Pulling Pathways

“May I speak with Silicon?”

Rarely am I stunned into silence.  Just ask my ex-wife or my congress critter.  Yet when I answered my phone in the middle of a rushed work day, and heard a clearly foreign voice on the other end asking for a person named Silicon, I was muted, torn between throwing a vitriolic fit of indignation or laughing aloud.

I eventually opted for the former.

After some ungentle queries on my part, it came to light that the cold caller was peddling web development services and was wondering if perhaps we might be in need of some.  Further interrogation (which at this point had become a source of amusement … for me, not the caller) showed that she knew nothing of my company, or business, our web site, or even the color of the sky given the distinct possibility that her call center was a dungeon in the sixth ring of Hell.

Which is a good place for it.

In marketing there are three distinct forms of lead generation: push, pull and path.  We learned the first two in management school and the last one is relatively new.  In push campaigns, you assault the buyer by reaching out to them.  Of all forms of push promotions, cold calling is both the least welcome and the least effective, for the very same reason.  People need to learn about options when and where it makes sense for them.  If a busy executive (me) is intently focused on reviewing a multi-phase go-to-market strategy plan, the best way to lose that executive’s business for life is to call him on the phone with some inane, untargeted, tangent irrelevancy.

This is why insurance salesmen got such a bad rap, because push selling is all they knew.

Even advertising, the most non-disruptive form of push promotion has sought less and less disruptive means of communication as the public become more immune to direct messaging.  Product placement is big because decades of television viewership has mutated the human species and given them the ability to ignore most ads.  One reason banner advertising is cheap is that it too has largely become ineffective.

Pull promotions are a bit different.  The goal is to create desire and thus demand, and have products pulled by the customer.  A great deal of buzz and viral marketing is executed to create pull, which has the advantage of affecting people who have a predisposition to acquiring a particular product.  It also has the advantage of not tempting lousy marketing managers to set up phone banks with staff who ask to speak with Mr. Strategy.

However, the new kid on the block — facilitated by the Internet — is path marketing (a term I am happily hijacking from Seth Godin).  The fact is that people need stuff all the time and will seek it out once they have some idea of their own needs.  Just ask any middle aged man what he did when experiencing his first hemorrhoid (excluding his boss) and odds are they went on an Internet search of medical information and a remedy.  The same applies to most any product, from cars to airplanes to printer paper.  As Godin said, the goal is to light a path of discovery back to your product.  This requires anticipating what words your prospects may use to describe their needs and expected outcomes, and generating enough of the right content that when they seek a solution, they find you.

For example, about half of our customers come from Internet searches, a sum that rivals referrals.

Herein is an interesting intersection that needs exploring.  In many markets, but particularly in high tech, the prospect may not know their need or have the language to describe it.  The glorious opportunity is to establish the language while lighting the optimized search path back to you.  In other words, invent the core language that describes your solution, populate your web properties with those words, then use buzz and media to seed the market with the keywords you selected (and preferably copyrighted).  Once Internet conversations start and use your keywords as the lingua franca, anyone who connects the concepts to their needs will automatically discover you and nobody else.

The marketing lessons are many.  First, push marketing is still necessary, but is becoming less so (and there is a difference between push and pushy promotions).  Second, search is the new lead tool for everybody.  Last, you don’t need to compete in search — you just have to pollute the market with your proprietary language in a well ordered way.

And you can close your cold call centers — Mr. Silicon is no longer taking your calls.


Speak up! What are your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.