Outbound one-way efforts to educate and inform the market as diverse as webcasts, blogs, white papers, advertising, podcasts, and customer case studies. Clearly, sales collateral and demonstrations of a product are additional means to educate the market. These all help to inform the market about your company, your offerings, and the capabilities you have.
Inbound one-way marketing efforts to learn more about the market, the buyers, and the situation you face as you go to market include market sizing, quantitative market research, competitive analysis, and segment attractiveness analysis, and market needs analysis. Customer and channel satisfaction, and win-loss analysis are other types of inbound marketing. Account identification and profiles can feed key information to the sales team to help them succeed. Sales qualifying questions are critical to keep your sales team from wasting their time.
Two-way marketing, where the information flows both into and out of the company at the same time, has both traditional and Internet-based components. Tradeshows (live or virtual) provide an interaction where your team informs but also listens. Sponsoring a research study is another opportunity to learn about the market but also gain thought leadership and brand awareness. If blogs encourage feedback and challenges, they can also generate two-way energy. Another valuable tool for two-way learning is ROI analysis, which is both a final piece in the sales cycle and a platform from which to develop sound expectations for future prospects.
As you map out your marketing plan, consider what mix of these to use at each stage of the buying cycle and the product lifecycle. For example, two-way efforts tradeshows and study sponsorship can be very effective in the early stages when the buyers are just learning about solutions and providers. Sales collateral and sales force demos, qualifying questions, and discussion prompters are critical elements late in the buying cycle. White papers, webcasts, blogs and podcasts can be structured to be effective at each stage of the buying cycle.
As a marketer, part of your job is to create paths for your sales team and the prospects and customers to get where the need to go, quickly and efficiently. If deals are not flowing, check the balance of outbound, inbound and two-way tools and consider re-drawing the map.