Are You Building Your Business With a Crock-pot or a Microwave?

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It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Dan Kraus – Enjoy!
Are you building your business with a Crockpot or Microwave?
Photo Credit: lisaclarke via photopin cc

My Hubspot channel colleague Rachel Cogar at Puma Creative has a phase that I just absolutely love – she describes Inbound Marketing as a crock-pot strategy, not a microwave strategy.  Meaning, quite vividly I would add, that you will get a very tasty meal of inbound traffic and leads if you are willing have patience and put the time in for inbound marketing.

I’d go further than Rachel does with this however, and say that pretty much all marketing in a complex buying process is a crock-pot strategy.  We work with a lot of technology re-sellers/dealers/vars and they sell complex and expensive software, which performs critical functions for mid sized and smaller large businesses.

This is a not a quick turnover process.  A new customer purchase, with software and services, easily runs into the six-figures.  And the process to buy is long, complex and fraught with difficult questions to ask, answer and consider.

We’ve been seeing estimates that customers in complex purchases believe that they have completed anywhere from 60% to 80% of their buying process before they ever talk to a vendor on the phone.  SIXTY TO EIGHTY percent finished before you ever get to talk with them.

If you’ve been in business for about 10 years or more, think back – what was your sales cycle before the search engine ruled the world?  And what is it today? I am willing to guess that if you said your sales cycle used to be 6 months, and you really look at the time from engagement to close today, it probably is 6 to 8 weeks now.  So no, it hasn’t gotten shorter – its gotten hidden.  That engagement you used to have early on, as you educated a prospect, is now engagement the prospect takes upon themselves in a self-directed manner.

The impact of this is pretty profound in 3 key areas:

  1. We have a much more difficult time forecasting our sales future because we get engaged with prospects much later.  If we sell a product that used to have a 6-month sales cycle, we could reasonably do a weighted forecast, six months out.  If you are only seeing prospects now 6 to 8 weeks before they buy, it’s a lot hard to forecast six months.
  2. You don’t get a lot of opportunity to impact your prospects thought process.  The education that your prospect goes through is self-directed.  You don’t get to control the conversation. In fact, you will probably not even be able to impact the conversation unless you are putting out high quality educational materials on a regular basis such that Google sees you as a good source of education.
  3. You have a shorter window of time, space and energy to show why you are different than you have ever had before.  If the sales cycle that you are engaged with is shorter, and the prospect is self-educated, you have to have an extremely clear point of differentiation that is in-your-face obvious (and can be seen on a mobile phone).  If your prospects have to dig around to see why you are different, you lose.  The back button the browser or opening a new tab on my mobile is just too easy.

So back to our crock-pot and microwave.

To help educate these prospects and have them engage with you at the end of their buying process, they need to find you at the beginning.  This is the crock-pot.  You need to know the ingredients and keep adding them to the stew.  And give it time to cook.

Non-metaphorically – you need to know what the knowledge or understanding that your prospect is looking for and make it available when they want it (and in the format they want it).

The challenge with microwave strategies in a complex buying cycle is that sometimes they work.  Your telemarketer looking for leads might stumble upon someone who is ready to buy now.  That lead you purchased from a lead-aggregator may be a perfect fit customer for your organization and purchase next week.  But these results are unpredictable and make it difficult to consistently grow your business.

So by all means, use the microwave, but just like in your kitchen, there are some things that just don’t cook well in three to five minutes of radiation.  To make sure that you will always be well-fed, be sure you also get the crock-pot going, and always keep adding new and tasty ingredients for your prospects to feast on.

Dan KrausDan Kraus is the founder and president of the Leading Results marketing agency and a Master Duct Tape Marketing consultant.  Dan has been a sales and marketing professional for over 25 years, previously working for companies such as Great Plains Software and SAP. Based in Charlotte, NC, Leading Results has worked with Duct Tape Marketing for five years and is a Gold Certified Hubspot partner.  Leading Results helps clients in 14 different time zones to stop wasting money on marketing that doesn’t get results.


Dan Kraus

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  1. I completely agree that inbound marketing is a crock pot process, or as I prefer to think of it, a marathon, not a sprint. I’m reminded of the lesson from the tortoise and the hare — slow and steady wins the race. That said, sales people are tasked with meeting their monthly quota and, in my experience, small business owners are looking for immediate ROI, so it’s sometimes challenging to convince them that a well-conceived, long-term inbound strategy really is in their best interest. In light of that, I would like to hear from others on how they make their best case for its use.

  2. I think you have to share case studies and show what other companies have accomplished with crock-pot marketing and the time it takes to create a tasty stew of leads, prospects and sales. If they start to get all fidgety, it’s probably not the right strategy. They won’t see it through.

  3. Hi All, Thanks for the comments. @Carolyn, there is a case study we have out on our site at and Hubspot has many on theirs.

    @ Paul, Inbound is a critical component, but it can’t be the only one – it drives the steady lead flow once it engages, but sales still has to do the work of building and maintaining referral relationships (I think John has written just a bit on this 😉

  4. Inbound marketing has to be among the easiest marketing methods to sell and the most difficult to implement which unfortunately creates misalignments between user, seller and administrator that leads to multiple friction points and well, then things heat up and not the way we want or expect like with a crockpot or microwave.

    Inbound also ‘suffers’ from the unfortunate need for patience. Why do I say unfortunate? In business what used to be called FedEx mentality is now E-mail mentality; not just overnight but instantaneous results expectations and I wish I were exaggerating. At the same time a lot of companies still exhibit a form of post-Recession traumatic shock syndrome so procrastinate about pulling the trigger on marketing expenses, taking action only when push comes to shove, so their need for results, any results then becomes exponential. A real toxic stew for those championing inbound.

    As a result what often happens instead is the path of least resistance gets followed; default to old outbound methods, go with the lowest cost quick fix and kick that inbound “can” down the road as long as possible.

    So what do the bulk of businesses choose? Crockpot? Microwave? Forget hot meals, they take too long. Break out the cold bologna.

  5. A metaphor seems to be the most powerful tool in communication strategy. Even if it is considered as something merely folk, and its use is often avoided by the pretended “illustrated speech”, most of time the validations of concepts can flow faster through a proper metaphor. Rational, emotional and instinctive contents are involved in a powerful message; therefore, thank you very much, Ron, for coming to us with this meaningful sketch, a crock-pot or a microwave.

  6. I liked this analogy. Although, I do agree with a lot of these comments. “long term results” doesn’t pay the bills “this month.” I think that a combination of these two strategies is a much better approach than saying “it’s one or the other.” A good sales team (or individual) can definitely be predicted and scaled.

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