Understanding B2B Inbound and Outbound Marketing

What’s with the divide between inbound and outbound marketing that’s haunted the rise of digital advertising? Why is there a rivalry between these two strategies, and as a B2B business, which team do you join? 

The truth is that in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, both inbound and outbound work, depending on your goals. It’s not really a one-size-fits-all solution. Both approaches provide you with tools to get noticed by potential customers, but you need to find the formula that’s more suited to your top priorities. 

So let’s take a deep dive into the two teams so you can better understand how each strategy aligns with your B2B digital marketing goals.

Woman Dancing with Shapes

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a methodology that focuses on finding, attracting, converting, and satisfying potential customers. Inbound marketing believes that delighted customers will become promoters of your business. As brand evangelists, your customers can help your business grow organically and exponentially — an effect HubSpot calls the flywheel model.

That’s why high-quality content marketing is a critical component of inbound marketing. In fact, 53% of marketers say blogging is their top content marketing priority — they intentionally create content that helps potential and current customers learn about your business, and what you offer.

Inbound marketing aims to attract potential customers when they’re using search engines or social media sites. You can grow website traffic by creating helpful and relevant content that pulls people toward your company and its products or services instead of pushing your brand out to your audience with traditional forms of (outbound) advertising like print, radio, TV, and direct mail. 

What are the three steps of inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing generally works in three steps:

  • Attract: Use high-quality marketing content to draw potential customers and start conversations around how you’re the answer to their needs.
  • Engage: Share insights and potential solutions that position your business as the most likely candidate for the customer.
  • Delight: In addition to a fantastic product offering, empower your customers with help and support so they find success with their purchase.

These activities ‌increase your chances of being found by potential customers via search engines such as Google or Bing. (But, you know, mostly Google.)

What are some examples of inbound marketing?

  • Intriguing e-books and guides that customers can download for free from your website, but require that they submit their email address
  • Exciting and engaging video content for your website and/or social media accounts
  • Content on your website that explains more about your service or product
  • Responding to questions on crowdsourced informational sites like Quora, and then directing the user to your website
  • Using keywords for search engine optimization (SEO) to make your website more visible to customers when they search for those specific keywords
  • Podcasts shared on social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter

Is social media considered inbound or outbound marketing?

Social media marketing is a type of inbound marketing because it involves creating content to attract, engage, and delight customers. A recent survey revealed that 54% of B2B buyers use social media to learn about the vendor, their services, and their products.

But too many brands use social media just to talk about themselves: their products, their deals, their business. The reality is that no one on social really goes there to be flooded by ads. That’s why effective social media marketing for B2B businesses doesn’t focus on you personally, or your own story, for social media content. To make an impression on your audience, show how your company positively impacts/changes the lives of your customers.

If you know how to tell stories that matter (and delight), you’ll have a much better chance of connecting with your audience. That connection may increase sales, brand awareness, ROI, and your company may soon be rocking the market!

Why is social media important to B2B inbound marketing?

Using social media for B2B marketing allows you to:

  • Save money. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter enable you to communicate with your customer base at any time, regardless of their location.
  • Provide improved customer service. Using social media, you can provide more robust, transparent and public customer service through live chat, direct messaging, and other means that your customers can access easily online.
  • Create a relationship with your customer base. You can even create communities where users can share their experiences, provide feedback, and interact to foster a holistic experience.
  • See what works in real time. To reach customers effectively, you need to understand what B2B marketing tactics work best for your particular industry. 

What are the benefits of B2B inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is highly effective when done right. But is it right for you? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.

  • It helps you connect with more customers by creating a more personalized experience in a low-cost way.
  • It’s much easier to generate leads if you create an easy-to-use and informative website where visitors can learn more about your products or services. Use a web analytics tool like Google Analytics to figure out how many people are interested in your product or service. You can then change or upgrade the service or product if it’s not generating, retaining, and converting into sales.
  • It costs 62% less per lead than outbound marketing. It’s inexpensive because inbound marketing focuses on content creation on websites or social media platforms rather than expensive traditional advertising avenues. If you write a blog post about your product or service, people searching for solutions on search engines can come across your content, and click through to learn more about what you have to offer. Inbound marketing is also a long-term strategy, providing results years after the initial investment.
  • It helps to establish a long-term customer relationship by providing a personalized experience that encourages customers to return for more once they discover something they enjoy.

What are the challenges of B2B Inbound Marketing?

  • Discovery and awareness can be difficult if you don’t include SEO and some paid media strategy. People who are unfamiliar with your business, or aren’t internet-savvy, may have trouble finding you.
  • The competition can be fierce. You might have a hard time explaining why customers should buy from you rather than a competitor, especially given how crowded web-based marketing is today.
  • Successful inbound marketing takes long-term commitment. You can run an outbound campaign for a month and stop it when the ad money runs out. Once your website is optimized for inbound traffic and your content strategy is in place, you won’t be able to stop investing until you no longer want to attract customers.
  • Inbound marketing requires a substantial initial investment in terms of time, effort, and resources. It can take months to optimize a website for search, and regular posting and maintenance are required to keep visitors entertained and informed. It’s also critical to research keywords and topics relevant to your target audience, because you need to publish content that they’ll find interesting. A less time-consuming outbound marketing strategy may be an option if you don’t have the resources.
  • Inbound marketing doesn’t provide instant feedback — you may not realize right away if your content falls flat. You could spend hours writing a blog post or filming a video only to find that no one is interested in reading or watching it. Inbound marketing isn’t the best strategy if you’re looking for a quick boost in revenue. Patience and consistency in creating content are paramount to generating more leads over time. That lower price tag per acquisition? It comes with more time on the clock..

