Where ‘push’ meets ‘pull’ – outbound and inbound integrated strategies

Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

George S. Patton.

A recent study by Marketing Sherpa found that 80% of business to business purchasing decision makers claim to proactively find a supplier when they’re ready to buy, rather than responding to a supplier who contacts them. In our experience, however, most businesses spend around 90% of their efforts on outbound marketing and just 10% on inbound marketing. So does this mean there’s a conflict of emphases?

No – because while 80% of purchasers may only be proactive about finding a supplier when they’re ready to buy, it doesn’t follow that they’re searching from ‘cold’. In most cases they will already have a short list in place – if only at the back of their mind.  And this is all down to the impact of outbound marketing.

So although technology marketing is slowly moving towards a more balanced position, it remains essential to employ BOTH types of marketing to generate sales leads.  The key to success is to develop an integrated strategy, because, as I’m about to demonstrate, inbound and outbound are inextricably linked.  It’s all about understanding the new marketing model and playing to a different set of rules.

Let’s begin with a brief recap of the two types of marketing:

Outbound marketing, is any form of marketing that is ‘interruptive’ in nature, including email marketing, cold calling, outsourced telemarketing and advertising. It’s what marketers have been doing in one form or another since the dawn of commerce, and it works.

Inbound marketing, conversely, is all about getting found naturally – through the search engines, through the blogosphere, and through social media sites. New tools that have gone main-stream over the space of just a couple of years enable you compete with even the biggest advertising budgets.  Such is the business development power of inbound marketing.

But to use inbound marketing in isolation while neglecting outbound marketing is the equivalent of just sitting back and waiting for people to find you.  And if the experience of our clients is any guide, this is a recipe for failure.

To be successful in marketing to the IT, telecoms and technology sectors, you must remain proactively interruptive in your marketing.

And before you go throwing the baby out with the bath water, beware the hype…

Make no mistake, pay-per-click, search engine optimisation and search engine marketing are firmly established as lead generation tools.  But, for all the talk, social media advertising, while great for B2C, has yet to prove itself in a B2B lead generation environment.  Likewise, blogging for B2B lead generation is only effective as part of an overall marketing strategy.

Positioning your company as a natural solution to a problem  

If you’ve ever bought from the likes of DELL, ORACLE or HP, you’ll know only too well that B2B technology marketing is HIGHLY proactive when it comes to outbound marketing, BUT with one big difference: while outbound, much of their marketing is now PERMISSION based.

Despite being heavily reliant on inbound marketing when it comes to crunch time (i.e. people proactively contacting them when they’re ready to buy), the big technology marketing players know only too well that without proactively reinforcing their brands via outbound marketing they would soon lose their default status as market leaders. Using a combination of outbound and inbound, they have successfully cornered the lion’s share of the market by positioning themselves as trusted suppliers and the natural solution to a problem – and in the process the distinction between inbound marketing and outbound marketing becomes blurred.

The indispensible value of B2B email

Few potential buyers in a B2B environment are likely to make a snap purchasing decision on an initial website visit, especially as many B2B transactions involve complex sales with big-ticket items and multiple decision makers. This is especially true of technology marketing.  The answer to the problem is to convert these visitors into ongoing prospects.

If you haven’t done so already, begin by incorporating an email capture system on your website – preferably with a sweetener of a useful free download – featuring a customised sign-up form to gather contact details of site visitors who show an interest in your product.  ‘Interested visitors’ are then converted into self-qualified and validated sales and marketing leads.

And these aren’t just generic leads; these are people who are proactively seeking a specific product or service AND who have granted you permission to market to them! At the click of a mouse they’ve gone from being cold prospects to warm leads.

Finally, do not underestimate the value of legitimate B2B ‘cold’ emailing. Not only is it a proven tool for generating incoming sales leads; by incorporating data capture via a link in your emails to a landing page, it’s also a highly effective means of using interruptive marketing to convert cold leads into pre-qualified, self-validated prospects.

Integrating your marketing this way will enable you to generate leads and continue communicating with prospects at your leisure.  And most importantly, it will also keep your name firmly implanted in their minds for when they’re finally in a position to buy.


About the Author:

Norm (aka Norman Campbell) is a recognised thought leader in the field of demand generation and automated business development systems. He’s worked in the industry over twenty years, and he lives and breathes it and is often described as an ‘obsessive one-man ideas factory’.