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In the past decade or so, the success of inbound marketing has come largely at the expense of traditional outbound tactics.
Inbound marketing has long been recognized for its effectiveness in building brand awareness and generating traffic, leads, and conversions. But there’s been a lot of talk in the marketing community lately about how inbound isn’t quite as effective as it used to be.
Some of the biggest sources of inbound, organic traffic—search engines and social media sites—are sending less referral traffic to websites than ever before. Community content promotion isn’t generating as many referrals as it used to.
Even HubSpot—whose founders coined the term “inbound marketing”—recently changed its stance on ads, writing: “If you’re not using ads in your marketing mix today, you’re likely not doing everything you can to provide customers with helpful, relevant content at every stage of the buyer’s journey.”
So If you struggled last year to hit your marketing goals using inbound-only tactics, this year may be the perfect time to incorporate some outbound marketing into your overall strategy.
This guide will equip you with everything you need to establish your outbound marketing strategy. Here’s what we’ll cover:
Outbound marketing is a proactive approach to marketing where companies directly reach out to their prospects in hopes of getting them interested in their product/service.
In outbound advertising, companies dictate the narrative – they are in control of the message and how and when it is shared with their target audience.
The process usually starts with identifying a pool of prospects that aligns with a company’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Those potential customers are then contacted through different outbound marketing tactics like cold calling, direct mail, cold emailing, TV advertisements, etc.
It is later the sales/outbound team’s responsibility to nurture these leads till they end up purchasing what your company offers.
Inbound vs. outbound marketing – should companies exclusively follow one approach, or can they be blended for optimized lead generation?
In my 5+ years in marketing, I have yet to come across an organization that solely follows one approach. Yes, companies might lean more toward one strategy but they commonly integrate elements of both inbound and outbound marketing.
To be successful in both approaches, however, it is important to understand how they’re different. Let’s explore how.
Executing an outbound marketing strategy is fairly easy. While each company may follow a different method for directly reaching out to prospects, the process boils down to the following steps:
Like any other marketing approach, there are bound to be benefits and drawbacks. Whether the former takes precedence over the latter is something you decide yourself considering the nature of your company and industry.
You should give outbound marketing a go because:
However, before you start convincing your boss to allocate a budget for your outbound campaign, consider the below drawbacks:
Like most marketers and marketing managers, you want to know how well your efforts are translating into results each month. How much traffic and new contact conversions do you get? How many new contacts do you get from organic sessions? How are your email campaigns performing? How well are your landing pages converting? You might have to scramble to put all of this together in a single report, but now you can have it all at your fingertips in a single Databox dashboard.
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We didn’t want to create a generic list of outbound tactics that marketers can use to supercharge their efforts. Instead, we were on the search to find what actual companies did. This prompted us to survey 37 companies and ask them all our burning questions.
Before we explore the tactics that worked for them, it’s important to identify the primary objectives outbound marketing effectively achieved for them last year.
According to the majority of our respondents, outbound marketing was most effective in realizing the following goals:
When asked about the tactics our respondents implemented in the past year for their outbound marketing strategy, their answers varied. But there were some common ones we noted.
The most commonly used outbound marketing tactics in the past year were:
We’ll explain these tactics in detail individually later on in this section. But before that, let’s find out which outbound marketing strategies brought in the highest ROI.
When it comes to outbound marketing tactics that have delivered the greatest ROI in the previous year, our respondents chose search engine marketing and social media advertising.
But which tactics brought in the lowest ROI? We asked the same question to our surveyed companies, and their answers were cold calling and SMS.
The strategies we shared above were what worked for our respondents in the previous year. But what about the future? If there is anything consistent in marketing, that is change. Just think about ChatGPT and the disruptions it brought to the industry.
So, when we asked our respondents about how outbound marketing will evolve in the next couple of years, this is what the majority had to say:
It’s also interesting to note that about 40% of the respondents believe that the blending of inbound and outbound marketing strategies will increase in the next two years.
