Because of the velocity at which marketing evolves, it’s fashionable — and easy — to declare a technique ineffective, antiquated, and more commonly, dead.
The irony is that as marketers move on to newer, ostensibly greener pastures, the “dead” techniques do their best phoenix impression and rise from the grave.
Take direct mail, for example. This method embodies analog marketing in a digital world. And yet, well-written articles on reputable sites now admonish marketers to take up direct mail.
What are observant marketers to make of this cyclical thinking?
That regardless of how loudly or eloquently someone forecasts the expiration of a certain channel or technique, it’s usually the skill with which that channel is harnessed — rather than burgeoning technology or modishness alone — that determines your success.
In this sense, direct mail is a microcosm of outbound lead generation. Inbound marketing has (rightfully so) become the marketing default of the past decade, but outbound still has a place in the marketing mix. That’s why over 60 percent of enterprises and nearly half of SMBs use a mix of outbound and inbound lead generation.
With the notion that ‘outbound is obsolete’ out of the way, let’s examine three main reasons why traditional outbound programs don’t perform as well as they should.
1. You Target Titles Instead of Functions
Using titles as the fulcrum for your targeting requirements is a popular technique when you’re working with an outbound lead generation service or building an ideal customer profile, but strict adherence to this strategy has its flaws.
Particularly in marketing departments and startups, job titles for decision makers can range from the novel to the downright absurd. Even in other departments, the responsibilities of your ideal customer — like handling procurement for the department — may not correlate to the job title you’ve targeted.
From a business standpoint, this strategy is illogical. If leads exist who meet all your criteria to become a customer save the title, then the most astute business decision is to market to those people whenever you can.
So when you’re working with a lead generation provider to design your next campaign, see if they’re willing to target job functions rather than just titles. This will not only lead to a better yield from the campaigns they run for you, but it may also result in better prices because you’ll take advantage of a gap in demand for leads who don’t have the right title.
2. You Lead With a Sales Pitch
In outbound marketing, you’re using push rather than pull techniques to find potential customers. While obvious, this distinction is nonetheless important to improving the success of your campaigns.
Because you’re using a push technique, this first and foremost means a conversion at this point does not signal buying intent from a lead. In Marketing Automation for Dummies, author Mathew Sweezey identifies this type of interest as an interest in your content, which is distinct from an interest in your product or business.
Of course, this reality is difficult for marketers who are under constant pressure to demonstrate results. But a conversion at the early stages of an outbound campaign simply doesn’t indicate buying intent. Downloading a white paper is often not the blaring sales-ready siren marketers think it is.
However, conversions in the beginning — or even middle — stages of an outbound campaign are necessary starting points. But they are just that: starting points.
This is why it’s so critical to develop nurturing processes that help transition outbound leads from “content interested” into “product interested.” The truth is that the buyer’s journey is a winding, sometimes arbitrary, series of events for which relevant media needs to be developed and distributed.
3. You Simplify the Circumstances of B2B Buyers
In “Making the Consensus Sale,” leaders from CEB marketing use numerous surveys to masterfully demonstrate the complexity of procuring business technology in the present era.
This research gives both marketing and sales an inside look at the labyrinthine pathway decision makers must traverse to create consensus among the purchasing team. (It also gave us the “57 percent of the buyer’s journey is complete before customers engage with sales reps” stat that’s everywhere on the internet.)
Not only do customers have to justify their decision to buy your product to a committee of their peers (and superiors), but they must also do so under great professional risk — risk which stops more than half of decisions makers from advocating for a solution even though they want to buy.
Overcoming this reticence takes a better understanding of circumstance:
- Firstly, the range of data points from CEB’s research identify that the solution stage is where most buying committees grind to a halt. People can’t agree on how to solve the problem. This contrasts with the propensity of marketers to focus on differentiating themselves from their competition. Your audience needs you to instead focus on why your type of solution is the panacea for each stakeholder’s individual set of problems.
- Secondly, marketers must address the emotional aspect of the decision-making process. Too often, B2B buyers are lionized as purely logical beings who consider every conceivable angle before making a purchase. Of course, this is patently false, as CEB revealed in their surveys. Emotional motivators are just as strong, if not stronger, than purely business reasons, like projected ROI. It’s very likely that a decision maker will interpret a good ROI as an opportunity to bathe in the glory of delivering improved performance.
Proclaiming that traditional outbound marketing is dead carries about as much weight as overhyping every new piece of software. Both are inaccurate.
Could outbound marketing be done better? Of course. If you follow these three guidelines, then you’ll be well on your way to making the most out of your outbound efforts.