At Leading Results, we do a lot of marketing planning – for us, of course, but especially for our clients. Like many marketers, our team members tend to lean into and plan the marketing tactics that they are a) most comfortable doing or b) like the most. And while this makes for engaged marketers, it generally doesn’t result in a balanced plan.
To help keep us thinking in a balanced approach to lead generation, we use a simple 2x2 grid that categorizes most lead generation tactics and provides us with an ongoing check-in visual as we plan. It’s not rocket science; however, in today’s world of non-linear buying processes, to realize you need some coverage of all the various ways in which to attract new customers.
This grid has four squares – Inbound, Outbound, Earned Media, and Referrals. Your business needs to have some level of plan and activity for each.
Let’s go through this in more detail using the example of a business software application developer. For our example, we’ll use a company that has developed an application that improves a doctor’s office’s ability to handle patient-appointment rescheduling. We’ll call this company “U-Book-It.”
U-Book-It has a clear target market – medical or dental offices that want to offer patients self-service abilities. Their product solves a true issue for their client – providing flexibility for patient scheduling without having to pay people to be on the phones.
So now let’s look at how using this 2x2 helps them develop their marketing execution plan.
U-Book-It doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on advertising or pay-per-click or many of the easier “checkbook” marketing tactics out there, so inbound marketing is right for them – it can be time consuming, yes, but it’s cost effective.
To attract visitors, the staff needs to focus on helping the search engines help them; the best way to do that is through blogging. But what should they write about? Well, using any number of tools – some free, some paid – they can figure out the key phrases that people are searching for and create blogs that tell their story and include those phrases.
They also need to start engaging with folks on the social sites a) to get the word out that there’s new content to read and b) to listen to conversations for opportunities. Also, they need to be doing search engine optimization (SEO) work for page optimization on their site and finding opportunities to build back links.
If inbound marketing is about attracting those who are looking, outbound marketing is about interrupting those who need what you have but don’t know that your company or product exists. Think of this as the more traditional tactics, where you insert yourself into the conversation.
While U-Book-It doesn’t have a lot of funds to spend on marketing, they can help create some balance in their marketing plan by using email (by permission only, please) marketing and finding great partners to work with – sharing a trade show booth at highly targeted shows, for example. When the budget allows, doing very targeted pay-per-click to specific conversion offers is a good layer to add on.
Many people use Earned Media and Public Relations (PR) as interchangeable terms, but they are not. PR is part of it, but Earned Media is exactly that – earning the right to have someone write about you in a public forum.
Earned Media can take any number of forms – it could be a press release that U-Book-It released and that a reporter who covers medical business management picked up. It could be a byline article that the CEO wrote and submitted to the local HMO newsletter. It could be reviews that clients wrote on a site like G2 Crowd.
Referral marketing, or word-of-mouth marketing, is where many businesses start. Referral marketing is making U-Book-It do such a good job that their customers recommend them to others, allowing U-Book-It to continually build relationships with customers and industry partners. The ideal industry partners serve the same customers – with a different product – and will recommend those customers to U-Book-It.
Referrals are often the best leads, but they’re also the hardest to ensure a steady flow of. Documenting a referral plan keeps them a stated and measured part of the plan.
U-Book-It has done a few things to ensure that referrals happen. They embedded a widget in their program that makes it easy for current clients to recommend the product and give a free trial to other businesses they know. They’ve also partnered with a practice management consultant that recommends them from time to time.
In the end, it’s about balance and blend – kind of like life. You can’t do everything you want to in order to market your business or product. There just isn’t enough time or money. By looking at your tactics and making sure you have a balance of approaches, however, you stand a better chance of finding prospects, no matter what their buying process may be.