Inbound vs. outbound marketing: What works best in B2B?

Tanya Bahrynovska
Author
Tanya Bahrynovska
Margaret Lee
Reviewed by
Margaret Lee
Updated:2023-07-19
Reading time:14 m
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A significant percentage of companies in B2B embark on their marketing journey from outbound outreach since it brings fast results without requiring big investments. To foster outbound approaches and ensure long-term success, businesses gradually add inbound marketing channels. This is actually the formula for successful business growth.

Just take a look at Belkins’ own example: Over the past 5 years of cooperation with B2B companies across 50 industries, we’ve become one of the top-rated appointment-setting agencies offering outbound marketing services to our customers. On average, 25% of all our deals come from outbound channels. We started with this strategy and are now building inbound channels to scale our marketing.

So how do you properly combine inbound and outbound marketing? Read on to discover their main differences and best practices on how to get the most out of your marketing efforts.

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing allows you to generate leads through tailored ICP-focused messages (ideal customer profile), trade shows, seminar series, cold calling, etc. Via outbound, you can make a compelling case for your products or services directly to the intended audience. In the B2B realm, outbound marketing tactics are highly effective at reaching decision-makers and key stakeholders within target industries or market segments.

The unavailability of face-to-face meetings, offline events, and trade shows has significantly increased the demand for B2B outbound marketing. Businesses have relied on it to generate leads and maintain dynamic sales funnels amidst market turbulence. That’s why outbound marketing emerged as the preferred channel for finding and engaging potential customers on a global scale.

Therefore, it is important to deeply understand your product specifics and market demand in order to reach precise titles with laser-focused propositions.

Challenges of outbound marketing in B2B

Based on our survey “Outbound Trends Report 2023 conducted among 2,500 businesses across industries, we outlined the core bottlenecks restraining B2B companies from successfully implementing outbound campaigns:

  • Keeping up with ever-changing trends. You need to constantly adjust your outbound campaigns to gain a competitive edge.
  • Lack of in-house resources. Sales cycles are prolonged, and close rates are reduced due to the lack of time and efficiency of the in-house team.  
  • Invalid contact data/inaccurate lead lists. This is the most widespread issue among businesses since they tend to buy contact lists, which are likely to damage brand reputation.
  • Long sales cycles. Since it can take the prospect nearly 2 months to convert to a customer, the buying journey may turn out to be unsuccessful in the long run.
  • Lower closed won conversions than in inbound marketing. This is due to the interruption-based approach, limited customer intent, initial resistance, and the need for relationship-building.

To help you overcome the roadblocks hindering your outreach, check out the following articles on this topic:

Note: If you keep struggling with building an effective outbound strategy, you can always outsource lead generation. Still, make sure that a vendor of your choice has enough experience and expertise in your domain.

Benefits of outbound marketing in B2B

Outbound strategies continue to play a significant role by offering targeted reach, immediate results, personalized communication, and the ability to build relationships and generate high-quality leads. Let’s dive deeper into the advantages your business can reap:

  • Fast results. It’s a quick way to initiate immediate conversations, generate leads, and convert them.
  • Highly focused targeting. Outbound marketing allows you to target specific industries, companies, or decision-makers within organizations. By leveraging in-depth lead research and segmentation, you can tailor your messaging to reach precisely in-demand profiles.
  • Increased brand awareness. Outbound marketing techniques, such as advertising and trade shows, can help increase brand awareness and visibility in the market. By consistently promoting your brand to a targeted audience via ad campaigns, you can establish your online presence and build recognition among potential B2B customers.
  • Engaging new markets. In Belkins’ abovementioned outbound report, 20% of surveyed companies stated that mapping new potential markets is their goal, allowing them to explore approaches for engaging new target audience segments.

Outbound marketing examples in B2B

Outbound marketing involves reaching out to potential customers through various outbound channels such as:

  • Cold email outreach
  • LinkedIn outreach
  • Cold calls
  • Account-based approach (ABM)

Below, we will cover cold emailing in detail since this channel is the leading one in our strategy thanks to our 5-year expertise in the lead generation niche.

