Inbound Vs Outbound Lead Generation
Editorial by Jim Miller
The Oxford English Dictionary describes ‘inbound’ as“Travelling towards a particular place, especially when returning to the original point of departure”.
Whereas ‘outbound’ is “Travelling away from a particular place, especially on the first leg of a return journey”.
Now that’s out of the way it may be easier to understand the differences between inbound and outbound marketing.
The terms themselves were attributed to having come from Brian Halligan, the CEO of HubSpot CRM to describe the different methods used to entice customers.
Inbound marketing is one of the major strategies employed to promote your website for the purposes of drawing in potential customers.
Not just through layout and colours, fonts and page styles of web design but content, SEO, CRO, blog posts and social media, heuristics and tone- almost everything.
The premise behind Inbound marketing strategies is that by creating engaging and valuable information, you’ll eventually reap the rewards with a greater potential to sell your product or service than through older, more traditional methods.
Outbound marketing encompasses the traditional marketing methods commonly used to chase customers, such as with directory ads (think ‘Yellow Pages’), display ads, cold calls, and direct mail strategies.
We like to think of inbound marketing as the ‘pull’ and outbound tactics as being the ‘chase’.
Who’s Your Target Market?
Though overall there are many similarities, selling to businesses and retail customers involve different methods.
Most lead generation tactics involving attracting retail buyers to focus upon evoking emotions with their campaigns and content.
The business to business (or B2B) lead generation strategy more often centres on logic and higher return of investment.
Decide on what style of approach you feel is appropriate and don’t stray off course as it will confuse your audience and ultimately affect your sales.
So,… Inbound or Outbound?
To us, there isn’t a competition between inbound marketing versus outbound: There’s room for both.
Outbound marketing techniques have proven to be successful over the years, and if carried out thoughtfully (and without unsavoury tactics like undue telephone sales pressure) still have a place in today’s marketplace.
As the majority of us receive nuisance calls all too regularly, chances are you wouldn’t be received well by the receiver no matter how genuine your call.
We’ve compiled some of the methods used for outbound marketing, though there are some crossovers with the inbound approach.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that both the outbound and inbound lead generation process follows a similar sales cycle.
- Seller prospects for buyers.
- Having successfully found a target market, they initiate contact.
- Each contact is qualified for their potential value as a buyer.
- The seller makes their offer or pitch.
- Possible objections are overcome one by one.
- The sale is made and the deal is closed.
- The seller asks the purchaser for referrals, feedback and reviews.
Outbound Marketing Strategies
Trade Shows, Events and Exhibitions
Trade shows and exhibitions are possibly one of the oldest forms of outbound marketing.
Companies sponsor events to get their brand name plastered throughout the venue while others exhibit their best products or eye-catching promotional offers.
The relevancy of the event assists with brand awareness and authority while offering an opportunity for businesses to promote themselves and gather leads and publicity over competitors who haven’t attended.
Pay Per Click
If you pay to advertise on search engine platforms, the tactic of paid media advertising via a banner ad is a perfect example of outbound marketing.
Search engines offer pay per click campaigns that especially relate to promoting awareness for your company and as you pay for this privilege, your adverts are placed above (or in the sidebar of) that of organic searches.
- Pay per click strategies through banner ads are a common method for lead generation in order to target audiences
A typical pay per click strategy;
- Decide on the PPC marketing budgets for your campaign
The average cost per click can be found by web searches for most industries.
This tool from Wordstream.com assists in determining the relevance and average costs.
- Set a maximum amount that you can comfortably afford before deciding upon the keywords for your campaign
|Industry||Average CTR (Search)||Average CTR (GDN)|
|Dating & Personals||6.05%||0.72%|
|Finance & Insurance||2.91%||0.52%|
|Health & Medical||3.27%||0.59%|
|Travel & Hospitality||4.68%||0.47%|
Calculate by your existing conversion rates and profit per customer while estimating profit margins from advertising
Your maximum cost per click should equal profit per customer x profit margin x conversion rate.
