Since the term “inbound marketing” was first coined by HubSpot, outbound marketing has been largely viewed as old school, a leftover from the days of pure push marketing where the most common lead-generation strategy was simply to pour money into buying email lists, cold calling, executing mass mail campaigns, and buying online ads.
Marketing was predictable, measurable, and easy to control.
On the flip side, conversion rates of outbound marketing tactics were low, cost was high, and there was no long-term value–the moment you stopped your lead-generation programs, the leads stopped coming in. Despite the many challenges presented by outbound marketing, no alternatives were present. That is, until the Web and social media came into being.
Inbound Marketing To The Rescue?
Inbound marketing emerged as a way to overcome those difficulties, ushering in the Era of Content Engagement, in which “pull marketing” tactics now lure audiences into actually wanting to receive our messages. What a novel concept! They ask for it, we provide it—educational e-books, how-to videos, buyer guides, product reviews, stunning presentations, free webinars. As an added bonus, our audiences even self-segment, sometimes revealing minute details of how, why, and when they are interested in our product. Perhaps even better: Many marketers find inbound marketing produces cheaper leads that convert better than those generated by outbound marketing. And inbound marketing has a lasting impact–your content remains out there in the social Web, and when done right, leads continue to flow in even if you stop doing anything new.
As inbound marketing tools, events, and experts have exploded, outbound marketing has taken a back seat, with budgets shifting toward more content marketing initiatives. In fact, the proportion of budget allocated to inbound marketing has grown steadily over the past two years, up to 35 percent for 2012, with just 23 percent reserved for outbound tactics. Driving the spending growth, nearly 50 percent of marketers increased their inbound budgets for 2013.
Inbound-Only Strategy: Past Its Peak (Of Inflated Expectations)
However, not unlike all other hyped trends, more and more companies have come to realize that inbound marketing alone will not cut it. If Gartner were to create a Hype Cycle for marketing, inbound marketing would probably be past the Peak of Inflated Expectations, heading toward the Trough of Disillusionment. Why?
First, good content is hard to build. Marketers must churn out an astounding amount of content and effort to orchestrate an effective inbound campaign. But content generation is a major challenge: Developing interesting, varied, and engaging material is a primary hurdle for some 64 percent of B2B content marketers, and more than half of B2C marketers say lack of content budget is their biggest challenge.
Second, it’s difficult to measure ROI for inbound efforts. Only 41 percent of marketers can confidently report a positive ROI on inbound marketing tactics, while the majority either cannot or do not calculate ROI, or they have seen no positive ROI on their efforts. For many, finding the right measurement tools is a challenge, and gathering “clean” data—information that’s accurate and up to date—is also a hurdle.
Third, it is hard to predict the number of qualified leads inbound marketing will generate over time. Many marketers have come under fire for not meeting their qualified lead targets, driving good Web site traffic that doesn’t convert, and drawing in engaged audiences that take no genuine interest in the company’s products.
It’s not that inbound marketing isn’t working. It is. But many of the brightest B2B marketers are realizing that if they want to accelerate growth, they must add outbound marketing back into the mix.
As a result, outbound marketing is making a comeback.
Some of the most successful companies have achieved impressive revenue growth rates through cold-calling (gasp!). Yes, even cold-calling is alive and kicking, fueled by new social targeting technologies that are helping companies more effectively acquire highly targeted lists to run precise mail drops and email marketing campaigns, and better leverage social media to engage prospects.
Outbound Marketing Done Right Using Social Lead Targeting
Social lead targeting is breathing new life into outbound marketing strategies by enabling companies to make sense of the mountains of data generated in the social Web to precisely target, prioritize, and segment leads.
Think about it: What if you were to google every single one of your leads to tap into unstructured data sources that don’t always fit neatly into the traditional spreadsheet format? What if you could search each individual’s social network profile, uncover what topics they’re writing about, tools they’re using, events and forums they participate in, skills they posses, who they follow on Twitter? It’s likely that you could easily determine who among them is more likely to take interest in your offering and what message might work when connecting with that person. Furthermore, with access to a multitude of data sources, you could keep your lead records fresh and complete.
Armed with accurate, deep knowledge of your company’s lead space, outbound marketing makes sense again.
With social lead targeting, you discover companies and individuals based on myriad indicators scattered throughout the social Web. As lead data is gathered and verified in real time, connect rates increase, and you are no longer limited to making a phone or e-mail connection. Using tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter prove to be an effective way of engagement.
Not only that, but with social lead targeting, you can actually target leads with messages crafted specifically for their areas of expertise, work areas, job functions, and other details—all information gathered in real time from their social network profiles, industry forums, blog postings, and more.
As good data and a plethora of new communication vehicles help to overcome many of the traditional challenges, an increasing number of companies are turning back to outbound marketing as a highly manageable way to grow their top-of-funnel. Companies such as data visualization and infographic design leader Visually, a Leadspace client, have used this method to boost outbound sales by 250 percent; gamification platform Badgeville, another one of our clients, saw its sales-driven pipeline surge by 400 percent.
With results like these, and many others, outbound marketing is—and always will be—a key component in any marketing and sales strategy.