What you are talking about is something we've struggled with a lot over the past 10 years. We call it our "go-to-market strategy." For most of that time, we've used a strategy similar to your second one. We call it "signposts in the marketplace", and the idea was that if someone was looking for the kind of thing we do, we wanted it to be easy for them to find us. So we wrote a lot of articles, participated in industry discussion forums, ran a blog, sent email news letters, spoke at conferences, etc.
This has worked fairly well (we grew from a $2 MM revenue company to a $10 MM company in about 5 years). But we found it difficult to predict our revenue, since all of the business we received was "in-bound". We had no idea how many people would call us in a given month, and there was no way to reliably increase the number of people that called us. Writing more blog entries had no effect on the number of calls.
In 2008, we changed our go-to-market strategy with a huge focus on cold-calling into companies we thought might need what we sell. Over the past 18 months, we've made thousands and thousands of cold-calls, hired new sales people, and spent a small fortune in sales training and coaching. Sadly, I must report that we haven't gotten much more predictable. We still get in-bound leads, and our sales people are better at closing those leads, but we still aren't very predictable. The cold-calling hasn't been that successful in generating new business.
What seems to be working best is a hybrid approach. What we've found is that when we do a webinar or other kind of marketing event like we used to, we get people to sign up and we get their contact information. Then we have our sales team call into those accounts, following up with the attendee and learning more about the problem they are trying to solve. Some people call this a "warm-call" since the person you are calling is already familiar with your company or product. We've been having much better success with this approach than with marketing alone or cold-calls alone.
So our go-to-market strategy in 2010 will be investing more in the lead-generation activities (webinars, seminars, tradeshow booths), doing less passive marketing (blogs, etc.) and following up via cold-calls with anyone who attends one of our events.