How to get found when prospects aren’t really looking

I’m a long-time fan of inbound marketing, even before it got that nifty label. 

Why not attract prospective customers that are actively looking for a solution.  That’s got to be easier than hunting for them one at a time, or indiscriminately broadcasting your message to the whole planet. 

The idea makes perfect sense, except when one key piece is missing:  prospects that are actively looking.

What if the people who should be searching for your solution just aren’t?

They’re not typing relevant keywords into Google, not asking their colleagues for recommendations, not downloading educational white papers, or doing anything else to actively search for a solution?

When inbound marketing isn’t enough

I’ve worked with a number of software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers that have faced this problem.  Inbound marketing would have been a cost-effective way to acquire customers, essential for SaaS success –  except that “prospects actively looking” weren’t in the equation.

There are a few reasons why they might not be looking:

The prospect might not see that they have a problem.  Sure, as a SaaS provider, you can see a problem, but the prospect doesn’t.  They don’t see that the way they’re doing things now may be hurting their organization.

More likely though, the prospect does see a problem, but they don’t see it as an urgent problem.  They know their existing process has its downsides, but they figure they can live with it.  (See “Your toughest competitor… inertia.”)

Or even if they do recognize an urgent problem, they may not know that there’s a better SaaS solution at hand, especially if it’s in a niche market.

Most prospective customers are aware that proven SaaS solutions are available for HR, sales, or marketing automation.  But what if they need a better way to report safety issues on oil & gas rigs, schedule home health care workers, or manage a chiropractor’s office?  (Yes, I’ve worked with SaaS providers selling these kinds of solutions.)

In any of these instances, prospects are not actively looking for a solution.  Relying on inbound marketing to attract leads – that is, them finding you – won’t work very well.

Get in front of “non-active” prospects

If prospects are not actively looking and inbound marketing won’t work, SaaS marketers may need to revert to some of the more “traditional” marketing programs like broadcast advertising, outbound email or direct mail to carefully-sourced targets, or participation in events.

The goal of these programs isn’t to talk about the specifics of the solution; the prospects are not ready for that discussion yet.

Instead, the goal is to convince them that they do, in fact, have a problem, it’s a problem that they cannot ignore, and that there is a better solution readily available.

In other words, push them to become prospects actively looking for a solution.  Once there’s pool of active prospects, the inbound marketing tactics we know and love should move them forward from there.