B2B Sales Cannot Live on Inbound Alone

Inbound marketing, a term popularized by Hubspot, is all about producing content that extends the boundaries of company-owned web properties in order to catch the attention of prospects and entice them to engage with your web properties, including social channels and blogs.

It certainly beats cold calling, and in an ideal world, we’d have so many inbound leads coming through our websites that we have to hire more sales people to deal with them.

If you have that problem, keep doing what you’re doing (and let me know how you did it)! However, most B2B companies haven’t been able to supply enough leads through their inbound efforts to make sales quotas and hit revenue growth targets. 

That’s where an integrated marketing process comes into play—it takes more than inbound tactics to move a prospect all the way to a sale.

In an entertaining post titled “Why Inbound Marketing is Incomplete Marketing,” Jon Henshaw says that outbound techniques like email, advertising and sponsorships were labeled as ineffective and expensive, and he makes the case for building a complete marketing program. 

He writes, “The point is to keep doing complete marketing. Use whatever works for you and helps you make money. In most cases, you’ll find that it’s a combination of different strategies and tactics – outbound and inbound.”

Successful B2B marketers are combining inbound approaches with outbound methods to build long-term relationships with prospects. It comes down to engaging a prospect through the right channel with relevant messaging in order to truly attract prospects and persuade them to opt in for more great content. 

At that point, outbound marketing tactics can support the process by enabling marketers to continue communicating with prospects based on their expressed interests. This is beneficial to both the prospect and to marketing because the prospect continues to receive valuable material while marketing gains more insight and information on the prospect’s behavior to supply to sales when they are ready to step in.

Brian Massey, founder of the Conversion Sciences said in a recent interview with the B2B Content Enterprise:

“Content itself does generate leads, but I’m also still a big believer in email. The right offer at the right time will always work.

“People do come to you site through content and fill out a form to get in touch, which is great, but I would say that you should not abandon your email outreach even though you might find some diminishing returns on open rates and click through rates. 

“I would still tell you to do it for the same reason as you do social. It’s a broadcast medium, especially if you are selling to business people. They design their days around their inbox. What are they doing today is for better or worse is being driven by what’s been sent to them as queries in their inbox, and you’ve got to be there. 

“They are checking on their phone, they are checking on the weekends and even if you are being effectively filtered as low priority content you still can create content that keeps them subscribed, even if they’re not responding to any one particular email.”

Relying solely on inbound marketing is a bad idea. 

With all the digital sales and marketing tools out there, analytics and behavioral insights are easy to obtain and must play a central role in tactical marketing decisions. Conducting outbound communications in direct response to what is learned about the prospect’s inbound activity gives the sales team a much higher chance of engaging the prospect at the right time with tools they need to make the sale. During a long, complex buying process, marketers must help prospects take the next steps based on where they are in the buying cycle and what they need to know next.

In a recent blog, we were able to demonstrate with data analysis that when prospects become engaged with a brand, especially those with a complex product or service set, that they begin their buying process by evaluating vendors by subscribing to newsletters, opening emails, downloading infographics and white papers, watching videos, etc.

That process consists of both inbound and outbound content marketing. 

We also looked at where the deals had been originally sourced, and regardless of whether it was sourced solely by marketing, or solely by sales, the combination of marketing plus sales engagement led to not only more engagements, but also faster sales cycles and bigger deals. 

Henshaw believes that “there is no one way. Inbound marketing is no better than outbound marketing, and what works for one company may not work for another.” Just keep in mind that the tools and techniques marketers use require compelling content to drive the desired results—whether inbound or outbound. 

Inbound marketing definitely has a place in the marketing mix, but not at the expense of eliminating invited communications to help facilitate the buying process. Being helpful and relevant are required regardless of the approach, and a truly integrated marketing program will go a long way in achieving both.

B2B Marketing Zone