With the above predictions in mind and the history of effective outbound strategies, we asked our respondents about the tactics they will invest in in 2024. Here’s what the majority had to say:
Let’s dive deeper into the outbound marketing strategies that proved to be effective for our survey respondents.
Search engine marketing or pay-per-click advertising relies on creating ads and bidding on relevant keywords to push the company’s message along. Since most people turn to search engines to look for answers, they may be more receptive to messages targeted to them.
For Jonathan Aufray from Growth Hackers, PPC has been the most successful outbound marketing strategy. Aufray says, “PPC advertising has proven to be the most effective channel for lead generation and customer acquisition. The way to do it effectively is by bidding on long-tail transactional keywords and driving traffic to high-converting landing pages.”
It’s important to note that not every ad campaign will work. You’re bidding for keywords after all and that campaign will be rewarded which the search engine considers most valuable. Garrett Yamasaki from We Love Doodles shares the strategy that works for their company.
“We use data-driven insights to create targeted ad campaigns. We craft ads that resonate with specific segments by analyzing our audience’s demographics, interests, and online behaviors. This precision targeting ensures that our content reaches those most likely to engage with it. Our ads are not just promotional but are designed to be engaging and valuable.”
Yamasaki continues, “Also, we continuously monitor the performance of our ads using analytics tools. Metrics such as click-through rates, engagement levels, and conversion rates are tracked meticulously. This data allows us to refine and optimize our campaigns in real-time, ensuring better performance and ROI.”
This form of outbound marketing uses social media networks, like Facebook, Instagram, and X, to advertise to prospects proactively. These networks have billions of active users and with advanced targeting capabilities offered, it becomes easier to reach out to specific segments.
It’s no mystery why most of our respondents credited social media advertising as a high ROI channel for their outbound efforts.
Natasha Rai from Explainerd shares the potency of this tactic, “The most effective outbound tactic has been social media advertising on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Our visually captivating content has yielded above-average engagement and click-through rates, translating into a positive return on investment. The interactive features facilitate direct inquiries, leading to an increase in qualified leads and successful project conversions. We plan to continue refining content and experimenting with ad formats to sustain this positive trend.”
Facebook advertising was another favorite tactic for Tim Connon from ParamountQuote.
Connon shares, “The most effective marketing tactic for us was Facebook advertising to generate leads. We are now using AI to build us emotionally engaging ads for our ad copy in Facebook feeds. This brought our average cost per lead down by 5% already after implementing it. We are estimating another 5% drop in total ad spend for our leads with a few new tweaks to our campaigns.”
The effectiveness of this channel only means that more and more companies will be leveraging it for outbound lead generation. Whether your company is B2B or B2C, there is the right audience for you on social networks.
No wonder why Alex Cascio from Vibrant Media Productions will be investing heavily in it.
Cascio says, “We will be investing in a number of different outbound tactics, similar to this year. But our main focus would definitely be social media advertising and search engine marketing. The detailed analytics and insights provided by social media platforms empower us to track and measure the performance of our campaigns, facilitating data-driven decision-making and continuous optimization.”
Despite the negative reputation cold emailing has, it is still one effective outbound marketing tactic.
If done correctly, a well-crafted cold email appears helpful, authoritative, and non-intrusive. The main benefit is realized when you blend it with account-based marketing to send highly personalized emails. The latter witnesses higher open and click-through rates and consequently, more conversions.
Karan Tiwari from Wiretroop reinforces this, “One of the strategies I plan to focus on is targeted email marketing campaigns. With a plethora of witty, engaging content and irresistible offers up my sleeve, I aim to captivate potential customers and drive them towards action. By strategically segmenting my audience and crafting personalized messages, I hope to cut through the clutter and make a lasting impression that translates into meaningful conversions.”
If you want your outbound email marketing campaign to be a success, don’t just buy (or rent) mailing lists and spam them with countless emails one after the other. Follow the approach that Riley Timmins from Cacheflow does.
