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One of the most basic truths of human behavior is that people take action to satisfy needs (thank you, Dr. Abraham Maslow). Whether or not a prospect chooses to take action to satisfy a need depends largely on the awareness they have of the need, and what relative priority that need has on their current list of needs to be satisfied.  

When leads are generated through inbound marketing channels, via a website, white paper, webinar or trade show, the prospect acts on their own (clicking on a link or registering, for example).  This is a passive approach.  In contrast, with outbound, we are contacting prospects, and engaging them in conversation.  This is an active approach.

Most people, at any given point in time, are highly aware of certain needs and are likely ready to take action to satisfy some of them, whether it’s buying a car, finding an apartment, or maybe just getting something to eat.  Anyone in this category can be labeled a ‘Buyer’.  

There is another set of needs that have not quite reached this high level of awareness and may never reach that level.  Anyone in this category can be labeled a ‘Tryer’ – they are not yet inclined to take action on their own, but may be compelled to act if the right offer presents itself. 

And finally, there is a much larger set of needs that any of us has that we are barely aware of, or not aware of at all, and therefore not likely to take any action to solve.  For these needs, we are the ‘Whyers’ – i.e., Why would I do that? 

Need Awareness and Activity Level

It helps to visualize Need Awareness and Activity Level as the axes on a chart like the one below.  If we were to put the three categories of prospects on this chart, it might look something like this…

As is shown, the largest part of the market is often made up of the Whyers and the Tryers.  The smallest group, at any given point in time, is likely the Buyers.  While the Buyers can be converted via the passive inbound marketing approach, the active outbound approach can work for all three of these groups.   When sales flatten out, it is often a sign of exhausting the Buyers, and not having a strong outbound engine to convert the other two larger groups of prospects.