The epic battle of inbound vs. outbound marketing: Who wins in B2B?
Author: Dmitry Chervonyi
Reading time: 11m
Do you remember the times when commercials and salesy letters bombarded you from all possible angles? Needless to say, for some industries, nothing has changed much. But with the development of digital environments, consumers in both B2B and B2C markets received a unique opportunity to create their media surroundings with the tips of their fingers. This is how the confrontation between inbound and outbound marketing began.
However, the word “battle” is rather unnecessary. With the right approach and good market analysis, you'll get the maximum from both instruments in different phases of your company's development.
So in this article, you will find out:
The difference between inbound and outbound approaches
What are the main problems of traditional marketing in the digital era
How to make potential customers find your company with the help of digital content
Why do some outbound tactics still work, and where
Whether you can combine inbound and outbound marketing strategies.
Before diving into the inbound vs. outbound matter, we must outline the main things you should know about the B2B audience in general.
Selling to buyer personas in B2B is a sort of challenge. If you come to the B2B field from B2C, you have to change a lot in your approach to sales, the way to speak with your prospects, write your cold emails, and plan sales campaigns.
In turn, buying B2B services or supplies isn't simple either. According to Gartner, 77% of questioned B2B companies claimed their last purchase was “difficult” or even “very complex”. The most popular reason is that a buyer's journey in this type of market is usually grounded on trust and a potential partner’s professionalism.
It explains why 41%of B2B buyers always read at least 3 pieces of content on a potential partner’s site. As a result, 10% of companies who run a blog claim their content generates the biggest ROI.
Besides, other important demographical factors impact the way companies attract business leads:
33% of B2B purchasers claimed they started looking for relevant products and services using mobile devices and social media after the COVID pandemic started;
In 2022, already 73%of millennialsare involved in the B2B buying process, so they look mostly for compelling content;
21% of millennials in this field pay special attention to reviews and ranking reports (around 65% of B2B buyers generally check online recommendations and review platforms before they are swayed toward a buying decision).
What does it mean for you? You can no longer ignore content marketing and digital marketing — at least not without significant aftermaths, such as losing a competitive edge and denying your sales teams the opportunity to be proactive and build a fuller, more detailed image of your B2B buyers.
What should you do?Launch an inbound marketing strategy and explore the online space around your business and your industry. The internet has become a wider place for everyone, and many sites will help you know your prospective customers better. By the way, if you need directions, we spoke about social media and business lead generation via SMM.
Inbound Marketing In Detail
Let’s focus on inbound marketing now. The internet is indeed a divine gift. If we’re instantly annoyed with the shiny banners, we close the page. If we can’t find what we want, we fill in another search query in Google. On social media, we even can tune the preferred commercial. Unbounded access to any resources made inbound marketing possible. That change implies that inbound marketing is no longer a strategy that helps you quickly generate leads and score a win.
Speaking of inbound marketing meaning, it is a complex of tools that are targeted to draw your audiences to your product or service naturally. Such a strategy is implemented by creating high-quality content that matches the needs and preferences of a target audience.
Examples of inbound marketing instruments
It is a simple yet simultaneously a bit complicated matter. Remember what you mostly search online. Sources of great ideas and practices in B2B and B2C markets have much in common. They are:
Blog posts. Guides and 101s, top lists, reviews, and other fascinating articles work perfectly, especially on business prospects. It is also one of many companies' main sources of organic traffic.
Videos. For someone who just prefers watching, instead of reading. Video content is extremely engaging, and with such sources as Youtube, its distribution is just a piece of cake.
Webinars. Thelecture-style content is perfect for the B2B audience. Webinars are more exclusive and personal, that’s why they stand out as a powerful lead generator tool.
Podcasts. The internet is experiencing a podcast boom. This inbound lead generation method usually implies sharing exclusive insights from one professional to a bigger business audience. Podcasts are appealing mostly due to their laid-back narrative and various guests. Check out Belkins' podcasts to know how it works.
Case studies. Attracting customers with your own demonstrative experience is the most powerful inbound tool that plays a tremendous part in the B2B decision-making.