This blog from hallaminternet.com provides a more in-depth max CPC calculation explanation.
- Build a list of keywords or phrases you feel your customer may use to search for your product or service
- Use a keyword tool planner (for example Google’s own) to determine the demand for these keywords, taking note of other suggestions the keyword tool presents
- Decide on locations where you intend to target (locally, nationally, or internationally)
- Note that keywords with high competition cost usually are more expensive
- When keywords have a poor search volume, the keyword planning tool may have other suggestions
- Structure your keywords into categories and group them together
For example ‘Branded’, ‘Non-Branded’, ‘Generic’ and ‘Related’ terms
- From these groups, decide upon which terms present the best intent for purchasing.
The more specific a keyword search, the higher the probability of an intent to purchase
- Note that many keywords are linked more to informational searches as opposed to transactions
- Look at your competition and the keywords they use
- The holy grail for keyword searching is to find:
High volume, low cost and low competition keywords
Words the visitor is using that infer a transactional search
That your site is optimised for the transactions
This article from G2Crowd shows a number of sites you can use to discern valuable content into what actions they are taking to bring in sales.
Syndicate Content Hosting
A further widely used strategy of online businesses to promote their outbound marketing is to offer blog posts or articles to other related websites for publication.
Outbound marketers use RSS feeds (widely recognised as an abbreviation of Really Simple Syndication) to generate leads through content syndication.
RSS is a format whereby blogs, posts and articles are collected together and displayed in one location as opposed to the many areas they originated from.
These areas are known as feeds, and the advantages of an RSS feed is that it acts as a base for those who use a ‘subscribe to our blog’ strategy, saving the visitor time searching multiple URLs for articles or blogs in which they are interested.
Syndicators invariably ask for contact information which enables the web hosts to target their readers with relevant material.
Traditional marketers will assure you that direct mail marketing is still very much alive and kicking.
If performed well, direct mail marketing is a cost-effective method of business promotion for potential customers.
Whereas digital marketing (tv ads, emails, cold calls) are easier to delete or ignore, a well presented and tangible letter, booklet or catalogue has a real presence.
There’s also much less competition when a free sample or targeted information lands on an office desk if delivered to the right recipient.
Direct mail works because it’s in your face and because people are either inherently busy- or lazy.
For example, if your business involves selling plant hire, your target may be a quantity surveyor dealing with a construction site.
You send your catalogue with prices and they are stored in a drawer as it has relevant content and is interesting to the recipient.
When plant hire is next required, in all likelihood they’ll remember your brochure and quote from it, giving you the custom.
This is a classic traditional lead nurturing outbound marketing tactic.
Money off coupons with no ‘use by’ date is another great way of enticing a purchase.
Samples of your wares (if practical) will create a better reality for your target customer.
If you provide a service, free guides assisting in solving a target’s particular business issues help open a door for communication.
As long as you interest the reader, direct mail doesn’t need to give away samples, though studies show gifts given in appreciation of the attention sought are more likely to be rewarded with business.
If you’re looking to explore the possibilities and potential of direct mail, this article from Learn.G2Crowd.com has some valuable ideas and easily duplicated procedures.
When someone completes their contact details, they should be considered as potential future customers.
Many would have been interested enough in your campaign to offer their details but still not ready to make a purchase.
Lead nurturing involves gradually convincing them to buy, by determining how well they fit into your buyer’s persona through email targeting or other means.
Email shots still work for online marketing and the return of investment is one of the best when compared with other methods for drawing in customers.
The purpose of email marketing is not to bombard your prospects but rather use it as a further selling ploy.
An email content strategy can include;
- Offering incentives to previous customers to review your service or products
- Offering incentives for customers who’ve not purchased in a while
- Experimenting with upselling or cross-sales to make an initial sale more valuable
- Creating logical shopping cart abandonment emails
- Rewarding repeat customers
- Preparing early for seasonal email campaigns
- Linking emails with advertising campaigns
- Subscribing (anonymously) to competitor’s email listings
- Using online software from sites like Mailcharts.com to track competitor emails
Though this site from Campaignmonitor.com is aimed at beginners, there are many useful tactics that some email marketing campaigns may never have considered.
