Inbound marketing is facing some challenging conditions: the drop in consumer confidence; Google algorithm changes that impact search results (and traffic); the growing self-sufficiency of social networks; the higher costs of content production and distribution; and the new limits to data marketing. Inbound has responded to these difficulties by putting by once again reinventing itself in order to transform these challenges into opportunities. HubSpot, for example, has chosen to focus on three dimensions: strengthening Customer Care, providing increasingly personalized products, and increased investment in the brand to build an authentic and sharable institutional narrative.
Inbound is still going strong. See more in this post from our blog. At the same time, we are also witnessing a resurgence in Outbound that is bringing it closer to the Inbound value system.
Incorporate some Outbound tactics into the overall strategy
How healthy is the outbound market? As a starting point, let’s look at a recent report from Databox, who asked 29 influential marketers to share their opinions on Outbound methodologies. Their responses confirm that, in order to achieve their goals, it’s no longer enough to only use Inbound tactics but it could be more effective to incorporate some Outbound in the overall strategy. Their responses confirm that Inbound tactics are not enough to achieve their goals—they will also need to incorporate some Outbound in the overall strategy.
Which Outbound tactics were most effective in 2019?
According to the Databox results, cold emails are at the top of the list of Outbound tactics to consider. When asked to identify the best Outbound marketing tactics, respondents selected cold emails, cold calls, direct mailing, social media ads, and search ads.
Instead, press releases, TV and radio announcements, and print ads were the tactics considered least effective for 2019.
Although their role has been downsized in recent years, cold calls and cold mail can still be vital elements of marketing plan. To make a real impact, however, they must be designed to create a real connection between sales and leads. “Cold” works when it is conceived in a “human” perspective and not as mere automation; that is, when it takes the personal characteristics of contacts into account.
The suggestions from the Databox report are valuable not only for Outbound B2B marketers but for all marketers.
1. Do your research
To be able to raise awareness among prospects and gain their attention, the coldest tools in Outbound can never be completely cold. That is, they must always be preceded by research that is structured in a way as to identify real potential customers. This same research must be set up according to defined and proven methodologies: in other words, the calls would be immediately “hot” and would allow higher conversion rates.
Among the techniques that can be used to qualify cold calls and emails we would highlight the following:
- Search for companies that are similar to existing customers, focusing on known sectors and companies in that sector;
- Use visitor tracking software or other tools (Albacross, Leadfeeder or HubSpot Prospects) to identify visitors when they come into contact with your brand’s various digital touchpoints;
- If the company has been found by searching online for a particular service or product, start the conversation from that point of reference.
2. Personalize your outreach
The key to making cold techniques more effective is to take the time to personalize your message:
- Focus on quality, for example, not simply using the name of the potential client but also include information on their professional role, expertise, or recurring pain points;
- Browse existing contacts to identify the right prospect among colleagues and then include the name of the contact in the email
- Introduce yourself (it may seem trivial, but it’s not) in order to convey that the message is a friendly invitation to start a dialog;
- Find the most appropriate mix of cold calls (more personal) and cold emails.
3. Combine digital marketing and analog marketing
Today’s marketing plans should integrate digital and analog solutions:
- Activate marketing campaigns on inbound platforms using a webhook. The webhook, the notification of an event sent to a specific URL, allows you to communicate with other applications, track events that happen in one account and cause an event on one site that generates a given behavior on another site. For example, you can enable an email to be sent when a potential customer visits certain pages of a site, downloads specific content, or engages digitally with a company;
- Start conversations with companies in a new niche. In this case, we can upload a list of ideal customers to an email marketing platform and activate a submission that contains a URL to a custom landing page with a tested content offer created for that person and provide access to gated content to get contact information. This workflow allows you to nurture leads through a combination of email, mail, and even phone calls, depending on the expected level of involvement and on all channels;
- Generate contacts through direct mail marketing (for example: direct mail through postcards or catalog sales by subscription).
4. Plan trade fairs, conferences, and events within a networking strategy
Conferences, especially when combined with inbound methods, are a great way to build brand reputation, attract new customers, and interact with them on an individual basis. Participating in trade shows or sponsoring other events can only be truly effective if planned within a more articulated strategy and integrated with all other aspects of the inbound marketing program:
- Create pre- and post-event email campaigns;
- Promote the campaign on social media;
- Publish relevant content blogs (for example, interviews with speakers, session takeaways);
- Capitalize on backlinks obtained by publishing guest posts related to the event on third party sites.
5. Direct traffic via search ads and social media
Content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing are excellent long-term inbound tactics, however, they may not always be effective in increasing short-term traffic, particularly if the site is still relatively new, with minimal inbound links and few social followers.
Still, search network and social media ads can be effective in directing traffic to a brand’s site while waiting for content and SEO efforts to pay off. Again, inbound and outbound tactics are complementary and can be used at the same time to:
- Help classify keywords and direct users’ intentions, starting, for example, with a focus on SEO and the creation of new content based on those same keywords. Once an article is published and after Google has indexed it, we identify the keywords for which the article does not rank. Then, we use some of these keywords to create titles for both search ads and social media ads;
- Publish frequently and increase the traffic on posts through ads to reach more customers;
- Make sure you are visible and relevant to new readers through a combination of paid promotion and original content.
Quality content: The inevitable convergence of Inbound and Outbound
Based on all of this, what distinguishes inbound is actually very similar to what allows Outbound to be successful today, i.e. the creation and distribution of more carefully crafted messages based on intelligent and high-quality content that is targeted and personalized to the recipient.
The new life of Outbound
In a Medium post from 2018, HubSpot’s VP of Product, Nicholas L. Holland commented that putting the customer experience first meant “no advertising.” Online ads were annoying, intrusive, and generic, and the tools available to reach the target audience were extremely limited. As a result, the recipients of the communication were not profiled and targeting was inevitably ineffective. Marketers created ads in the hope of diverting attention to places of conversion. In fact, advertisements were often nothing more than the most harmful and obsolete digital version of Outbound.
Things have changed. The fundamentals of Inbound are now adopted with conviction in the marketing of B2C and B2B companies. At the same time, content production has grown, flooding the network. It is in this overcrowded context that ads become essential again to eliminate background noise and allow brands to carve out visibility. At the same time, the tools available to Outbound have become more precise and informative, and at the same time, more shrewd, even useful.
The role of the Internet in the fusion of Inbound-Outbound
For at least four years, companies have had to buy the possibility to access those virtual places where the attention of users (and potential customers) is focused: Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Moreover, organic results are no longer separated from paid results and are increasingly rarely ranked at the top of search results. Today, paid results are similar in ranking to organic results and it is almost impossible for any search not to show them first, especially on mobile.
Paradoxically, all this makes advertising, if intelligent, targeted, and high quality, a valuable resource for the inbound marketer, especially on social networks, as long as the ads are relevant, and engaging. This is why social networks are encouraged to keep the quality of the ads they host high: companies are encouraged to create informative and engaging posts.
In short: personalize your message and storytelling to meet the unique needs of an increasingly profiled and qualified audience, but isn’t this exactly part of the Inbound philosophy?
In fact, it is precisely this fusion of Outbound and Inbound tactics that companies can employ to reach new prospects, interact with existing contacts, and cross-sell to existing customers. In essence, to improve your strategy, we can say that the most effective formulas often employ a bit of Outbound within a structure that is deeply Inbound.