One of the trickiest aspects of running a 21st century business is effectively combining inbound and outbound marketing strategies for maximum results.
In the 20th century, most marketing strategies were outbound only. You paid for advertising space. You ran radio commercials. You hired a sales team to cold call potential clients.
Many companies were unfamiliar with inbound marketing. Few companies used it.
Then the Internet showed up and changed how we do business. The opportunities to use inbound marketing multiplied exponentially.
Now, in the 21st century, nearly everybody has heard of inbound marketing. Some businesses focus on it exclusively. They only want to attract customers… not pay to acquire them.
But to neglect either inbound or outbound marketing in favor of the other is a big mistake. Because by pairing the two, you can quickly multiply your results.
Just so we’re on the same page, “inbound marketing” involves marketing activities that cause prospects to want to contact you or visit your website. Inbound marketing activities include blogging, podcasts, white papers, ebooks, and other forms of content marketing. These things are designed to earn your prospect’s attention.
“Outbound marketing,” on the other hand, refers to marketing activities that grab attention through interruption. Therefore, outbound marketing activities include direct mail, TV infomercials, cold-calling, telemarketing, and other forms of traditional advertising. Most forms of outbound marketing involve buying attention instead of earning attention.
How Customer Behavior Has Changed — and How that Affects You
Before we dive into specific techniques and strategies, it may help to lay some groundwork first. Meet Mike Caplan. He is a partner and managing director at The Fiction Tribe, a company that creates inbound marketing material like videos and infographics for technology clients. Here he shares his thoughts on how marketing has changed, and what today’s companies must do to maintain their competitive edge.
The problem with the typical marketing initiative (inbound or outbound) is that companies still believe it’s the 1990s – when interested prospects and customers started their search for information on their company’s website. Times have changed – and brands no longer control how customers seek or obtain information.
Today, customers turn to 3rd party sites, peers and social and professional networks first for information and insights. So, companies must develop digital assets that can live across channels and across properties so they can lend/add their voice to discussions that are already taking place. Infographics, video, ebooks and sales tools are great vehicles for companies to use to entice interested customers to learn more.
Ultimately, companies must develop a strategy for distributing their knowledge and expertise across properties and channels that customers are already visiting for information. And that content must be delivered in consumable formats – accessible from any devices – they give customers a natural pathway to engage with richer information assets – and to move deeper into the sales funnel.
As you can see, Caplan believes a strong inbound campaign is central to any marketing program. This positions your company as an authority in the market and attracts potential customers into your funnel.
Marc Duke, a marketing consultant who works with start-ups, says this, “It’s all about balance and the ability to handle response effectively. In my experience most start-ups are operating in outbound mode given the priority is customer acquisition and brand awareness, but they have to be able to cope with inbound interest effectively as part of undertaking integrated marketing that will lead to growth.”
Caplan offers the following as an example of how he helped one company implement an effective inbound marketing campaign.
We partnered with a company that helps clients configure and implement SalesForce. They commissioned a white paper that compared social work habits of workers in the US vs. UK. Their plan was to hand out this white paper at a big trade event (Dream Force) to drive booth visits and badge swipes. To maximize the investment, The Fiction Tribe recommended and developed a short video, an ebook and an infographic that highlighted the insights from the study. We also provided a roll-out strategy for these assets – with each asset launched through sales, social and professional channels over a 6-week time frame.
With these assets seeded in places where their customers and prospects already sought information in key topics, our client drove significant views, shares, clicks and downloads to the white paper. Their experts weighed in on blogs on their own – and on the 3rd party sites – including links to the ebook, infographic or video – significantly expanding the reach and impact of their initial investment. Each asset provided viewers with a link to the deeper asset (the white paper).
In short, by taking one valuable, rich content asset, we were able to help our client extend that asset’s reach – meeting customers and prospects where they already sought out information – drawing them into the sales funnel while building brand and thought leadership.
Hopefully, Caplan’s advice and real-life example spark some ideas for you. Of course, we still have the problem of how to combine inbound and outbound marketing so they work together to provide better results.
The good news is that it’s easy to start using outbound marketing techniques once you have a strong inbound marketing campaign in place. With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to specific techniques and strategies you can use to maximize your results.
How Professionals Use Inbound & Outbound Marketing Techniques
Mike Monroe, the founder of The Invisible Boss, offers two ways to pair inbound and outbound marketing.
The first is to follow up with warm leads who have been referred by current customers.
One option would be to have your customers refer people to get a free report. You can then follow-up by email to start building a relationship with your new prospects.
If you want to be more aggressive, you can ask the customers who provided the leads to give their referrals advance notice that somebody will be calling. This can be done by text message, email, or phone call.
The key here is to get the customer to send this advance notice immediately. If they don’t do it on-the-spot, it rarely happens, says Monroe.
When you call the referral, you’re now dealing with a prospect who is already aware of you and may be predisposed to listen to your offer, thanks to the introduction provided by your customer.
