Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Passive Discovery vs Active Discovery

In looking at the messaging architecture you put together for each buyer role and how they progress through their buying process, it’s important to think through how the message you need to get to the buyers will be discovered. Some will be "actively discovered", and some will be "passively discovered". It is crucial to understand the difference as it guides what strategy we need to take as marketers.

Active Discovery

Many of the marketing messages you want to be found by buyers will be found by the buyer explicitly taking an action (ie a Google Search) to seek out the information. This is the metaphor we think of for clearly defined information, such as feature capabilities, that are looked for specifically by name.

Here, the challenge is quite clearly defined; a buyer is actively seeking a piece of information, usually with search, although perhaps in community discussions or on social bookmarking sites. As a marketer, you need to ensure that your message is present, and in a way that makes it easy for the buyer to find it on a search engine. Although the art and science of search marketing is sufficiently challenging to warrant the creation of an entire industry, the problem being solved is quite clearly defined.

Passive Discovery

This is not the case, however, for more passive messages that need to find their way to potential buyers. Passive messages are messages that would not be actively sought by potential buyer, such as messages that alter pre-conceived notions of reliability, applicability of a solution to a certain industry, and perceptions of product usability, service quality, or price-point.

These messages, as they are not actively sought, must be built into other stories that can be discovered, or carefully presented by an "Information Concierge". for example, a pre-conceived notion of the applicability of a solution to a certain industry can be shifted by seeing that solution mentioned as a key part of a client success story. A sense that prices are higher than they actually are can be adjusted by sharing stories that relate to smaller or cost-conscious businesses. A perception of user challenges can be changed by stories that mention a large, vibrant, and happy user community.

Story-Telling and Passive Discovery

The use of the idea of stories is deliberate. There is no more effective way of conveying a passive message, such as a change in perceptions, than through a story that is shared by one peer to another. Word of mouth messaging is the most effective way of changing perceptions because it comes from trusted peers, and cannot effectively be bought or biased by marketing budgets.

However, marketers looking to change perceptions, introduce ideas, and challenge pre-conceived notions, must introduce stories that are easily told. These are not the dry, ROI-driven, case studies that celebrate and trumpet our showcase clients, but are stories that entertain, inspire, or challenge their audiences. There is no reason that we must avoid the idea of having fun with B2B marketing campaigns.

Marketers, especially B2B marketers, who are effective at finding and packaging the truly interesting stories that tend to get shared via word of mouth have an opportunity to subtly focus on certain messages or perceptions that they need to change in the market.

Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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