Inbound vs Outbound Sales: What’s the Difference?




In the world of marketing, there are many, many ways to get your message out there, from social media posts, to billboards, to email newsletters.

This translates to a combination of both inbound and outbound marketing, both with the goal of generating leads.

You’ve more than likely come across some form of either one, but what’s the difference between the two? And when is the best time to use them?

What Is An Inbound Sales Strategy?

Inbound Marketing

Before inbound sales, there’s inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is a marketing technique that utilizes modern digital tools to attract consumers via content marketing, social media, SEO and branding. It creates a compelling pathway for consumers to find their way to your brand.

In other words, it’s all about enabling people to find your brand by informing them about a topic they’re interested in. By doing this, you’re naturally drawing in people from your target audience: the type of people your brand is most likely to appeal to, and the most likely to make a purchase.

When done effectively, inbound marketing can position your brand as a thought leader in your industry. But how is it done? Through creating a series of engaging content on multiple platforms and channels. Think of content like social media posts, blog posts, email newsletters; anything that your audience could read or interact with.

Inbound marketing works because it’s all about earning customer attention and loyalty rather than shouting your message into the ether. If the customer associates your brand with expertise, they’re more likely to make a purchase when they have a problem that can be solved by your product or service.

An effective inbound marketing strategy is a delicate balance of tactics and tools, including:

  • Brand awareness.
  • Lead generation
  • Content creation.
  • Social media.
  • Email marketing.
  • SEO.
  • Influencer outreach.
  • Strategy and analysis.

What makes these tools work to your advantage is timing. It may be a cliche, but timing is everything, especially with marketing. Inbound marketing is broken into four different phases, each point requiring certain types of content and communication:

1. Attract

By sharing relevant content at optimal times, you can attract the visitors who are likeliest to become leads. This is where your content marketing strategy comes into play, guiding the blogs, videos, graphics and social posts that grab the attention of your target audience.

2. Convert

Once you attract the right visitors to your website, it’s time to convert them to leads. Make it convenient for them, and don’t be pushy. Instead, offer accessible conversation starters, like online forms, virtual meetings, live chat tools, newsletter sign-ups or webinar registrations. Keep track of these conversions in your CRM, as you can use that data to target your future efforts more effectively.

3. Close

It’s time to close the deal and turn those leads into customers. However, inbound doesn’t call for a smarmy sales guy to do all the work. Instead, use data insights to put a personal twist on messaging that resonates with your targeted audience. Send them emails and keep producing that valuable, engaging content that will bring them back to your website. Tools like marketing and email automation, lead nurturing and social media monitoring will help you close at the right time.

4. Delight

Remember that the inbound way is to foster an exceptional customer experience that leads to long-term engagement. That means you have to follow through on your promises, focusing on consumers as well as leads. You’ll still want to engage them with dynamic content that continues to solve problems and address interests. Loyal customers can be some of your biggest brand ambassadors and promoters, so you want to make sure you treat them well.

The idea is to be involved in every step of the buyer’s journey, building worthwhile, long-lasting connections with your audience along the way.

Inbound Sales

After the marketing stage is through, now we’re on to sales. Inbound sales is all about personalizing the purchasing experience for buyers. This is when potential buyers that have interest in your product or service reach out to your team for more information. It’s at this point that your team should advise them on the problem they’re trying to solve.

Having a conversation with the customer allows your sales team to guide them through the decision-making process. Educating prospects and helping them in this way will ensure a conversion and make them a long-term customer, not to mention an advocate of your brand.

What Is An Outbound Sales Strategy?

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is your traditional advertising strategy. Think billboards, pamphlets, cold calling and direct mail. On the internet, these have been translated into pop-ups, banner ads and ad reads during videos and podcasts. Anything that is a one-sided conversation about a product or service can be considered outbound marketing.

Outbound Sales

Outbound sales techniques require reaching out and creating potential customers out of people who have yet to express interest in the product or service you’re offering. Think of strategies like cold calling or door-to-door sales. It’s outwardly trying to get people interested in your product by going down a list of leads.

Luckily, these practices aren’t quite as “spammy” as they used to be. In the instance of outbound lead generation, like cold calling, sales reps will often reach out to leads through social media or via email first to start a connection.

Examples Of Inbound And Outbound Sales Strategies

Inbound Marketing Examples

So what does inbound marketing look like, exactly? Let’s talk about a few examples of inbound tactics and what purpose they serve.

