Inbound vs. Outbound: Building a Balanced Marketing Strategy
One of the most important — if not the most important — reasons that clients come to us is to generate more sales leads.
Of course, there are many foundational steps that occur in preparation for a strong lead generation effort: a strong brand, a compelling unique value proposition, a powerful visual aesthetic, and purposeful calls to action to name a few. But generating sales leads is always mentioned early in our conversations with clients.
Reports vary slightly on this but, for B2B companies, there is a pretty equal weight placed on email, trade shows and events, and content marketing as the top lead generation approaches. The first two are outbound tactics, the latter is inbound.
I strongly encourage activity in both outbound and inbound marketing buckets for lead generation, but here’s the important distinction when managing expectations: as a marketer, you have to delineate marketing activity from sales activity. There’s a big difference.
Marketing efforts typically result in marketing qualified leads (MQLs). Strategies such as inbound marketing via blog articles, social media and SEO attempt to pull leads into the website, where the goal is to engage and capture those leads for sales qualification. Some call this earned marketing.
You need to assert yourself in online conversations via social channels. You need to assert your thought leadership via blog articles. And you may need to “pay to play” via PPC campaigns to get seen on search results pages. Just know those will take time to generate leads. To supplement, run email campaigns, monitor engagement, and pick up the phone to call those leads who have shown an interest in you.
The problem with inbound marketing is that it takes time, a long time, to see significant numbers, especially for the SMB in the B2B space. Why? Everyone is publishing content. On the WordPress platform alone, users produce about 64.3 million new posts each month from over 100,000 blogs. On Twitter, there are around 500 million tweets per day. The volume is deafening. If you expect traffic (and leads) to increase when you start publishing content and engaging on social, you will be disappointed.
That’s why we supplement inbound efforts with outbound, sometimes referred to as paid marketing or disruptive marketing. If you want leads now, particularly Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), you simply have to go after them. You can’t wait and hope they find you. Yes, outbound marketing is more expensive and disruptive. But it’s immediate. Send out a demand generation email campaign and you will see immediate activity. Go to a trade show or host an event and you’ll capture leads (as long as you have a strategy in place).
Most importantly, companies that are winning with inbound and outbound marketing are doing so in a smart way. You don’t have to be a genius analyst to understand marketing metrics. “Launch it and leave it” is not a strategy. Our Golden Spiral marketing team looks at data from all marketing channels weekly and monthly to evaluate their effectiveness, and adjust accordingly. And just because we don’t see immediate numbers from inbound marketing doesn’t mean it’s not working. It may not be working yet.
Listen, I don’t want to muddy the water with arguments about lead quality and closing rates between inbound and outbound marketing (at least not right now). There are plenty of conflicting articles out there about that already. What I’m advocating is that there’s a need for both inbound and outbound in a well-planned marketing strategy — and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each is essential.
We work with clients to develop and execute both inbound and outbound marketing plans. How can we help you drive more leads? We’re ready when you are!