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I just read a very good post by a famous marketing “guru.” It was entitled ” How to get customers to come to you…”

It’s marketing and sales people’s dreams, getting customers to come to us.

Something we’ve done has interested them. Something has provoked them to ask for more. They may not be ready to buy, but it could be the starting point of a relationship.

Customers coming to us makes everything easier. They usually may want to learn more, so we get to talk about our favorite things—our products, our company, ourselves.

There are many in marketing and sales who see (or would like to see) the world as “inbound.”

I love “inbound” as much as the next person. At the same time, there are some huge challenges with “inbound.”

Since they are searching, they also are searching a number of competitors or other alternatives as well.

They may have firmly entrenched views about their needs and priorities–these may not be well informed. They may be missing hugely important things. It may be difficult to shift their views because they are anxious to get what they want, not necessarily what they need. (Similar to responding to the RFP that you had no involvement in writing.)

Since they are pretty far through their process, our ability to create value is seriously limited. We may be relegated to competing on price.

But an opportunity is an opportunity, we welcome these inbound opportunities and the opportunity to compete.

But what about those customers that aren’t coming to us?

The reality is this is likely to be a far larger number than those who are coming to us. These represent huge opportunities that we are missing.

They aren’t coming to us because despite all our marketing, all our SEO, everything we try to do, they aren’t finding us.

Or the customers that aren’t looking. They are too busy, too overwhelmed, too overloaded. Or they simply don’t recognize the opportunity to change or improve.

These represent greater potential than those that are coming to us–both in sheer numbers/volume, and in our potential to influence and shape their views.

Outbound, in all forms, is critical. We need to aggressively look for and create opportunities. We need to engage with customers much earlier, inciting them to change.

Some would argue against this. The objections include:

It’s more expensive. Possibly, though I’m not convinced. We have the opportunity to target larger opportunities, greater needs, driving greater value at potentially better margins.

One might also view outbound as net incremental revenue, so the marginal costs are smaller. Or our sales people might not be fully loaded and as productive as possible, again, the marginal costs may be small or non-existent.

There’s the trade off of net incremental investments in driving more inbound versus the costs of outbound.

There are a lot of puts and takes on the expense side of the analysis, no clear answers, so we have to look our own situations carefully.

There are also those that say, “Well we’re making our numbers with inbound, so why do more?” I’d argue these organizations are under-performing their potential. We know they are seeing only a small part of the Total Addressable Market. If they are making their objectives purely through inbound, then the goals are set far too low.

Then there are those that are happy with getting what they get, not what they need or deserve. There are those that sit waiting for that inbound email or call. They aren’t making their numbers, and aren’t doing what they need to do to make their numbers.

Customers coming to us is great. But we do ourselves, our customers, and our companies a disservice by basing everything on just these customers.