Inbound/content marketing has devolved into a red ocean of me-too, link-bait, info-tainment content supported by self-serving “science”.
It felt good to say that in public, even though it is an obviously hyperbolic and admittedly ironic statement.
But inbound is peaking and our old friend outbound is rising from the ashes. (tweet this)
Don’t get me wrong — I love inbound marketing. We built an inbound marketing machine at Argyle Social that generates 1000s of leads per month. (Note: I’m the founder and former CEO at Argyle Social and now the President at RevBoss.)
We built the machine with genuine, helpful content, amplified by genuine, symbiotic relationships with our customers and marketing influencers like Jay, Jason Keath, Jason Falls, Tom Webster, Jim Tobin, and more. And content we wrote 3 years ago is still creating value today. Inbound marketing is a beautiful thing.
The thing is, inbound marketing can take what seems like forever to yield results and I suspect that your CEO doesn’t have time for forever to get here.
Plus, inbound marketing is insanely competitive in many markets. While there are still plenty of niche opportunities that savvy marketers can exploit, the mainstream content opportunities are a bloodbath. Are you a small business or start-up trying to rank content on social, marketing, SEO, CRM, email, etc. keywords? You’re going to need a bigger boat.
This is why I love outbound marketing. It’s fast, targeted, social, and — if you do it right — enormously effective.
Stop Waiting, Start Selling
I get it. You might be thinking something along the lines of, “Outbound is spam! Outbound doesn’t work! Outbound is dead!” To which I say, “Not really. Yes it does. Far from it.”
Case in point: Even Hubspot, the company that coined the phrase “inbound marketing” and has developed a content marketing machine, the likes of which the world has never seen, has outbound sales people. Seriously — check out this job post and note that “develop a pipeline” and “maintain high levels of prospecting activity” are euphemisms for “make cold calls” and “send cold emails”.
Outbound alone isn’t the answer, just like inbound alone isn’t the answer — the two strategies belong together and can actually help. For example, the content you develop for your inbound efforts can support your efforts to churn up conversations through outbound prospecting.
The biggest difference between the two is that inbound is a medium-long-term investment, whereas outbound can starting moving the needle almost immediately.
Don’t Just Set Traps, Hunt With Spears
The good thing/bad thing about inbound marketing is that everyone can see your content and convert. This means that you don’t have a lot of control over the leads that walk through your front door, which can be problematic — particularly for B2B companies that sell products and services through a consultative sales process. Getting 1,000 leads is great, but not when only 25 of them are sales-qualified.
Sure, you should still set inbound marketing traps to harvest top of the funnel demand. But if you have a clear vision of your target customer and you know how to find them — and you’re hungry for results — then why wait? Build a list of prospects, design a compelling call to action, and start testing.
Technology Makes Outbound Friendly & Relevant
Note that I said start “testing”, not start “selling”.
If your outbound marketing strategy requires closing deals in the first or second interaction, then you’re gonna to have a bad time.
(It should go without saying, but just in case…If your outbound marketing strategy is a single email blast to a list you bought from some guy, then….)
Your primary goal with outbound marketing is to churn up conversations with pre-qualified prospects that you can develop into relationships over time. Your first objective against this goal should be to figure out what will churn up conversations.
Also, your approach to outbound should very much mirror your approach to inbound. In the same way that you can conduct a detailed analysis of keywords, competitors, partners, and buy process to develop your inbound content strategy, you can also approach outbound with a strategic, process-oriented mindset.
Here are a few shortcuts to get you started:
- Plan your approach. If you haven’t already, cut your customer base into distinct segments and develop personas for each. Make sure that you know the job title and function that you want to target. Make sure that you have marketing content the support all facets of the sales outreach effort — first touch, first conversation, drip, etc.
- Build your list. Search LinkedIn by job title to find target prospects. Use BuiltWith to find companies that use complementary/competitive technologies. Focus on quality over quantity and avoid the temptation to acquire a “list” from a shady list broker.
- Start your outreach. Send outreach emails in small cohorts to test your messaging and CTA. Personalize your emails with shared connections, experiences, etc. Use your email tool and CRM to automate follow up tasks. Persistence pays off!
Just like anything else, you won’t be great right away — but you’ll learn and get better over time. And you’ll most definitely get results.
f you’re hungry for more outbound marketing knowledge, then check out Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross — it is a great outbound sales primer. You can also check out the RevBoss blog, the SalesLoft blog, and Jason Lemkin for more great advice for companies building sales process.