Social Media Advertising
The main social media platform is undoubtedly Facebook, whose average advertising cost per click is usually less than one pound sterling.
What many people aren’t aware of is that Facebook grades an advertisement for suitability before it’s run.
The reason being is that adverts need to comply with the law, but also to maintain standards within the social media platform.
Facebook reviews the advert for relevancy and scores it accordingly to give the advertiser an idea of how it compares to others targeting the same type of audience.
This metric is used though advertisers are advised not to get too hung up on raising relevancy scores as it’s more important that the advert works for you.
There are many other social media platforms with provision for advertising and the advantages are clear;
- Increased brand awareness
By advertising on social media you are increasing your brand’s visibility and recognition.
- A greater chance to interact
Once you’ve attracted interest within social media, there’s the opportunity to engage with your prospective customers through two way communication, which helps build rapport and gain positive feedback and reviews.
- Positive reviews are spread more quickly than through other means of advertising
- For every social media platform you exist upon, you increase the chances of attracting new customers
- If search engine optimisation is something you are looking to refine, your ranking is likely to improve by including social media interaction
- It’s easier to gauge public opinion when feedback is more instant: It’s crucial to humanising your business. Buyers appreciate personal replies, one to one attention, and acknowledgement of reviews and feedback
- There’s a greater chance of presenting your marketing message to influencers
- Your conversion rates are likely to increase through better visibility because if it doesn’t, you ought to be asking yourself if you’re in the right job!
Marketing blogs need to engage and interest the reader, encouraging them to share and like your input.
- By consistently engaging with your readers, you increase the chances of buyer loyalty
- There is an opportunity to present yourself as a brand authority
Note that though we’ve included social media as part of outbound marketing, it is equally as important for inbounds strategy.
Marketing through video is proving to be one of the most lucrative means of advertising when executed well.
For creating engaging and interesting video advertisements, take a look at what Digitalmarketinginstitute.com suggests and you won’t go far wrong.
The video sharing service of Youtube allows advertisers to target specific audiences with engaging and unique content creation.
In order to advertise on the platform you must;
- Create an account
- Create relevant keywords to help users find your advertisement channel in ‘Channel Settings’
- Enable ‘Monetisation’ to inform Youtube there are no copyright infringements and to allow Youtube to place ads within your video
- To begin to make money from your video, you will need a minimum of 10,000 views
With all of these outbound tactics (and those not mentioned), it’s hard to argue that inbound marketing strategies are superior.
Instead, the benefits of inbound marketing compliments that of outbound rather than act as their alternative.
The difference between inbound and outbound marketing is about recognising customers have a choice.
Modern inbound sales concepts surround giving a prospective customer leeway to make their own decisions, while outbound is generally regarded as imposing a method of selling upon their target customer.
With outbound strategies, in general, the seller determines when the interaction takes place, in what form, and for how long.
The inbound methodology is about making the buying process an ‘open door scenario’ where they can interact in their own time, at their own pace, and for as long as they need.
We’ve mentioned there is some crossover in that the same mediums can be used for both inbound and outbound lead generation.
Now we delve into the types of inbound marketing tactic used by online businesses today.
Strategies Used For Inbound Leads
From the moment an online business is conceived, a lead generation strategy is vital for its success.
A website visitor has to be engaged or all of your marketing efforts will count for nothing.
In order to achieve this, a content marketer needs to do everything within their expertise to determine their targets persona and to develop a value proposition that aligns with their values and thinking.
Creating a Target Persona and Value Proposition
The first consideration is to determine the type of audience who are most likely to buy your product or service.
Who do you feel are your target audience?
- Age range
- Relationship status
- What their interests are
- Where they live
- What they earn
- The type of business they are in
- How they enjoy themselves
- Where they hang out
- What social media sites do they use
- Do they have favourite websites and if so why?
- What their concerns are
- What motivates them to buy?
- What needs does your product or service solve?
