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Search Marketing versus Outreach Marketing

I teach my clients that there are two main types of marketing – search marketing and outreach marketing.

What Is Search Marketing?

Search Marketing is doing everything necessary to be found when your potential customers begin their search for information about their problems, together with possible solutions in the form of products and services.

It is sometimes called inbound marketing because you are trying to pull customers into your business.

The main method of search marketing in the 2010s is to be found on the first page of Google or the other search engines through a combination of being found in the organic search results based on the ranking algorithm or by paying to be on the page through pay per click schemes like Google Adwords.

Another popular way that your customers will find out about your business is by asking their family and friends for recommendations. This also includes social media activities along the lines of “Does anyone know of a good small business accountant in Birmingham?”

What Is Outreach Marketing?

Instead of waiting for interested potential customers to contact you, outreach marketing is much more proactive. It involves reaching out to people who you think may be interested in the products and services you sell.

This is sometimes called outbound marketing or even interruption marketing as its purpose is to interrupt the prospective customers own agenda.

Popular methods include telemarketing (see what I mean about interruptions), direct mail, display advertising in newspapers and magazines. It also happens on the Internet through banner advertisements on websites, Google Adsense in the display network (where website owners get paid by Google for featuring their advertisements) and through Facebook adverts.

The Buying Cycle

You can say that customers go through a buying cycle ranging from “not interested”, when they are either happy with their current supplier or they don’t think they suffer from the underlying problem, to “getting ready” where they are becoming receptive to marketing messages and finally “ready to buy” when they want to make the transaction happen.

Marketing to those who say they are not interested is tough. The people don’t see any need to give their valuable time and attention to you and your products and services.

Marketing to those who are ready to buy seems like an obvious thing to do but there is a big risk that they will have already formed a trusting relationship with another supplier and/or had their buying criteria shaped in ways that don’t suit you.

That leaves those potential customers who are getting ready to buy as the main target for both your outreach marketing and your search marketing. These people have an interest in buying for the first time or in changing suppliers if it’s a regular purchase. They recognise there is an issue that needs to be fixed.

The big advantage of outreach marketing is that it can reach potential customers when they know there is a problem but before they’ve started to search for a solution.

At that stage, you are, potentially, in a game of one. It’s you and your prospective customer. If you grab their attention, you have a chance to develop an interest in your particular solution. Your plan is to interrupt, educate and engage. You can start a relationship that can become closer over time.

Inevitably, no matter how much they like you and believe you, they will do some search marketing, if only to make sure that you’re not taking advantage of them on price. They’ll take a look at some of your competitors but they’ll do so through a lens that you’ve influenced.

This puts any supplier relying purely on search marketing techniques at a disadvantage with those potential customers who have been recipients of effective outreach marketing.

However if attempts at outreach marketing have been ineffective – if they’ve failed to attract attention, perhaps because they’ve focused too more on the solution and not on the customer problem – or no one has bothered, everyone starts search marketing on a level playing field.

Of course, it quickly gets tilted. If the prospect starts off with a search in Google, the business that gets the first click has an advantage. That’s often the business that is ranked first in the pay per click or organic search listings provided the couple of lines of text shown appear relevant.

After that, it’s down to the website and any offer of product, service or engagement. If the prospect isn’t impressed or the business appears aloof or unhelpful, the buyer goes onto the next relevant listing.

What Do You Need To Do About Search Marketing And Outreach Marketing?

I believe that you need to use both types of marketing unless you have a low capacity and there is high demand for your products and services.

If you just use search marketing, you’re left waiting for customers to make contact with you. If your activity levels are low, you can lose out on a lot of revenue while you wait for interest as you test various elements of your marketing message.

On the other hand, outreach marketing takes time, effort and money. It means taking a risk that depends on how well you target your message to your target market.

If your database is full of “not interested” people, for all the various reasons, you have a big problem. On the other hand, if there is an overly large proportion of people who are “ready to buy”, you may find that you’re getting plenty of sales enquiries, which all take up time and energy to deal with but your conversion rates are very low. That’s because you’re being used to check the honesty and reliability of their preferred supplier.

You need to work out ways that you can identify a good proportion of people who are “getting ready” and who are, therefore amenable to receiving marketing communications.

What Can You Learn From Your Own Behaviour As A Buyer?

While it’s usually a mistake to think that your customers think like you do about your product or service, you can learn a great deal about marketing and buying from your own thoughts, responses and actions.

Be ready to learn wherever you can by using funnel vision to identify good practices. Use your own experiences to help you understand why some marketing works whilst more marketing fails.

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