I continue to see a growing division between the growth advisory camps who support inbound as the way to grow vs. those who profess that outbound is the only reliable strategy.
Those who have read this blog for some time (or those who know me) know that I believe (and the data supports) that the only viable method to create predictable, sustainable and scalable growth is to integrate inbound and outbound. The fact is that when effectively implemented together, each approach makes the other stronger.
The Problem With a Singular Focus
The fundamental problems with inbound marketing alone are that it can take too long to drive revenue and you don’t have direct control over who is exposed to your message. Additionally, if you are not currently implementing an effective inbound lead generation program, you don’t really know what content will resonate with the right people.
The fundamental flaw with outbound is that your efforts will only appeal to a (very) small percentage of the market and you risk alienating the rest of the market that is not looking for anything.
Typical market dynamics break down like this:
- Approximately 70 – 90% of the prospects in a market at any given time aren’t open to considering the purchase or procurement of any product, service or solution. Their either satisfied with their current situation, or they’re simply not thinking about it.
- About 7 – 20% of prospects are thinking about the problems you claim to solve. This is when they begin to open up to most outbound tactics. Be careful though, if your outbound efforts are focused on value creative initiatives, it’s unlikely they’ll be successful.
- Only about 3 – 7% are in an active mode of searching for a product, service or solution.
Outbound marketing, by nature, is only effective with 3 – 15% of your prospects at any point in time. What’s more, it’s also the “noisiest” time to communicate, as your prospect is not only more open to your inquiry, but to those of your competitors as well.
If you don’t connect with the right person, at the right time, with the right message…you lose. It’s no wonder that sales effectiveness numbers are consistently deteriorating. (If you’d like to learn more about the data behind prospecting effectiveness, check out this research from The Bridge Group, and this research from TOPO.)
Outbound, done right, is an expensive undertaking because you never create leverage and you never “own” your prospects’ attention.
Integration Is The Answer
None of this is to say - like many inbound marketing practitioners want you to believe - that outbound marketing is dead or even ineffective. We implement outbound initiatives every day for a number of our clients. I can confidently say that our best results would not be achieved were it not for the sales development activities we are conducting to support lead generation and lead conversion.
Inbound marketing tactics provide two distinct benefits that counteract the inherent weakness of outbound tactics:
- By creating valuable content, your outreach appeals to a much broader percentage of the market, easily more than half and often as much as 80% of your market will find the content you create valuable.
This has the added benefit of dramatically reducing the negative equity that traditional outbound efforts, like cold calling, create. With inbound tactics, you’re able to reposition your outreach from an ask (asking for an appointment or for someone to buy) to a give (offering valuable content).
- The staying power of inbound enables you to build leverage into your efforts because you can “own” attention. It enables your sales development reps (SDRs) to be more proactive as your marketing and lead nurturing efforts are integrated and aligned.
Three Inbound Marketing Actions to Implement
Utilizing your outbound initiatives to drive the right prospects into your inbound “nets” is a powerful strategy that gets you the growth your looking for faster and less expensively than anything else you can do. There are three items that must be in place to succeed with this approach.
1. Buyer personas
You must be clear on who you are looking to attract, and what content will be relevant to them. It’s not enough to just identify your ideal customer profile; you must segment those profiles into specific personas so you can drive the right prospects to the right content. (This activity will also have the added benefit of dramatically improving your direct sales results.)
2. Valuable, free content
I don’t mean that you need to create content you don’t charge for, I mean you must consistently create valuable content that prospects can access without having to register for anything. When you initiate your outbound efforts, you’ll drive traffic to you website. If you’re sending the right messages, most of your prospects will be intrigued before they’re open to talking with you. If they go to your site and there’s no fresh content supporting your message that they can freely get to, they’ll most likely move on. This is why blogs are so valuable.
3. Lead nurturing processes
It’s the toughest lesson I have learned in sales (and I still have to remind myself about it every day). Prospects buy on their time, not on ours. You must remain relevant during their journey, or you’ll lose the opportunity to make a sale.
If you haven’t already integrated your approach, start small. Begin by focusing on one campaign. Choose a persona and a focus. Create content to support your prospecting efforts. Then watch as your efforts build momentum and growth becomes easier.