Almost every post on this site talks about a facet of inbound marketing: Perfecting your message and website, search engine optimization, social media, and the like.
It’s not enough.
Randy’s company serves medical device manufacturers. We re-branded one of his companies, made two websites together, created new brochures and ads, and set up hooks to encourage web visitors to share their contact information. All inbound marketing.
It worked, to a degree. A few leads trickled in and we learned the professional-looking websites put Randy in the consideration set.
But we haven’t filled his pipeline. What more can we be doing?
Outbound marketing is just what it sounds like: Going out to find and engage your ideal customer instead of waiting for them to find and contact you. It’s pushing relevant messaging to known personas to address their pain points and interests so you stay top-of-mind in the decision making process. Most pre-Internet marketing was outbound in nature.
Randy doesn’t have a sales force; he has one director of business development. He uses Salesforce.com. He’s willing to invest in lead generation if it pays back but little has worked for him in the past since his is an extremely relationship-driven business. Most of this work comes from former colleagues, customers, and customers who have moved from one company to the next.
Randy needs more leads. What should he be doing?
1. Generating and Sharing Content. Mike Sperduti, the best medical device outbound marketer I know, fortuitously called me while I was writing this article. Mike posts something on LinkedIn and Facebook every single day: An inspirational quote or story, a selfie video from the airport, a photo of him speaking, an idea you can use. He gets comments and likes, sure, but he gets something far more valuable: He’s top-of-mind if one of his followers needs his service.
A corollary story: I post on the Medical Devices Group every Tuesday morning to hundreds of thousands of group members. I always try to provide value. A few weeks back (and for the first time) I wrote a post called “Consulting Opportunity” where I let my readers know I will have more time for consulting after my 10x Medical Device Conference. And I got 10 requests for meetings.
When I told Mike Sperduti this, he said, “And you have a group of 350,000 members! You got 10 leads. What is the guy with just the LinkedIn profile supposed to do? What kind of response do you think he will get?” “Nothing,” I responded. “Right! You’ve been nurturing the group for six years and it pays dividends. Faithfully writing is a lot of work but either you put in the work or you watch your business dry up. You HAVE to be writing and sharing. You HAVE to be seen as the expert.”
Extra credit when you can submit your writing to a respected online publication and link back to your site. The borrowed equity of having written in a popular journal can add to your credibility.
2. Emailing. According to a 2014 GigaOm survey, “Email marketing is the digital workhorse, deemed the most effective (relative to other digital tactics) for building awareness, acquisition, retention, and conversion. In fact, 56 percent of respondents identified email as being the most effective at retention, several points ahead of the second-most-effective tactic.”
Email is also the second most popular online activity, behind social networking. It’s relatively inexpensive, measurable, and adaptable.
Randy doesn’t email enough. He used to write a newsletter a decade ago but got discouraged from lack of response. It’s time we re-energized his email marketing efforts. Not everything has to be long-form newsletter-like content. He can send out a company update, survey, offer, or ask for a conversation.
While we’re at it, if we generate more content the way Mike suggests, email is another way to share it.
2a. Emailing again. Mike’s VP of Business Development (also a Mike) contacts prospective leads on LinkedIn every day. It’s arduous and repetitive but they landed a MAJOR account this way. Outbound marketing isn’t always glamorous or fun, but it is necessary.
3. Calling. “Randy has to be making calls,” Mike said. “Either bring someone in-house or hire someone like us to do it for them.”
Outbound calls help you identify the right people to engage and qualify. And yes, it’s a bit of a numbers game, but you can do the math up front and if the conversions aren’t happening, you can refine your approach or – worst case – abort the effort. But you’ll never get in touch with the people you’re trying to reach unless you put something out there. A call is one way and you get immediate feedback.
4. Account-Based Marketing. Account-based marketing (ABM) treats each company you target as a whole, instead of treating each individual as an independent lead to be worked on.
The best ABM analogy is the “war room.” Imagine all your intelligence about an account gathered in one room with your team discussing what to do next. You’d monitor what your prospects are doing (alerts, social media), everyone on your team would know which of your communications went out to whom, and you’d cultivate as many avenues into the account as possible.
This is where a customer relationship management (CRM) tool can come in handy. But even smaller companies with just Randy and his biz dev director can get by with a shared folder carefully documenting each interaction.
Marketers of automation software will advise you to use targeted, personalized, timed communications to engage your contacts. That’s great in theory but automation only makes sense if you have enough insight into the account and enough content to share. Don’t rush in to lease these systems without a firm plan in place.
5. Social Selling. A relatively newer concept, you can track your prospects over social media and engage them there. Comment on their posts. Incorporate what the company has put out into your communication points with them. Congratulate them on anniversaries and birthdays.
In short, stay present and aware and, when the time is right, ask for a chance to speak live to further the conversation.
6. Spending on Advertising. When you’re ready to do a webinar/virtual event or you have a special offer, get the word out beyond your followers. Pay a targeted online publication to send an email invitation to its followers. Experiment with LinkedIn and Facebook ads.
Consider and test pay-per-click advertising, content syndication, and/or display ads. Have a dedicated landing page so the visitor is getting what she expects and have the call-to-action clearly laid out. Let’s capture that lead!
7. Attending Tradeshows and Conferences. Better yet, if at all possible, speak at tradeshows and conferences to share your expertise. Find out who will be attending the show and try to set up appointments while you’re there.
8. Issuing Press Releases. Only if you have something press release-worthy to say. Which members of the press are you trying to reach? How likely are they to run with your story?
9. Direct Mailing and Print. These aren’t dead. Just be sure your message is compelling enough to have these make a difference.
Which of these outbound marketing tactics do you use? Which should you (but don’t) use?
Did I miss any?