We're often asked by executives seeking to grow their business, “Should I be deploying inbound or outbound marketing tactics?’
The answer almost every time is, “Yes, both.”
Outbound marketing is the more traditional marketing strategy. With outbound marketing, the marketer initiates the contact with the prospect. Examples of outbound marketing tactics include direct mail, telemarketing, email blasts, and media advertising.
Inbound marketing is the opposite of outbound marketing. It’s defined by HubSpot as marketing that “brings potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention.
Inbound marketing is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more."
Inbound marketing leverages SEO and social media to promote content that will educate and inform your prospects. This content can be in the form of blogs, podcasts, webinars, eBooks, and whitepapers.
Inbound and outbound work together
Both strategies serve a purpose. One doesn’t, and shouldn’t, replace the other. In fact, when properly deployed, inbound marketing will improve the results of your outbound marketing tactics and outbound marketing will give a lift to the impact of your inbound marketing strategy.
Warm up your cold call
Cold calling is one of the most popular outbound marketing tactics deployed by sales organizations. Just about every salesperson has made a cold call in his or her career. Cold calling can lead to a lot of dead ends, voice mail messages, and rejection. But it is a numbers game. The more calls you make, the more opportunities you’ll uncover. The thought leadership content that’s been developed to drive inbound activity can also be used to warm up your team’s cold calling.
By emailing a link to your content before your call, you can set the tone for the call and communicate to your prospect that the call won’t be just another sales call. Instead, they’ll have the opportunity to speak with a subject matter expert. The call will be informative, educational, and relevant to their business and you’ll improve your odds of success.
Increase the number of eyeballs that view your content
The content you publish online is only effective when people actually see it and read it. You can have a blog filled with thought leadership shared by industry experts, but if no one knows how to find it, it doesn’t do anyone any good at all. It won’t help educate your prospects and it certainly won’t create new sales leads for your business.
Content promotion, driving target prospects to the online content and building an audience, is an area where many content publishers often struggle. Most online publishers rely on SEO practices and social media to promote their material.
Unfortunately, relying on just those tactics to build your audience can take time. You can increase the number of prospects who find you online and read your content if you use outbound tactics as a promotion tool. As your sales team is cold calling, have them mention your website/blog as a resource the prospect will find useful. It can be an effective final slide for a sales presentation deck. Include links to your content in all correspondence to your market—cold outbound emails, follow-up lead nurturing emails, direct mail, etc. Also, include links in all media advertising.
Breathe life into “old, dead” leads
Every marketing database is filled with leads that were generated last month, last quarter, or even last year. At one point in time, a prospect demonstrated some level of interest. Maybe he or she stopped by your booth at a tradeshow or responded to an email. But your sales team has been unable to engage him or her. Calls and emails seems to fall on deaf ears and get no response.
Maybe the timing isn’t right. Maybe the prospect is just too busy. Or maybe he or she found your competitor’s value message more compelling and engaged with them instead. It’s time to stop selling to these prospects. I don’t mean you should delete them from your database. Keep them in your database, but change your approach.
Stop selling and start educating.
It’s amazing what happens to unresponsive leads when you offer them access to educational thought leadership that’s relevant to their business challenges. The same content that you’ve created to capture the attention of new prospects should be used to recapture the attention of unresponsive leads.
Nurture “not-ready-to-buy-yet” leads
Not every lead that responds to one of your marketing tactics is necessarily ready to speak with a sales rep. Top-of-the-Funnel (TOFU) leads are just beginning to explore potential solutions and typically aren’t interested in scheduling a sales consultation appointment. Nor are they interested in receiving a “just-checking-in” voicemail or email message from a sales rep every other week. However, they probably are interested in continuing to learn.
Build a lead nurturing program that leverages the thought leadership content that’s been published for your inbound marketing strategy. Nurturing your prospects with relevant and meaningful content will set you apart from the crowd. You will position your company as subject matter experts and trusted advisors and when their ready to next step you’ll be who they reach out to. You can also use marketing automation/lead intelligence tools to provide insight into what their reading and when they are reading it. This will provide your sales team with great insight into not only who they should be following up with, but when they should call and what they should be prepared to address.
Don’t choose between one or the other: outbound and inbound tactics. Break your inbound and outbound marketing tactics out of their silos and have them work together. The synergy you achieve by integrating these strategies will improve the results of both.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.