Many marketers view inbound marketing as the end-all, be-all of demand generation, while others position outbound tactics as the most important for acquiring new leads and fueling sales pipeline.
We marketers can easily become experts in one area, creating an unintended bias toward specific marketing channels simply because we’re comfortable working with those strategies.
By focusing too much on one strategy or channel, we’re missing out on the opportunity to deliver significantly better results for our company and our careers.
Today, it’s critical you commit to continuously expanding your marketing skillset, finding the right balance between inbound (SEO, blog posts, owned social and landing pages, etc.) and outbound (events, webinars, content syndication, paid social and paid search channels) to discover and acquire new customers.
A Successful Marketing Career Requires Adaptability
My own career evolution and the drive to stay ahead of the game has me thinking about what it means to be an integrated marketer – pulling the levers of inbound and outbound marketing strategies to serve the twin masters of campaign performance and personal growth.
Many have even adopted the term “full stack marketer” (you know that person). This emerging label implies the ability to execute cross-channel campaigns, across various marketing technologies and use data to make the best decisions to achieve your goals. This may not be 100% reality, but it’s an awesome goal for marketers.
Marketing is evolving at light speed and it’s getting more and more difficult to keep up with the pace of change. Further, it’s being driven by larger amounts of data. In order to be successful in this environment, we must avoid becoming too attached to one channel, tactic, data source, media partner or whatever – because what works today is very unlikely to work next year.
Rather, we have to keep our eyes open to new opportunities and ways of achieving our customer acquisition and revenue goals by challenging the status quo and testing new ideas.
Why Isn’t Inbound Marketing Enough?
We’ve written about the diminishing returns of inbound marketing a few times before, so I won’t go into too much detail. Simply put, you can’t expect all you prospective customers to show up at your website and landing pages through SEO and social outreach alone – no matter how good you are.
Your audiences are made up of a diverse group of individuals, and they all consume content in different ways, at different times and from different places. This requires a highly varied mix of tactics that inbound methods can’t cover.
Moreover, account-based marketing (ABM) is becoming critical to B2B marketing organizations. And outbound marketing strategies serve as the linchpin of ABM programs, because third-party media partners and content marketers have special relationships with decision-makers at your target accounts. If you’re not tapping into these relationships via a concerted outbound program, you’re simply not using ABM to its full potential.
Inbound marketers can’t rest on their laurels if they expect their career (and paycheck) to blossom. Simply put, inbound marketing initiatives should complement outbound marketing strategies.
Why Isn’t Outbound Marketing Enough?
Hubspot has done a terrific job of answering this question over the past few years and marketers have benefitted. (But even Hubspot has recognized the need to get the inbound-outbound mix right with the launch of their paid acquisition capabilities in recent months.)
It’s rare these days to assume that you can execute an outbound lead generation campaign (say, via content marketing partners) and then simply hand these leads over to sales.
Outbound demand generation is dependent on having a foundation of solid content developed for inbound purposes: blogs, landing pages, website, hosted webcast, videos, etc.
So, just as inbound-focused marketers must complement their efforts with outbound initiatives, so too must outbound demand gen programs be supported by a solid inbound strategy.
Successful Integrated Marketing Requires Balance
The integrated-marketing, inbound-outbound balance really comes together in critical areas that accelerate marketing’s ability to create customers. Lead nurturing is crucial to develop prospects to customers. Lead scoring is paramount to prioritize which prospects to focus on. And while these efforts aren’t synonymous with inbound, they do heavily use the content developed for inbound marketing strategies.
Applying this concept to B2B marketing’s hottest trend, account-based marketing engagement mostly relies on outbound tactics, but these efforts are greatly supported by tracking inbound activity, and using this data to inform predictive models, develop target account lists, personalize owned media messaging and even drive more targeted outbound engagement.
Narrowly pushing one strategy (inbound or outbound) over the other limits the quality and diversity of your pipeline. That’s why an integrated marketing approach takes an inclusive view of all channels and tactics to maximize the reach of their combined efforts. This ensures you’ll draw in different targets (titles/roles, industries, geographies, buying stages, personalities) who engage in different ways.
Social media is a prime example of why striking the right balance of inbound and outbound marketing strategies is pivotal today. We all know that social is an ideal channel to connect with professionals who network through LinkedIn Groups, Twitter handles or Facebook pages. But only using your company’s social pages and handles (inbound tactics) is limiting – it’s unlikely you have the reach you need. Leveraging the expertise of third-party content marketers (an outbound tactic) increases your reach exponentially, while often providing a fresh angle with which to use your content.
A successful blend of integrated marketing tactics will allow you to scale your pipeline efficiently – something every B2B organization is striving to do in this turbulent economy. And understanding the nuances of balancing this marketing yin and yang will enable you to expand your skillset and marketability. Today, I would bet on integrated.