A successful inbound marketing strategy relies on your audience trusting you, which is achieved by creating quality content. This means that whatever you say should be supported by credible research (no making stuff up!), and any claims you make should be consistent with what third-party sources say.

What Is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing incorporates methods and strategies that proactively reach out to prospective customers. You’re pushing your message out to a wide audience, hoping to generate sales leads or drive revenue. 

Outbound marketers cast nets as widely as possible in the hopes that a portion of their message lands on the right ‌prospects. By catching the attention of a large number of people, they boost their chances of reaching new clients, even those who aren’t actively looking for them.

Customers actively searching for a particular product or service may benefit from outbound marketing. But if your target demographic isn’t aware that they need what you’re offering, or doesn’t need it at all, outbound marketing can be invasive and ineffective at best and repulsive at worst.

What are some examples of outbound marketing?

If you’ve ever received a cold (unsolicited) call from a telecommunications company, or an extended-warranty provider, or somebody selling a new type of roofing shingle — and who hasn’t? — you’ve experienced outbound marketing. Other common examples of this type of marketing include television and radio ads, billboards, direct mail campaigns, print ads, event sponsorships, trade-show booths, and cold email pitches.

Cold calls

When a salesperson calls a potential customer who had not previously expressed interest in their product, that’s cold calling. According to research by Rain Group, 70% of salespeople still use the phone to reach out to potential customers and set up meetings.

Email/direct mail marketing

Businesses send physical letters, packages, or postcards to prospective customers to ignite an interest in their business and direct them to their website or storefront. Companies might also choose to spam the inboxes of prospective customers who have not subscribed to their email list – but we don’t recommend it. There’s so much you can do to grow your business, excite lapsed customers or recover abandoned carts, when you do email marketing right.

Print ads

Advertising in print media is still a viable option for businesses looking to target specific demographics in certain industries. Print ads are available in various sizes and formats, depending on the publication’s specifications.

TV commercials

If you’re trying to get your brand name out to as many people as possible, you’ll likely use television advertising. TV commercials can be expensive because of the production costs and the higher prices of coveted time slots. However, if you have the funds, they can be a powerful tool for increasing brand awareness. There are newer platforms, too, like Hulu, that give you the advantages of a commercial with the lower pricing and buying power of digital advertising.

Trade shows

Companies pay to exhibit their services or products at trade exhibitions, where they can network with both other industry professionals and potential clients. 

Pay-per-click advertising

This is a great outbound marketing strategy to get your business noticed. The only time you’re charged is when someone clicks on your ad, and there’s no subscription fee involved. While many people will see and hear about your product, you will only spend money on those who are truly interested in it.

What are the benefits of B2B outbound marketing?

  • You get to contact people directly, and know immediately whether they are interested in what you’re offering.
  • You can target people who have shown interest in your product or service, thus saving time finding new leads.
  • It’s faster than inbound marketing because you don’t need to spend as much time creating content that will attract potential customers. Instead, you can focus on contacting them directly with ads and emails targeted specifically at their interests.
  • Tools like social media, email, and print advertising can help you reach thousands of people without breaking your budget.
  • With so many different tools, you can easily switch tactics based on what the market wants and what’s working best for you.

What are the challenges of B2B outbound marketing?

  • It’s highly competitive. Everyone else pursuing an outbound marketing strategy is doing the same things. If you send cold emails, they will be among many that your target audience receives. To make yours stand out, your campaign absolutely must be exceptional, or extremely relevant to their needs. Phone calls and direct mail can also get lost in a sea of similar materials.
  • It can be perceived as invasive. Outbound marketing can come across as annoying, pushy, or otherwise undesirable because it relies on interruption marketing, which attempts to interrupt potential customers from their daily lives. 

The modern consumer is very conscious of what they want and don’t want. This is especially true of B2B decision-makers, among whom a single wrong step could cost you a customer. It’s critical to keep this in mind when implementing your outbound marketing strategy so that you don’t turn people off before they’ve even given your product or service a chance.

Inbound and Outbound Marketing: Better Together

Inbound and outbound marketing are simply different approaches to reaching out to prospects. The main distinction is how B2B companies typically implement each strategy. 

A thorough understanding of your buyer’s needs, and the channels that most effectively reach your target audience, is essential when deciding on the best marketing strategy.

What does a combined B2B inbound and outbound marketing strategy look like?

When combined together, both inbound and outbound marketing in B2B comprise two simple steps to a great strategy:

  1. Inbound marketing entails attracting prospects through content creation and nurturing communications, which leads to…
  2. More effective outbound tactics, such as cold calling or email marketing. 

Ultimately, it’s all about what mixture is best for your company. And that means you need some really smart chefs in the kitchen, and the line cooks who can help them execute the vision.

Your marketing efforts can always be improved regardless of the approach that you choose. Keep in mind that marketing is a way of conducting business, rather than a specific campaign or approach that you might implement. Your business can benefit from both types of marketing – with the right strategy at the helm.

Elevate Your Digital Position with Big Sea

Marketing can be tasking, and it’s always best to work with professionals with experience and advanced skills. For example, blending inbound and outbound marketing requires bold steps, and a disruptive way of looking at things.

That’s what we do at Big Sea Digital Marketing. Our team consistently enables multiple wins for our clients with our award-winning marketing strategies. If you’re looking to shake up your industry and convert more customers, contact us today to schedule a consultation.