- How they live
You may feel you have an idea of your target market but instincts alone will not cut it when your competition is carrying out a more scientific and therefore accurate approach.
The better the understanding of a buyer’s journey, the easier it is to potentially lead them to a sale.
Picture Yourself as your Customer
How does your product or service provide a solution for your customer’s needs, wants or goals?
Understanding these factors ensures you have a greater chance of designing a site that has a positive impact on the visitor.
Learn From Your Existing Customers
Review your current customers, even if you don’t have many at present.
If you struggle to get feedback, offer an incentive (a gift or discount often works well).
What factors or pieces of content within your website convinced them to be ready to buy?
What was it that made them decide to buy from you?
What did they think about the ease (or difficulty) of the sales process?
Why have they stayed loyal?
What, in their opinion, could you have done better and what more can be done?
Learn From Your Competitors
Learn what you can from competitor websites.
If your budget allows, use social monitoring or social listening tools to determine what’s being said about your industry or brand, and by whom.
What is social monitoring?
Brandwatch.com says, “In basic terms, social media monitoring is the act of using a tool to listen to what is being said across the internet; monitoring media not just from traditional publishers, but on millions of social sites too”.
Hubspot CRM describes it as “…allowing you to see your audience’s reaction to your posts, and monitor streams related to specific keywords and competitors”.
When budget is an issue, do your own research to determine the types of audience your competitors reach and how they fit within your business.
Make notes of how you feel you can improve upon some of their mistakes and what you could do better, be it selling, delivery or after-sales.
Check out what social feeds/ social media channels they use and how they interact-if at all.
Look for areas of potential.
Form a Following
After you’ve found your target audience, customer retention is key.
By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes you’ll gain an insight into what’s important to them.
This understanding opens other avenues to strengthen your brand and increase sales by hosting or sponsoring events or offering freebies to promote your business.
Build your following from social media marketing and advertising, being receptive to what the general feeling is for your brand and how it’s received- and if it’s positive, play upon it.
Interact with reviews and feedback, making sure you thank everyone who writes well of your brand and addressing the issues of those that don’t.
After you’ve established your business, Facebook is a great place to discern who your customers are and their demographic.
- Go to Facebook and click on ‘Insights’
- When the sidebar appears, click on ‘People’
- Open the ‘Fans’ tab and you’ll find the general generation benchmark of gender and ages of those who buy from and follow you
Once you’re confident that you’ve done all you can to know your audience, the next step is to reach out with valuable intent to convince them that your product or service is perfect for them -above all others.
The sentiments of your target audience and how they express themselves must resonate within your website, echoing what they say with keywords and phrases and interesting content.
Many digital marketers make the mistake of spending too much time attempting to optimise a website without taking into account the audience.
No matter how well a site performs on any search engine, you aren’t likely to sell much without knowing your buyer persona.
Think Long and Hard About Your Content
Now you’ve learned about who is likely to be your buyers, the next step is to create resonating content.
Play and experiment with titles and headers based on words and sentences you’ve read from those you target.
If you end up with more than one catchy title and aren’t sure which one to choose, test them out and ask for feedback from your loyal customers.
Don’t be tempted into using too much intellectual language unless you are in a field that calls for it.
By and large, people prefer an easy read: Most speedread and lots of information can be overlooked.
If you need your readers to stop at certain points you feel are important, ensure there’s an opportunity with either images, tables and graphs or accentuated text.
Viewers by definition, view.
Landing pages are part of the sales pipeline and should either captivate, interest, or intrigue.
Think about conversion rate optimisation including landing page design and customer journey mapping.
This blog post from Salesforce.com explains customer journey mapping brilliantly.
Entertaining informative videos are quickly becoming necessary for website engagement, over and above that of text or images.
Even instructional ‘How to’ videos can entertain: Take a look at this post from Vtldesign.com for three convincing reasons why.
With videos, you’re more easily able to demonstrate concepts than just through text.
‘How to’ articles become more interesting and appealing and data-driven graphs are given a new lease of life.