And now, imagine how many sites and pages you may see before finding exactly what you need. If your searches finish within the first three tries, it means the content you’ve been looking for was perfectly optimized for search engines. Inbound marketing efforts can come to naught if you lack SEO strategy. On the way to attracting qualified leads, SEO is integral to inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing advantages
Compared to traditional advertising, inbound marketing has an impressive range of benefits:
Boosts brand visibility. With the right approach to an inbound strategy, even the smallest business can increase its visibility online. Furthermore, top-notch content builds a sustainable image of the professional, helping to strengthen your brand’s position.
Drives quality traffic. Inbound marketing focuses efforts on attracting the most interested part of your TA. They are looking for a solution and find relevant content created by you.
Prolonged effect. Some pieces of content don’t lose their relevance months and years after publication and continue to drive sales.
Cost efficiency. Compared to targeted advertising and other classic promotion methods, inbound strategies consume less budget.
Key issues of inbound
Surely, the situation is not as cloudless as it seems at first sight. Inbound vs. outbound comparison would not be complete without considering some challenges. And inbound marketing includes them.
It takes time to bring results. You definitely won't see immediate sales flow after the launch of an inbound strategy. Content is just like a demanding plant; it needs time to blossom and fructify.
It's getting old. Business practices and tools are constantly developing. So, some pieces of content you shared with your audience gradually lose relevance. The materials require constant revision and update as search engines frequently change their algorithms, so make sure your search engine optimization strategy is on.
Problems with the conversion. Boosting the conversion rate remains a key priority for marketing professionals. Inbound marketing efforts are better combined with conversion rate optimization: A/B testing, data tracking, and advanced UI/UX solutions to achieve positive outcomes.
It requires a great bunch of tools. The shortlist of inbound marketing strategy instruments includes CRM, CMS, SMM publisher, traffic analytics tools, and semantic SEO tools. In case of misuse or making wrong conclusions, consider you simply wasting your marketing budget. So your team will require a top-notch inbound marketing team.
What Is Outbound Marketing
If you’re looking for an outbound marketing definition, it will be easier to mention that this is everything we see as a promotion. This more traditional type of marketing includes every media designed to attract attention and reach prospects.
Outbound marketing examples
So, what are the examples of outbound marketing? Everything you don't expect to see or hear belongs to outbound methods. They display advertising, direct mail, event marketing, cold calls, press releases, and even magazine ads and TV commercials.
But let's focus only on outbound marketing tools that bring B2B sales. At Belkins, we use B2B outbound marketing approach all the time. We leverage email marketing with cold emails introducing us to our potential customers and addressing their pain points. We arrange face-to-face meetings or calls. We arrange meetings at trade shows. Yes, all of that is outbound marketing, which is vital to our success.
Benefits of outbound marketing
When you contrast inbound and outbound marketing, personalization is the last thing you recall about outbound. Many experts still argue about this point, but in B2B sales, it is easier to address a personalized message, which cannot be said about B2C.
No matter how frightening the cold calling is, it still provides more personalization and flexibility in the business environment than inbound methods.
Apparently, if you try to reach thousands of prospects simultaneously, outbound marketing efforts will lose their individual tone. Here are other opportunities and several benefits that appear when you use outbound marketing:
Quicker results and feedback;
Higher conversion rates;
It’s more effortless in preparation.
Outbound marketing drawbacks
When all the outbound marketing examples come to your mind, it’s easier to understand the key problems of outbound.
It comes unexpectedly. Unlike inbound marketing, outbound marketing finds you first. Prospects see ads while surfing the web, watching videos, checking emails, and just minding their business.
It’s more expensive. Since outbound marketing relies on advertising, you have to spend a good part of your budget to display ads in the preferred media channels and maintain the promotion for all your prospects to see.
It’s irritating. Pushy salesmen seem toxic in both B2B and B2C segments. That’s why the outbound marketing approach provokes rather negative associations among the potential leads. To avoid this, your strategy should be more humane and delicate.
Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing: Comparison Table
Let's look at the table to summarize the matter of inbound vs. outbound marketing difference.
