Exposure ≠ Visibility

Mixing both can cost you and your consulting business a small fortune.

"How can I get people to pay attention to what we're doing?"

This is an important question. People can't work with you if they don't know you exist. But every consultant would benefit from differentiating exposure and visibility.

Here are my personal definitions:

  • Exposure: the fact of a person or information being brought to someone's attention. (Attention: the act of directing the mind to listen, see, or understand; notice.)
  • Visibility: the degree to which a person or information is recognizable AND generates interest. (Interest: the feeling of wanting to give your attention to something or of wanting to be involved with and discover more about something.)

It's simple to buy exposure since it's easy to draw attention from people. Every serious marketer knows the biological triggers: Automaticity, disruption, mystery... all tactics to call people to attention, backed by science.

If somebody fires a gun in the air, you’re going to turn your head. If you come across the same advertising piece 20 times in a single day, at some point you will notice it. It's really that simple.

Visibility, however, is not. You can't buy it. You need to earn it from people.

Last week I spoke with two consultants who were convinced to invest in paid ads to "increase visibility and top-of-funnel leads". After six months and $48,000 spent, they hear crickets. No real impact on their pipeline or business. Views and clicks won't pay your bills.

What makes people want to be involved with or learn more about something? You will need to educate and/or entertain them. And doing this requires you to understand their worldview: how they think, feel, and behave.

Exposure is just getting your name out into the world - it’s waving your arms around. Visibility, on the other hand, occurs when prospects start to pay attention.

To become highly visible you need not only exposure but also to be perceived as relevant and a source of value. Before trying to get in front of your target audience, ask yourself:

Am I (and my work) relevant enough for them to be interested in?

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