Commentary

DR Marketers: Spend More Time Educating The Audience

Are you addicted to leads? I'm a recovering direct-response program junkie, and I'll always be addicted to leads. Pitch me a program that can cost-effectively get my target audience to take an immediate action (twhite-paper download, Webinar registration or free trial sign-up), and I ask: "Where do I send the signed IO"? As long as I can systematically track the program's ROI in terms of leads, CPL, pipeline contribution, and deal value, I'm at the top of my marketing game, right?

Actually, as much as it pains me to admit, we may all be missing the mark.

Don't get me wrong. My charter at Bizo as the company's head of marketing is a single purpose -- build out a marketing engine that will help the company scale the business. The company grew sales almost 300% YOY in 2010, and has its eyes set on some ambitious target in 2011 and beyond. Investing in programs that generate leads to directly contribute to sales pipe seems like a good place to start -- and it is.

In fact, as marketers, we're evolving quickly as a breed and have the ability to impact the direction of our respective businesses like never before. We've entered the age of the revenue marketer with a collective and growing appreciation of the need to tie marketing activity to revenue contribution, and to test, measure, and learn from everything we do.

But amid the rise of the revenue marketer, there is a blind spot. A risk of handicapping every dollar invested and hour spent by focusing only on that tiny part of our target audience that is ready to engage today (lower funnel) at the expense of taking time to educate the broader market (upper funnel).

Compared to your overall target audience, you have relatively few prospects that are actively looking to solve a problem or seek out a solution today. These few make up the smaller pool of target prospects that might take the time to download your white papers, register for your Webinars, or get started on your free trial.

It's only this small subset of your target universe that is Googling for information. comScore validated this in a study ("The Silent Click: Building Brand Online") that estimates you're only reaching about 8% of your audience through search, the ultimate bottom-funnel marketing tool. How are you going to reach the rest?

What if we tore ourselves away from the immediate gratification of today's leads, and spent more time and budget educating the broader audience that we care about? Said another way, what if everyone you cared about knew who you are, what you do, why you matter, and what separates you from the rest -- long before they were ready to make a purchase? I'll bet you half your Q4 marketing budget the following would happen:

•You'll get more out of every dollar invested in third-party email blasts

•You'll see an increase in Webinar registrations

•You'll see a lift in your paid search campaigns

•You'll see increasing pools of the audiences you care about making it to your website (and converting!)

•You'll see faster velocity of leads moving through the sales process •Ultimately, you'll see greater revenue production.

As marketers, we need to admit that we're spending a disproportionate percentage of our time and budget focusing on the very small population of target prospects who are already in our nurturing sites.

By forcing ourselves to think beyond this quarters lead flow, and mounting targeted branding campaigns to educate the broader audiences we care about, wherever they choose to consume information online, we'll start getting at the true potential value of a marketing dollar invested.

This isn't pie in the sky. Newer and rapidly maturing vehicles like targeted display and social media channels allow you to cost-effectively access your broader audience populations, with precision.

Fellow revenue marketers, we've come a long way. But we're still in the early days. Only by kicking the direct response habit will we begin to realize what's possible in the digital world.

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