The ability to story write creates another opportunity to engage over that of mere statistical driven text which ends up boring the reader.
Use customer stories too.
There’s nothing quite as convincing for effective lead generation as the tales from those who’ve used or are still using your product or service.
Invite Guest Posts and Influencers
Remember when you sat in school and the monotonal voice of your teachers sent you to sleep?
Imagine your visitors feeling the same because all the messages coming to your website are from the same source.
Regular guest posts shed new light on the same subjects, and influencers have the added bonus of being trusted so chances are, your sales will increase because of them.
From actors to athletes and professors to footballers, all are regularly employed for inbound lead generation.
Promote Your Website to Encourage Backlinks
Influencers help with backlinks by building greater authority on your site.
Getting other sites to link to yours is one of the most vital aspects of increasing your search engine results.
However, backlinking before a site is ready can do more harm than good.
All technical issues have to be addressed beforehand, such as broken links, poor page loading speeds, not optimising for mobile phones and other considerations.
As part of the algorithms used by search engines, the amount of backlinks on a website helps to indicate its popularity.
For the latest up to date news on how to build backlinks, take a look at this page from Gotchseo.com.
Webinars and Courses
If your product or service has opportunities for instructional, informative or just entertaining webinars and courses, don’t miss this out as it forms part of your lead generation campaign.
Include valuable content and your viewers will keep coming back for more but if a webinar is dull or pointless, they’re just as likely to lose a higher ranking opportunity.
- Firstly, ask yourself if you are prepared to put in the time and effort to plan a webinar properly
If you are in any doubt, don’t even start.
- Consider whether the reason for making the webinar in the first place is because you’re marketing lead generation, or you truly want to inform
Visitors are much more tech savvy nowadays and they’ll see through your veiled attempts quickly.
Offer quality subject matter and plan how you intend to get your tone and message across.
- Is the subject matter worth a webinar anyway?
What you feel is relevant and absorbing may only seem the same to a small percentage of your target audience.
It’s not enough that you might watch your webinar: Get some feedback from others to see if they would too!
- Try a fresh approach or new angle on your chosen subject
Offer a clear and easily followed ‘how-to’ instructional video based on your way of solving a problem faced within your industry.
Invite an influencer or leading authority for an interview on an interesting subject based upon your target audience.
Then, and only then, should you begin the process of planning your webinar.
- Decide upon your subject matter and the ways you will put your point across
- Don’t focus on too many subjects- concentrate on one or two at most
- Know your topic- don’t ‘flannel’ as others will challenge any mistakes
- Decide who will be representing your business- you, a colleague or colleagues, or an authoritative figure. Will it be one or two presenters and what form will it take?
- How will you promote the piece? Through social media, email or other means?
- Check those invitations to the course go out correctly and as planned
- Strengthen your engagement with well composed and understandable infographics and slides. Graphic design counts for a lot when putting your point across
- Prepare your script and check that what you say and how you say it links with your tone and the slides or images
- Synchronise your slides with your text. A good rule of thumb is not to dwell on one slide for more than twenty seconds or so
- Think about what time you are offering your webinar. Different time zones for international webinars make it harder to attend at times
- Offer a copy of the webinar to those that can’t make it, or another opportunity to view it later
- Ensure you are heard and seen clearly and that the equipment works correctly. If not, don’t be afraid to postpone until things are put right
- Do run-through tests two or three days before the planned presentation to iron out issues and make your address appear more natural and relaxed
- When possible, ensure that those attending will arrive in good time for the webinar to start as scheduled
- Offer a question and answer opportunity at the end with viewers texting into the webinars for you to answer live if you can. If an answer can’t be given straight away, always reply when you can
- When the webinar has ended, ask for reviews, questions and feedback
- Direct your audience where and how you will reply if you hadn’t already
For a comprehensive list of webinar software suppliers, take a look at this guide from Capterra.co.uk.
Offer Interactive Tools and Solutions
Marketing Automation Tools
Marketing automation tools fully organise your sales and online marketing channels (social media, emailing, websites) without constantly repeating the same tasks.
