Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing – Which Is Better For Your B2B Company?
- Ian Dainty
Do you ever get up in the morning dreading the day?
It’s tough to roll out of bed in the morning when you know you’re not doing as well as you could be.
Like if you’re dreading the day because you haven’t reached your revenue goal this month, and you have five days left until the end of the month, and you’re only 50% there? That’s rough.
Or maybe your business is suffering because you haven’t met your goal, and you’re dreading another day because you have to make another 50 cold calls, and no one seems to want to talk to you.
You keep saying to yourself, “There has to be a better way to get my message out!”
“With all of the technology out there today, there has to be a better way”.
Well, you’re right, there is.
And as a matter of fact, you have a myriad of ways to not only get your message out, but to actually get your message heard and acted upon.
Does this ring a bell about your company?
There has been a lot of debate recently about what is the best marketing for B2B companies – outbound or inbound, or a combination of the two methods.
So then, how does your company overcome this dilemma? And what is the best type of marketing for B2B companies – inbound or outbound?
And which one is better for lead and revenue generation?
And of the course the answer is – it depends.
So let’s define outbound and inbound marketing, and which one will suit your B2B business the best.
Outbound marketing is also sometimes referred to as interruption marketing. Outbound marketing occurs when you contact someone who isn’t expecting you to contact them, and therefore, you are “interrupting” them. In today’s connected world, it consists of these types of marketing.
- Direct mailings
- Cold calling
Obviously, before the Internet, there were no emails. However, outbound marketing was used by B2B companies almost exclusively before the invention of the Internet, websites and social media.
Most of the outbound marketing was done with cold calls. And although it was successful, it took a lot of rejections before any headway was made. If you took rejection personally, you didn’t last very long as a sales person back then. And although I didn’t take the rejections personally, I hated every cold call I ever made.
The trouble with cold calls today is that people are inundated with them, both at home and at work. And people don’t want to be interrupted. All companies have call display and so people can see who is calling. If they don’t know them or recognize the vanity phone number, the call is not answered.
Hubspot states that your average human today is inundated with over 2,000 outbound marketing interruptions per day, and people are figuring out more and more creative ways to block them out, including caller ID, voice mail, spam filtering, EA’s., etc.
After discussing cold calls with over 50 B2B executives, they do not accept them anymore. Nor do they return phone calls from people they don’t know. In fact, very few executives even listen to voice messages.
The biggest issue is that most cold calls are not very well prepared, and so do not get to the point very quickly. They try to sell something over the phone. And the problem is that almost all B2B products and services are a long sales cycle – from one month to several months, even years.
Direct mailings can work in today’s connected world. But they are still more used in B2C. However, in B2B, if you use mailings to have people ask for something, like a report or a white paper, then this direct response works best. Then they are showing their interest. And some people still like to receive something they can put their hands on, and possibly read somewhere else.
So, does outbound marketing ever work? Yes it does, when executed properly, and to the right audience.
These same executives stated that they do read emails from people unknown to them, if the email is worded to show an issue these executives are facing, and a possible solution for that issue.
However, you need to have done your research on their industry and their company, to show you understand what issues they may be facing. And of course, if you have been referred to them, then that even makes it more worthwhile for these executives to listen to you.
So outbound marketing can be very useful to any organization, if that organization understands its marketplace well, and if that marketplace is fairly finite, and you can easily find the prospects that would be interested in your product or service.
You must also keep in mind that outbound marketing will catch your prospect, many times, in the early phases of their buy cycle. So you must be aware of this, and be prepared to step them through their buy cycle with the right communication pieces. These communication pieces are discussed below in the inbound marketing description.
My recommendation for outbound marketing is to ensure you research each company you want to contact, and email them with a brief description of why they should listen to you. IE: what benefits they will receive from a problem you can resolve for them.
And in spite of what many marketers may say about outbound marketing, it can work, and it works best when you have been referred to a specific prospect.
Inbound marketing, or permission marketing, refers to customers finding you. And because they found you, and they asked you for some form of communication, like a white paper, download, phone call, etc., they have given you “permission” to keep communicating with them.
Current research shows that 89% of buyers use search engine queries to research purchase decisions. Buyers pin you down before you even know they are looking for the types of products and services you are selling.