Cold emails: Buyer persona-focused outreach

Cold emailing is the first of the basic tactics allowing you to reach out to the prospect with a sales pitch without having a prior connection. It is a scalable, predictable, and target-oriented approach that is highly valuable in B2B.

When it comes to cold emails, people often imagine intrusive messages that directly showcase the product or service. However, modern data-driven consumer demand impacted the way cold emailing runs. That’s why personalization, value orientation, social proof, concise and clear messages, and customization to your prospect’s pain points and industry are the main drivers of your cold outreach campaigns.

To understand how to present good targeted copy, check out 10 cold email sequence templates that drive up to a 66% reply rate.

Challenges of cold emails

  • High-quality data. A low-quality database will be inaccurate and unsecured, affecting consistency throughout the life cycle stages. 
  • Deliverability issues. Many emails are redirected to spam folders because of domain reputation issues and spam trigger words in the content.
  • Intense competition. According to our outbound report, companies from such industries as software development, digital marketing, and fintech are struggling to find new opportunities in the oversaturated market. The main sales objections from their potential customers is that they already have vendors in place.
  • Low open/response rates. These are often caused by a low-grade lead base full of uninterested and irrelevant prospects.
  • Lack of expertise. The specifics of the outbound sales process differ from the inbound. That’s why sales development reps (SDRs) require special tools and proven cold outreach methodology. Lack of expertise in this field is usually an issue for in-house sales teams since they have to be focused on closing deals.

πŸ“‚ Download: The most complete comparison of in-house and outsourced SDRs

πŸ“š Here are some materials to help you overcome these issues:

πŸŽ₯ Also, check out the video: How to properly warm up mailboxes before outreach?

Benefits of cold emails

  • Targeted messages and personalization. In comparison to slow-growing companies, fast-growing enterprises generate 40% more of their revenue from personalization strategies. In a 2020 survey, 78% percent of marketers were using personalization in email marketing. 
  • Scalability. By utilizing automation tools, segmentation, and personalization techniques, you can effectively scale your cold email campaigns to reach a larger audience while maintaining a personal touch. 
  • Predictable and manageable workflow. Having access to precise metrics such as reply rates, open rates, and conversions, you can calculate the number of emails to send and the number of researchers, SDRs, business development reps (BDRs), sales reps, etc. you need to fulfill the plan. 

πŸ“š Related post: Study our detailed guide on how to choose a call center if you'd rather proceed with cold calling.

What is B2B inbound marketing?

The goal of inbound marketing is to generate demand through valuable content so that prospects convert to loyal brand advocates. Content and PPC are the main inbound channels. The core concept is to attract potential customers in a subtle, non-salesy way by addressing their pain points and real-time needs.

Approximately 80% of businesses claim they are actively involved in content marketing, allowing them to pull it into their lead generation funnels. Content marketing strategy helps develop and distribute relevant assets that educate the target audience about the brand, the company’s expertise, and its products or services.

πŸ“Œ Note: 74% of companies reported that their content’s value is the top factor contributing to B2B content marketing success. Therefore, creating content around the audience’s pain points will resonate and incentivize them to move forward.

B2B inbound marketing challenges:

  • Time-delayed results. To get leads, you first need to launch all the channels and permanently maintain user engagement. It can take a while to get from inbound-channel launch to actual conversions. 
  • Upfront costs. Once you start incorporating inbound approaches in your marketing strategies, be ready for considerable upfront costs that will be beneficial in the long run. 
  • Smooth collaboration between teams. Need for flawless marketing and sales teams alignment to get significant results.
  • Need for a coherent marketing strategy. The absence of such leads to poor lead quality and affects the whole sales funnel.
  • Hard-to-predict results. This is typically due to dependence on market demand.

B2B inbound marketing benefits:

  • Lasting impact. By creating a sustainable and ever-growing online presence, inbound marketing channels will continue to attract, engage, and convert prospects over time.
  • Scalability. Although inbound marketing requires considerable upfront costs, you will yield permanent results in the long run. The more your business grows, the less you spend per lead.
  • Demand generation. Leads generated from inbound channels are easier to convert into deals. 
  • Hot leads. By nurturing leads through the stages of the sales life cycle, you make the lives of sales reps simpler by delivering warmed-up, ready-to-buy prospects.

