Many marketers are combining inbound and outbound channels rather than relying heavily on one or the other for an approach that some have dubbed “all-bound marketing” to generate better business results.
For one marketer, the catalyst was its account-based marketing (ABM) initiative. VersionOne, an application development lifecycle management software company, said tailoring campaigns to a specific persona within an account-based approach, and using a combination of both inbound and outbound, helps the company drive more engagement and conversions.
“The inbound-outbound model is blurring,” said Kristen Wendel, Director of Marketing Operations at VersionOne. “We’re looking at this all-bound model, where we take an account-based approach and have marketing, sales, partners and SDRs all pursuing the same accounts to try to get better results. While we still look at the different channels and how they’re performing, we want everyone honing in on these target accounts and making sure the right outcome happens.”
Recent research underscores this transition to an all-bound marketing approach. A majority of marketers (84%) from both emerging and mid-sized B2B companies said that both tactics together — or an all-bound strategy — drive their business, according to a Demand Metric study, sponsored by Act-On Software.
VersionOne Sees More Engagement, Conversions With All-bound
VersionOne traditionally relied on either inbound or outbound to drive results rather than combining the two. Now, according to Jodi Lebow, Director of Demand Generation at VersionOne, its strategy encompasses a mix of outbound emails and direct mail from marketing and SDRs, and targeted inbound tactics through social media, display ads and retargeting ads.
This approach allows VersionOne to compete against companies with a larger market share and product depth. “It can be a challenge to outspend them and look as big as them,” said Wendel. “We had to [adapt] to this account-based approach to have a chance at competing effectively in the segment that we’re in.”
The company rolled out its all-bound approach at the beginning of 2016. Wendel said the team created a top 100 tier of accounts and focused the budget there.
“We invested heavily in Demandbase, LinkedIn and email campaigns,” she said. “We did a direct mail personalized to our target buyer for those top 100 accounts. The company aligned on getting these target accounts all year, and [we] saw 95% engagement, and a 12% conversion to opportunities.”
Inbound And Outbound: Stronger Together
The top three inbound tactics used by marketers include social (82%), SEO (82%) and blogging (60%), according to the Demand Metric/Act-On study. For outbound, email marketing (90%), trade shows and conferences (62%) and press releases (61%) ranked at the top. Another strategy that made the list was pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which 44% of marketer respondents noted as an effective tactic for inbound.
Meghan Durett, Marketing Director for the B2B agency Square 2 Marketing, said marketing should employ both paid and organic search to attract customers, and she is “starting to see a paid component more often, whether it’s on Google AdWords or on Facebook and LinkedIn.”
Durett said she also sees a shift from strictly inbound or outbound to an integrated approach due to her agency’s own ABM experience targeting potential prospects. She said the company is using content to nurture inbound leads.
“We know that most of the buying journey is completed before a prospect reaches out to a sales person,” Durett said. “We’re identifying their pains and putting out PPC ads to direct them to a specific landing page for an E-book or white paper, where we can then capture their information. Then they’re [added] to a lead nurturing system so we can move them down the pipeline [with outbound communication].”
Jeffrey Soriano, Senior Director of Demand Generation at Wyng, the marketing platform formerly known as Offerpop, leverages LinkedIn for advertising in his inbound strategies, which he said is important because it provides first-party data. “Whether it’s using traditional targeting filters [i.e. industries, job titles] or providing an account list and doing it as account-based advertising, LinkedIn is a good place to spend those advertising dollars because it can target exactly who you’re looking for,” he said.
However, experts agreed that inbound marketing initiatives do require finesse in keyword strategy. If you’re doing PPC advertising or SEO, knowing your buyer and using the correct terminology to grab their attention is crucial, according to Soriano, who uses both paid and organic search.
“You need to be extremely relevant based on the search, and you need to hone in on long-tail keywords to understand what niche you have to carve out for yourself,” Soriano said. “If you’re going to bid on keywords against competitors and have ads come up, you better make it meaningful; otherwise people will go right past it.”
Amy Holtzman, VP of Demand Generation at Conductor, a content intelligence platform, agrees that — especially with inbound — no one will find you organically if you’re not using the right terminology. She added that outbound messages need careful consideration as well. “With outbound, your first connection to any company or campaign has to be something that’s going to resonate with them,” she said. “If you’re using the wrong messaging or approach, you’re not going to get the response that you could get if you took a little bit more time to really understand them.”
Soriano’s outbound strategy relies on a mix of channels, such as email marketing and remarketing, fueled by technology. The company leverages platforms such as Terminus for account-based marketing, and Triblio for website personalization, to provide a relevant and meaningful experience for customers.
“From an outbound perspective, it’s really omnichannel, and all those channels need to be integrated and connected in order to make sure that if [a prospect] does bypass your email or remarketing ad, they can come to your website and get some sort of relevant experience that gets them to reply.”
Align Messaging Through Content
Whether you’re focusing on inbound, outbound or all-bound strategies, it all boils down to creating content that speaks to your target audience — especially if you're utilizing PPC advertising to stand out among your competitors. Holtzman said that both inbound and outbound content should be driving a similar message.
“The key focus is creating content that helps your prospects and customers, and then getting it out there through a bunch of different channels,” Holtzman said. “Your outbound campaign should have similar messaging, positioning and branding as your inbound content, and they should all speak to a specific persona or buyer. You really have to learn who you’re marketing to and the different buyers involved in the process, and speak to each one of them differently.”