Archive for January, 2011

Passive vs. Active Marketing: Are Your Relying on the Wrong Type of Marketing?

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

If you don’t get the business you expect from internet marketing, you’re probably relying on the wrong type of marketing. What people fail to understand is that there are 2 types of marketing. There’s passive marketing and active marketing. One is not better than the other. They both have their place in the marketing mix but expecting results from the wrong approach can be fatal to your business.

Passive Marketing

Passive marketing consists of building infrastructure and waiting for customers to find you. When I say “infrastructure,” I mean stuff that requires programming or copywriting such as setting up a website, blog, newsletter, Facebook Fan page or Twitter account. Online, passive marketing consists of putting this stuff out there, getting it to rank well (search engine optimization) and then waiting for customers to find you. Offline, passive marketing consists of things like print advertising in magazines or newspapers.

You might find it hard to believe that all these activities are “passive.” This stuff is hard work! The problem with passive marketing is that your sales depend on people you don’t know taking action. An action you have very little influence over.

Just because all this stuff is a passive form of marketing doesn’t mean you don’t need to do it. You do! These things are the hub of your online marketing efforts. They are different mechanisms to demonstrate your expertise, make the case for why potential clients should hire you and where you start to build relationships by inviting visitors to sign up for your newsletter, subscribe to your blog feed or download a free report.

Active Marketing

At its core, active marketing is less about specific tactics and more about building relationships. It’s about connecting with referral sources and potential customers. Building relationships with active marketing is a 3 step process.

  1. Figure out where your target markets hang out online. What websites they visit. What blogs and publications they read. What experts they pay attention to.
  2. Create content tailored to that community.
  3. Use that content to engage referral sources and customers in a conversation.

Offline, active marketing includes tactics like face-to-face networking and cold calling. Online, it consists of blog commenting, guest blogging and answering questions on forums and sites like Yahoo Answers.

Notice I did not say social networking is a form of active marketing? If you’re just putting stuff out there, i.e. tweeting, Facebook updates, inviting people to be a connection on LinkedIn, that’s still passive! For marketing to be active, you have to interact with people. The active form of social networking can be as simple as introducing yourself to someone you’d like to meet via email.

Who Needs Active Marketing?

It’s realistic to expect customers to search for what you’re selling, click on your website and buy something if you sell physical products such as shoes, tech toys or books. However, high-end services such as coaching and consulting have a very different sales cycle. Sure, a customer MIGHT search Google for “management consultant,” land on your site and then pick up the phone. But, that’s not going to happen in large enough numbers to pay your bills.

Because passive marketing is the most commonly used form of marketing, business owners who  need to use active marketing don’t realize they are relying on the wrong marketing approach to bring in customers. In my experience, there are 3 situations that require you to use active marketing.

You Need Active Marketing when Your Service is Seen as a “Want” Instead of a “Need”

Many types of consulting services are like therapy. Nobody wants therapy. People don’t wake up one day and say to themselves, “You know. My life’s going great. I think I’ll start seeing a therapist.” People only go to therapy when they are convinced they need therapy. Coaching and consulting are perceived the same way. Executives don’t want to hire a coach or consultant for themselves or their organizations. They only do so when they believe it will make money, save money or reduce stress.

You Need Active Marketing when You Have a Long Sales Cycle

If your business provides complex solutions to complex problems, you have to do a fair amount of educating the client before they sign a contract. These days many prospects don’t want a sales call, instead opting to educate themselves at their own pace and interest. They want to check you out, see if you understand their problems, have unique solutions and demonstrate why they should hire you instead of your competitors. This isn’t done by ranking well.

You Need Active Marketing when People Don’t Know Your Service Exists

You might have a unique service that solves a dire problem but if your customers don’t know your service exists, they’re not searching for it! And if they’re not searching for it, all the rankings in the world won’t help you. So what do you do?

Active Marketing in Action

I have a client who is a baby sleep coach. Either over the phone or at your home, she will work with you to get your baby to sleep through the night in its own bed. We all know some tired parents who could use her service! About a year ago she hired me to help improve her rankings. Now her website ranks #1 for a bunch of good key phrases. However, those high rankings weren’t translating into phone calls.

This doesn’t mean she can’t get clients from the internet. It just means she needs to take a different approach. Instead of relying on rankings to get clients, she is now building relationships with referral sources such as parenting websites, mommy bloggers and pediatricians. As of this writing, she is working on a free ebook to introduce people to her system and why it works. This ebook will be used to build her mailing list. Part of the plan is to write guest blog posts for the parenting websites and mommy blogs; this will get her in front of people who don’t know her service exists. As for social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter? We might set up a Facebook Fan page if there seems to be a demand for it but probably won’t bother with Twitter. Just because it’s the latest “Must do!” marketing tactic doesn’t mean it’s right for her business.

Understanding the difference between passive and active marketing and choosing the right approach for your business makes the difference between getting customers and wasting money on marketing. In future blog posts I will be going into more detail about where business owners get stuck in passive marketing and how to move into active marketing. If you haven’t already, sign up for the eMarketing Strategist blog feed. It’s going to be an interesting discussion.

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