We've all seen the statistics about how most sales happen after five, six or seven contacts in an attempt to keep sales people motivated through the struggle of making connections and ultimately sales. Whether you believe the facts or not, there is merit in the underlying principal that it takes more than one to three contacts to get someone to buy from you.
Marketers need to think of their programs and channels in a similar fashion. Touching a customer one time through advertising or email is certainly a great start, but it's a pretty rare case that someone buys something from a company they've heard about one time. It's generally the combination or several contact points and exposures that make a potential customer do something you want them to...and depending on the size of the sale it could take months or years to get there.
This is especially true in professional services, which is where I've spent the bulk of my career. We believed (and validated through analysis and understanding) that is takes between 8 and 12 contact points to elicit a response, let alone a sale. If your marketing is not engineered around a methodology that creates those contact points the chances are your message will slip through the crack or you will miss out on an opportunity to move a customer through the pipeline. It can happen faster or slower depending on where the customer is in the buying cycle but making sure you have those validation points there will insure success more often than not.
You also need to think about how all your channels are working together to create the message and motivation that moves customers through the process. Is your web site matching your social channels? Is your collateral emphasizing the value proposition your sales force is talking about? Is your advertising relating to your target audience and translating back to your brand? Does your content marketing and thought leadership give your customers the information they need and show you as the most viable option? All these things work in combination to deliver your brand and making sure they all consistently point in the same direction is vital.
Make sure you are thinking about the entire customer exposure experience and create the contact points you need to build your business. If you've only thought about the first one, chances are you're missing out.