How to stop spray-and-pray marketing

This short post will walk you through how to generate leads without relying on spray-and-pray marketing. The answer lies in 1) finding a high-priority problem that your target customer must act on and 2) that problem should have a quickly approaching deadline for your target customer. I'll illustrate how solving such problems can liven up your marketing and inform a new approach to marketing altogether.

Photo by Ian MacDonald on Unsplash

A few days after Halloween, my window cleaner gave me a call. He must have been calling to sell me another round of window cleaning. Perhaps he wanted to tell me about a winter special promo that he was running. To my surprise, he offered to hang my Christmas lights on the exterior of my house, and he quoted me a reasonable price. It's as if he read my mind. The time, effort, and timing of when I was going to knock that to-do off my list were very top of mind for me that week. After hanging up the phone, I googled 'residential Christmas lights installation near me', which turned up a few results. So, I called those local businesses for a rough quote. It turns out that my window cleaner quoted me 50% less than his lights-installation competitors.

I started thinking, why would my window cleaner offer such a service? Is lights-installation a huge market? Probably not. Can lights-installation provide year-round revenue? Nope. But, because installing holiday lights is something many households will prioritize during holiday months, such a service, even if offered at cost or low margin, can...

  1. Generate strong leads for window cleaning in the future from lights-installation service inquirers (but those who don't buy) and people who do buy alike
  2. Generate additional income and deepen the window cleaner's relationship with past customers who already know and trust the service provider
  3. Generate additional contribution margin before the end of the year to cover fixed costs (assuming low seasonal demand for window cleaning during fall and winter)

It turns out that my window cleaner is a savvy marketer first and a window cleaner second. By targeting a clear problem that I likely must solve (i.e., installing lights around my house) within a short time range (after Halloween but before Christmas), and even though such a task doesn't directly tie in with window cleaning, he continues to raise awareness, develop new relationships and deepen existing ones. He could take this one step further by adding new pages and content to his website, along with a little advertising. That could expand his reach and customer base during a time when many of his potential customers likely have 'installing lights' higher on their to-do list than window cleaning.

After this brief exchange with my window cleaner, my mind went to a place it often goes. I started thinking about what my window cleaner could teach marketers in general, especially those of us in the thick of quarterly or annual planning for 2023.

Takeaway for marketers

Target a present problem

Whether seasonal or driven by another factor, look for solvable problems your target customers need to act on in a short time frame. The emphasis is on the words 'need' (i.e., must-have or high priority) and 'act' (i.e., must do something by a specific time). For example, if you sell invoicing software, pick a target customer like freelancers, and choose a problem like quarterly tax filing (in the US) to build a marketing campaign around. A certain number of freelancers will likely be more interested in getting their quarterly taxes filed on time at the end of every quarter and hearing about how you can help them do that, and less about a more convenient invoicing solution.

Find the solution path

Then, find the paths your potential customers usually take to solve those problems. And offer support along their journey with helpful products, services, or content. Given the timeliness of installing lights during the holiday season, the window cleaner could add a seasonal service to their website and run a pay-per-click search ad or write an article to target the search term 'holiday lights installation near me'. They could also consider a flyer drop once before Halloween and once or twice after. Addressing a near-term need that requires action will likely get your target audience's attention and motivate them to call.

Acquire the lead

Once someone calls to inquire about the lights installation service, and even if they don't buy, they've become a potential lead for window cleaning: someone who cares enough about their home and would rather pay for services than do it themself, which is likely better than targeting customers based on zip codes, income levels, and residential square footage.

Wrap up

This approach could attract stronger leads at the very top of funnel than focusing too heavily on buzzy topics for the sake of grabbing attention or pushing the same marketing message again and again. Speak to your target audience, get your product stakeholders involved, and invest in research to find out the things your target audience must get done by a specific time. It could be the beginning of a truly creative campaign or a full marketing strategy for your next planning cycle.

In a future post, I'll write about how this style of thinking/marketing can be applied to a more relatable SaaS product.