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For b-to-b leads, don't forget outbound marketing

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Although there's a lot of talk in the industry about inbound marketing being the most effective strategy for staying relevant and delivering the best leads, a stand-alone inbound strategy is not sustainable because the numbers just aren't there. At the end of the day, leads are all about numbers. Don't get me wrong; it's important to be found and have relevant two-way communications with your prospects and customers. But inbound marketing simply does not create enough volume. We need X amount of leads to convert to new sales, and our inbound leads are likely making up only a small percentage of that number. There are two key areas where the most innovation will occur using outbound marketing for lead generation: predictive analytics and integration with inbound marketing. Predictive analytics will play a critical role in identifying the prospects most likely to respond to your offer, then convert into high-quality leads. If you have millions of contacts in your database, the challenge is to effectively engage with prospects not actively looking for your product. With all the behavioral data that can be tracked and collected through digital means (social, search, clicks, etc.), there is no reason for potential buyers to think you don't know anything about them. On the other hand, it does not take long for a potential buyer to shut the privacy door on your company. Buyers have evolved, and marketers must be more analytical in their thinking. Here's one approach: Take the behavioral data collected on customers who are actively engaging with your company, turn those data points into predictive scores and apply them to the segment of prospects not active with your company. Why? Because predictive analytics enables a targeted approach to selecting prospects out of the database who have a similar behavioral profile to your active customers—which increases the likelihood of converting them into sales leads. How about integrating outbound and inbound strategies? By integrating the two, marketers can find new leads and further qualify prospects who have found them through search. For instance, if you are building awareness about a new feature of a product, make sure to integrate any outbound messages into your concurrent and relevant lead-nurturing campaigns. By doing so, you'll find it's a quick way to create up-sell opportunities with existing leads. Conversely, when prospects find your company and express interest in certain products, marketers must eliminate the risk of losing leads by not going off-topic with outbound messages. For example, if a prospect is in an active nurturing campaign for product A, but still qualifies to receive outbound offers for other products, your marketing systems must ensure that the prospect gets offers that are relevant and timely for all pertinent products under consideration. Social media is another important channel through which to send targeted outbound communications and to fish for high-quality leads. If you are listening to your prospects in social media channels and delivering intelligent content to these communities, make sure to drive the responses back to a preference center. This is where you can convert the masses in your social media channels to individual leads. Information that prospects give you about their roles, their business needs and where they are in the purchasing decision can trigger relevant outbound communications. These communications can drive your prospects to lead-nurturing campaigns or to relevant product pages that have experienced great success with converting leads via proactive chat. Outbound marketing has become a lost art, but it will re-emerge as a data-driven science, relying on deep analytics and tight integration with inbound strategies. A balanced approach, with outbound and inbound marketing working together, will deliver the best leads for your organization and help you win the numbers game. Matt Fulk is senior manager-database marketing with integrated data marketing company SAS (www.sas.com). He can be reached at matthew.fulk@sas.com.
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