The easiest way to differentiate between inbound and outbound marketing methods is by thinking of them in terms that American author Seth Godin coined the late 90’s: “interruption marketing” and “permission marketing.”
In today’s market, prospects receive so much information that your brand, product, or service can get lost in a massive information overload. While your company may have a preference towards inbound or outbound efforts, marketing with only one strategy limits your returns. It’s important to both explore innovative ways to grab a prospect’s attention (e.g., receiving a coupon, free sample) while also building a strong relationship (i.e., nurture campaigns on social media).
But to understand how to implement each strategy for your company, you first need to understand the difference between outbound and inbound marketing — which isn’t as clear-cut as you might assume.
Inbound Lead Generation Puts Prospects in Control
Prospects are more in control of what they see than ever before. With the help of the web, they’ve taken back the customer journey. Studies show that 81% of buyers do research online before purchasing. This shift in the way people buy has forced businesses to turn their attention to “inbound,” or “permission marketing.”
Think of inbound lead generation as placing a path of breadcrumbs so that prospects can easily find your website. Your pages contain engaging content with offers that pique the curiosity of targeted prospects. At this point, they’re “hooked” in reviewing your products or services offered and more likely to share their contact information in return for more information from your brand. This process provides leads and, hopefully, translates into sales.
With inbound lead generation, prospects control when and where (e.g., search engines and social media platforms) they share their information to you – if at all. If you’re offering solutions to resolve their pain, rather than selling only a product or service, you’ll be more likely to build trust, establish a need, and convert a prospect.
Inbound lead generation leverages search engines and social media platforms to position your content in front of targeted prospects. Some tactics include:
- Content marketing
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Live chat/Instant messaging
- Website landing pages
- Lead nurturing (e.g., building and maintaining relationships with prospects throughout the purchasing process)
- Automated buying and selling of online (programmatic) advertising
Outbound Lead Generation Initiates the Conversation
“Interruption marketing”, or outbound marketing, is a strategy you’re more familiar with than you probably realize. It refers to marketing tactics that disrupt daily routines — messages on signs, direct mail, and radio ads, for instance. In this form of marketing, the company initiatives the conversation.
Remember, inbound marketing puts an emphasis on preparing to be found by a researching prospect, where outbound marketing is about “pushing” your message to the masses to get it found. You control the time and place to send messages to your target audience. It’s up to you to establish relevance and value up front.
Some outbound tactics used for this approach include:
- Email blasts
- Cold calling
- Mass advertising
- Direct mail
Inbound vs Outbound Lead Generation
To establish an effective inbound sales funnel, you’ll need to create a variety of unique content to support buyers in each of the stages. When you provide the necessary resources, you can nurture your prospects down the funnel, dramatically increasing the number of qualified leads that transpire into sales.
Outbound marketing lets companies introduce prospects to a solution they might not have found on their own. Done correctly, this provides value to prospects with highly personalized, useful information that helps convert outbound prospects to qualified leads and purchasers.
The structure of your inbound and outbound sales approach depends largely on your company’s growth stage, your buyer personas, and a prospect’s position in the buying journey.
How to Synergize Your Approach
Using a mixture of strategies attracts prospects like bees to honey. Combining inbound and outbound methods help you to optimize your prospect’s buying journey. By understanding your buyer, recognizing any gaps in your strategy, and thinking strategically, your inbound and outbound efforts can interplay synergistically.
Determine information gaps
This is where smarketing comes in. Your sales team is constantly speaking with prospects; no one has a better pulse on common concerns, frequently asked questions, and objections. Your marketing team needs to regularly be connecting with sales to understand the needs of your prospects and the changes they’re facing. This data is what will inform your content campaigns for both inbound and outbound. By staying connected with your sales team, you can better relate to your prospects.
Utilize Pillar Strategies
Your prospects likely fit into a handful of different buckets. While there is some overlap, your varying buyer personas are likely focused on varying concerns. Let’s say you cold email a CMO about lead generation as a service, with the value proposition of achieving ROI faster. On your website, you have a pillar page on the same topic, linking to dozens of related articles produced by your team. The combination of inbound and outbound efforts gets your prospects attention, addresses their specific concerns, and compels them to want to learn more.
Study Your Buyer
To iterate your inbound and outbound strategies, you need to live, think, and breathe like your buyer. Where does she hangout online? What microcommunities does she contribute to? Overtime, your content and outreach will reflect her habits. It’s crucial that you study your numbers to better understand her journey through your process. What kind of content gets the most engagement? What sources are most likely to lead to conversion? Using both quantitative and qualitative data, you can optimize your strategy to suit the needs of your buyer.
Stay Top of Mind
Whether they found you through inbound or outbound marketing, once a prospect has shown interest, be sure to circle back. Through retargeting, you can connect with your prospects on multiple channels, quickly floating back into their awareness. Remember, it can take 6-8 touches to convert a prospect. Retarget, follow up, and commit to the process.
Is it time to Outsource?
Creating a synergistic relationship between your inbound and outbound marketing initiatives is no small feat. Strategy, planning, and implementation requires expertise and resources. Is your internal team up for the challenge?
Whether it’s creating outbound marketing sequences or drafting value driven content, marketing in-house will require a variety of skill sets. Between training a team, developing SOPs, and iterating your process, it may take some time for you to see ROI. Outsourcing your lead generation can save time and resources, while better setting your sales team up for success.
Inbound and outbound lead generation campaigns were once considered to be two unique ideologies that were difficult to blend. Today, your sales process will be hindered if you neglect integrating the two. Inbound, outbound, old-school, new-school — they can all be used together. It’s up to you to create an optimized lead generation campaign that serves your prospects every step of the way.
To learn more about perfecting your outbound approach, click here.