Outbound Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing


Outbound vs inbound

I’d like to start this post with a shocking and controversial claim: outbound marketing is not dead. Nor, as some might assert, should it be.

When I hear everyone raving about inbound marketing and how it’s the only way to go these days, it makes me cringe.

I don’t know of many small companies that can afford to spend money on creating endless content, hoping it eventually gets indexed by search engines, drives traffic to their website, and generates leads. Personally, I don’t care to put my destiny 100% in the hands of search engines or my social media efforts. So, what’s a marketer to do?

Marketers must balance their outbound marketing efforts with their inbound efforts.

I recently spoke with Chris Osborn, VP of Marketing at BizLibrary in St. Louis, on this topic. He agreed with me, and went on to illustrate the process in an interesting way.

When you’re initially starting out, your marketing efforts should be focused on outbound marketing strategies because you need leads—sales—to stay in business. After all, without profit, nothing is possible. As a result, email and telemarketing might make up most of your marketing efforts in the early stages of your business.

Over time, you replace your outbound marketing efforts with inbound marketing campaigns or content marketing and distribution strategies.

Eventually these two strategies will crisscross, and you will begin to put more and more energy and/or resources into your inbound marketing efforts and, conversely, less energy into your outbound marketing efforts.

Let me give you an example.

I’m working with a client that is using HubSpot to manage their inbound marketing efforts. Their challenge is that they don’t have any traffic to their website, and HubSpot doesn’t allow outbound email campaigns to non-opt-in contacts. So, rather than waiting for search engines to index their content and build up their database of opt-in prospects, or to get a large following on social channels, they hired us to drive traffic to their website. Like most companies, they couldn’t afford to invest thousands and thousands of dollars in contact records with email addresses, nor did they have an outbound email engine, or the expertise, to launch an outbound campaign.

Our goal was to drive people to their site/content and urge those potential customers to sign up for their newsletter. Once a prospect subscribed to their newsletter, we took them out of the outbound email engine and dropped them into their internal process or marketing automation platform (in this case, HubSpot) to manage that relationship moving forward.

This process isn’t anything new. We basically did the same thing using direct mail for years and years. But, thanks to the Internet, it’s easier and cheaper to reach a larger audience using email. Don’t get me wrong, I still think direct mail can be very effective. I’d rather compete with four to seven pieces of content versus 300 emails any day. However, most companies can’t afford to gamble the cost of design, printing, and postage related to direct mail.

It’s also important to note, you still have to produce good content. You can drive all of the traffic in the world to your site, but without good content you’re in trouble. You also need a solid, compelling offer.  Dick Damrow, a dear friend and the former EVP of Carmichael Lynch and marketing consultant, once told me, “A lazy offer is no offer at all.” So, if your offer isn’t compelling to yourself, how compelling can it be for your target audience?

So, what are your outbound email options?

Ideally, you find an industry publication with a large audience of opt-in subscribers to launch these outbound email campaigns. If you can’t afford that, use a third-party email engine or service provider using a secondary email domain to send out your campaigns. Example: if your main domain is companyname.com, you might use companynameMKT.com as your outbound email campaign domain so you don’t hamper the deliverability of your main company domain.

Now with all of this said, most email service providers (ESP’s) are not going to allow you to send unsolicited email out of their servers without buying your own ip address. The problem with buying a dedicated ip address is, if you get one or two spam compliants, that ip is shut down or blacklisted. However, if you can get an ESP to let you use their shared bank of ip addresses, one or two spam compliants will have no impact.

For more advanced email options, check out ongage which allows you to use multiple esp’s or smtp service providers so you have more control over how you send and deliver emails.

We see a range of 2-12% open rates which, granted, is low compared to opt-in lists, but if you are talking about a couple of million email records, you can get some good traffic volume.

Now, I realize many of you will totally disagree with me and argue the damage sending unsolicited email may do to your brand. My response is this: nothing is possible without leads, sales, and profit. If you are fortunate enough to have more leads and sales than you need, good for you. This strategy is for those of you who need leads and sales to keep your job, stay in business, or feed your family. I’m living proof it works, and I can also tell you that most of the major tech brands in the world are using this strategy even though they have all of the resources they need, not to. That should tell you something.

I should also point out that there are many other forms of outbound, like TV, Radio, tele-prospecting, tradeshows, and PR that work just as well, if you can afford them.

Lastly, to be as relevant as possible, make sure to segment your data into specific personas. I like to segment by job titles for three personas: end users, decision makers, and financial authorities. If you don’t have time to do this, you might want to focus on your primary target with links to content that is relevant to the other two personas.

I also like the idea of linking to content that might be related to other stages in the sales funnel. I often find marketers sending content to prospects thinking they are all at the top of the funnel. Let’s face it, do we really know where a prospect is in the sales funnel?

Learn – I think I have a problem.

Solve – How do I solve that problem?

Compare – Am I solving that problem the right way?

Purchase – Help me make a purchase decision.

All very different conversations….


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