Everyone remembers that great scene in the movie “Speed” (1994), where a Los Angeles transit bus that’s rigged with a bomb has to jump over an uncompleted stretch of highway. That scene is more than just a great, suspenseful Hollywood moment, it also symbolizes the hurdles that marketers are sometimes asked to overcome.

Just as the people on the bus and the police saving the bus didn’t know they would have to jump a 50 foot gap, companies often run up against challenges that are hard to foresee. Have prospects ever shown initial interest but bail afterwards because your content doesn’t say if you’re compliant with a new industry requirement? How about that tradeshow you just found out about in a vertical you are just starting to explore? Can you convincingly use your existing booth and collateral to sell to this new audience? These are only a few examples of a gap in the road that you could face. So I’ll ask you, by shamelessly reusing Keanu Reeves’ words, “What do you do? What do you do?”

Settle on a Mix of Inbound and Outbound Marketing

diggSome say you merely need to be present in the places where your users hang out – that they will find you when they need you. This is called inbound marketing and the tools that make it up (SEO, PR, blogs, trade shows, social media, online content offered via forms, etc) are good, but by themselves won’t help you crack new verticals or generate leads within short timeframes. Outbound marketing activities such as: eNewsletters, direct mails, webinars, open houses, targeted promotions and contests, on the other hand, will indicate among people that you pitched, the percentage that responded.

Bruce Firestone recounts on his blog
how Kevin Rose and his partner did outbound campaigns to get Digg off the ground (sorry for the pun): “They wanted to start Digg with at least 3,000 committed contributors. That’s a large number but when you break it down, it becomes more doable – If Kevin and his partner each made 30 calls a day for 50 days, they could reach 3,000 people in less than two months. That is what they did.” This campaign augmented their inbound tactics well because they found out over the phone whether or not enough people needed what they were offering – and that enabled them to become a leader in the category we now know as social bookmarking tools.

Have Branding that Anticipates Directional Changes

The engine that got the bus over the gap was installed long before anyone knew it would one day need to make that jump. Similarly, your marketing needs to be given regular attention so that when called upon, it can meet the challenge. If you could conceivably need to email or post your message on social media one day, now is the time to start building your audience, sometimes called your house list. If your product looks like it will one day be serving different verticals, start understanding the benefits you bring to each vertical now and start naming your products so that they can eventually be tailored by edition or by vertical. Try to plan ahead, so that when you have to stepping_stonesmake that jump, you’ll be as prepared as you can be.

Bring Value to Prospects Before you try to Sell Something

New barriers are always being invented to help buyers block out messages from people like you. Call screening, pop-up blockers, e-mail filters, protected tweets and Captchas are all meant to slow down or thwart your marketing efforts. The problem is, you’re trying to get in front of prospects before they begin their evaluation process – from here on, you can no longer informally educate them on your product. If the prospect is reaching out and finding you, you should have a conversion-optimized experience that gets their interest (and their email) so you can send them more lead nurturing messages. You have to keep thinking ahead, both for the sake of the prospect and for yourself.

If you adopt these tactics, you will have the best odds of meeting and surpassing that next unforeseen marketing hurdle.

image credit: Twentieth Century Fox