“We join Slack communities that our ICP belongs to and set up keyword triggers when certain companies, features, or pain points we solve for our mentioned. Then a sales rep screenshots it for an email and tries to be as helpful as possible based on what they were asking for help on. Naturally, a lot of those people visit our website and book demos. The volume is low, but the conversion rate to demos is about 15%.”
In this outbound marketing approach, companies work with individuals or other companies (affiliates as they’re called) to promote their products/services. In return, the affiliates get a percentage of the revenue, aka commission.
Usually, these affiliates are influential people and have vast networks. So, partnering with them helps to give your brand more exposure.
Mathias Ahlgren from Website Rating shares the effectiveness of this channel, “Social media marketing and affiliate marketing have been neck and neck for being the most effective for our business. Both have decent ROI, with affiliate marketing being a little higher, but seeing the potential that social media marketing can hold when leveraging personalized marketing through AI, it’s definitely something I foresee us using more in the future.”
One way to break through the noise is by creating engaging video ads promoting your product or service. These video ads can take the form of Shorts on YouTube or banner ads on different websites.
The key here is creating informative yet persuasive video ads. Long, educational ads will just bore your prospects while highly persuasive ones will appear uncomfortable to watch. A blended approach would work best here.
Apart from this, keeping industry best practices in mind will help you gain a decent conversion rate. For instance, if you’re a B2B company, you’re better off creating video ads for LinkedIn as opposed to Instagram. And since it’s B2B, you need to highlight your product’s use cases as well as social proof.
One thing outbound campaigns do really well is get your brand across to future customers. However, they might need more convincing for a purchase to happen. This is where a retargeting campaign works like a miracle.
These ads are shown to people who have previously interacted with your website or campaign but didn’t perform the desired action. Remarketing campaigns are designed to re-engage prospects and nurture them by displaying more valuable information.
However, don’t overdo this. You wouldn’t want your prospects to feel like they are being spied on.
When I worked on my first outbound campaign, I was required to find ideal customers through LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator and connect with them either via InMail or by sending a LinkedIn connection request.
One would think this would appear spammy, but mind you, it works like a charm (provided you’re connecting to the right people).
There are two approaches here; either you use a feature like LinkedIn’s message ads or connect with prospects and slowly nurture them over time. No matter the approach you choose, follow the below best practices:
Influencer marketing works in similar ways to affiliate marketing. The difference is you actively choose content creators who have a sizable following and influence over their networks.
Since these influencers have such a prominent impact on their audience, any messages delivered through them will inherently possess credibility.
Brendan Brown from The Expert Editor reinforces the importance of influencer marketing as a form of outbound marketing.
“Influencers, especially those in the editing, writing, and publishing spheres, can effectively communicate the value of our services to a relevant audience. We plan to invest in influencer marketing because of its potent ability to reach targeted audiences in a more authentic and engaging manner. Our aim is to build brand credibility and trust, which is crucial in the editing and proofreading industry.”
The same approach works when sponsoring ads on popular influencers’ shows or podcasts. Brad Russell from Digital Hitmen speaks more about this:
“I’m excited to invest in podcast sponsorships as a calculated outbound tactic for the next year. This decision was made owing to the close relationship podcasts foster with their listeners. We use the host’s authority and connect with a very specific audience by matching our brand with shows that are relevant to the audience.”
Russell continues, “Due to the audience’s perception of our message within the context of information they value, there is an expectation of increased authenticity and trust. This method is unique since it uses an immersive and non-intrusive medium that lets us blend in with the listener’s experience without being noticeable. This makes the podcast community feel like a partner, which increases brand connection and loyalty.”
When people usually hear about outbound marketing, their first thought goes towards cold calling. The latter includes initiating phone conversations with prospects in which a company’s product/service is being promoted.
As you may think, cold calling can appear annoying and intrusive and may put a bad taste in your prospect’s mouth. It is because of this disadvantage that many of our respondents consider it to be a low-ROI generating tactic.
