Heading into 2018, marketers are still scrambling to improve their inbound marketing strategies. But are marketers putting a bit too much faith in an “if you build it, they will come” approach to snagging leads and sales? Here’s some food for thought: 80% of B2B marketers rely on email outreach on a regular basis to grow their businesses.
Hang on a second. Isn’t email outreach of a form of outbound marketing? You know, something the cavemen did in the Stone Age days of marketing, prior to the rise of the social web?
The reality is that our traditional marketing silos are coming down. For better or worse, it’s time for us to flip the script on how we approach inbound and outbound marketing. Rather than placing them in separate buckets and never let them mingle, meshing the two will become a cornerstone of growth in 2018.
A paltry 0.75% of leads eventually result in sales revenue, meaning that businesses are squandering sales opportunities if they don’t actually reach out to prospects. Think about customer experience and engagement. Personas have distinct limitations. Companies need to understand the wants and needs of individual buyers versus taking a blanket approach. This signals the need for engagement on an individual level, which doesn’t jive when operating on a strictly inbound level.
So, as you’re assessing your inbound marketing strategy with 2018 soon approaching, perhaps it’s time to think about how you can effectively blend the inbound and outbound to get the best of both marketing worlds.
Getting back to basics
Before diving into specifics, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture of modern marketing, so we can better understand the cycles at play. Think about marketing as a sort of Big Bang. In the beginning, prior to the web, there was just marketing. You know, knocking on doors, throwing ads out in the open, setting up point-of-sale displays and getting in people’s faces to win them over.
And then the likes of email, social media and the endless slew of digital marketing opportunities changed everything. People started learning about products on their own. Thought leaders started coming up with new industry lingo to associate with the strategies that emerged as a result of these changes.
Joe Pulizzi coined the term “content marketing” to refer to the concept of publishing valuable assets in order to build an audience and ultimately drive action. Seth Godin introduced the idea of “permission marketing” to reach customers who actually want to hear from you rather than sending blind, untargeted messages to people who couldn’t care less. Dharmesh Shah was instrumental in the buzz surrounding “inbound marketing,” noting that businesses shouldn’t have to compete for the attention of their audience, but rather attract it through channels such as blogs, search engines and social media.
All of these terms essentially represent the exact same concept. That is, the movement away from old-school marketing (a push) toward modern marketing focused on attracting leads (a pull). We marketers have been conditioned for years on end that this “new” marketing (inbound) is the Holy Grail, a sort of be-all, end-all. The fact remains that there’s certainly a time and place “old” marketing (outbound) and we’re certainly seeing this phenomenon today as the two worlds collide.
Rather than take an either/or approach, marketers today are finding opportunities to merge their inbound and outbound efforts. The following marketing priorities represent what those opportunities look like in action.
1. Publishing and distributing problem-solving content.
Let’s start with content.
In a world where approximately half of all content produced is hardy getting shared at all, marketers are struggling to make sure their messages resonate. Given the legwork that goes into content production and promotion, watching that work go to waste should be a major red flag for any given business.
Sure, keywords and SEO can help clue us in on what our visitors and leads are looking for. But how much legwork are you doing to actively pick the brains of your audience? And how much are you investing in paid content distribution?
If you have an email list, you have a direct link to tap into their pain points and desires. Based on where they came from, opt-in fields and what piece of content they came from, you have all the tools to craft an account-based marketing strategy that takes the identities of those opt-ins into account. Marketers ignore ABM at their own peril. Opt-ins on their own are valuable, but they mean little if the qualified leads among them aren’t being nurtured surgically and proactively.
The same rules apply to social media. Marketers often have access to entire communities of potential leads who need education before being sold to. The rise of outbound social selling tactics, which generally involve posting links to key resources, supports this idea that when combined, one-on-one conversations and published content can translate into sales.