Blogging, podcasts, content creation, SMM, video marketing, webinars, e-books, SEO
Telemarketing, cold calls, TV and magazine commercials, trade shows, direct mails, display ads
Aimed at the targeted audience
Large-scale and impersonalized in B2C, still indiscriminate but potentially personalized in B2B
Vague, harder to track
Higher, easier to measure
Entertaining, engaging, educating, forms trust
Informational, commercial, forms awareness
Lower expenses but slow-growing results
Higher costs with an almost instant and visible outcome
Flexible, require constant revaluation
Mostly static, grow or decrease gradually
The Crucial Matter: What Is More Effective?
Marketing strategies cannot be the same in various companies and markets, at completely different stages of their living cycles. You and only you decide which methods to use and how to combine inbound & outbound marketing.
Some people will tell you to go for inbound marketing B2B because outbound marketing is dead. Others will claim that outbound is your only way to succeed. The truth is somewhere in the middle. You need to find your path by considering these aspects:
Company size. If you’re a startup, relying exclusively on outbound means investing in social media advertising, PPC, event participation, and many other activities that would strain your budget and make you put your most important plans on hold. Meanwhile, a bigger company with more funding can achieve more by promoting a new product or service through outbound media channels.
Target market size. If you’re targeting a niche market, an in-depth inbound strategy for B2B shouldn’t be your priority. There is potential to secure new leads with the right outreach tactics, so you should focus your efforts in that direction. On the contrary, if you work with a mass market, you’re dealing with a bigger audience segment that is currently choosing between several competitors and would prefer the most distinctive one. In this case, the outcome of the outbound vs. inbound battle is obvious.
Market maturity. When dealing with an early market and choosing inbound vs. outbound, you must introduce the problem before introducing the solution. Your potential audience may not know why they need your product yet. So, you should do all the prospecting homework for them. Meanwhile, if you’re entering a mature market, you work with an audience that is closely familiar with the challenge.
Sales Funnel Development with Inbound & Outbound Tools
How does a sales funnel look in inbound & outbound marketing? Inbound techniques work at the simple and famous “Attract - Engage - Delight” scheme. It implies slow nurturing prospects, slowly transforming them into leads, ensuring trust and loyalty with professional content, and striking with a commercial offer they can’t refuse. In the case of outbound marketing, such a courtship phase of relationships is usually skipped.
But the most amazing thing about choosing inbound vs. outbound marketing is that you can leverage key instruments in tandem on the different funnel stages.
Balance your strategy and design your own mix of methods. Inbound slowly delights and nurtures leads when outbound tools like calls, mailing, and re-targeting help seal the deal. Read more to know how inbound and outbound sales work together.
How to Transform Your Marketing from Outbound to Inbound
The easiest way to do it is to start blogging. Surely, writing blog posts isn’t the easiest task as you will require a huge amount of data for their optimization and strategy improvement. But when considering inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing, you should keep in mind that things change.
Due to software and web technologies going stronger, smarter, faster, and more functional, you now have more targeting tools at your disposal. Therefore, the better your targeting is, the higher chances you have of your message getting heard or seen.
Outbound can speak about value too. You are able to create a brief yet informative message that appeals to the right people.
New technologies provide new customization options, allowing for more creativity in crafting unique value propositions and offers, so the days of generic messages and sales loglines are indeed coming to an end.
See, there’s no need to demonize outbound and rearrange your strategy to 100% inbound. Outbound marketing examples of implementation show that it provides valuable benefits such as quick awareness, clear results, and a quick response from your audience if your targeting is fine-tuned.
Launch Your Successful Outbound or Inbound Strategy
In such a volatile marketing environment, only those who adapt succeed. So, in the matter of inbound vs outbound marketing, the only way to get significant results is to watch carefully what your market needs and what new technologies appear. It doesn’t have to be a battle but reasonable cooperation.
Especially, in B2B, you can’t refuse to use outbound methods no matter how disruptive they seem. In the example of Belkins, you may see how a clever marketing strategy with polished content and personalized highly-professional cold messages bring outstanding results.
Since starting his career in sales & marketing, Dmitry never stopped searching for new opportunities that can turn the tables on sales development and the ways that shape B2B relationships. He is always eager to share his findings with the audience.
State of Outbound report 2023
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State of Outbound report 2023
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