker? - YES
Do I ever want to quit? - YES
Will I Give up? - NO

Marketing does take time but is WORTH the EFFORT.

Marc Liron


Working for the expat community in Thailand, I've found that the answer to the "how long?" question is when the buzz, the word-of-mouth, advertising takes over.  I can (almost) sit back and see a message, a concept, spreading through the community.

Andy Johnstone


I read and reviewed your book on Website Marketing Makeovers and have
implemented many of your tips. It's taken time to generate momentum - sales of our on-line sports car buyers guides remained flat until March, then grew 90% in April and 120% in May, and look like growing a further 50+% this month. Clearly it pays to stick at it !!

Mark Wibberley 

Catch Up on the Inspirational, Educational Marketing Minute
Published every Wednesday since 1998, the Marketing Minute offers success stories, principles and provocative insights into finding and keeping customers.  Get five paperback volumes of collected columns to review whenever you need marketing perspective or ideas. Learn about the Marketing Minute anthologies.

Copyright 2003 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

If you've read this far, you probably have an uncommonly strong interest in figuring out which marketing tactics will grow your business if you are persistent.  Learn how to construct a one-year, month-by-month marketing plan that is unique to your business.  Marketing plan course.

And if you have good writing skills and might enjoy helping others improve their marketing programs and materials, check out my Marketing Protégé Program, which teaches you to become a successful marketing consultant/copywriter in 10 weeks.  Marketing consultant mentoring.


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