Remember gravity? We all know about it but rarely give it a second thought. Unless you need to tackle something important like the rocket speed required to leave our atmosphere.

Context and relevance suffer this same fate, until you need to tackle something important. Like standing out in today’s information avalanche.

Last Wednesday I found this postcard on my windshield after lunch. It reminded me, like an apple falling from a tree demonstrates gravity, context and relevance play a huge (if unseen) role in marketing success.

Context

Where is your message? And when does it meet its target? Simple stuff, but like gravity, you can crash and burn if you ignore it. And deserving of some clear thought.

Where

Put your message where it’ll be seen by the right people. Right? Simple. But the process of thinking and working through the where/right/people equation gets sabotaged by what you can afford, what’s familiar, or what’s easy. Cards on windshields near your gym is inexpensive and easy, but not particularly effective. Just as exhibiting at an industry conference or advertising in an industry magazine may be easy and familiar, but may not be particularly effective (i.e., your target is semiconductor process engineers, which account for a tiny fraction of those attending the conference or reading the magazine). Your exhibit booth or ad is better than cards on windshields, but not by much.

The solution? Ask. Where do process engineers expect to learn about companies like you? Where do they look first? Where do they look next? And after that? Ask them.

When

The element of when in the context of the buying cycle is very powerful. You can buy all the 35-48-year-old married homeowners you want and talk to them about your kitchen remodeling business. But how many are thinking about or planning a kitchen remodel when your message lands? Better to bid on search terms like “kitchen remodeling contractor” or “kitchen remodeling ideas”, which puts your ad in front of people WHEN there are looking. Putting an ad in front of people when they’re looking to learn about or buy what you offer is as close to alien magic as you can get.

The explosive growth of paid search platforms such as Google AdWords is testament to the power of when.

Relevance

Get the where and when right and you achieve relevance. And relevant messages capture our attention. Hey, how about a free trial period for some new thin film vacuum deposition equipment? If you’re a semiconductor process engineer and you need to replace equipment or start a new line (when), looking at this offer (where) may get your attention (relevance). But chances are pretty good this same message loses its relevance on a postcard on 500 windshields.

There’s a lot of noise out there — a lot of distractions from the simple, powerful “physics” of marketing. Understand the where and when of the people you want to attract and execute properly, and your world changes.