Solution Selling vs. HitTailing

ML Jul 13, 2006

In every way, HitTailing is about the incredibly soft sell. This is in marked contrast to the Solution Selling world that I come from, where a salesperson actively reaches out to you, moving you along your 5 or 7 touches to the close. Solution Selling works particularly well in difficult markets that have high price products and long sales cycles. It’s not unusual for a sale in a difficult market to take a year or more to close.

And that’s a lot of time to search.

Do these occasional hits by the prospect on your website on their research jaunts count as Touches in the truest Solution Selling sense? The jury is not in yet. There’s certainly no fields in sales force automation (SFA) software for how many natural or PPC search hits the prospect has performed during the sales cycle. Maybe there should be. Yes, I would definitely argue there should be.

But what ROLE do these passive search hit-based touches play?

First, let’s get it out of the way: yes, it’s a passive role. Or at best, HitTailing is passive aggressive. While this sounds like a disadvantage, it is the most polite and least spammy forms of online marketing. Think about it: you’re adding content of genuine value to your audience to the Internet (it is of genuine value, isn’t it?). You’re waiting for people to FIND YOU through the unique and under-recognized self-prequalification process known as Search. This is why PPC is also so effective: they’re context-sensitive adds following a uniquely effective pre-qualifying action. You know they’re interested, because they just searched!

Next, you’re not stepping on anyones’ toes. Even online ads are an attempt to insert information between a site’s visitor and the main content. HitTailing is even less spammy than banner and popup ads.

But what about online outreach by finding the important influencers in your space, and reaching out to them by commenting on their blogs?

Well, it’s a mixed bag, to say the least. Sometimes, you will score big, by aligning what you have to say precisely to the interests of the blogger. That was the case today, with Arnie of Critical Assumption. Indeed, based on his recognition of what I feel is my all-time-best-post, I think I found a kindred spirit in Arnie, and he may end up mentioning HitTail as a cool site.

But I’ve had exactly the opposite reaction too from a blogger who felt that my online outreach of late has been too much. I totally see how SEOs who frequent several SEO forums feel this way. And we’ve quickly remedied the problem by launching our own forum, so HitTail discussion doesn’t have to occur in other peoples’ forums. Despite that, I’m still getting invites to go speak at forums.

I’ve also throttled back blog comments to only those where I am SURE the message will be well received. If there’s anything that looks like a shadow of competitive services–actual or perceived–I won’t post.

And this gets to some interesting notions that have been on my mind of late. I’m tempted to produce a diagram about the lifecycle of a site. There is a time for online outreach, and a time for PPC and a time for HitTailing. It varies a bit from site to site, but I think much of it can be generalized for all sites. And I’m still resolving what is probably the part of it that I am least familiar and adept at: proactive online outreach. I much prefer being the invisible guy behind the scenes responsible for boku sales, where no one even knew I was involved. That explains my disappearing off the face of the SEO planet between 2002 and 2004, prior to which I was very active at the original Search Engine Forum. I was funneling all my energies into producing those online sales, and had very little energy left over for forums.

Fast forward to today. 2004 to 2006 was spent retooling my SEO methodologies to the public relations clients of Connors Communications, and a generally broader audience. A small piece of those services which are ready for public consumption was extracted from Connors’ greater offerings as the HitTail site. I have a message I’m just chomping at the bit to get out. I am indeed practicing what I preach by HitTailing. But it’s not fast enough!

We’ve got a new blog meme; a new marketing religion; a new take on word of mouth; a broadening of the definition of public relations. And we just have to share. And part of that sharing is dropping it like a pebble into the middle of the pond that is the online marketing community, and to watch the ripples. Those ripples serve as both validation, and the early adopters to help us rapidly refine the product. But how big of a pebble do we drop? How many pebbles at what areas of the lake? If the pebble is too big (a rock), it’s impolite. If the rock is too small, you haven’t given it a fair chance.

Certain products will take off like wildfire after the first pebble is dropped, because they have all the Inside the Tornado factors going in their favor. HitTail isn’t one of them, because although the conditions are right, the message is difficult to communicate. Therefore, we’ve (I’ve) felt obliged to drop quite a few pebbles to give the idea a fair chance. Where does due diligence and perseverance turn into spamminess?

Well, I’m not going to find out. I’ve never been adverse to risk, but there is a better way. We’re going to stick to HitTailing, practicing what we preach. But we’re also going to put the public relations machinery to work on it, also practicing what we preach. And finally, we’re going to stay engaged in with the online community.

But this is not Solution Selling. The market is easy. The price is free. The only barrier to entry is enlightenment. We’ll do our best to enlighten, but there’s nothing better that we can do than to solicit HitTailers to give us their stories, like David Stockwell.

If this is a trend, then HitTailing is in very good shape, indeed.

Lesson learned: when trying to get the snowball effect to occur, it takes as much finesse as it does persistence. Push too hard to get the snowball rolling, and it crumbles. Push too softly, and it will never roll and pick up snow. You’ve got to feel out that place in-between, and have faith its working.

One response
  1. amckinnis

    Depending on the type of person you are, you only have three choices when it comes to selling (an anology coming….)
    1) you agressively hunt for your new customers
    2) you wait for your customer to come to you
    3) you go out and plant seeds and wait for them to grow
    In startup mode, you usually have to pick one and “go for it” because you don’t have the resources to do “more”. As you grow, you can add more selling/customer aquisition tactics.
    Good post – and my belief is if you are utilizing blog comments for promotion – then good for you, if done properly, you organically grow your audience – moving in larger and larger concentric circles. If bloggers don’t like it, then they can “one-way” blog by turning off their comments.

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