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Direct Marketing vs Content Marketing: What Works Best For Lead Generation?


Bully or Wimp: What Works Best For Lead Generation?Ever feel like you're caught between a rock and a hard place, forced to decide between the lesser of two evils, damned if you do and damned if you don't?  During these moments, remember one thing: you haven't considered all of your options.  Many companies use direct marketing tactics that can often be seen as Bullying.  While others take the more passive, Content Marketing approach that can often come across very wimpy. But, you don’t always have to be a Bully or a Wimp.  This bit of wisdom can be applied to almost all situations in your life, and that includes when developing your lead generation programs.

When we're pressured, feeling anxious, or worried about pleasing superiors or hitting targets for the month/quarter/year, we tend to tighten up physically, restricting the blood flow to our brains, causing us to consider and make less than ideal choices.  During this debilitating state, most direct marketing teams believe their only option is to be a bully—and get what they need by sending buy message after buy message despite the collateral damage of unsubscribes and brand image.  The other option is to be a Wimp and leverage the power of content marketing. Send passive message educational contnet after passive message.

You don't need to make that poor choice.  You should never have to choose between being a Bully (Direct Marketing) or a Wimp (Content Marketing).  The trick is to learn how to send the correct message at the correct time with the correct call to action.  According to a recent MarketingSherpa report, only 28% of companies send relevant communications at the correct time to the correct segment with a clear conversion goal.  The other 72% are either Bullies or Wimps.

More often than not, most companies are being Bullies.  They may not want to admit it, but they are.  They are trying to bully their prospects with relentless, badgering, intimidating, yelling, and manipulative messages, trying to convince them to buy.  These strong-arm tactics may appear to work in the short term but can do irreparable damage over the long term.  And more often than not, companies that have tried being a bully and which have burned their relationships with their prospects switch to being wimps.  They are wimps because they are now so afraid of disapproval, that the send very passive and fluffy messages that do not offend but which also do not inspire action.  This is often true for many companies that have started content marketing strategies.  They are so focused on generating content they forget that in the end, these prospects need to buy something to pay the bills.

I recently had a similar problem with a Fortune 500 client of ours that felt both the messaging we had developed for them and imagery was too strong.  For years, they have been sending bullying messages and had burned out their database.  They came to us look to generate a more passive campaign.  We had built them a content strategy that first helps educate their prospects and then, when the prospects are ready to buy, lead to a provocative buy message.  They thought the images of the buy message might offend some people.  We explained to them that in order to inspire action you need to have a massage that generates a reaction.  No reaction, results in no action.  No action means to leads.  No lead means no job.  After some consideration, they decided to “try” it out.  Four months into the program, the buy message has a 40% open rate with a 43% click through rate (and for the record,  zero complaints, not even an “unsubscribe”).  The reason for this?  Because we use a combination of soft education touches (some may even  call it wimpy) that helps develop context, when they finally got the buy message (which, honestly has some bully-like traits), they are very open to receiving it.  That is because all along the way we had sent them relevant communications to their buying stages, segmented to their audience at the time they wanted to receive it. We also used a combination of wimpy and bully tactics – at strategic moments.

We also made use of a strategic combination of wimpy and bully messaging. The trick is to understand where your prospects are in their buying process and send them a message that matches.  You shouldn’t send bullying messages to prospects that have never heard of your company and are not ready to buy.  Conversely, you don’t want to be sending educational content messages (some would call “fluffy”) to prospects who are ready to buy.  This is where tools like marketing automation can be of great assistance.  Marketing automation allows you to gain understanding of where your prospect is at in their buying process and send the applicable message that will help take your prospect to the next step in their buying process.

Companies become either bullies or wimps when they are not aligned to their customers’ buying processes.  However, when you have built out an understanding of how and why your customers buy, you are in power, and can use marketing automation tools in addition to appropriate bully-like and wimpy-like tactics to send the applicable message at the correct time that will inspire your prospects to take the next action in their buying process.  Because of a lack of understanding, most companies resort to being either hardcore bullies or wimps.  All they know is to do one extreme or the other.  The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.  At the end of the day, it’s not about striking middle ground between the two.  It’s about being strategic and knowing when to be a bully (send a strong buy message) and when to be a wimp (help educate and provide guidance to your prospects).


Want to learn more about how to build a lead generation engine that knows when to be a bully or a wimp? Check out this free guide.

THE EXECUTIVES’ GUIDE TO BUILDING A LEAD GENERATION ENGINEThe Executives' Guide to Building a Lead Generation Engine

Looking for ways for marketing to show ROI? This guide will help you build a lead generation engine that maps to your customers buying process and delivers maximum measureable ROI. Download our free The Executives' Guide to Building a Lead Generation Engine.

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