Neil Patel is a great example of a marketer whose content strategy is rooted in problem solving and SEO alike. The titles of posts such like “6 Lazy Marketing Tips That’ll Help Busy Business Owners Automate and Scale Their Profit” speak directly to his audience’s pain points. Patel cranks out content at an insane rate, but more importantly, his content is insanely in-depth and actionable. It’s valuable because it solves the specific problems of his audience.
That problem solving is where the traffic comes from, but the outbound piece is still essential. Patel notes the importance of account-based marketing himself and through serial commenting, personalized emails and segmentation that targets leads based on their behaviors.
The takeaway? Analytics can teach you about your audience, but nothing replaces personalized communication. So, get in the trenches with your audience, fans and followers. Let them come to you, but also expect to reach out to them.
2. Establishing trust with your audience
Chances are, your leads have trust issues. Can you blame them?
After all, they’re being barraged with marketing messages from every direction, often on multiple communication channels at once. Email, search, social, retargeting banners – you name it. The element of trust is easy to overlook but too important to ignore, especially given that 82% of American adults read reviews before they purchase something for the first time.
Marketers need to play the game of “show, don’t tell” when it comes to positive feedback. Essential trust-building pieces of any business’ site or marketing strategy should include a combination of the following:
- User-generated content, especially in the form of reviewers and testimonials
- Video content marketing, including explainers or storytelling videos on homepages to boost conversion rates
- Badges, logos and other examples of social proof to illustrate your business as a helping hand
But social proof doesn’t and UGC don’t come out of thin air. It’s your responsibility to seek out and curate them yourself. That’s when your engagement needs to flow outbound. CodeAcademy’s “stories” page is a prime example of curated social proof that clearly required outreach and effort to put together. That said, this collection clearly displays the value of their service to skeptical customers.
Reaching out to your customers for user-generated content is an outbound tactic that’s totally worthwhile if you want to see a better ROI for your inbound efforts.
3. Winning back lost leads
Today, one of the best ways to win new sales leads is to focus on the ones that got away. How so?
When thinking about scoring leads from our websites, many marketers get so caught up in the weeds of how their leads arrived rather than what they did upon landing. Are people clicking on your calls-to-action? Are they sticking around? Do they leave their contact information behind when they go?
If the answer to two out of these three questions is a clear “no,” then it’s time to rethink your site’s UX and your sales strategy as a whole. Fine-tuning your website to optimize the user experience is an obvious must-do for inbound marketing, but it’s the outbound piece of winning back leads that’s often lost.
For example, maybe you’re finding that leads are getting 90% of the way through your funnel before falling off completely. What now? Maybe they just need that extra push.
A shining example of why marketers need to pursue their leads are today’s sky-high cart abandonment rate. If we’re to believe that the average abandonment rate sits around 70%, that’s a ton of potential money left on the table for businesses who fail to follow up with their leads. Hence the popularity of cart abandonment emails, which help win back those customers. GetResponse’s abandoned cart tool supports sophisticated conditions, actions and filters, helping to maximize those sales.
The popularity of retargeting people with social ads also signal the need for marketers to pursue leads beyond the initial point of contact. The numbers don’t lie in regard regarding the power of retargeting, either. Achieving a 200% ROI on retargeting ad campaigns is not rare.
Also, consider how badly consumers stress personalization in the websites they visit today. They want to be recognized by name. They want recommendations. And they’re not worried about handing over their information to make it happen, either.
So, follow up. Keep knocking on the door. If you’re struggling with figuring out how to close more of your leads, you need to stop ignoring your lost traffic and assume that you’ll catch them next time.
Inbound? Outbound? You need both.
Marketers should consider the resolution to marry the realms of inbound with outreach in 2018. It’s easy to forget that the traditional, old-school approach to marketing still has its place today.
Fine-tuning your content strategy to solve actual problems of real-world people. Curating social proof from your customers and followers to win over skeptics. Following up with your most qualified leads.
These hybrid tactics represent cornerstones of marketing that will only become more prevalent in the future. Getting on board with such strategies doesn’t mean turning your marketing strategy, either: it ultimately boils down to a willingness to let the worlds of inbound and outbound collide.