The internet has fundamentally changed how buyers buy and, subsequently, how marketers market. Today’s buyers are firmly in charge of their own buying journey, completing between 60% and 90% of their process before reaching out to their already honed, short list of favorable vendors. Additionally, a survey last year by DemandGen Report, noted that 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research. In this digital marketing environment, today’s B2B marketer needs to employ a savvy mix of conventional and creative approaches, finding an effective balance between both the traditional outbound approach and its newer counterpart, inbound.
First, let’s be clear what constitutes an outbound and inbound approach, including the benefits and challenges of each:
Outbound: when marketers actively push their message out to their target audience. An outbound strategy ensures that you reach your prospects via such tactics as tradeshows, email bursts, and cold calling.
Benefit: A successful campaign will return nearly immediate results – those prospects responding to you are expressing a clear interest in your offering.
Challenge: Capturing the attention of buyers in today’s digital context is becoming increasingly difficult – buyers are daily inundated with outbound messages, often viewing these negatively as unwanted interruptions.
Inbound: those leads that come to you, pulled in by a content or digital strategy. In today’s information-rich digital business context, your target audience is proactively researching their needs and challenges, looking for best fit solutions – and inbound strategy helps them find you by laying out a digital breadcrumb trail of relevant, helpful, and differentiated content in places where your prospects seek answers (website, blogs, videos, social media, etc.).
Benefit: Unlike short-term outbound campaigns that don’t provide leads when the effort ceases, an inbound strategy is an investment in a long-term solution, typically returning increasingly better results over time as your content proliferates around the web.
Challenge: Inbound strategies take time to bear fruit.
So, how do you decide on the most appropriate mix of strategies for your particular product or service?
Generally speaking, inbound is most cost-effective when the product or service offered is of low cost/low complexity. These are precisely the kinds of purchases that buyers can easily educate themselves about. But for big-ticket/complex items, then outbound becomes more appropriate.
However, respecting the fact that in today’s marketing environment buyers of even complex products prefer to self-educate 70% down the sales pipe, all outbound approaches need to be amply supported by an inbound strategy educating the buyer on those issues they seek to better understand. Ideally, both your outbound and inbound approaches are part of one cohesive effort and strategy.
Prospect surveys are a highly effective and efficient example of balancing this challenging inbound/outbound mix. By selectively surveying a highly targeted segment, prospect surveys are uniquely positioned to generate valuable intelligence on all levels: the individual, the company, and the segment. From this outbound tactic, marketers can at once gain both intelligence and insight to inform rich and compelling content supporting the inbound side of this successful equation.
To learn more, read our market brief The Best of Inbound and Outbound and find out how leading companies are leveraging the combined benefits of both inbound and outbound marketing by using surveys to engage their prospects with a unique, valued, and differentiated perspective.