Why Inbound Marketing Works: A quick overview
A brief overview of inbound vs. outbound marketing
Inbound Marketing, for any organization that has struggled with generating leads for their business, can seem counterintuitive. What can white papers, blog posts, guides, or other inbound content really do for sales?
By themselves- not much.
The reality is that inbound and outbound marketing need to work together to provide real value for business. That’s because if the intrinsic nature of outbound sales is going to them, inbound marketing is ultimately about attracting people to your business.
That inbound component of attraction is critical, although it can be difficult to swallow because it takes away the control that many sales professionals are used to. With that in mind, I’ve assembled this quick guide on the value of inbound marketing and how both forms of marketing can truly work together.
Outbound Marketing and Sales
Outbound sales and business development can often be built upon how aggressive a salesperson can be in finding and pursuing new businesses.
After all, outside of closed won deals, salespeople are often judged by a slew of metrics that are designed to convey how busy (or not busy) they are:
- Activities per account or company
- Meetings Scheduled
- Calls or Emails Made
- New company records created in a CRM
Basically, all the metrics are focused on asking the question: is the salesperson doing their job or not? And, ultimately how close are they to taking amorphous business development and generating leads which ultimately become customers?
That’s also how outbound marketing is typically measured, in terms of value.
Outbound is all about generating lead flow
All of the actions listed above are, again, intended to describe how much effort someone is putting into generating business and revenue. The more meetings scheduled or calls made—the more likely it is that revenue is produced.
The term “smiling and dialing” has come to represent the heart of the cold calling process—essentially brute-forcing sales until they happen. However, it’s hard to get this to happen at scale without some technical solution like automating outbound sales efforts.
As an inbound marketer, I’d argue many of these efforts are a form of controlling lead flow because, well, organizations need to produce leads.
According to HubSpot’s State of Marketing 2021 Report, generating more leads was the top priority, but surprisingly, cold calling was listed as one of the least used tactics. I might argue that this is likely a product of the audience they used for the survey, which was a group of 1500 marketers.
The idea remains the same: sales is really about controlling lead flow. Calling, emailing, and otherwise hounding people to death until they finally submit to the deal is essential.
I may be discussing it in a way that makes that sound bad. Let me be clear: it’s not. It’s how billions of dollars of transactions are generated for companies all the time.
But the point of this post is to really dive into why inbound marketing works and it helps to contrast the only real alternative to generating leads through inbound sales: outbound sales.
Generating Outbound Leads
Generating outbound leads typically involves going to businesses and convincing them to buy. This can range from a simple email introduction to messages on LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social media platforms. A lot of this falls under the moniker of business development:
- Cold calling and emailing
- Contacting previous customers
- Messaging contacts on LinkedIn or social media
- Posting sales-focused calls to action
- Email Spam
The overall take is the same: you are the one proactively reaching out to create leads and sales. In my experience, this can be an effective strategy for producing leads, but some experts caution otherwise:
"Outbound marketing included trade shows, seminar series, email blasts to purchased lists, internal cold calling, outsourced telemarketing, and advertising. I call these methods "outbound marketing" because marketers push his or her message out far and wide hoping that it resonates with that needle in the haystack."
Because these approaches can feel so sales focused, it can turn potential customers off. If they’re not ready to buy, these outbound approaches can feel too pushy and could potentially turn them off for good. That’s where inbound marketing can come in— to help nurture leads that aren’t quite ready to take the leap.
Generating Inbound Leads
Inbound leads are generated through marketing through a number of different channels (the specific channel is less important in this case), but ultimately leads are attracted to your organization.
This is typically through some type of content that’s not explicitly designed as a sales opportunity:
- Blog Posts
- Downloadable content
The reason that these can be helpful is that none of these feel salesy in the same way that cold calls and cold emails do. Through this type of content, the organization simply supplies helpful resources as a way of beginning to feel like a trusted partner, which is something that every business wants to be.
Ideally, inbound content begins to establish your business as an expert in and around your business focus and is tied to the customer journey.
The Buyer’s Journey
The idea of a buyer’s journey is one of the core reasons that inbound marketing works.
The buyer’s journey is simply the way buyers research a potential solution and the various stages they go towards making a purchase, as is illustrated in the diagram below: