Outbound marketing continues to be an effective way to bring in qualified leads — particularly if it is tightly integrated with a strong inbound strategy. To clarify, outbound marketing techniques are based on your effort to initiate a conversation with the customer, as opposed to the other way around (a.k.a inbound marketing). Examples of this approach include email, telemarketing or cold calling, events and traditional advertising — any effort where you are broadcasting a message with the intention of capturing your prospects’ attention.
If backed by a solid strategy, outbound can be a more proactive approach than inbound, as you are putting yourself in front of select potential customers, instead of passively waiting for them to come to you.
Below, I’ll run through a few different outbound tactics and give tips on how to utilize them to their fullest potential.
Email/ Direct Mail
A lot of marketers attempt to get their message out far and wide by delivering generalized promotional emails or fliers. They send mass mailings out to a large contact base in hopes that something will stick with someone along the line. But the truth is that most of these messages end up in the trash bin, because prospects view the content as irrelevant or as spam.
When sending out a promotional mailing, it’s important to segment your list and tailor your message by buyer persona. Offering your contacts information that is relevant to their unique situation will help position you as a trusted resource in their eyes. Depending on the size, parsing out your list can be an arduous process when done by hand. In this case, it’s worthwhile to invest in a list appending service that can aid you with segmentation.
A lot of firms choose to purchase lists or rent them from third party sources. This is not a best practice, and we don’t recommend it. If you are going to try this, pay close attention to the spam regulations in your country and the domicile of the recipient.
Also be sure to always integrate your outbound mail and email campaigns with your inbound strategy. For example, an email nurturing program might leverage offers on your site, blog posts you’ve written and events you’re sponsoring. But make sure that the program is educational and helpful to your target audience. If recipients find the content relevant and useful, you’ll be more likely to win their engagement.
Outbound calling is the most effective method for qualifying leads and identifying sales opportunities, if it’s done right. But most companies get it wrong. For example, our team here at PropelGrowth is always doing research, which means we register for a lot of white papers. As a result, we’re constantly getting calls from sales people following up on those registrations. In most cases, the sales person knows nothing about the content he’s following up on, and we as the recipients don’t remember what content he’s referring to anyway. This makes for a confusing and unproductive interaction. The callers nearly always assume that we’re automatically interested in seeing a product demo just because we downloaded their white paper. But a white paper registration is not necessarily a buying signal.
A better approach is to coordinate your cold calling with your content. Give your caller a list of questions to ask prospects that directly relates to themes from the white paper. Prepare him to engage the lead in a conversation about the topic they’ve shown interest in instead of going straight for a sale. This approach is more customer-centric and less off-putting.
Consider including a section on your registration forms for the visitor to indicate their intent. Then you have a chance of learning why a given person has come to your site and downloaded a piece of content. In my case, I write a lot of blog posts and so am constantly checking out content for research purposes—and not because I am considering buying anything (Yes, I’m talking to you, marketing automation companies!). Sales would benefit from having this information upfront before they waste time chasing ice-cold “leads.”
Some B2B firms are behind the curve when it comes to social media. Part of the reason is that convincing the C-suite of the importance of this medium is not easy. Results can be hard to measure, so they are reluctant to invest too heavily in it. Many in the financial services industry assume that their prospects are not on social media. But this is quickly changing, as more and more firms realize the benefits of social.
Social media can be an important part of a strong content strategy. As part of your plan, you should assess the following questions:
- What is your objective?
- Who is your target buyer persona?
- Is this buyer persona active on any specific social channels?
- How does this type of individual discover content?
Perform research specifically into how your target industry connects and communicates. As a content marketing and consultancy firm specializing in the FinTech space, we find LinkedIn and Twitter to be good sites where our customers are active — not so much Facebook. But even more important are some of the industry-specific sites like TabbFORUM.
However you choose to participate socially, ensure that your efforts are integrated with your inbound content strategy. As an example, consider utilizing LinkedIn as a venue for amplifying key pieces of content you have in play — such as e-books or articles. Or, use Twitter as an outlet for posting a link to a recent video you’ve created. These are good ways of leveraging outbound tactics as a means of amplifying your inbound efforts.
Also, don’t forget to research and follow best practices for the social sites you use. These are not just a medium for free advertising.
Typically a large portion of marketing’s budget is allocated to events. But often companies are not seeing the kind of return that they should with this outbound tactic. A large reason for this is they lack a strategy for marketing the event pre-show through to post-show.
Marketers should have a plan in place for reaching their prospects at periodic points before during and after an event. An example of this might include, sending a pre-show email announcing a specific session you will be conducting. During the conference, you could do live blogging or tweet interesting ideas or trends you discover. A few days after the event has concluded, consider sending a recap of the top takeaways to your contact list. These are all ways to stay top of mind with your prospects.
An outbound strategy for live and online events is a great way to enhance an inbound program. Make sure you have a plan for how you’ll follow up with people who visited your booth – or for all event participants if you can acquire the list. Consider offering webinars and content on topics covered at the event, top take-away blog posts and other content that will allow you to stay in contact with this audience around topics that interest them.
There are many thought leaders out there that believe the press release is dead. They say that traditional releases are a waste of time because the press doesn’t read them.
I think the reason most press releases get ignored is that they are boring their audience to death with content that drones on about the company and product, offering little or no useful information. When crafting a press release, keep it focused on customer-centric issues that your audience really cares about.
Keep in mind that there are two ways to leverage press release. The first is media outreach where the PR team pitches a story to the press and gets “earned media.” In this case, your story is in the hands of the journalists, so you have little control over what they write. But you gain the credibility of coverage from a recognized media brand.
The second is a sort of “paid media,” you publish a press release on a wire service with the specific objective of reaching your target audience instead of the press. Here, you get the opportunity to tell your story directly to an audience that might discover the release when searching for information.
Both of these methods are valuable for amplifying a story, but they’re very different strategies. For example, if you write the whole story and publish in a press release on a wire service, you effectively scoop reporters who are trying to break news. They’ll be highly unlikely to publish a story where they don’t bring a unique angle.
So consider offering reporters an exclusive first, and later publishing a press release that tells the story from a different angle.
You can use PR as a platform for amplifying your message and promoting other related content. For example, if you’ve just completed a report on ground-breaking trends in your industry, write a press release highlighting the major findings and offer key reporters an exclusive.
Then prepare a release targeting end-users and publish it on a wire service. Include a link so readers can register and download the report. These releases are indexed in search engines, allowing your target audience to find them directly.
For more tips on effective outbound and inbound marketing techniques, read our related post: Integrating Inbound and Outbound Marketing.