Outbound was the dominant sales and marketing strategy for most of the 20th century. The traveling salesman, the phone salesman, the mail catalog – all these representatives of the outbound methodology used to be part of life across the world.
Things are different now. In the Internet age, outbound marketing’s come to have a bad rap – especially in recent years.
When people think “outbound”, they think of sleazy salespeople bothering them on the phone. They think of getting interrupted while they’re trying to work or relax. They think of dozens of unread, unwanted emails in their inbox.
The proof is in the proverbial pudding. In a survey, 46% of marketers reported that inbound gives them superior results. Only 12% feel the same way about outbound.
But the epic showdown between outbound and inbound is mostly imaginary. In reality, the two methodologies complement each other and create a positive synergistic effect. The truth is that outbound and inbound are both useful for specific situations and business types.
In this article, we’ll explain why each strategy has its place; when one’s better than the other; and why outbound still has a seat at the table, even if inbound is more effective overall.
Is Outbound On Its Way Out?
At face value, outbound marketing is both ineffective and inefficient. Just consider the following statistics from Hubspot’s Emma Brudner:
- The average sales rep makes 52 calls a day
- It takes 18 calls to connect with a single buyer
- Average call-back rates are under 1%
When you look at it this way, outbound looks quite useless. Marketers agree: 1 in 3 call it an overrated waste of time and resources, and 32% single out old-school outbound strategies like print advertising as the most overrated of all.
Here are some of the key reasons for this sentiment.
Cold Calling is Unpleasant
Cold calling is the staple of most outbound strategies. A lot of the traditional outbound marketer’s success comes from her ability to negotiate and close deals over the phone.
The problem is that these days, most people prefer not to make calls. According to Rain Sales Group, 78% of salespeople prefer e-mails, as do 8 in 10 prospects. This is a serious blow to outbound marketing.
Outbound Marketing is Expensive and Time-Intensive
Outbound marketing is predicated on personally reaching out to leads. This means that whether the channel is e-mail, phone or something else, interactions can be very time-consuming.
What’s worse, sales reps spend a lot of time looking for leads, creating or editing their canned content, etc. The average rep only spends 39% of their time actually interacting with prospects.
Compared to inbound marketing, where driving traffic to digital content can bring in scores of leads and customers, this is remarkably inefficient and expensive.
Outbound Only Works When You Do
With inbound marketing, a single sales funnel can continue to bring in leads and sales for years given sufficient traffic. Outbound is different, in that it only works for as long as you continue making phone calls, sending e-mails, etc.
To quote close.io’s CEO Steli Efti: “as soon as you stop doing outbound, it stops generating new business.”
Outbound Marketing is Intrusive
The old sales adage goes: “everyone likes buying, but nobody likes being sold to.” This is one of the key reasons the callback rate for outbound cold calls is 1%. Absolutely nobody relishes the idea of being pitched to by a stranger.
Inbound marketing is the direct opposite. People only find inbound marketing materials if they’re looking for them, at which point they’re happy to receive them.
Now, before we continue, let’s get one thing straight. The points and statistics above might sound like a death knell for outbound marketing. But what we’re leading up to is that while outbound may look bad, it’s very much alive and valuable.
To wit, 82% of buyers – not leads or prospects – take meetings with reps who reach out to them.
This means that the generally poor results shown by sales reps may have less to do with outbound methodology, and more with how companies are using outbound.
When (and Why) Outbound Still Works
Imagine you’ve got a small, young company. You don’t have cash reserves; you don’t have any investors to tap for more money. Put plainly, you need to start getting paying customers – and fast.
What are you going to do?
If your answer is “use inbound marketing,” you might soon find yourself sorely disappointed and out of business. After all:
- Creating an online sales funnel – including a web page, a blog, and a sales page – can take well over a month.
- SEO routinely takes 6-12 months to start delivering results.
- With inbound methods, you’re waiting for customers to come to you first.
Yes; in the long run, inbound marketing is undoubtedly better. Once you have content and an effective way to promote it, warm leads will keep finding you. All you need to do is pass them to your inbound sales team.
The same is true for inbound SEO. If you plan and execute an effective SEO strategy, you’re going to keep getting traffic and leads in perpetuity so long as you refresh your materials from time to time.
Most importantly, inbound marketing is just way more effective in the long run.
For example, DemandMetric reports that just one inbound method – content marketing – costs 38% of what traditional marketing does and delivers 3 times as many leads. That’s a 689% ROI improvement over traditional outbound methods.
Another case in point: according to IronPaper, 62% of marketers said inbound provides the highest quality leads. Only 16% same the same about outbound marketing.
But if you need the money today, and you’ve got to wait 6-12 months to get these amazing results, how much do inbound’s advantages really matter?
That’s right. Not much at all. If you want to get money quickly in the short run, outbound marketing is still the go-to strategy. It’s fast, and it’s got way fewer expenses that you need to front-load.
All of this brings up to our final point: the synergy between inbound and outbound methods.
Using Inbound and Outbound Together
So far, we’ve established two things. First, inbound works better in the long run. Second, outbound is better for young, small companies and organizations that need a fast profit boost.
We’ve also mentioned that while outbound efforts are mostly ineffective, eventual buyers – not random cold leads – are mostly happy to talk to sales prospects.
These points bring us back to how you can decide between using outbound, using inbound, or using both to achieve synergy and boost your marketing and sales.
The first way to do this is very straightforward. If you’re a young business, start with outbound marketing. As time goes on and you start retaining more profit, re-invest it into inbound marketing assets like:
- A regularly updated blog. Companies that publish 16+ posts per month get 3.5x more traffic – and blogs are the cornerstone of most successful inbound efforts.
- Lead magnets: free PDFs that entice page visitors to leave you their e-mail addresses.
- Sales pages and sales videos that help leads make the final leap into becoming customers.
This way, you’ll be able to survive and grow while building the foundation for a tremendously effective inbound marketing engine that constantly gives you new leads.
The second way to combine inbound and outbound marketing is to use them in concert.
Consider that 47% of buyers view 3 to 5 pieces of content before reaching out to a sales rep. If you can use inbound marketing to put more content in front of consumers, then use outbound to reach out to them, guess what happens?
That’s right. You get an edge over the competition. You get to beat other brands to the punch because you’ve combined inbound content with outbound sales. This is especially effective is you use content to pre-empt concerns, show benefits, etc.
Along the same lines, making cold calls as an established industry leader with a reputation for thought-leading inbound content is way different from just making cold calls.
This can work in reverse, too. If an outbound effort doesn’t go well, you can always direct people to your website, sales page, etc. Once they’re there, your inbound materials will go to work for you, giving you a second chance to convert a lead.
Outbound marketing is still effective – and for small organizations, it should supersede inbound methods in importance and priority.
Mature organizations can benefit from outbound too. It’s a good way to get money and clients quickly, even if it’s not very efficient. As you scale up, you can also combine it with inbound methods to make both strategies work in synergy.
All in all, though, inbound produces better leads and more pleasant sales interactions. Yes, it takes time to get that inbound engine going, but once you have it running, it’s an asset that will generate leads for you around the clock.
If you’re ready to start generating more inbound leads for your business, head here for a free consultation.