Minimum Effective Dose

What will make your marketing effective in 2021? Mixing just enough of the right ingredients.

Covid-19 vaccines are just being released and administered. The news carries stories of the first people to be vaccinated. These first vaccinations are a two-step process. Get a shot, wait a month, get another shot. Medical experts are concerned that after receiving the first dose, some may believe that is sufficient and not come back for the second. People may feel one is enough although it may take two.  It got me thinking about minimum effective dose (MED).

MED is the smallest amount of something to produce a desired effect. Less produces an inadequate or no response. More is wasteful or even potentially counterproductive. Minimum effective dose is the Goldilocks amount.

The idea pops up in different settings. Tim Ferriss popularized the idea in his book The Four Hour Body. Inspired by him, others have employed it in nutrition and exercise. It applies to marketing as well.

Sometimes people respond immediately to a valuable or interesting idea. More often it takes time. The more someone is exposed to a message the more likely they will adopt or act on it. If you associate a gecko with Geico insurance, “great taste, less filling” with Miller light beer, or Dos Equis with the most interesting man in the world, it’s not only because they were great ideas. It’s because you saw them over and over. And because you saw not just the same ads over again, but multiple messages embracing the same theme.

How many times did you need to see those messages before they stick in your consciousness? That’s the minimum effective dose.

As you put together your marketing plan for the coming year, here are a few ways you can apply the idea of minimum effective dose.


When Julie Littlechild and I conducted the research that led to the SEI report The Elements Of Referability, one of the habits most strongly associated with lots of referrals was the frequency an advisor talked about the description of their target client. The more often they described that client persona, the more referrals they got. One interesting finding was that highly referred firms tended to talk about that ideal client with their staff. One of our suppositions is that it was simply a reflection of how often they spoke about that persona generally. But we suspect it also got everyone in the office talking about that client profile. Would you more quickly deliver the minimum effective dose if everyone in your organization was reminding your clients who you’re looking for?

More referrals

Apart from describing your ideal client, you can also talk about referrals with clients. Regular readers know I am not a fan of asking for referrals. But you can and should be mentioning referrals in your conversations. Talk about how grateful you are that so many clients refer. When you bring on a new client, remind them of who referred them. When you thank someone for a referral, express your gratitude and remind them your best clients refer.

Content marketing

How often should you post to your blog? How many posts can you write with variations on a similar topic? Rather than creating a post with five ideas about reducing taxes, try five posts with one idea each.

Sales emails

When someone downloads a lead generator from your website, how many follow-up emails do they get? After they receive the resource, a sequence of emails will help drive them to engage with you. It may not be until the third, fourth, or fifth that they reach out to you.

Timing matters, of course. We know people seek financial advisors during times of transition. But sometimes a prospective client just needs to hear the message often enough to break into their attention.

As you create your marketing plans for the coming year, what’s the minimum effective dose to administer for your message to get a response?


Are you different enough? Make sure you are distinct from other advisors. Use this free checklist to check all your messages – verbal, by email, on your website. Click here to get your copy today:

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