πŸ“Œ Note: There should be a happy medium between educating your audience and promoting your brand. CMI reports that 87% of the leading players in B2B content marketing emphasized the primacy of their target audience’s educational needs over pushing their brand’s promotional messaging. Storytelling is what people really like. Make it your rule of thumb. Educate and entertain them at the same time.

πŸŽ₯ Related video: Integrating edutainment: Supercharge your B2B marketing strategy

How to implement an inbound marketing strategy: Top examples

Blogging: The most effective ROI-focused marketing channel 

As per the latest marketing trends, a blog is considered the top marketing channel to generate the highest ROI. Just imagine, focusing on blogging can help marketers increase ROI by 13 times.

Due to the time-consuming nature of blog production, implementing this strategy might cost a fortune. The process involves various stages that demand resources and expertise to drive conversions (topic research, content creation, SEO optimization, promotion, and nurturing).

Generally, professional blog post writing services can range from $500 to $2,500 per piece (or even more if you use professional content marketing agencies). The blog post price in B2B can vary depending on several factors, such as:

  • Scope and complexity of content
  • Level of research required
  • Number of experts required to be interviewed
  • Industry and topic specifics
  • Writer’s expertise

πŸ“Œ Note: It’s important to consider the quality and value of the content when assessing the cost, as well as the need for additional services such as editing, SEO optimization, or topic ideation.

Challenges of blogging:

  • Generation of consistent, high-quality content that resonates with the audience. Only 42% of B2B marketers believe they are effective at producing engaging content.
  • Inability to adapt. Many find it difficult to customize the content to the target audience’s preferences and to each sales journey stage. 
  • Lack of writers. It can prove difficult to find content writers with expertise in a particular niche. 
  • The time-consuming process of traffic increase and lead conversion. It takes approximately 6 to 12 months to see results.

The biggest challenge for our content marketing team is the lack of experienced content writers in the B2B niche. But it is worth trying to search for those. Our skilled freelance writers assist us with delivering substantial amounts of good-quality articles, while the in-house team is worth its weight in gold thanks to the permanent involvement in the life of the company and skills to integrate our expertise into the content.

Irina Yelisova, Content Manager at Belkins

Benefits of blogging:

  • High lead generation. Companies that have blogs generate an average of 67% more leads per month compared to companies that do not. You can add gated content to your website to get in-depth customer insights and increase your chances to convert leads. 
  • Lead nurturing. Blogging allows for the creation of educational content that helps nurture leads through your sales funnel.
  • Networking and collaboration. It opens doors to networking opportunities with industry peers, influencers, and potential partners, expanding the B2B company’s online presence.

Paid ads: Fast, scalable outreach approach

The main goal of a paid ad is to drive desired actions from a target audience to increase brand visibility, generate leads, and boost sales via Google Search, social media, YouTube, and other sites. ​​Google Ads has proven to be a successful customer acquisition channel for 65% of small B2B companies, demonstrating its effectiveness in driving business growth and generating new customers.

According to Gartner research, more than 60% of digital spend is allocated to paid channels.

Average Marketing Budget Allocations Across Online Channels

πŸŽ₯Related video: YCombinator and ChatGPT Hot News: 2023 Trends Ahead

With paid ads, the performance may be widely unpredictable. Even exquisite ads with well-elaborated texts and images may turn out to perform very poorly compared with the ones that are not so striking. So always test. This is not the recommendation — it must be your rule of thumb.

Kostyantyn Garyachiy, PPC Manager at Belkins

Challenges of paid ads:

  • Expensive channel. Since paid ads require significant investments, you need to evaluate their viability and best-performing channels for your particular case beforehand.
  • Inability to precisely identify the prospects’ pain points. If your text on the ad does not correspond with the intent of your target audience, the quality of your outreach will be low, resulting in low lead conversion.  
  • Niche-specific targeting. You will certainly get new leads via search ads, but with poor targeting, they will likely be unfit and may not convert into profitable deals. 
  • Narrow semantics. In search ads, semantics is about the intent behind a query. Often, it is difficult to correlate between the intent and the semantics, especially if there are few keywords related to your business. 

