I talk to several marketing executives per week and my favorite question to ask them is about how they are building sustainable lead generation machinery for their businesses to grow. In response, I typically receive a similar set of responses: trade shows, seminar series, telemarketing, email blasts to purchased lists, "pr" (press releases), and maybe some advertising. I call these techniques "outbound marketing." There are two things these outbound marketing programs have in common. First, they all cost of a lot of money . Second, they are all becoming less and less effective over time as people like you get better at better at blocking out these traditional forms of interruption and you turn to search engines, bloggers, and peers on social media sites to more effectively learn and shop.
The thing about the world today is that it is " flattening " in a way that allows good ideas to rise to the surface more efficiently than ever. Before I started my current company, I was consulting for venture backed startups with large marketing budgets. While I was doing that, I was occassionally contributing to my business partner's blog who was writing a couple of times per week between classes and thesis work at MIT and spending zero dollars on it. The juxtaposition was amazing to me. My business partner's (Dharmesh's) blog was getting 5x more traffic than any of the venture backed startups I was consulting for that were spending millions on the outbound marketing programs like I described above and typically had staffs of 3-4 dedicated marketing professionals. Dharmesh's blog articles were able to generate many links which sent traffic to his site, these links informed the search engines that his blog was important which moved him up the rankings sending him more traffic, and all this traffic meant that he was getting talked about in the social media sites (i.e. Digg, Reddit) sending him even more traffic. The links, the search engines, and the social media sites created positive reinforcing loops that produced a snowball rolling down a hill effect. Unlike even 5-10 years ago, if you say intelligent/creative things about your industry, those ideas are much more efficiently discovered and spread.
It turns out that to really crank up your traffic and leadflow, the key is to stop thinking about efficiently allocating your dollars toward traditional outbound marketing programs into increasingly resistant audiences and to start thinking about efficiently allocate your brainpower/creativity into creating and improving your modern marketing assets consumed by increasingly receptive audiences.
So what's a modern marketing "asset?" Well, if you work for Ford, your assets are inventory, factories, machine tools, etc. If you are a modern marketer, your assets are web pages, links into those pages, organic ranks on keywords, and individual online reputations. Just like in a manufacturing company, you want to efficiently create more assets (i.e. web pages, blog articles) and improve the qualify of those assets (i.e. search friendly pages, links into pages, page submissions to social media sites). The improvement of these marketing assets costs virtually nothing other than creating a little steam from rubbing braincells together and it works a heck of a lot better.
So, when your boss delivers you the bad news that he is cutting your marketing budget, but he wants you to meet the lead goals outlined prior to the budget cut, I recommend putting your head down and starting work on your inbound marketing strategy for the organization by creating more assets and improving the quality of those assets in a systematic manner. It will work better than the more expensive forms of marketing and it will cost you little to nothing to implement, other than than some creative thought poured out onto the internet.
This is primarily my company's mode of marketing. I'd be happy to hear from folks have comments on this approach...