The inbound marketing funnel.

What’s the key to inbound marketing? Outbound marketing.

Here’s an article I wrote three years ago on the need for the proper mix of inbound marketing with outbound marketing techniques. I think the points raised are still relevant today; do you agree?

Inbound marketing has certainly been all the rage over the past few years. The strategy of attracting customers to your site by promoting relevant content, converting them to a lead using landing pages, and closing customers who work their way down the funnel to marketing qualified status is a very well-known methodology by now.

This methodology has definite merit. Ninety percent of consumers find custom content useful, and 78% believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. (Source: McMurry/TMG)

The advantages ascribed to inbound marketing include better-educated prospects that are quicker to close, with a corresponding reduction in the cost per lead for business. No less a marketing luminary than Guy Kawasaki has said, “If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.”

Well, having read that quote, I don’t want to do any outbound marketing, do you? And be considered some dummy with more cash than sense?

The problem is, when comparing outbound marketing to inbound, most writers focus on the most egregious examples of outbound “shotgun” approaches, such as a piece of junk mail or a telemarketing call at dinner time. But that’s not the type of outbound marketing that knowledgeable inbound marketers are using. It’s certainly not the way any reputable traditional ad agency would go about a campaign for one of its clients.

So, yes, people like reading relevant content, but the problem remains: How to get that content in front of them, in a sea of competing offers?

That’s where some judicious use of outbound marketing comes in.

What’s really inbound marketing and what’s really outbound?

Inbound methods to drive traffic and engagement tend to focus on social media, but that’s best used for education, not direct selling. And if you’re a startup, with no social media critical mass, what do you do?

For new or underperforming sites, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is often used to drive increased traffic as the necessary first step in generating leads. But wait, you say; isn’t that…yep, that’s outbound.

Advantages of outbound

The unwritten assumption is that marketers are not adding any value via outbound advertising, but what we’re really talking about is a hybrid approach, guiding people to what they’re interested in.

The biggest advantage of outbound marketing – be it PPC, email marketing, print advertising, etc. – is that it can start generating activity via your site faster than relying on inbound techniques alone. It’s not either/or – it’s both. A well – developed outbound strategy can leverage all that relevant content you’ve created and provide a reason for a prospect to engage with your company.

The key to making this all work

In addition to a balanced marketing plan, a correspondingly strong sales effort is needed to close the loop and connect with prospects that respond to emails or register for your webcasts.

Just as with marketing, if you tailor your approach and your content, outbound sales activities still work, and work well. In a recent survey by DiscoverOrg of 1,000 IT executives from businesses of all sizes, 60% said outbound calls or emails had led to an evaluation of a vendor, and 75% reported they had attended an event or made an appointment after having received a cold outreach.

In the same way you would plan your conversion path and nurturing sequence for an inbound campaign, you need to have sound fundamentals in place for sales activities. These include proper segmentation of contact lists by a piece of actionable data, such as the prospect’s industry, so you can customize your responses and subsequent content offers.

Email and phone call templates are useful as starting points, and should be customized by the individual salesperson’s research into that prospect and their likely pain points.

There also needs to be a well-defined process in place for lead qualification and opportunity assessment, leading ultimately to a presentation of recommendations for those prospects that fit your ideal customer profile.

So by all means, develop meaningful content, optimize and promote it. Just remember that promotion has two facets to maximize success, inbound and outbound.