For most B2B companies, it’s important to focus on both inbound marketing and outbound marketing. These distinctive approaches are complementary in many ways, so if you use both efficiently, you can maximize your brand visibility and ultimately reach more people.
However, splitting your time and resources between these differentiated approaches can be a difficult balancing act to practice.
How do you split your time effectively between inbound and outbound marketing?
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing for B2B Growth
First, let’s analyze the distinctive features of inbound and outbound marketing in a B2B context.
Inbound marketing is a set of different strategies all designed to naturally attract people to your business. These strategies work together synergistically, boosting the visibility of your brand, increasing the number of channels on which it appears, improving your reputation, and ultimately building consumer awareness and trust.
Among the most popular inbound marketing strategies are things like search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, and social media marketing. If you’re familiar with these strategies, you understand how effectively they support each other.
Inbound marketing strategies have unique advantages, including:
Many marketers are drawn to the world of inbound marketing because it’s incredibly cost-effective. Producing content doesn’t cost much. Posting on social media doesn’t cost anything. And while you probably won’t see immediate results from these types of efforts, they have a permanent and accumulating effect; most of the assets you produce here are going to be indefinitely relevant and valuable to your brand, boosting its visibility and reputation for years to come. Overall, inbound marketing strategies are capable of attracting upwards of millions of people to your website for a relatively small amount of money.
People also appreciate how scalable inbound marketing is. Even if you work at a snail’s pace, producing only one new piece of content every week, as long as you’re consistent in your efforts, you’ll eventually have a gigantic archive of content to support your brand. And if you’re willing to spend a bit more money, you can accomplish a year’s worth of work in a week. Similarly, small startups and large enterprises alike can benefit from inbound marketing – as long as they know their niche.
Inbound marketing is also appealing to some because it’s a bit more natural and organic. Instead of calling a prospect and trying to convince them to buy a product they’ve never heard of before, you’ll be appealing to people who are already conducting organic searches for your type of product. It makes it much easier to build trust, establish rapport, and land sales – even if you can’t reach everyone this way.
Most of your inbound marketing work is going to be contextually targeted. In other words, your materials are going to be relevant to the people seeing them. This isn’t necessarily the case with certain outbound marketing strategies like cold calling or cold emailing.
Finally, inbound marketing strategies are tactically diverse. SEO isn’t the same as social media, and neither of these strategies is the same as content marketing. You can use one, some, or all inbound marketing strategies together, based on your needs.
In contrast, outbound marketing is a set of different strategies, all designed to reach people in your target demographics and deliberately market or sell to them. These strategies are capable of reaching total strangers, attempting to persuade them by showcasing your unique value or overcoming their key objections.
Among the most popular outbound marketing strategies are things like cold calling, cold emailing, and targeted advertising. These strategies can be used individually or as part of a bigger, more comprehensive sales funnel, designed to generate B2B leads over time.
Outbound marketing strategies also have unique advantages, including:
One of the most important drawbacks of inbound marketing is that it takes a long time to develop. But with outbound marketing, you can see results almost immediately. As long as you have a coherent strategy and a talented team of people to execute that strategy, tactics like cold calling can land you sales today.
Capable of Broader Reach
Inbound marketing benefits from being contextually relevant, but at the cost of alienating at least some other people. In contrast, outbound marketing is capable of a much broader reach. If you’re trying to grow your business, or simply reach as many people as possible, outbound marketing becomes a practical necessity.
It’s possible to use inbound marketing materials to target groups of people based on past interest, search history, and other relevant details. But with outbound marketing, you can target people much more specifically. This is especially true if you cultivate your own lists and gather more data from your pool of prospects.
Easy to Analyze
The effectiveness of outbound marketing is surprisingly easy to measure and analyze. It provides you with a pool of data that’s much more concrete, numerical, and objective. You can figure out exactly how many of your sales calls result in sales, or calculate the difference between two different, contrasting emails. Equipped with more objective data from which you can form better conclusions, you can polish these strategies to perfection.
Outbound marketing is home to a variety of strategies and tactics as well. Cold calling and cold emailing are just the beginning – you can also practice many forms of online advertising, attend tradeshows, send direct mail, and more.
Important Variables to Consider
When discussing the matter of balance between the time you spend on inbound versus outbound marketing, there are several important variables you need to consider. These include:
Budget: First, you’ll need to think about your budget. Outbound marketing can help your business out of the gate, but it’s also more expensive to start up. If you’re working with limited resources, inbound marketing could be a preferable alternative.
Timing: You’ll also need to think about your desired timing. If you simply want to build your company reputation over the course of years, inbound marketing is fine. But if you need to start generating sales, you’ll need to lean toward outbound marketing more.
Industry/competition: Certain industries preferentially choose inbound or outbound marketing, due to the needs of their customers or because of certain tactics that work especially well in this environment. Study your competitors to see what they’re doing.
Target demographics: Some people respond better to inbound marketing over outbound marketing, or vice versa. Consider the preferences and behavioral patterns of your target demographics when choosing how to balance your time.
Historical performance: If you’ve been practicing inbound and outbound marketing for some time, take a look at your historical performances. Whichever group of strategies has consistently performed better should get more of your time and attention (keeping in mind that inbound marketing takes time to build momentum).
Future plans: Finally, think about where you want your business to be in the future. If you don’t have much of an inbound marketing strategy in place, but you like the idea of having an inbound empire eventually, you should spend more time developing your inbound strategies.
Balancing Your Time Effectively
So how do you manage your time effectively?
We’ve established that inbound and outbound marketing are both important, for different reasons. Accordingly, you’ll need to spend at least some time and effort on both if you want your B2B business to succeed.
These are the time management and coordination strategies that can help you do it:
Focus efforts on developing a consistent philosophy.
Prioritizing time expenditure in marketing is much easier when you have a consistent marketing philosophy underlining both your inbound and outbound approaches. Are you aggressive? Or, are you passive? Are you more trustworthy or more available?
Appoint leaders in each department.
If your team is big enough to support this idea, appoint leaders in each department: a captain for your inbound marketing and a captain for your outbound marketing. These people can make it much easier for you to make decisions and balance resources, since they’ll be specialized experts in each field.
Prioritize permanent/evergreen assets.
In both areas, focus on creating permanent, evergreen assets that will continue providing value to your organization indefinitely. This way, you can practically guarantee that whatever time you spend will be a valuable investment.
Record and analyze data.
Always record and analyze data associated with these marketing strategies. If you’re just getting started, you won’t have any data to work with, so you’ll be relying on instincts and the advice of others to balance your time effectively. But once the objective data starts rolling in, you’ll have no more excuses; you’ll have numerical proof that you should be spending more of your time in one area over another.
Automate what you can.
In both inbound and outbound marketing, you should automate whatever you can. Automation spares you manual effort and greatly reduces the amount of time you need to spend. If employed at a large enough scale, it could dramatically reduce the hours demanded of you and allow you to balance your time more freely.
Trim the fat and optimize.
Be willing to trim the fat and optimize your efforts. The balance of your time expenditure isn’t going to matter much if the hours you’re spending aren’t generating results for your business – even if you’re dedicating those hours to the “better” of the two approaches.
Both inbound and outbound marketing are effective in helping B2B businesses promote themselves and find new customers. But splitting your time between these two fundamentally diverse strategy sets can be a headache.
With smarter prioritization and more effective time management, you can figure out the perfect balance between them.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Alena Darmel; Pexels; Thank you.
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