Benefits of paid ads:

  • Immediate results. Unlike organic methods, paid ads provide immediate visibility and generate faster results. You can start driving traffic, generating leads, and seeing conversions as soon as your ads are live.
  • Cost control. Paid ads offer flexible budgeting options, allowing you to set a daily or monthly budget based on your advertising goals and financial resources. 
  • Warm leads. Paid ads attract warm leads that are easier to convert into deals. 
  • Scalability. You can easily scale ads up or down based on your business needs and objectives and adjust your campaigns accordingly.

Email marketing: Nurture your leads to convert them into lucrative deals

Sopro found that 77% of B2B buyers prefer to be contacted over email, and Influencer Marketing Hub noted that 69% of B2B organizations use email newsletters. This is more than double any other channel. Email marketing remains unparalleled in generating ROI, with an impressive $36 return for every $1 spent. That’s why we prioritize using this channel at Belkins.

Our email marketing consists of automated email flows and mass email campaigns, mostly targeting our new prospects, lost leads, and opportunities.

Challenges of email marketing:

  • Improving email deliverability and maintaining a stable reputation
  • Keeping your audience engaged without overwhelming recipients with too many emails
  • Getting transparent analytics (as email marketing can partially function as a dark funnel, nurturing or re-engaging people who will return from another source)
  • Properly segmenting your audience and maintaining a structured database

Benefits of email marketing:

  • Relatively cheap marketing channel with high ROI. In fact, 72% of B2B respondents say email prospecting delivers a “good to excellent” return on investment. 
  • It is perfect for lead nurturing, reactivating lost opportunities, upselling to customers, etc.

Email marketing can become a great ROI-focused channel for your business once you learn how to leverage it to its full potential. Don’t try to make everything at once: Start small with launching the main automated flows like introduction, onboarding, or short nurturing for your leads, targeting only the segments that can bring you the highest value.

Viktoria Kubysheva, Email Marketing Manager at Belkins

SMM: A sustainable source of revenue

Social media platforms are great environments where you can expand your brand visibility if you have a well-elaborated strategy and apply a customer-centric approach to content creation.

LinkedIn is the preferred social platform for B2B marketing thanks to its business-focused environment and robust lead generation options. With its targeting options and networking features, LinkedIn provides a conducive space for B2B businesses to foster valuable relationships.

While 82% of B2B marketers obtain their greatest success with LinkedIn compared to other social channels, a staggering 97% of B2B marketers rely on LinkedIn for their content marketing strategies.

At Belkins, we utilize LinkedIn campaigns both in our internal marketing and to facilitate business growth for our clients. Check out our LinkedIn marketing services to target your decision-makers.

Challenges:

  • Hard to assess effectiveness. Likes, shares, impressions, and comments are great quantitative and qualitative metrics to assess the effectiveness of your campaign. Unfortunately, they don’t always directly translate into sales or leads. 
  • Algorithm changes. Social media platforms continue to change their algorithms on a monthly basis, making it difficult to assess whether the audience sees your content. Take LinkedIn algorithm updates, for instance, that may either positively or negatively impact your business.

Benefits:

  • Cost-effectiveness. You spend less compared to paid ads. SMM allows you to build brand awareness and attract desired audiences if messaging resonates and distribution is effective.
  • Credibility. You get to solve your customers’ problems for free. Is there a more reliable way to build trust than this?
  • Long-term effect. You get evergreen content that becomes a sustainable source of traffic and conversions for your business.

πŸ“š Related post: How to effectively use LinkedIn for B2B lead generation

Video marketing: Trending channel to engage your audience 

Besides bolstering brand recognition, video marketing facilitates social engagement, enabling you to expand your reach to wider and more diverse audiences. And here are some stats from a Wyzowl survey to demonstrate why video content is the indisputable king of today’s content marketing strategy and is only gaining momentum:

  • 78% of video marketers said video has directly boosted sales.
  • 84% of video marketers stated video was effective in lead generation.
  • 87% of video marketers reported that video contributed to increased ROI.

