Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What if We Combine Inbound & Outbound Marketing Tactics?

It's a legitimate question.  But when it was posed recently at a gathering of Social Media purists I felt immediately transported into a scene from Ghostbusters II.  You know, the one in the mayor's office ...

Venkman:  ... a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor:  What do you mean, “biblical”?
Ray:  What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff. 
Venkman:  Exactly.
Ray:  Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.
Egon:  Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes… 
Winston:  The dead rising from the grave.
Venkman:  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

"Dogs and cats living together -- mass hysteria."  There you have it.

Gimme a break. The reality is that over 75% of businesses have found that a cross-channel strategy is the way to go.  Why?  Because different outreach methods are appropriate for different audiences at different stages of The Funnel.

Inbound tactics (content, social, PR, SEO/SEM, AdWords, et al.) are ideal for use at the top of the funnel where Awareness and Interest are generated.
- It's far less expensive than cold calling and list rental.
- The interactive nature of the tools helps develop a relationship with the suspect/prospect.
- Inbound tactics allows more opportunity for sharing info between and among suspects/prospects, increasing probability of referral.
- But, before you drink all the Social Kool-Aid, remember that Advertising can be a highly effective weapon in ultra-competitive markets where the sheer number of impressions can put your brand over the top.
-And just one more anomaly:  Once upon a time e-mails were opened 10X more reliably than USPS mail.  But, recent studies of B2B direct mail vs. e-mail performance show the two approaches neck n' neck in their open rates.

This most excellent funnel diagram was created by Kickstart Alliance (www.kickstartall.com).  Kickstart helps companies "Align Marketing and Sales for Results."  We think it's a great reference piece -- hope you do too!
In the Nurturing Phase of the funnel, where Interest hopefully evolves into Preference, many inbound tactics remain effective. Strong, well-built Content Strategy is key here -- whitepapers, case studies, e-books, blog posts, and e-newsletters communicating personalized, high-relevance info and ideas are ideal. And direct contact also becomes necessary -- i.e., Outbound.

As the Nurture Phase progresses tools like mailed/e-mailed content, demos, events, and phone conversations enter the cross-channel mix, and they do so for a reason.  The relationship has to shift from one with a company or product, to one with a person in order to make the hand-off smoothly to Sales.

Inbound tactics are terrific at the top of the funnel, but once you establish a relationship with your future customer (i.e., when they evolve from visitor to lead), a cross-channel mix of outbound and inbound marketing tactics yields the greatest return, leading to higher quality Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).

So here we are -- dogs and cats living together -- without mass hysteria.

Of course you'll have a tough time convincing anyone of this unless you've deployed the right analytics, but that's a posting for another time ...

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