December 2011 archive

Exploring the top of the funnel for untapped leads

When it’s your job to decide how to spend marketing dollars and your budget is not unlimited, options that are easily trackable to revenue tend to win out. That’s easy to understand; it feels safer to choose channels that you can prove were effective, or that at least didn’t lose any money.

When you can show that A caused B, the picture is simple and simple feels good. That’s one of the reasons why Google spends so much on reporting tools for its cash cow self-service ad platform. They want you to see the connection to revenue and feel content with your ad spend. It works too – Google pulled in nearly $10 billion last quarter.

Simple methods for lead acquisition are great, especially for products with a short sales cycle, but they’re not the whole picture. Just because an effort is not easily tracked doesn’t mean it can’t be extremely effective.

When attempting to break through the noise into a consumer’s consciousness, the deck is stacked against brands. Because of the onslaught of messages that we all get pounded with every day, defenses are up. Simply asking for a sale is not enough.

Long term efforts around awareness offer a way. They have gotten a bad name lately because they don’t always show up well on a dashboard. But planting seeds of recognition early in a buying process can get around ad-blindness and deliver big returns. It’s well known that word of mouth is the most persuasive form of endorsement and trust is usually credited as the reason why. And while it’s trust that enables a Five Guys fan to make an effective lunch recommendation to a coworker, one of the reasons why he’ll go along with it is this:

He doesn’t feel that he’s being sold anything.

Persuasion is most effective when it’s invisible. The marketer’s goal should be to arrive two steps before the discussion of products starts, shaping their methods for evaluation and scoring points before the overt game even starts. If done well, the audience draws their own conclusion based on subtle hints whose influence they weren’t even aware of.

As a bonus, many brands don’t have the resources or the guts to market this way, preferring to stick to methods that deliver a tidy ROI number within a short time span. The competition will be much lighter here. Plus, if you are fortunate enough to register a message within the brain of your target customer weeks or months before she needs to consider a purchase, you will benefit from the positive connotations of recognition when the memory pops back up in her mind.


Like the Bene Gesserit, your generous, friendly content will be subtly influencing under the surface. It doesn’t have to be as sneaky or manipulative either. One example from my kitchen happened at dinner the other day. My wife brought out a new marinade from Frontera Grill for our fajitas. When I saw his picture on the bottle, my mind jumped back to years before when I had seen some of Rick Bayless’s cooking shows on PBS. I never really loved that show in the first place but part of me was proud that I connected the dots and I was able to throw out a few things that I remembered from the show in conversation while we made dinner. The marinade’s quality bumped up a couple of notches before we even sat down to dinner and I would be more inclined to buy it again in the future.

Longer term campaigns are especially useful when:

  • There is a long time delay between purchases
  • It’s difficult to select a product without technical knowledge
  • Purchases aren’t planned ahead of time but are urgent (e.g. furnace repair)
  • There’s little to differentiate between products based on features

I’m all for accountability and love to eliminate efforts that aren’t defendable. Buzz building awareness campaigns have been derided lately for being fluffy and often for good reason. But to ignore long term messaging for lack of reporting is to miss out on a proven method of influence, even if it is a little harder to recognize.