The platforms for inbound marketing include first and foremost, your website. They also include all of the social media tools that you are familiar with. I particularly like LinkedIn for B2B, as it allows for both outbound and inbound marketing.
I have had two clients recently from each method. I found one client from LinkedIn, using its search capabilities. And the other client found me through LinkedIn. It’s interesting that the client, who found me on LinkedIn, also used my website to find out more about my services.
Inbound marketing is growing leaps and bounds every year. (See stats below) More and more companies are using inbound marketing to grow their lead generation process.
Other platforms for B2B marketing in particular, include blogs, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I have used my blog and especially Youtube to get clients over the past few months.
However, I maintain that your blog, as part of your website, is the most important marketing tool/platform you have.
Here are some interesting statistics about inbound marketing.
- SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads such as direct mail or print advertising have a 1.7% close rate. (Source: @SEJournal, 2012)
- 57% of companies with a blog have acquired a customer from their blog. (Source: @HubSpot)
- B2B marketers who use blogs generate 67% more leads per month than those who do not. (Source: @FactBrowser)
- Social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing. (Source: @Hubspot, State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
- Companies that acquired customers from Facebook: B2C is 77% and B2B is 43%. (Source: @Hubspot, State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
- Inbound marketing delivers 54% more leads into the marketing funnel than traditional outbound channels. (Source: @HubSpot)
- The average cost to generate a lead through inbound marketing ($143) is less than half the average for outbound marketing ($373). (Source: Econsultancy)
As you can see, inbound marketing is less expensive than outbound marketing and delivers much better leads. A lead that finds you is much easier to close than the ones you find.
I closed one lead recently within an hour after the person had contacted me. And don’t forget, this is for a service, not a product.
The best inbound platforms, for B2B lead generation, include your website, blog, LinkedIn, Youtube, and Twitter. However, Google+ is becoming a big contender for B2B lead generation.
And you can probably guess why. Google likes people who use their platforms, especially Youtube and now Google+. And you tend to show up closer to the top of a Google search if you use Google’s platforms.
Your website is still your best marketing pal. People will search Google, which will send these visitors to your website. There are five major factors that are important for a marketing website.
- You need to be found on the first page of Google.
- You need to have an attractive website with easy navigation
- You need to engage visitors to keep them on your site. You do this with content, especially on your blog.
- You need to prove to them that you can do what you say you can do. You do this with social proof, usually in the form of case studies and testimonials.
- You need to get your visitors contact information to start a conversation and relationship with them.
I have written a white paper on this topic. Obviously, I have included the five major factors that are discussed above.
The key to inbound marketing is illustrated in the following graphic.
These are the buying stages for your future clients. It is important that you understand that you must nurture your leads and prospects, because when they find you, they are probably not likely to buy from you right away. This is especially true in B2B because of the length of the buying process.
First, they must find your company website. And they do that through the items mentioned in the DISCOVERY balloon above. Second, they need to become AWARE of what you offer, and if it will help them and solve the issues they have. See how you can build their awareness with the tools mentioned in the AWARENESS balloon.
Third, they go into an EVALUATION phase, where they will evaluate and weigh the various alternatives. If you have been helping them all the way along through their buying process, then you will be at least on their short list. See the items you can use to help them with their evaluation process.
Finally, they will make a DECISION, and you can help them with that decision with the items listed in the DECISION balloon.
One of the biggest factors, executives told me, when evaluating the different short list of companies, is the Account Manager (AE) looking after their account. The more attentive the AE is and relates well to the prospect’s situation, the better the chance that company has of getting the business.
This is especially true with B2B companies, because of the length of the buy cycle, and the amount of interaction with prospective vendors.
There are other ways to market, and they really are a combination of both outbound and inbound marketing. These marketing methods include such methods as:
- Pay per Click (PPC) ads
- TV and Radio ads
- Public Relations
- Public Speaking
I call them a hybrid because you need to reach out to people (outbound), and then send them to a particular sign up page (landing page) to get their contact information (inbound). These methods need to be a very important part of your marketing, if you are truly serious about growing your business.
So that’s a summary of the differences between Inbound and Outbound marketing, as well as the hybrid methods. Which one is best for your business?
Well, as I stated earlier – It Depends!!