Monroe says another way to pair inbound and outbound marketing is to get inbound leads to provide more information about themselves.
This is a relatively low commitment request, but the information you gather could be worth much to your business.
For example, you might ask inbound leads to provide their age, gender, and interests. You can then use this information to segment your list and better target your marketing messages.
Mitchell Lieber is the President of Lieber & Associates, a group of marketing-management consultants that specializes in improving customer call centers. Lieber suggests the following four strategies to their B2B clients.
Strategy #1: Outbound calls to inbound non-purchasers who remain qualified prospects.
Strategy #2: Each month telephone regular customers whose orders have dropped in frequency or volume to determine why and to earn back any lost business.
Strategy #3: Occasional calls to regular customers to ask if everything is going OK and if there’s any way to serve them better (but only if the company will act on the customer’s response!).
Strategy #4: Win-back calls to lapsed customers to determine why they lapsed. During the win-back call, make the customer whole if you discover any failing on the company’s part. If the product was defective, ask what it would take to make it right — replace the product and pay the shipping if the customer asks. If it’s too long ago and the customer wants a credit, give it — chances are that the lifetime value of the customer is well worth this cost and risk. Then once the situation is fixed to the customer’s satisfaction, offer an incentive (credit or percentage off of next order) to try you again.
Lieber says, “This pro-active customer service dialogue strengthens customer relationships and can result in increased sales.”
Monroe, on the other hand, views win-back calls in a different light. “Win-back calls are almost as bad as debt collection calls,” he says.
Obviously, you will have to make your own decision about whether to use win-back calls or any of the strategies discussed in this article. But there are things you can do to improve your chances of success.
How to Make Sure Your Outbound Calls Are Effective
Lieber has been working with and advising call centers since 1984, so he has decades of experience in the industry. As a result, he follows a specific set of rules and procedures to make sure outbound strategies produce results. Lieber says:
Outbound calling works ONLY if developed as a formal campaign with an outbound call guide, list management system, training, proper metrics, testing/piloting, goals and monitoring/coaching. Some results-based compensation can be appropriate.
Also, outbound calls typically require different staff because it demands different personality traits. If the calls are very similar to your inbound calls, we find that 30% of inbound reps will successfully conduct outbound calls — in the best of cases. Simply telling inbound phone reps “I want you to make some outbound calls” is a recipe for failure, bad morale, and even loss of otherwise good employees.
This is why win-back calls may be perceived in such a negative light. There is a strong possibility that the wrong people are making the calls. Take Lieber’s advice and make sure you have the right team in place to conduct win-back calls. It could make all the difference in the world.
How to Go from Being “One-Bound” to “Two-Bound”
Many companies are focused on only one set of marketing strategies: either inbound or outbound. But by limiting themselves to only one style of marketing, they inhibit their total growth potential.
So how does a company go from being “one-bound” (a company that uses either inbound or outbound marketing, but not both) to “two-bound” (a company that uses BOTH inbound and outbound marketing)?
Monroe says there are three keys for any company to successfully make this transition. (And, in case you’re wondering, it’s more common for companies that use inbound marketing to embrace the “other half,” which is outbound marketing.) According to Monroe, you will progress through the following three phases:
Phase 1: Expect Growing Pains
Your organization will naturally be better equipped at either inbound or outbound marketing. So the most important key in adopting the other half is patience, persistence, and resolve.
Do NOT assume that the people you have at the forefront of one of your marketing channels are equipped and qualified to take on the role of the other. As Lieber mentioned earlier, inbound and outbound marketing often require very different skill sets.
Phase 2: Benchmarking Metrics
There are three keys to making metrics work: knowing what to measure, creating reasonable standards and expectations, and seeking peak performance.
Small companies need to be vigilant so as not to fall into the trap of basing decisions on samples that are too small. If your samples are too small, your results won’t be reliable, and neither will be your decisions. Therefore, it may be helpful to seek out others in the industry to get an idea of how you compare.
Big companies ought to create a culture around higher performance metrics by celebrating and recognizing those individuals who achieve them.
Phase 3: Diagnosing Leaks
Last but not least, you’ll want to document your processes into a system, including appropriate responses for when people fall below standard.
Opt for leadership over management. Managers tell you “this number is broken.” Leadership tells you “this number is broken, here’s why, and here’s how to fix it.”
Putting the Yin and the Yang Together
In my experience, people who use only inbound marketing tend to be too timid. They are afraid of offending people so they hesitate to ask for the sale. Or if they do, they do it in a way that is easily ignored.
People who use only outbound marketing, on the other hand, can often be too aggressive. They push for the sale too early and too often, turning off otherwise good prospects along the way.
This is why inbound and outbound marketing complement each other. They balance each other out.
Examine your business closely to see how you operate. Are you lacking in one area, heavy in another? If so, put together a plan for embracing new marketing techniques that complement what you’re currently doing. You may find, as others have, that profits grow faster when you master the yin and yang of marketing.
BY RYAN HEALYis a direct response copywriter. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He also writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth.