The Resurgence Of Outbound Marketing
Inbound isn't the be-all and end-all of marketing. Columnist Scott Vaughan offers up some steps to help make your outbound just as effective as your inbound marketing efforts.
Inbound marketing is the cool kid on the block. The number of marketers who state they’re practicing inbound jumped 25 percent between 2013 and 2014. It makes sense: If the content is engaging and relevant, the right customers will come — and they’ll be the right customers because they’re consuming content on their own accord.
While this is true and explains the rapid rise of inbound, not all potential customers come knocking. The most successful marketers are those who strategically balance inbound and outbound tactics.
There’s a point with inbound where marketers hit a plateau. They squeeze everything they can out of inbound initiatives just to drive a bit more traffic or acquire a few more prospects. This drains resources and depletes marketing ROI. At that point, it’s time to accelerate outbound methods.
Outbound marketing typically brings with it negative connotations related to cold calling and irrelevant spam communications. These are certainly outdated methods that have no place in modern outbound marketing strategies. Instead, today’s forward-thinking marketing organizations are reinventing outbound marketing with highly targeted tactics that keep the customer experience top of mind.
The key is to make outbound more like inbound. “New school” outbound marketing leverages the same persona-based, educational content concepts employed in inbound, delivered via outbound channels, especially through the use of media partners that have highly engaged niche audiences.
Like inbound, there are important methodical steps that go into successful outbound demand marketing. Because outbound typically entails using third-party media sources for fulfillment, marketers must take into account these steps, which are traditionally manual and resource-heavy:
- Identifying, onboarding and managing numerous media partners
- Gathering, scrubbing and normalizing third-party prospect data
- Uploading all this refined data into marketing automation systems
- Analyzing campaign, prospect and media source performance data and optimizing programs in flight
This is why scaling outbound programs is best executed by automating as many of these steps as possible, which entails integrating outbound systems and processes with the core tools used today for inbound (e.g., marketing automation, CRM, website analytics and content management systems).
Here are four steps to get started with outbound efforts and ensure they’re as effective as inbound:
1. Centralize All Outbound Demand Generation Sources
This first requires an understanding of where and how prospect data sources converge. This then allows marketers to focus on discovering, organizing and managing all the media/data sources they work with.
In B2B, this is likely to be content syndication partners, list providers, events and other sources. For B2C, it’s largely affiliates and media trading desks. The point here is to get all sources on a level playing field to gain a holistic view of performance and standardize operations across the board to automate tasks on a one-to-many basis.
2. Focus On Standardization
Data delivered in multiple formats — and not normalized for an organization’s systems — makes it less quick and easy to get prospects into nurture tracks or to sales for speedy follow-up, which undermines conversion rates.
Unstandardized data also prevents the requisite analysis of source, content and channel performance to help decide which outbound efforts are working and which need to be replaced. This slows down the process and is an inhibitor to productivity and ROI.
3. Connect Systems
Integrating systems that capture, refine, leverage and analyze customer/prospect data eliminates several manual processes that waste resources and further drain ROI. Most marketers have integrations between their marketing automation and CRM systems, but these technologies are often still disconnected from third-party prospect data sources, which diminishes the ability to utilize outbound techniques.
Ensuring a smooth, automated flow of data all the way up the funnel to prospect data capture prevents bottlenecks that slow velocity and allow prospect interest to wane.
4. Automate Data Verification And Normalization Processes
By directly injecting outbound marketing data from third-party prospect capture straight into a nurture track, organizations bypass the crucial data quality check process. Adopting software that automates lead verification, cleansing and normalization at the point of captured-data convergence is the best way to ensure clean data is imported into marketing automation and CRM systems in a timely, scalable manner.
By now, most organizations are well on their way to capitalizing on inbound marketing. With outbound on the comeback trail because of the need for increased lead sources and new outbound-enabling technologies, it’s time to give this method another look.
Armed with a modernized inbound and outbound strategy that focuses on relevance and automation, marketers soon will be sending more qualified leads along the nurture track.