Those of us who are responsible for demand generation — that is creating programs that provide business opportunities to sales — often have to walk a fine line between driving revenue and long term customer relationship building. As clearly demonstrated in many blog posts by others before, direct marketing has fundamentally changed due to the proliferation of data available to prospects online and technologies to filter out marketing messages. Prospects are no longer willing to be interrupted by messaging about brands. However, this does not mean that we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Search continues to be a strong driver of pipeline opportunities. This is further demonstrated by the fact that SEM campaigns that are targeted continue to drive results. Additionally, prospects continue to subscribe to receive newsletters and other brand communications via email. This may seem contrary to the opening contention of this blog post — that prospects are no longer willing to receive brand messaging. The key here is relevance.
So What Is A Direct Marketer To Do?
For many, the search bar is the gateway to the internet and it is where brand engagement begins. When someone enters a search term they are looking for an answer to a question. The key is to make your offerings the answer to that question. This shift in online behavior has lead to the rise of inbound marketing which is predicated on brands being findable online. Good inbound marketing has at its backbone a solid understanding of the target customer, a content marketing strategy built around this knowledge, coupled with strong SEO and timely offers. I have written in previous articles about the benefits of content marketing and inbound so I will not delve into that here — the only thing I will reinforce is that for inbound marketing to be successful it needs to be squarely focused on customer pain points and how to solve them through compelling offers.
Know Your Customer Better
To be relevant you must first know your customer. This calls for building a customer database and analyzing your best customers to determine their key motivators, barriers and pain points. Focus on the problems your customers are trying to solve and how you can help them. Think about the search terms they are they entering and why. An effective inbound strategy is guided by the content narrative that flows from this analysis. Once this foundation has been built it is for the direct marketer to determine the most effective channels and programs to engage with customers. But what should be our engagement strategy across these channels — when do we simply inform vs sell, sell, sell?
Keeping a Balanced Narrative
Glengary Glen Ross says “always be closing, always be closing” but your demand gen strategy needs to be more flexible than that. The key to maintaining the balance between demand creation and long term customer relationship building is knowing when customers are passively searching for answers to questions and those pivotal moments when they are actively searching for a solution. It needs to deliver content for prospects in both scenarios while maintaining a focus on how your offerings can solve their problems. Done right, this will naturally lead to those moments when prospects will expect you to close them. And this is when you should never be shy about asking a simple question — would you like to speak with sales?