Inbound vs. Outbound B2B Demand Generation Marketing

How to choose between inbound and outbound? Here’s what makes both types of marketing effective, depending on your audience, content offerings and personalization capabilities.

Inbound marketing is the ever-rising star in B2B, but I believe outbound marketing is STILL A VERY RELEVANT…and VERY NECESSARY part of the overall marketing mix.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of both tactics.

Inbound is the hamster on the wheel.

Inbound tactics (SEM, SEO, social marketing) target groups, attempting to provide enough value that individuals within these groups will self-identify in order to obtain even more value from the provider.

Right now, research on the cost per lead for inbound marketing makes headlines the most, and can sound too good to be true.

According to recent survey research by HubSpot (in which 76% of respondents were B2B professionals), “Inbound marketing-dominated organizations experience a cost per lead 62% lower than outbound marketing-dominated organizations.”

Of course, cost per lead isn’t everything…but HubSpot also reports that “Blogs and social media channels are generating real customers: 57% of companies using blogs reported that they acquired customers from leads generated directly from their blog.”

And blogs lead the pack of all tactics in terms of cost per lead.

I expect inbound marketing will continue to rise in importance due to the desire of B2B buyers to drive their own buying processes at their own pace, with their own research.

Outbound gets personal.

When done right, outbound marketing is very personalized and targeted. The customer profile (based on segmentation and personas) will shape the media, content and creative that reach out to and connect with an organization’s most likely prospects.

Outbound tactics I typically recommend and support include:

  • Targeting based on audience profiles instead of sites, allowing greater perceived scale in a program while often delivering a more targeted audience than any but the smallest niche publishers can deliver
  • Developing content partnerships with publishers to address specific needs or priorities for the target audience, facilitating sharing and discussion, and increasing response rates
  • Telemarketing pre-screening to qualify leads from online media programs
  • Marketing through trade publications that reach vertical audiences (such as Health Data Management, which reaches business, operations and technology in the healthcare vertical)
  • Promotion of content (white papers, webcasts, etc.) through publishers to broadly defined audiences (such as IT Managers and above at companies with more than 500 employees)
  • Targeted databases or list rentals. List rentals support granular targeting, and databases of contacts using competitive products or in the market for a solution, or available for some audiences

To run a successful marketing campaign, inbound or outbound, you need relevant content that meets the pain points and interest areas of your target audience groups. See Overcoming the #1 Challenge in B2B Demand Generation Content Marketing for specific guidance.

And don’t miss HubSpot’s report and webinar on “The 2011 State of Inbound Marketing.”

4 Responses to Inbound vs. Outbound B2B Demand Generation Marketing

  1. Carl Lewis says:

    Great read and very informative at that. Thanks for the share and keep posting.

  2. Excellent post Laura! I believe Inbound and Social marketing will eventually overtake outbound as the top-of-funnel-filler while outbound marketing will become more focused on the middle of the funnel and even the bottom of the funnel to assist Sales in closing deals and managing existing customers. Here’s a post I did a while back describing these trends (inbound marketing is represented by ‘social’): http://bit.ly/gxga75. Integrating all of these methods into a cohesive process will produce a large volume of highly qualified leads – and who doesn’t love that!

    • Hello Joe – Thanks so much for the great input and added perspective. I completely agree with your prediction (which is also the shared belief of B2B marketing analyst like SiriusDecisions) that Inbound marketing (including social) will be the predominant source for top-of-funnel contacts.I also agree with your comment about Outbound marketing (primarily email) being a focused and effective method for moving contacts through the funnel. It always amazes me when marketers make sweeping statements like “email is dead”. REALLY? I don’t believe Outbound marketing will ever die – it’s simply going through an evolution.
      Again, thanks for the dialogue.
      Warm regards, Lauren

  3. kenny says:

    for IT buyers and IT marketers INSIDE Marketing is the best 🙂

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