Challenges: 

  • Qualitative content requires large investments. It takes up to one year to yield results. 
  • Setting up and optimizing production and post-production processes
  • Defining the right channels to promote videos effectively
  • Identifying the target audience’s interests for maximum engagement
  • Aligning it with the overall marketing strategy

Benefits:

  • Flexible content type. With video storytelling, you can transform old messages into new formats and engage multiple audiences across different stages of the marketing funnel. For an inclusive touch, consider integrating a text to speech reader, ensuring your narrative reaches a broader spectrum of listeners.
  • Cumulative effect. By gradually gaining momentum, a video channel is a great way to yield results year after year. 
  • Boosts other content channels. Videos can serve a double purpose: for instance, promoting your blog posts (by repurposing them) or integrating them into email marketing.
  • Predominant communication channel with today’s audience. In the B2B realm, video content prevails as the preferred medium for millennials to research products and services.

Video Marketing Funnel

Try out various approaches, test, test, and test. Video marketing is about permanent changes in terms of production and distribution. YouTube policy is constantly changing, and LinkedIn algorithms as well. Flexibility is exactly what you need to adapt to these dynamic shifts.

Khrystyna Yavna, Video Marketing Manager at Belkins

Webinars: Lead gen and nurturing channel

To embark on this marketing initiative and add some spice, let’s go over some webinar stats:

  • An average of 55% of webinar registrants convert to attendees.
  • Approximately 1 in 7 webinar attendees will make a purchase. 
  • Nearly 73% of B2B webinar attendees become qualified leads.

Fascinating indicators to start implementing this marketing channel into the overall B2B inbound strategy, right?

Let’s briefly look into its challenges and benefits.

Challenges: 

  • Standing out in a vast circle of professional webinars by using original, appealing topics and highly personalized promotion
  • Ensuring regular technical maintenance before and during the webinar
  • Driving enough attendees for acceptable conversions

Benefits:

  • Delivering your message in an interactive, educational way
  • Positioning your company as an industry thought leader
  • Adding new leads to the top of the sales funnel

At Belkins, we saw a significant increase in our audience after several online events. That’s why we started to combine other marketing channels to maximize our current achievements.

It’s important to note that the conversion rates depend on the smooth correlation between the stages (planning, promotion via emails, webinar hosting, and post-webinar lead nurturing).

πŸ“Œ Note: At Belkins, KPIs are measured both by the number of webinar attendees and by conversion rates. Therefore, one of the most crucial things is registrants’ analysis according to our ICP and post-webinar lead nurturing. For this process, we involve our BDRs to qualify leads and our email marketers to nurture them via tailored email sequences.

Outbound vs. inbound: Which method is suitable for your business?

Both methods. The best result will come from a harmonic combination of the two. However, there is no silver bullet since the channels you select and the tactics you incorporate depend on the market, business goals, budget, trends, etc. So what factors should you consider while weighing the options?

  1. Market research. First, you need to identify your ideal customer and their preferences. How do they consume content? What channels do they use? Comparing your competitors’ marketing tactics will help understand what works best.
  2. Market size. If you’re targeting a niche market, don’t focus only on the in-depth inbound strategy for B2B. Consider cold outreach campaigns as an effective driver for target audience attraction. However, if you work with a mass market, you’re dealing with a bigger audience segment, so incorporating inbound content marketing must be a priority.
  3. Business goals. Are you aiming to generate qualified leads? increase revenue? boost website traffic or brand engagement? enter new markets? While inbound marketing is an effective long-term way to establish yourself as an authority and win credibility with your target audience, outbound can help generate leads and convert them much quicker. Regardless, combining both approaches will be your winning solution.

Typical Outbound Goals

Belkins’ team conducted research among 2,500 B2B companies from our network over 2 years to explore the state of outbound. The top 3 goals of surveyed companies include increasing brand awareness (40%), generating high-value leads (20%), and exploring new approaches to enter new markets (20%).

