The Inbound/Outbound Sweet Spot

From Hubspot’s new Ads feature to the general mania over ABM, new Outbound-oriented techniques seem to be popping up again and again on the marketing horizon. In a time when Inbound is enjoying immense success, this persevering interest in Outbound begs the question – Do Inbound and Outbound enjoy a necessary symbiotic relationship?


Inbound: Outbound’s More Well-Mannered Cousin?

The Inbound Marketing reference Hubspot coined the term ‘Inbound’ in 2006 to mean, “a methodology that focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product.”  Marketo, a similar Inbound giant, makes a further distinction:  “Inbound marketing refers to unpaid marketing tactics that build trust and preference with potential customers before they are in the buying process…Outbound marketing, on the other hand, includes any paid marketing tactics—both online and offline—that directly function to acquire new customers.”

Hubspot, distinguishes Inbound from Outbound tactics during their Inbound Event Keynote.

Hubspot distinguishes Inbound from Outbound tactics during their Inbound Event Keynote.

Generally speaking, Inbound is understood to be less intrusive than traditional, often disruptive marketing techniques like banner ads or direct mail. Prospects use Inbound content to educate themselves, resolve problems and eventually learn about a specific offer. In a marketing landscape where the customer has more control than ever in the buying process, it has become crucial to engage and educate prospects early on with content designed first to create value, and then to create customers.


So Why Not Just Stick with Inbound?

It might seem tempting, then, to invest 100% of one’s marketing budget in a robust Inbound team.  But is this truly a viable tactic?  Even Hubspot had a few words to spare on paid advertising during their 2015 Inbound Keynote. Dharmesh Shah, the King of Content himself, confessed that there are some kinds of high-value Outbound that can be considered “Inboundy” – those that either “amplify” good content, or those that address an expressed need on the part of the consumer.

More importantly, they even admitted that, “53 percent of Hubspot customers use paid advertising.” This crucial insight prompted their introduction of a new feature dedicated to managing Outbound paid advertising campaigns: the cleverly named Ads Add-on.  Designed specifically for paid channels like LinkedIn, the interface allows Hubspot customers to promote value-creating content (note: not intrusive), as well as manage their paid advertising campaigns to quickly measure ROI. An exciting addition to Hubspot’s already killer platform.

A snapshot of the Ads Add-on from Hubspot, shown during the Inbound Keynote.  Key stats like CTR, MQL conversions and final paid campaign ROI based on client acquisitions are easily accessible.

A snapshot of the Ads Add-on from Hubspot, shown during the Inbound Keynote.  Key stats like CTR, MQL conversions and final paid campaign ROI based on client acquisitions are easily accessible.


The Yin and the Yang of Prospecting

So why is Hubspot giving a nod to the ubiquity and necessity of Outbound?  Even when content has become a pivotal prospecting strategy, it has commonly-accepted limits.  Firstly, top-notch content means a significant investment in resources. Though associated ROI has been demonstrated again and again, results are not immediate – generally speaking, it takes 6 months of content creation in a B2B setting to create a consistent flow of inbound leads. A deeper issue resides in the very nature of Inbound:  marketers may not always end up attracting the kinds of profiles that they would like with the content they create, potentially straining relations with the Sales Reps qualifying incoming leads. Lastly, its predictability is notoriously fickle.  With Sales Reps eager to meet their quotas, depending entirely on the whims of interested readers can produce uncertain results.

Published Sept. 1, 2015
In the face of these natural limits, traditional Outbound techniques often step in to make sure the pipeline stays full and healthy.  For example, paid advertising can more accurately target desired profiles, often delivering great results:  a study earlier this month by Moz and Fractl found that 93.2% of their entire survey sample used online search to find information about a company or product within the last week. Perhaps surprisingly, respondents also rated direct mail as the most effective way to attract their business – followed closely by free content.

Lastly, when done right, Outbound Sales Reps can produce excellent results with predictive lead generation tools that identify mature prospects much more likely to be receptive to the marketing message.  Smart and non intrusive ways of engaging these prospects likewise lead to higher conversion and a more pleasant Outbound experience. All in all, in B2B settings, Inbound generally accounts for 30% of opportunities, while a combination of traditional Outbound techniques provides the latest 70%.


The Takeaway

Inbound is an effective and often necessary technique that nevertheless functions best when coupled with well-chosen Outbound tactics. Hubspot’s recent introduction of its Ads Add on stands as proof of the importance of paid advertising even among a community invested in Inbound Marketing.  When done in a respectful and intelligent way, Outbound techniques can address the intrinsic limits of Inbound, like inconsistency and lead-quality, to maintain a healthy pipeline.