If we build it, will they come? This is the question on every B2B marketer’s mind when they invest thousands of dollars into their website. There’s an anxious passivity associated with the major shift in today’s marketing methods as outbound marketing—billboards, print ads, email blasts, cold calls—is steadily supplanted by inbound marketing: SEO, Google Ads, and social media. Statistics are clear about which method is more cost effective, as this Hubspot infographic repeatedly illustrates (saved you a click: on average, inbound costs less per lead). But inbound can be a frustrating waiting game, as competition increases and scrapping for search engine visibility become more fierce.
A successful inbound program not only requires consistent, data-driven modifications, it demands a deep faith in a mostly benevolent, electronic universe. That’s a weird feeling for marketers who cut their teeth primarily on outbound communication. For years, salespersons honed their interruptive methods until they felt natural and nurturing. They understood that marketing was based on relationships, and as the bonds strengthened with their customers, they gained faith in themselves. Today, it seems the less a human person is involved, the better — at least at the start. Today we talk about keywords, custom content, user-friendliness, experience funnels, analytics, algorithms, and…we wait.
And wait. And update. And wait. And update again. Is this thing on?
To be fair, inbound marketing methods have great advantages besides cost. They work when you’re not there, and provide lots of information to analyze. And if your dollars are spent well, they can make you look larger and more experienced, leveling the field against the big gorillas in your industry. For those who stay busy while they wait—adding keyword-rich content, tweaking keyword bids, scrubbing lists—it can almost feel like business as usual. But is there a way to take a more proactive step towards building relationships and increasing sales? Are there still ways to reach prospects before they’re interested in being reached? Are there any doors left slightly ajar for just the right message?
Possibly. Outbound marketing can learn a lot from inbound. For one, reaching out to the widest audience with your message wastes resources and dilutes your message. Identifying your targets and grouping them into shared needs allows for a more focused, multi-pronged, outbound approach. Gatekeepers pride themselves on smelling a bad message, so do your homework to smell as sweet as you can. A smile and a joke isn’t enough anymore—not that it ever really was—but knowing a heck of a lot about a company’s products and services and anticipating their daily challenges will put you in their shoes. Once you are, edit your approach until everything about your needs lies on the floor and the only thing remaining is the most important concerns of their business. There’s a presiding pain directing their thoughts each and every day. Figure out what it is, figure out how to make it go away, and then tell them immediately. They’ll listen because it will feel like you’ve been listening, too, and not just fishing for an opening.
As always, a mix is the best approach to selling anything. Regularly reevaluating your marketing arsenal will best assure your budget is spent wisely. Decreasing outbound programs doesn’t mean eliminating them; it means making all of your programs work together. Reinforcing your company’s message over a number of different channels can certainly reach more prospects but it can also reach the same prospects in different ways, strengthening your brand.
In essence, inbound marketing anticipates what prospects will want to hear when they’re ready, while outbound swings in on a vine to save the day. So, is it dead? Of course not, but your message better be tighter than a tucked somersault if you want to stick the landing.