There’s an old argument of which is better, inbound marketing or outbound marketing, and a lot of articles out there that advocate substituting one for the other. But what if by trying to decide which is better, it’s shifted focus in the wrong direction. If the end goal is to build a strategy that brings in qualified leads, shouldn’t you be asking how both inbound and outbound leads work together to support your overall lead gen strategy?
For those arguing in favor of generating inbound leads alone, how do you compensate for how long it sometimes takes to draw in the leads you need? And for those in favor of outbound leads alone, how can you avoid missing out on the opportunity to have prospects with genuine interest willingly approach you? The answer may be to build a strategy that generates both inbound and outbound leads.
Before we go into how these two lead types can work together, it’s important to know the difference between the two.
A lead produced when a prospect takes some form of action indicating a desire to interact with you.
A lead who has shown some interest but has not expressed a desire to talk to you.
Start by Generating Inbound Leads
Getting the best out of both inbound and outbound leads depends on knowing where to position both. Begin your strategy by focusing on generating inbound leads. This way, you get to work with interested prospects from the get-go.
Keep in mind that generating inbound leads depends on whether or not a prospect initiates a conversation with you, your strategy has to be attractive enough to draw these prospects to you. So what are some things you can do to increase your chances of attracting the right prospects?
Step 1: Have a targeted audience.
It’s difficult to generate any type of lead if you’re not targeting the right audience. To avoid reaching the wrong people, define who you want to reach, gather a list of prospects that fit your definition of an ideal prospect, and target those prospects alone. This way, you avoid casting too wide a net and catching the attention of people who aren’t right for what you offer.
Step 2: Understand where your inbound leads come from.
Understanding how you were able to generate your inbound leads allows you to use the same methods to produce more. Take a close look at the inbound leads you generate to learn what a prospect did to become an inbound lead. Did that inbound lead come through form conversions, a phone call, or was it someone who visited your store? What platforms are these leads coming from?
Taking it a step further, what websites are people who visit your website coming from? A look at source URL can reveal the URL that sent a user to your website. Gathering all this information directs you to exact points in your strategy where you need to focus your efforts.
Step 3: Be a search engine master.
With Google being the most used search engine in the world, it shouldn’t surprise you to know this is where your prospects go to learn more about you. This could be a prospect who heard about you from friend, saw your ad, or even read some of your content. So what can you do to turn the prospect who looks you up on Google search into an inbound lead?
Using paid search allows you to appear on top positions on the Google results page. But don’t take this to mean you’re completely powerless when it comes to a prospect finding you through organic search. One thing you can do is use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to improve your website to make it easier to find. It’s important to understand what people are looking for when they end up on your site. These prospects are not always searching for you by name. So what are they typing into the search bar? Use analytics to understand the search process for prospects to increase your chances of being found through Google search.
Step 4: Have multiple conversion points.
Having your entire strategy riding on the hope that all prospects will convert on the one form hidden deep in your website isn’t the wisest way to generate leads. You can’t predict when or how an individual prospect will want to convert. Providing multiple points of conversion allows you to cater to the different prospects you attract. You also need to consider the different devices and platforms leads will use. This makes it important to incorporate different types of conversion points, e.g. forms, call buttons, SMS services, etc.
For example, Randall-Reilly’s Smart Rhino Labs, which specializes in recruitment marketing, built a strategy to cater to their prospects who primarily interact through mobile. So Smart Rhino Labs uses SMS services as a precursor to a call. The leads who receive the SMS receive an automated call which gives the lead the option to speak to a live agent.
Step 5: Use crystal clear call-to-actions.
Not making it clear what action a prospect needs to take can turn an interested prospect into an uninterested one in an instant. So your calls-to-action not only need to be clear but must stand out visually so they won’t be overlooked. It’s important to make your call-to-action easy to spot on the page and make its messaging clear and concise. Ask yourself, what action do you want a prospect to take and what on the page inspires them to take that action?
Where Outbound Leads Come In
Understand that even with a powerful inbound lead gen strategy in place, some prospects might not reach out. You’re giving prospects the power to initiate the sales conversation. So you have no control over when or even if they decide to start that conversation. One important thing to know is that just because a prospect didn’t contact you, doesn’t mean the conversation has to end there.
Step 1: Cultivate interest.
The good thing about the prospects yet to reach out to you is that there’s evidence of their interest in you. So you’re not starting from square one with them. What pages did they visit on your website? What content of yours have they consumed? What ads did they click on? With such information, you can begin nurturing these prospects. Target these prospects with offers or content related to what they’ve shown interest in. Platforms like emails and Facebook’s News Feed come in handy here.
Step 2: Reach out.
Once a prospect has shown a certain level of interest but still won’t reach out, you can continue the conversation by turning them into outbound leads. For example, here at Randall-Reilly, after a prospect has had high levels of interaction with our campaigns (e.g. clicked through our site and read through all the content associated with a certain campaign), we send this list of prospects over to our business development team who calls these prospects to convert them into inbound leads. The key is to avoid having the call come completely out of the blue. So these are prospects who know us through their interaction with our campaigns.
The old argument of which is better, inbound or outbound leads, will probably continue to rage on. But you’ll never get the best out of either until you shift focus. Instead of pitting inbound and outbound leads against each other, find out how the two can work together to create a strong lead generation strategy that gets you the leads you need.