Advertising is risky and expensive. Networking can be time-consuming and downright exhausting. And Caller ID has all but killed cold calling. What’s a small business to do?

Anyone who’s been in sales and marketing for long can tell you the game is changing, and in a lot of ways.

Consider these factors:

Technology is making it easier for prospects to hide. The bright, shining promise of communications technology was supposed to be greater accessibility. Communication without limits, they called it. Everybody will be reachable all the time, they cheered.

It never happened.

Instead, prospects are using technologies like email filters and Caller ID to block interruptions to their already overcrowded schedules. Potential vendors are screened ruthlessly. Gatekeepers are reluctant even to give out decision makers’ names and job titles, which makes pre-sales due diligence that much harder.

It’s now okay to lie to salespeople. Sales trainer Ari Galper tells the story of a phone conference he once had with what he thought was a serious prospective client. At the end of the call, Galper was about to hang up when he heard the prospects talking amongst themselves after they thought they had disconnected.

“Okay, so we’re agreed,” one man said to his colleagues. “We’ll string this guy along until we get the information we need from him, then we’ll go with [Galper’s competitor].”

Galper was floored. It was one thing for prospects to do competitive research and seek bids, but this was a new low.

Advertising cynicism is at an all-time high. According to marketing expert Jack Trout, the average person is bombarded with over 4,000 marketing messages each day. Much to the chagrin of advertisers, people are now reacting in self-defense.

They fast-forward their DVRs through ads. They visit the Internet armed with pop-up blockers. And they subscribe to “commercial-free” satellite radio.

People are willing to pay good money just to be left alone.

The Internet has created unrealistic expectations. The biggest battle that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) faced in its quest to stop illegal music downloading wasn’t legal but psychological. The generation that had grown up with the Internet, with its vast store of free stuff, simply expected that all media should be freely available. They didn’t understand violating a copyright as depriving an artist of compensation for his/her work.

Similarly, prospects scour the Internet for free information on you, your competitors, and your industry. Why should they take your calls or give you face time when they can Google you instead?

The convergence of these factors creates what sales consultant Jill Konrath calls a “perfect storm” of marketing resistance. Is it any wonder that, according to her research, 75% of all small businesses close because owners spend too much time generating too little revenue?

Aligning yourself with the new reality.

Fortunately, there’s good news in all this. The same “perfect storm” that makes it so difficult to market your business the old way is opening up a new way to reach marketing-resistant prospects.

The silver bullet? Information-based marketing collateral.

How to work with (not against) the marketing-resistant prospect.

If you’re going to prosper in this new environment, you have to understand not just its origins but its opportunities. The marketing-resistant prospect has several key attributes that create “white space” you can strategically insert yourself into.

They want to buy, but they don’t want to be sold. Marketing resistance doesn’t necessarily mean sales resistance. Prospects’ need for your products and services didn’t evaporate — just their tolerance for traditional marketing approaches.

Marketing communications that take an informative rather than “salesy” approach are more effective with this audience. Tone is everything.

They need to know what you know. The new marketing-resistant environment often makes it look as if prospective clients aren’t open to new ideas. Don’t believe it for a second.

Globalization is forcing decision makers at every level to do everything better, faster, cheaper. New ideas aren’t just tolerated, they’re sought out as critical competitive advantages.

Prospects may not have time for a sales pitch, but they’ll make time for research. And if you’ve got the right information presented the right way at the right time, you’ve got your foot in the door.

They often value convenience and credibility over all else. If you’ve positioned yourself correctly, their time constraints can be your friend. Several small but well-received information pieces, distributed over time, will keep you on the radar screen, increasing your chances of being “top of mind” when strategic decisions have to be made quickly.

To be effective in this new marketing strategy, however, you must understand: the key word in the phrase “information-based marketing” is information. Anything that smells like a sales pitch is out.

To use an analogy, your prospects are looking for something meaty — information they can really sink their teeth into. The last thing you want to offer someone in the mood for steak is cotton candy fluff.

And that’s all traditional marketing-speak is to these prospects — fluff.

We’ve talked about why traditional marketing pieces no longer work (or at least don’t work as well as they used to). But what you want to know is, is information-based marketing an effective alternative?

To answer that, we need to look at some hard facts. In the next article in this series, we’ll discover:

  • Who uses information-based marketing (and whether your competitors are beating you to the punch)
  • What prospects want … and what they’re not getting
  • Three reasons this approach is more effective than what you’ve been doing

Check your email in four days for your next lesson.  See you then!

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