The key difference between inbound and outbound lies in the behavioral model of prospects’ engagement. With an inbound strategy, you gather demand and wait for your prospects to enter the sales cycle, whereas with outbound marketing, you sell your offering to those who look for it by themselves.

Inbound vs. outbound: Comparison

Inbound marketing

Outbound marketing

Informative content types geared toward educating, nurturing, and offering related solutions to consumers’ problems

Promotional content to captivate interest among customers in a direct and immediate manner

Highly targeted way to reach the audience

May run for many people for which it was not intended

Harmonic interaction

Proactive outreach

Customers find you

You find customers

Holistic content strategy 

Cold calls, emails, and ads

Long-term sales cycle

Short-term sales cycle

All-encompassing, multichannel strategy 

Linear strategy with limited channels

How to combine inbound and outbound marketing in B2B

There are various scenarios in Belkins’ experience where we integrate our outbound approaches and inbound marketing to get the most out of our campaigns. In any case, all departments responsible for certain marketing directions are involved in the holistic process of lead generation and conversion.

Once cold prospects turn into leads, you might want to warm them up and nurture them through email marketing and automated workflows. That’s exactly what we do at Belkins when our salespeople and BDRs collaborate.

To demonstrate the real value of an integrated approach, let’s take a look at some examples of how to leverage both outbound and inbound marketing techniques (based on our experience):

Example #1: Podcast + LinkedIn outreach

Our business development representatives reach out to potential speakers who would be involved in podcast production. Once the podcast is ready to go, our inbound marketing team joins to promote the content via email drip campaigns, paid ads, YouTube channel, and social ads. At the same time, our outbound team of BDRs researches the LinkedIn profiles of involved speakers and analyzes their best-performing posts and engagement to outline people who were interested in this content. The goal is to offer our other related podcasts to our target audience via LinkedIn messages.

Example #2: Webinars + cold outreach + LinkedIn outreach campaigns

To engage more prospects, we regularly conduct online events addressing their pain points. Based on the analytical reporting, our BDRs segment audiences according to the prospects’ engagement: those who visited a webinar and are interested in further interactions, those who are not interested, or the ones who registered but didn’t visit the webinar. Afterward, BDRs send out tailored email sequences via cold emails or LinkedIn.

Example #3: Lead magnets + social posts + cold outreach

We create lead magnets with free downloadable resources such as reports, checklists, spreadsheets, templates, etc. to get leads’ contact details. The first stage is geared toward growing the organic email list, the next one toward nurturing these leads with laser-focused inbound email sequences. In parallel, we launch paid ads and repurpose that content as social posts to engage more audiences on social media. Once they’ve acquired the leads’ contact information, BDRs reach out to them via cold email sequences with tailored offerings where value propositions resonate precisely with our ICPs.  

Verdict: You can nurture warm leads and target cold prospects via cold outreach campaigns. In parallel, such campaigns help you extend your contact base and warm up your leads with inbound activities.

Conclusion

If you are hesitant about what strategy to select, consider all the abovementioned factors, benefits, and techniques. But remember: If your goal is to generate quality leads while establishing your brand as a thought leader, then combining both approaches is your best solution. 

To shorten the sales cycle and boost marketing effectiveness, complement your inbound strategy with outbound campaigns and vice versa as we do at Belkins.

If you need help, outsource B2B lead generation to our team, who has expertise across more than 50 industries and will help you set up to 20 appointments with high-quality leads per month.

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Tanya Bahrynovska
Author
Tanya Bahrynovska
Copywriter at Belkins
Tanya has 10 years of experience producing content in the B2C and B2B sectors, primarily for tech, e-commerce, and marketing companies. Working as a Chief Editor for a fintech company gave her a deep understanding of how content marketing correlates with sales outcomes.
Margaret Lee
Expert
Margaret Lee
CMO at Belkins
Margaret is a seasoned professional with over 14 years of experience and a remarkable track record of managing marketing teams in both B2B and B2C. With expertise in strategy development, analytics-driven decision-making, and team management, she brings invaluable skills to drive growth and success.