Outbound Marketing Strategies in the Digital Age: When to Use Them
If you follow digital marketing trends, you may get the impression that inbound marketing is in and outbound marketing is out. But choosing the right strategy for your company requires being open to both approaches as you need them.
What Is Outbound Marketing?
A conventional definition of outbound marketing goes something like this:
Outbound marketing is a traditional marketing strategy that involves actively reaching out to potential customers through various channels such as advertising, email, telemarketing, events, and public relations.
- Outbound marketing aims to get the attention of people interested in a product or service and then encourage them to take a specific action, such as making a purchase, engaging in a sales meeting or signing up for a newsletter.
- Outbound marketing can be an effective way to generate leads and drive sales, but it can also be expensive and time-consuming and may only sometimes be well-received by the audience.
Examples of outbound marketing include television commercials, radio advertisements, print ads, direct mail campaigns, and direct calls.
A young marketer the author knows defined outbound marketing this way:
"Outbound marketing is a jillion different ways to code a popup ad. It's an interruption because it involves actively reaching out to people and disrupting their normal activities. It's, like, totally demanding attention. It's like, super-in-your-face."
Of course, it's also possible to craft outbound messages that are "attention-grabbing" and "eye-catching" instead of being "super-in-your-face." The most successful outbound marketing ads leave viewers feeling that the interruption is worth their attention. But how do you code an outbound marketing message that consumers prefer to what they were already viewing or listening to? How should I have Outbound support my SMART Goals?
Three Necessities for a Successful Outbound Marketing Campaign
Customers of all kinds, but especially B2B clients, increasingly control how they make purchasing decisions. They expect to engage with sellers through a coordinated blend of sales channels and interactions with your company, both human-to-human and digital. They expect product solutions that precisely match their business and personal needs. That kind of personalization takes a lot of work to deliver. But delivering it begins with a plan for structuring your outbound marketing.
Andris Zoltners, a retired professor from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and author of The Power of Sales Analytics, advises digital marketers to think of outbound and inbound marketing as complementary activities of demand centers. A demand center is the collection of activities that generate leads (outbound marketing like emails, webinars, events, and paid media placement) and refines them with personalized content (inbound marketing like individually tailored content) and human interaction with salespeople.
Sometimes a demand center delivers digital content. Sometimes a demand center focuses on human interaction. But the demand center is constantly prioritizing and refining its interactions with leads, prospects, and customers to connect with customers at the right moment in the buying cycle.
Business writer Sally Lorimer has been helping businesses develop copy for outbound and inbound marketing efforts for over 30 years. She identifies three prerequisites for success with outbound marketing.
Marketing and sales efforts must be interactive
Traditionally, the marketing department generates leads with outbound marketing, and then the sales department takes over with inbound marketing. But customers often disrupt this sequence. For instance, a customer might see a pop-up ad or catch a webinar from your company that causes them to reconsider their purchase decision.
This means that the marketing department's success metric can differ from how many leads it generates. Marketing and sales together in each demand center need to measure success by the dollar volume of sales they generate.
Marketing campaigns can be about more than just products and market segments
Since customers don't stay in one place in the marketing funnel, it's only sometimes helpful to design an outbound marketing campaign around reaching a particular kind of customer. And you miss sales by limiting your marketing and sales efforts to a single product. Instead, marketing and sales, that is, outbound marketing and inbound marketing, need to focus on winning over decision-makers, not just publicizing and selling products.
Digital marketing takes on a more significant role.
As customers take more and more control over their interactions with their vendors, it is essential for both marketing and sales to have the digital content that customers need when they need it. Digital content at the ready to support self-directed customers and salespeople is essential to success.
A New Role for AI
Organizing outbound and inbound marketing efforts around demand centers is especially important for B2B companies that sell primarily to small and mid-sized businesses. They must reach multiple decision-makers on various channels simultaneously. Artificial intelligence can help both marketers and salespeople with next-best-action suggestions about what to do at each point in the customer conversation.
AI can track which decision maker is engaged with content or with a salesperson. It can track the intensity of engagement with content and sales conversations. The algorithm can then inform marketing and sales of ways to personalize each customer’s journey. At the same time, AI gives dynamic weights to interactions to determine when each customer is ready to reach their purchase decision.
But When Do I Need to Focus on Outbound Marketing?
Even in an age of increasingly independent customers, there are still times to focus on outbound marketing. Here are some examples.
- You have achieved innovation in a critical product or service. You just got FDA approval for a new wonder drug. Or you have a way to help your customers deal with an impending price shock. Or any time you have a new product, a new service, or a new price that customers would want to know about if they just learned to ask.
- You have convincing data on who buys your product and when. Sending emails to purchasing decision-makers falls into this category. So does advertising in niche publications, at specialty trade shows, and on YouTube and Facebook videos with a clearly defined audience.
- You need to move the needle with your sales figures. There is an element of "throwing something out there and seeing if it sticks" in every outbound marketing campaign. Taking measured, calculated risks to develop leads and test new markets can be just what you need to revitalize sales.
Could you be sure to coordinate your outbound and inbound marketing efforts into a single demand center? Modern customers demand a stress-free experience with their vendors. Their nuanced buying needs inevitably collide with customer segmentation models and product sales goals. The demands on their time will cause them to lose interest in your company if they are forced to look for information and answers across different parts of your marketing and sales organization. To succeed, outbound marketing must be seamlessly integrated with inbound marketing and sales.
Demand centers don't begin as well-oiled machines. Even the most experienced digital marketers benefit from advisors with extensive experience with various products for various businesses and media. Aspiration Marketing can support your inbound and outbound marketing programs and help you be proactive to your prospective customers and grow with your company.
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