Like most things in life, B2B marketing is complicated. It is multifaceted, constantly evolving, and has many different categories and subsects.
Of those, one common categorization is the discussion revolving around inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing. If you’re unfamiliar with the concepts, that’s A-okay; we’re going to delve into it.
What’s the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing?
Outbound marketing and inbound marketing are terms that describe the difference between whether your marketing activities proactively reach out to your customers (outbound) or focus on creating content that draws them in (inbound).
Due to its nature, outbound marketing tends to be more intense and wide-sweeping, while inbound is more subtle and focused on nurturing the incoming leads over time.
Both marketing concepts present their strengths and purposes for furthering a B2B company’s goals for brand awareness and lead generation. And although they utilize different tactics, they are often most effective when used in combination.
Let’s work it out: Outbound
Outbound marketing was born first. This is what most people think of when they think of marketing – things like:
- Newspaper ads
- TV commercials
- Radio ads
- Direct emails
With the tech age came new, modern outbound tactics like:
- Pop-up ads
- Banner and display ads
- Cold email marketing
- Cold calling
- Social media outreach (mostly LinkedIn)
Outbound marketing “pushes” information to consumers in its target audience for the purpose of grabbing their attention and converting them to a lead.
In today’s oversaturated market, where each industry is awash with impressive competitors and a wide range of offerings for consumers, outbound marketing is an extremely vital tool for early-stage B2B start-ups to capture the attention of their target audiences, increase their brand awareness, and grow.
But, just like all things, there’s doing something, and then there’s doing something well.
How do you make sure you fall into the latter category?
Conduct thorough research
The beauty of outbound marketing is that you get to choose exactly who you’re pitching to, especially with more pinpointed activities like LinkedIn outreach, cold calling, and email marketing.
However, this means that in order to have high outbound success rates, you need to be methodic in who you target. So, be sure to conduct thorough research on your target audience, where they spend time online, their challenges and pain points, and what they’re looking for in a product or service like yours.
Personalize your messages and customize your content
Not only will conducting thorough research help you choose the right people to pitch to, but it also means you’ll be able to properly customize your messaging to appeal to them. Why?
Because you will have taken the time to understand what makes them tick, what their pains are, and how your product solves that pain – and you will build your messaging to address exactly that.
A perfect example of this is account-based marketing (ABM), which is when companies pinpoint specific target audience members who are ideal potential customers and then conduct outreach to them with customized messaging.
ABM is a key piece of outreach that can ensure high-quality leads are being educated about your brand and entering the pipeline.
Analyze & adjust to optimize target personas
The final thing you want to make sure you do is analyze your results as you conduct your outbound and use those insights to fine-tune your target audiences and personas.
This is key because it can take time to pinpoint your perfect messaging, and it can’t be done without testing and analysis.
Unfortunately, some outbound results are slightly difficult to measure, but using A/B testing for activities like LinkedIn outreach messages and cold call scripts are a great way to overcome this.
Remember – outbound marketing is an excellent way to bring in leads from a broader audience and target potential customers, so long as it is conducted with tact and attention.
Integrating your outbound tools with your CRM can facilitate this by enabling you to create clean databases, funnels, and movement from outbound to inbound campaigns.
Diving into it: Inbound
As I mentioned earlier, inbound marketing is a strategy that involves creating unique, engaging content to entice potential customers to take an interest in your company.
Marketers build their inbound marketing activities by combining various of the following materials:
- Social media posts
- Email newsletters
- Blog posts
- White papers
Unlike outbound, inbound marketing aims to gently, over longer periods of time, increase brand awareness, educate your audience about your solution, and nurture them into happy, paying customers.
Inbound is a fantastic way to organically (and cheaply) target relevant audiences and increase your potential reach, but only when done correctly. Here are best practices for inbound marketing:
A major key factor to maintaining successful inbound marketing activities is to stay consistent.
Publishing one blog post per year, one social media post every two months, and a poll when you feel like it is not going to give you the results you want.
Build a social media Gantt filled with engaging content that focuses on your target audience rather than your product, hire a content writer to craft a blog or two each month containing highly ranked SEO terms in your industry, and quickly create a monthly newsletter in HubSpot to share exciting news and industry trends with your audience.
You can choose a variety of inbound activities, but whatever you pick, make sure that 1) you’re consistent with it and 2) that it provides real value to your audience.
That’s another thing; don’t create content simply for the sake of checking something off your list – invest time and thought into it so that you really catch your audience’s attention.
Invest in a good CRM
Did you notice that I mentioned HubSpot?
You’re gonna wanna have that, if you don’t already.
A good CRM is going to take loads of tedious tasks off your plate when it comes to executing your inbound marketing tactics.
HubSpot enables marketers to quickly build attractive, personalized marketing materials like newsletters, as well as keep track of incoming leads as they move through the funnel.
Know your customer
A last key tip to executing a successful inbound marketing strategy is to know your customers well.
Since inbound is all about drawing your target audience in, you need to know what their pains are and how your product solves them so that you can effectively grab their attention.
This includes knowing your ideal customer profile (ICP) and target buyer personas, which means researching the following characteristics:
- Motivations at work
- Skill set
- Pain points
Once you figure these out, you need to wrap that information in a beautiful, creative bow and put it out for them to stumble upon.
There’s no “I” in 360° Marketing.
Now that you’ve heard the differences between outbound and inbound marketing and best practices for each, I’ve got a secret for you – you can’t only pick one.
The most successful startups these days are using a combination of both strategies in order to build their brand awareness, fill their pipeline with relevant leads, and grow in their prospective industries.
If you’ve only utilized inbound up until now, it’s vital that you start incorporating outbound strategies. Mixing in some email marketing, cold calling, social media outreach, and ABM-based tactics will give your lead generation machine the boost that you’ve been looking for.
Remember: outbound enables you to bring in leads from a broader audience that you may have missed otherwise if only utilizing inbound.
And likewise, if you’ve only used outbound until now, there’s no time like the present to start mixing in some inbound.
If the prospect of tackling both inbound and outbound overwhelms you, consider partnering with a startup marketing agency that can do it for you.
This is SAGE GoHo’s area of expertise – combining both techniques with smart cross-marketing, omnichannel activities that can take your startup brand awareness and lead generation to new heights.
Sound interesting? Contact us to learn what Sage can do for your inbound & outbound efforts, or, schedule a short discovery call with one of our experts, it’s free:)