Email Marketing

It’s easy to write off email, but the fact is that it’s extremely effective. From drip feeds to newsletters and promotions, email makes it easy to get your product or service in front of potential customers in an unobtrusive fashion:

Social Media Marketing

Algorithms help brands create ads that potential customers are more likely to be interested in by using customer data based on search and purchase history. Targeted ads as well as product reviews on social media have a big influence on purchasing decisions:

Search Engine Marketing

People don’t like to willingly be advertised to, which is why people are more likely to skip past the ads at the top of the all-important first page of Google in favor of the more organic results below. This has lead to brands putting a large emphasis on search-engine optimization:

Content Marketing

Inbound marketing covers a wide array of marketing tactics, but the main thing to keep in mind is that it’s all about drawing in people with content. The phrase “content marketing” is practically synonymous with inbound marketing.

Your inbound marketing strategy can only be as good as your content. You have to leverage multiple types of content and communication channels in order to keep things fresh and continually engage your audience.

Before you think about creating content, you need a well-crafted content marketing strategy. That way, you aren’t blindly writing blogs and posting videos, left wondering why they aren’t performing well.

Once you have a solid list of keywords and a strong strategic direction, you can focus on content creation. That can entail expertly written content, such as blogs, white papers, eBooks, case studies and more.

Design elements can include custom illustrations, branded infographics, web design, email templates and so on. Email marketing campaigns, marketing automation, video productions and social media calendars will also likely play a role in your strategy.

In today’s world, quality reigns supreme over quantity. Not only do you want your audience to look forward to your content, but you also want them to expect useful, engaging and thoughtful content that’s worth their time. Spend your time producing fewer pieces that are likelier to meet your inbound goals.

Outbound Marketing Examples

With such a big shift in focus to marketing on the internet, outbound marketing is often seen as less effective. That’s because of its one-sided nature. There’s nothing to interact with. You’re simply being fed a message about a product or service and told why you should buy it, as opposed to the inbound approach of informing customers first and selling something second.

Though inbound marketing is more so the centerpiece for brands today, outbound marketing shouldn’t be completely put aside. There are some outbound strategies that, when coupled with inbound ones, can result in even better traffic data. Here are a couple of examples of outbound marketing that works:

Direct Mail

  • Direct mail had an average response rate of 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists in 2018.
  • ROI is 29%; this is greater than paid search and online display, and only one percentage point below social media.

Billboards

  • 60% of more than 4,000 respondents to a Nielsen survey said billboards are a good way to learn about brands, events and sales.
  • 40% said they visited an advertiser because of a billboard.
  • 24% said they made a purchase because of one.

Radio Ads

  • Brands that use radio ads enjoy a 29% boost in Google searches, according to a Radio Advertising Bureau study.
  • Companies that use radio ads have a 5 times higher brand recall compared to those who don’t, according to Radio and Television Business Report.

When To Use Inbound And Outbound Sales Strategies

When used together, inbound and outbound marketing and sales strategies can make an effective combination for making conversions.

When To Use Inbound Sales Strategies

With inbound sales, it’s all about timing. Follow up with a prospect too soon, and you risk scaring them off. Follow up with someone too late, and they could have lost interest.

Inbound sales comes in after the marketing stages are finished. You’ve managed to pull in some promising prospects, now it’s a matter of turning them into conversions. This is where timing comes in. When a prospect is actively looking into your product or service, reach out to them and set a time to connect. This is when you’ll learn about the customer’s problem first-hand and assess how your company can solve it.

Once you have a good understanding of how your company can solve the customer’s problem, it’s time to present your solution. If the customer thinks the solution is a good fit, then the decision will be made to move forward and form a deal.

When To Use Outbound Sales Strategies

Outbound sales strategies can be used at any time at any stage in the customer journey. The differences lie in the market your business is in. B2B sales are going to have a shorter list of leads to contact and take much longer to convert because of the scale of the deal. More items or a longer term partnership is being negotiated as part of a contract.

B2C means your salesperson is going to have a much longer list of leads to contact, and less time is going to be spent on each one. Usually a B2C outbound sale will happen after the customer has been exposed to some form of inbound marketing about your product. Once they’ve shown interest in your brand, you can follow up with them via email to further nurture their interest, or set up a time to call and answer any questions.

How To Choose Between The Two Strategies

It depends on the type of sale and what works best for your brand. In a B2B context, it could make more sense to reach out to leads via cold calling. In a B2C context, you may be better off waiting for the customer to show interest in your product, meanwhile positioning your company as an industry thought leader with a meaningful content strategy.

One thing is for certain, though: Informative content gets people interested, and interested people are more likely to hit the buy button.





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