Marketing automation tools deal with the;
- Analysis and effectiveness of internet marketing campaigns
- Customer data administration
- Creation of lead generation benchmarks (see this blog from hubspot.com for more on lead scores) enabling the business to qualify leads more easily
- Lead management systems
This study carried out by Woopra.com shows seven of the best automation tools, catering to every sort of budget.
Lead Generation Forms
Another useful lead generation tool is one used to capture leads.
Personal information is crucial for implementing inbound marketing tactics and the better the method for lead capture, the more chance for successful sales.
Ventureharbour.com explores thirteen of the best lead generation software tools for lead capturing- and explains why theirs is superior to many.
If you are planning to or already sell on eBay, this eBay price calculator is a handy tool for quickly determining the overall cost of selling a product on their platform. https://finalfeecalc.co.uk/
Include Case Studies
Creating the perfect customer story is almost like a magnet for similar companies going through the same problems.
Check out your competition and understand the customer problems they talk about and mention on case studies.
Some of our favorites are :
Used wisely these are wonderful inbound marketing tactics for leads.
Call To Action
The final and often neglected piece of the inbound lead gen’ puzzle is the method in which you have the final chance to win over your visitors.
Simply put, it’s the section that encourages your prospective buyer to make an affirmative action.
The more inviting and enticing the call to action, the better the opportunity for a sale.
If you’ve done your homework from the beginning of this post, you’ll understand more clearly the tone your CTA should convey.
You’ve determined your target audience’s pain points and your call to action is about fulfilling some of their desires with your product or service.
If you’re still unsure and have had previous sales, do yourself a favour and ask them why they purchased from you!
A reminder of where you can find some more opportunities to build a buyer persona;
- Interviewing loyal or previous customers and clients.
- Obtaining information from focus groups, social media and blog posts.
- Online forums.
- Reviews of your product or service and your competitors.
- Question and answer sites such as ‘Quora’ or these from Thenextweb.com.
- Good old search engine research!
Questions you could ask or amend to suit your business;
- What made you choose to buy from us?
- What did our product/service solve for you?
- Could you place in the order of importance, what criteria you used to make a purchase?
- If you hadn’t purchased from us, what would you have done?
- What line of work are you in? Job title?
- Did our product/service solve all of the issues expected- and if not, what do you think we could do to improve?
- If you were selling our product/ service, how would you do things differently?
Strong wording in your CTA has more chance of positive action over that of ambiguous or passive wording.
Sentences or CTAs that evoke emotion or excitement are preferable over dull or everyday speech.
Don’t be frightened to highlight peoples’ natural fear of missing out or to add a little humour.
If it doesn’t work you can try other tactics and carry out A/B test comparisons.
A CTA needs to clarify what will be achieved when the actionable button is pressed.
For some inspiration, take a look at this blog from Hubspot.com.
The idea of competition between outbound vs inbound lead generation is misleading and unfortunate for those who feel they have to choose between them.
Both strategies offer sales enablement and neither tend to clash if carried out with the same goal.
It’s claimed that outbound marketing costs more per lead, but that takes into account presenting at trade shows and events which lots of inbound marketers would do anyhow.
The main criteria for consideration (which tends to fall into the inbound marketing category) are that customers are more ‘sales educated’ than they once were.
Transparency and trust are key for sales; sharing processes, setting the scenes and crediting buying customers with their obvious intelligence.
You’ll notice there aren’t any statistics within this post as most companies have them covered.
Statistics are often overused to persuade readers that the author has done their research so they ought to be believed.
At Salesbloom, we feel it’s more relevant to give information in a procedural manner as, after all, marketing statistics do little to improve your online business.
However, if stats’ are your thing and you want to know what’s attracting more leads this year, check out this set of 160+ statistics gathered by Omnicoreagency.com.
About the Author
Jim writes on topics related to E-Commerce and digital marketing. His work has been featured by Cognitive SEO, Neil Patel and a number of leading brands across the US and UK. He has over 17 years experience in helping Saas & E-commerce companies grow online.