Market saturation is one of the biggest challenges your marketing strategy will face. You and your top 20 competitors are all reaching out to the same prospects, using the same tactics to send similar messaging. With your prospects receiving dozens of email messages, cold calls, and other types of marketing, how do you cut through the noise to make an impact?
It is possible to engage with prospects in a way that sets you apart from the competition. The key is to take a multi-channel approach to generating and nurturing leads. If you focus on both inbound and outbound methods, you have a better chance to make contact, increase your brand awareness, and build credibility. In this blog post, we’ll look at the best ways to implement an effective hybrid lead generation strategy.
Understanding Inbound & Outbound
People often debate the relative strengths of inbound and outbound marketing. While so many companies are focusing on inbound strategies (like social media), the truth is that your B2B organization should use both if you want to maximize your efforts. Let’s begin with a quick summary of the two approaches.
Outbound marketing often comes with some hesitation because reaching out to prospects (rather than waiting for them to come to you) can feel like an invasion. But that’s not the case! If you’re reaching out to the right prospects with a legitimate solution to some of their most pressing pain points, your email or call could be a very pleasant surprise. Additionally, outbound lets you connect with prospects who may have missed your inbound efforts. By targeting your exact audience and reaching out directly, you can call attention to your brand and make your name top of mind.
Most marketing in the pre-digital age falls into the outbound category. Put simply, it’s tried and true; It includes:
- Email outreach
- Print ads in magazines and newspapers
- Cold calling/telemarketing
- TV Commercials
- Direct mail advertising
- Trade shows
Depending on your methodology, you can broadcast your outbound message to large numbers of prospects or a targeted and segmented group. With outbound, the business is initiating the conversation. Note that more modern types of marketing also fall into this category, such as banner ads or blasting emails to a list of prospects.
Challenges of Outbound
A huge benefit of outbound marketing is that you can reach lots of prospects. However, it also comes with challenges.
Outbound methods like billboards or TV commercials have limited options for targeting. While you can do your best to place your ads where they’ll likely be seen by your ideal audience, this approach is more of a wide net than a highly targeted campaign. If this is a concern for you (especially if you’re targeting a niche market), outbound methods like cold calling and email marketing can allow you to be more specific in your targeting demographics.
Another obstacle to outbound is technological advancements that allow prospects to block your messages. Spam filters, caller ID, ad blocking on websites, and other technologies are making it harder to get your messages to the right people. However, these challenges are not insurmountable. Tools like local dialers can help you to connect with your prospects on the phone while a series of best practices can help you to avoid spam filters. As the sales environment continues to evolve, modern marketers will need innovative solutions to remain competitive.
Why You Shouldn’t Overlook Outbound Marketing
While outbound methods are far from outdated, businesses today tend to favor inbound strategies. However, inbound is only a piece of the puzzle.
Most digital marketers are highly focused on social media strategies and SEO. This actually makes outbound marketing more compelling; tactics such as cold calling, direct mail, trade shows, billboards, and others are often overlooked by your competition. For this reason, you may be able to connect with an audience segment that may have otherwise gone neglected.
While no marketing initiative creates instant results, outbound tends to produce results faster than inbound methods. For instance, content marketing is a long-term strategy to build rapport and establish credibility over time, whereas cold calling can lead to an immediate conversation. The ideal scenario is building an outbound strategy that compliments your inbound approach. The two work in tandem to find and attract promising leads for your business.
The key characteristic of inbound marketing is that you’re attracting prospects rather than broadcasting your message. Here are some examples:
- Search engine optimization. SEO lets prospects find you by searching on Google and other search engines.
- Content marketing. Blogs, articles, videos, podcasts, and webinars are all examples of content that lets your audience find you. Content marketing is closely related to SEO, as the higher you rank in the search engines, the more prospects will find you.
- Email marketing. This refers to building an email list of subscribed followers and nurturing those leads with relevant content.
- Social media. Creating a Facebook page or building a following on LinkedIn, Twitter or other social media platforms is another way to build an organic audience.
Many inbound methods work best when you combine them. For example, your blog may include a CTA’s to subscribe to your email list.
Challenges to Inbound Marketing
Most marketing experts, authors, and websites today sing the praises of inbound marketing. You might also keep in mind, though, that most of these experts are entrenched in the world of digital marketing, which favors inbound. Is there a downside to this approach? There are two prominent drawbacks worth noting.
Inbound is labor-intensive. It takes time and effort to attract prospects. You’ll have to write blog posts, build your email list, create webinars, make videos, and other collateral to see conversions.
While market saturation affects most marketing strategies, all forms of inbound marketing are getting more competitive. With SEO, it’s very difficult to rank for popular keywords. Facebook, Google, YouTube, and other platforms are increasingly competitive. Creating content and strategy that truly stands out from your competitors will require time, resources, and ingenuity.
The Need to Utilize Multiple Channels
While it’s worth discussing the differences between inbound and outbound marketing, you can get distracted by overthinking this distinction. Keep in mind that your prospects don’t think in these terms; they simply evaluate your offering based on their own needs. As marketers, our goal is to connect with our ideal customers with a compelling message. Every audience is unique and requires a personalized approach. Rather than mentally segmenting your marketing strategy into inbound and outbound, consider a holistic buyer’s journey that most supports your prospects.
Most consumers aren’t confined to a single mode of communication, or even two or three. Typically, people have multiple devices and are active on many platforms and channels, such as:
- Text messages
- Phone calls
- Social media
People typically switch from one channel to another without giving it much thought. According to research from Marketing Week, 15 years ago the average consumer only used two touchpoints to make a purchase. Today, they use an average of six touchpoints, an increase of 3x. Reaching people on multiple platforms increases your visibility and credibility. More simply, it reminds them that you exist, which is a challenge in itself in today’s busy and distracted world.
Stay tuned for Part 2!