Both outbound and inbound marketing and sales methodologies ultimately share the same goal: conversions. The inbound and outbound trajectories – attracting prospects, nurturing leads and closing clients – share a lot in common. Inbound and outbound can support each other throughout the buyer’s journey, and this article explores exactly how you can leverage the best of both at each stage.
Selecting a marketing and sales strategy for your business shouldn’t be an either or decision, as many articles make out. We are predominantly an Outbound company, we run email campaigns and generate outbound leads for ourselves and over 200 clients worldwide, so would align with a more traditional, direct approach to selling.
We aren’t pushing a unilateral, one-size-fits-all Outbound solution, though of course we could. The simple reason for this is because outbound and inbound support each other, they make one another stronger.
I previously explored how outbound can support inbound marketing efforts (4 Ways Outbound Can Support Your Inbound Marketing), but in this article will focus more around how the combination of both is a powerful asset throughout the buyer’s journey.
I will be looking at both the inbound buyer’s journey and the sales funnel in detail, then addressing how both inbound and outbound strategies can combine at each stage of the process.
To avoid losing you with jargon and technicalities, let’s just clear up exactly what inbound and outbound are from the get go.
Inbound and Outbound methodologies are marketing & sales methodologies ultimately aiming to generate leads and drive sales.
The clue to the difference between the two is in the name:
Read more about these strategies, and the benefits and limitations of both, in my article – Inbound v Outbound – Which Really Works?
What I want to highlight to you here is that inbound and outbound are not that different. They share a common trajectory and a common goal, which means they are compatible.
Every Inbound marketer will be all too familiar with Hubspot’s Buyer’s Journey – core to their inbound marketing and philosophy. The journey runs through three critical stages that prospects pass through on their path to purchase.
For those of you less familiar, I’ll briefly run through what the inbound buyer’s journey looks like:
Despite the adversity between those who favour inbound and those that favour outbound, the buyer’s journey, which is at the very core of any inbound strategy, is not dissimilar to the traditional and well-beloved sales funnel.
Briefly, the stages of the sales funnel are as follows (this is simplified of course):
This is a simplified version of the funnel meant simply to demonstrate the similarities inbound and outbound share. There, of course, might be additional stages to your sales funnel, such as incentivising customers to become brand advocates and to refer customers.
Content marketing is critical to any inbound strategy – focusing on producing content for each of these three phases to essentially move your prospect through their journey. Content should be created in relation to each of these stages, as I demonstrate below:
The current thinking surrounding the Inbound Buyer’s Journey is of course inbound focused, as the image below demonstrates, attracting prospects and moving them through the buyer’s journey with various pieces of content.
I will now run through each stage and demonstrate how both inbound and outbound can be leveraged to increase the effectiveness of your messaging at each stage, and generate more sales.
Ultimately, the awareness stage is lead generation and sourcing.
Of course inbound and outbound source leads differently, and there is a case to be made about the longevity and compound benefits inbound lead generation attracting prospects, rather than approaching them, means that you know they are definitely interested in an area, they might be experiencing a problem you can help with, and they will be more receptive to your messaging.
To be clear, inbound lead generation would involve prospects giving up their contact details for content they view to be valuable: newsletter subscriptions, ebook or whitepaper downloads, free consultations, webinar registration etc.
Outbound lead generation involves prospecting, either yourself or through companies like Growthonics, such that you can identify people likely to be experiencing a problem or with a use for your solution.
With platforms like Hubspot, you can track and gage the interest level of a lead by what content they download, adjusting your approach to their level of need. This, of course, highlights a key issue with inbound and content marketing in that awareness based content (TOFU), content that attracts a lot of visitors, is often interest-based, not problem-based. As the stages above highlight, a prospect in this stage of the journey may not even be aware they have a problem. They may just be interested.
Outbound lead generation does mean that you are targeting a profile of prospect that is likely to need your solution, however, you may only have one opportunity to approach them. How accurately you are able to prospect will of course vastly affect your campaign results and conversions, but the point remains. As will your approach (outbound marketing is known as interruptive marketing for a reason!)
Search, which is also a pillar of inbound marketing methodology, avoids this issue as keywords enable a much clearer, more accurate profile of a prospect’s interests and problems. If someone has searched “how to generate leads” and clicks on our content, we know that they are in need of lead generation.
With new progressions in technology, the process by which you can profile and attract people has advanced greatly. We are now able to measure intent and interest in new ways, which means you can target a prospect with messaging relevant to their problem BEFORE they stick it into Google search and click on the highest bidder.
Pairing outbound display targeting, sponsored content or email messaging with targeted, “remarkable” content can drive a more interest party onto your site.
In both the Inbound Buyer’s Journey and the sales, having attracted the prospect during the awareness stage, you must then facilitate them both recognising their problem and beginning the research process to solve that problem. Ultimately this is lead nurturing.
Inbound lead nurturing involves following up after a download or registration, asking if the prospect has any unanswered questions or needs any help. If a prospect subscribes to a newsletter you can use this as a platform to show them more sales or product-oriented content or promote problem-oriented content to gauge their needs and interests. One of the major issues levelled against inbound is this is a slow process. You have no way of knowing how sales ready a prospect is through awareness level content alone.
While outbound is a direct way of approaching your target prospect with an offering they might need or want, there is no guarantee that your prospect will be sales-ready at the time you approach them. They might not recognise they have a problem. They might have another service provider. They might not have the budget for your service. They might not consider this problem a priority. The major issue with outbound is that you can burn bridges with prospects who aren’t ready to buy, the method lacks the longevity of inbound content.
You can nurture outbound prospects with follow up emails (as long as they haven’t asked not to be contacted again), but by leveraging interesting content pieces or advertising your newsletter to prospects that have passed up on your offering due to bad timing, you are nurturing in a far more engaging way. Your content may even make them more aware of their problems or a need for your solution.
There are ways of leveraging both inbound and outbound in combination in this phase to bypass these issues. Companies that are laser-focused on lead-nurturing generate 50% more sales while spending 33% less to do so.
The decision stage is the critical point where a prospect has both recognised their problem and researched their solutions. They are ready to buy, but will it be your solution they choose?
Getting to this stage isn’t easy from both inbound and outbound perspectives. The average Fortune 500 company reports $240 million in potentially lost revenue due specifically to consumers being “stuck” at a certain part of the sales funnel.
The sales funnel process is much faster at getting to this critical point, although only a small percentage of your original list will end up here. For inbound, getting to this point can take any length of time dependent on where your prospect is at in their realisation of their problem and research of potential solutions, something which is very difficult to gauge despite all the new technology we have available.
Key to note here is that BOFU content, content specifically about your service and offering written to convince and persuade, needs to be leveraged as part of any content marketing strategy. It is the closer. According to research, providing targeted content and offers lead to 20% more sales opportunities than generic offerings.
Using content, newsletter and social media for sales as well as marketing can increase your inbound conversions, and using BOFU content within your sales campaigns can strengthen your pitch.
It is absolutely key that before embarking on any strategy, inbound or outbound, you evaluate where you are now, what you are aiming for in the future, and how that fits in with your business objectives.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy, as I hope I have demonstrated in my last articles, links are below:
We have run outbound campaigns and helped form a working growth strategy for over 400 clients worldwide. We know how to leverage the best of your content in a combination strategy that will achieve results.