Ah, 2017. Trump was inaugurated, no one could figure out whether Moonlight or La La Land had won the Oscar. We were all listening to the Shape of You by Ed Sheeran and watching Stranger Things 2. Amongst all this, Inflowing was born. When we first started out, we saw ourselves as a pure play, all-out inbound agency. In the midst of the GDPR frenzy, we were figuratively marching around with signs reading “Inbound is the only way to go”.
We obviously still firmly believe in inbound as a marketing approach, and have seen it get great results. That being said, in the past few years, we’ve learned to get over ourselves a little bit and consider what a marketing strategy that embraces both outbound AND inbound might look like.
Charli, have you bumped your head? Surely, outbound and inbound by definition our polar opposites – like fire and ice, Theresa May and international politics – they just don’t work together.
Well, not quite. If was asked the question outbound versus inbound marketing – what will work best for my business? My answer would be the seemingly unhelpful: it depends. Inbound might not work for you at all. Outbound might not be possible. Or a blend of both might be the sweet spot for you.
Let’s dig into this a little more shall we.
When inbound works
The objective success of an inbound marketing strategy depends on two things: who you’re targeting, and your capacity to produce quality content. Without a steady flow of quality content which answers your audience’s challenges, inbound will not work for you. If you have the resources, or the right agency partner, to point at creating focused funnels of awareness, consideration and decision content which is based on solid persona and keyword research, then chances are inbound will work well for you as a strategy. If through the process of persona and keyword research, i.e. examining your ideal customers and how they might find your products, you discover there’s not much opportunity for you to draw them in with this content, then take a step back – inbound might not be for you. Really successful inbound campaigns are also built on strong collaboration and cohesion between sales and marketing. Inbound is all about keeping leads engaged and warm with marketing until they’re ready for a more in-depth chat with sales. If there’s a seamless link between these two functions, then inbound is a great fit.
When outbound works
We’re not stupid. It’s not 2007 anymore. Sending mass emails out to 20,000 email addresses probably isn’t going to get you that many results. While outbound is a numbers game, these days, we’re finding it’s becoming more and more about quality as well as quantity. Fundamentally, outbound works if you have an up to date list of contacts who are highly relevant to and highly likely to be engaged with what your business has to offer. Bad data in this day and age just doesn’t cut it. And obviously, with GDPR in full effect, there’s a burden on you to prove how you got your data, and to clearly state your reasons for processing that data. We’re also finding that we get the most success with highly targeted campaigns which are built on this high quality data, driven by intelligent segmentation and carefully crafted messaging. This is where account-based marketing as a strategy comes into play and for most practising it – outbound in some shape or form features as part of the overall approach. Outbound becomes a bit difficult to do if you don’t access to this high quality data – you’re essentially shouting your message into the void.
The blended approach
Sometimes, it’s all about being open to mixing and matching tactics to find the blend that works. You can be doing inbound – the content, the funnel, the MQL and SQL process, and still run the odd outbound campaign. Inbound is a medium to long-term play – it won’t get you results fast. It requires work up front and continuous upkeep to be successful – and it could take a few months. Where this can be challenging if a business is seasonal – with the bulk of their sales and their customers being most engaged at a particular time of year. If this is the case, you can’t necessarily be waiting around for your rankings to increase and for your funnel to fill up. Chances are you’ll need a targeted outbound campaign to boost your efforts and get you in front of the right people in time for your optimal sales window.
Plotting the route to success
When it comes to deciding the right approach for your marketing, it’s ultimately not about inbound vs outbound – it’s about finding the blend of tactics that will get you results. We believe in the blended approach and doing what will deliver – we’ll work with you to understand your objectives, your data, and your business to build a strategy that works. If this sounds like the kind of help you need, get in touch.