Small Business Growth Strategies: Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Sales skills training usually includes lead generation tactics as the first point of entry in the sales cycle. A qualified lead is the lifeblood of sales — the spark that get the ball rolling — and is often one of the hardest things for new salespeople to procure.
There has been quite a bit of debate lately on the Internet regarding the value of inbound marketing versus outbound marketing in generating leads, with some prematurely declaring that traditional marketing methods are dead. As evidenced by the record-breaking Super Bowl XLVI TV ratings, however, plenty of people still enjoy traditional media, and therefore outbound marketing techniques designed to reach them should not be completely discounted.
On the other hand, this infographic demonstrates that inbound methods, such as company blogs and LinkedIn, have produced customers for over 57 percent of companies surveyed, while being substantially less expensive than traditional advertising.
Clearly, both camps have some numbers on their side, but before delving more into the debate and how this applies to sales skills training, let’s clear up the terms.
Comparing Inbound Marketing to Outbound Marketing
Inbound marketing seeks to earn the right to do business with prospects by attracting them with useful, engaging, informative and/or entertaining content. Visitors come through relationships (subscriptions), referrals (links from other websites) and word-of-mouth (social media shares). Forms of Inbound marketing include:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Informative videos
- Content curation
Inbound can be simply characterized as the customer reaching in and requesting to be exposed to the message.
Outbound marketing, in contrast, seeks to gain business by reaching out directly to large amounts of people, usually unsolicited. Visitors come through attention-grabbing advertisements and calls-to-action. Outbound marketing formats include:
- TV and radio spots
- Print advertising
- Direct mail
- Cold calling
- Email list mailings
- Door knocking
Outbound can be simply characterized as the marketer reaching out and convincing people to listen to the message.
So, Which is Superior: Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing?
The answer is: professional salespeople do not rely on any one form of lead generation to get the job done, but instead leverage the newest effective methods, such as social media, with whatever has worked in the past through traditional outbound efforts. And they continually adjust with the marketplace as it changes, monitoring their metrics and tweaking their strategies over time.
However, one thing that is truly exciting about inbound marketing is that there are many similarities in the way inbound marketing works and the philosophy of selling as a trusted advisor, including:
- Communication is two way
- The marketer tries to add value to the buyer before the sale
- Business is earned, rather than “bought”
- Most customers come through relationships and referrals, rather than intrusions and cold calling
Those declaring outbound dead, however, need to realize that no online media source yet comes close to the power of traditional media in providing a large audience. Furthermore, top-notch sales professionals are able to directly reach out and make something happen with buyers that didn’t even know they needed a product or service in the first place through outbound methods, such as telemarketing. Inbound is passive, outbound is proactive, and companies in today’s world need both to survive.
And never forget that once the lead is gotten, no matter whether through inbound or outbound methods, a salesperson that has undergone expert sales skills training needs to be on the other end to close the sale. With the sheer volume of businesses coming online every day to compete for revenue, great salespeople with a personal touch are more important than ever, especially in B2B sales.
Author: John Beveridge is the President of Rapidan Strategies, an inbound marketing and social media agency and HubSpot certified partner located in Fairfax, VA. He is a Social Media Today contributor and currently serves as Vice Chair for the Northern Virginia Technology Council's Business Development, Marketing and Sales Committee. Please contact John with any questions on this article or any other inbound marketing and social media issues.