In the Qualified Sales Leads framework, we focus on connecting with the customer in the right place, at the right time. That time in the purchase decision cycle is when they start to look for the options available (investigation) and evaluate those options (evaluation). If we know where and when they are looking, then we can get into that marketing channel and make our case.
The three main marketing channels are:
Each channel operates differently and works on different assumptions.
In outbound marketing, the assumption is that we can define and find the exact company and contact person in our targeted profile. Once the universe of that profile is established, the process is then to narrow down the list to those who are actually in the market.
The first step, creating the profile of the ideal customer, is developed in the Discovery Call. From this, the universal list can usually be created using the NAICS codes in Dun and Bradstreet, Hoovers, Data Axel. We can use the internal filters in these tools to adjust for industry, geography, size, growth rate and a number of other qualifying factors. These lists can be further refined using our web scraper which looks for more specific words in a website.
From this universal list, the next step is finding out who is in the market by looking for signals which indicate change is going on. It might be some problem that cropped up or new directions of the company. Sometimes we will identify the change before the actual decision to buy is made. In short, this step will identify who has motivation and who has started (or is about to start) the purchase process. A sales window has opened.
The last step in the outbound channel is to find the exact contact needed. The preliminary titles are developed during the Discovery Call. Linkedin’s premium version ( Sales Navigator) has excellent tools for finding people with those job titles. At this point in outbound marketing, salespeople can use this highly qualified sales lead list which has the following characteristics:
They fit the profile of the perfect customer
They have motivation to buy
The purchase process has started
The decision maker has been identified with contact information.
To summarize, outbound marketing assumes that we can identify the targeted customer exactly and can find them when they are in the purchase process (who and when). We can make contact and get our message out to the right person at the right time.
Inbound marketing works on the idea that potential customers are coming to you They have found out about your company either through an organic search on the Internet, or through ads associated with organic search terms or through your website address (URL) in some published media.
Inbound marketing has the advantage of having motivation established without having to look for signals. Someone who puts in a search term in Google not only just tipped their hand that they want to buy a product or service, but they have also indicated they are on to the second and third step: investigation and evaluation. The searcher may be looking for lists, evaluation sites, review and ratings sites, expert opinions, user groups, influencers and other evaluations. The same can be said of the website address (motivation is established) but it depends on the additional step of getting that address published where it can be discovered.
The concept of watering holes assumes that we cannot identify the exact customer, but there are places where our target market concentrates. The analogy is attending a conference and walking down the main hallway of the hotel which has the breakout rooms. One of the rooms says, “Software for Agricultural Machinery” and you are a company making software for agricultural manufacturers. At this point, you don’t know anyone in that room, but that is the room you want to be in. The attendees have self-selected and concentrated into this small but pure market. They meet the profile, have motivations and have begun the investigation stage. The people in this room constitute probability sales calls
Watering holes can be actual physical places like conferences and trade shows, or they can be virtual like internet sites, user groups, discussion groups, influencer blogs, experts or specialized media. The job for HQ Strategy is to find the watering holes.
Business to Consumer
Most of the above comments apply to B2B businesses in which the purchase decision is primarily a rational one based on the need to increase income or decrease expenses. The core principles still apply to B2C companies but there are some additional factors to consider, the most important of which is the fact that decisions are often made on an emotional basis. Analysts often divide consumer expenditures into necessities and luxuries. Necessities may still go through some version of the four steps (this cold remedy has clinical studies to show it works better), but luxuries may often skip investigation/evaluation. I want an ice cream cone now because it is hot. I want a Lexus because it shows my status. I want the new video game because of my need for stimulation now. It is the range of human emotions which traditional marketing used to establish motivation for impulse buying.
While HQ Strategy is not about the content of marketing (creating the motivation), it is about targeting (finding the people who are making a purchase decision). We have a couple of excellent tools and principles to work in the B2C arena: GIS mapping and viral marketing in social media.
Our GIS mapping tools have access to demographic, psychographic and consumer expenditures. By mapping the existing customer base and overlaying it on lifestyle neighborhoods, we can create a profile of the current customer base (often a half dozen or so lifestyles). From there we can find other neighborhoods in the country that match that lifestyle. We cannot identify exact people and addresses, but we can identify small geographic areas for direct mail or targeted internet ads. It is a superior tool for targeting B2C customers who already make known purchases of products from competitors.
The viral marketing principle for B2C companies works on Clayton Christensen’s (Harvard) idea that small companies are unlikely to compete in large, consolidated markets but they may enter the market at the bottom end with disruptive products and services. Without massive marketing budgets for national exposure, these companies depend on viral marketing in the social media.
We often see this in beverages (wine, beer, spirits, coffee, seltzers, water) where a local company has a small, local but passionate set of customers who follow the company on various social media and can serve as evangelists and influencers via a viral campaign. Identifying these key individuals for rewards and involvement in viral campaigns is a low cost, high sales probability form of B2C marketing.
In Economic Gardening principles, marketing is not a standalone, singular activity. It is more like a chess game where it is not the individual pieces alone (market data, competitive charts, Linkedin, text analyzer, GIS map), but rather the interrelationships between all the pieces. Two principles are important: the four-step purchase process and the concept of high probability sales in areas of change.
Marketing is harder when you try to create motivation versus finding motivation (especially in B2B business which are about 80% of our work). Marketing is also inefficient when it is focused on low probability sales calls in stable situations versus high probability sales calls in areas of change.
Our main focus is to find out when and where the targeted customers are going to investigate and evaluate their options, and then be in that marketing channel.
The main idea is that instead of each specialist trying to solve the marketing problem with their own tool, we come at it with a systems approach which combines all the tools and principles in a coordinated effort.