Andre Oentoro from Breadnbeyond says, “Traditional cold calling has proven to be the least effective outbound tactic. Despite personalized efforts, low response and conversion rates prompted a shift towards more digital strategies like content marketing and social media advertising, which have shown better results and align with evolving customer preferences.”
Abhi Bavishi from AutoDeus Technologies adds to this, “The least effective tactic? Cold calling. It didn’t work. People dislike unsolicited phone calls. They find it intrusive. Makes sense. No one likes interruptions. We made honest efforts. Trained callers. Respected time zones. Kept conversations brief. Nevertheless, the annoyance factor prevailed. Warm referrals worked way better. Our cold calling conversion rate? Less than 2%.”
However, cold calling is a practice still followed religiously by B2B companies, especially enterprise ones. It’s worth taking a shot and experimenting with!
Display advertising is the practice of placing ads (text, video, or both) on websites, apps, games, and whatnot.
They can usually be found around the margins of a page and don’t occupy its central part. This makes these ads less intrusive. However, it also increases the chance that your potential customers may not pay attention to them.
Hence, you must create highly engaging ads that capture the attention of your leads. Make sure to combine them with remarketing to ensure a higher conversion rate.
Texting your prospects about your brand’s offering is a seasoned tactic. Countless brands have adopted this strategy and it has worked for many. However, that’s not the case for Kyle Leman from Cross Roads Foundation Repair.
Leman says, “SMS has been the least effective tool we’ve had. I don’t think our numbers would go down if we discontinued our plan, but it’s cheap and easy to maintain and it can’t hurt with brand awareness.”
SMS or MMS marketing works best when combined with geomarketing. The latter uses location-based technology to send targeted messages to people based on their location.
Say, you have a restaurant in Austin. Whenever someone enters the vicinity, you could drop them a message promoting your restaurant and the food you offer.
As one can expect, this leads to high conversion rates, considering the level of personalization involved.
Perhaps the most expensive tactic on our list is traditional advertising. It can take the form of TV and radio ads, events and conferences, outdoor billboards, and direct mail, among others.
To truly justify the cost, you need to do a thorough analysis of how effective the reach of the channel will be. A TV ad might expose your brand to countless people, but how many of them will be interested in your product is a question to ponder over.
One traditional advertising tactic that has been getting a lot of traction recently, especially since Covid has taken a step back, is trade events and conferences. Melanie Diehl from Melanie & co Marketing Collective shares more about this.
“Speaking opportunities to other organization’s audiences has far and away outperformed all other outbound marketing tactics. We’ve attracted qualified leads, grown our email list, acquired dozens of positive reviews, and gained new clients.”
One thing is for certain – if your outbound campaign is successful, you can rake in countless benefits. But what do these successful campaigns look like?
Fortunately, we’ll be sharing a few effective examples of outbound marketing campaigns from the companies below:
We are all fans of Spotify’s personalized campaigns (Spotify Wrapped, I’m looking at you). The music streaming company blended this personalization with its quirky brand style and created an attractive billboard.
It not only captures the brand style but conveys what the product is about and entices FOMO in the person viewing the ad.
The project management tool, Jira from Atlassian, relied on social proof to capture the attention of its prospects. If someone from a company like Canva which has a sizable workforce says Jira makes collaboration easier, there might be some truth to it.
Since this is a LinkedIn ad, Atlassian has made the image the focal point and rounded the ad nicely by giving a clear call-to-action prompting the viewer to sign up.
Banner ads are another type of outbound marketing that has been effective for many years now. One company that does a great job at them is IC Markets Global.
Their banner ad features a striking color palette that is consistent with their branding. Since it’s a video banner, it instantly captures the attention of the website visitor. Packed with all the essentials (social proof, a call to action button, and an eye-catching headline), this ad ticks all the right boxes.
If you work in marketing, I can bet my money you get several outbound emails. This is because they are effective at capturing interest and showing what your brand has to offer. But also, more importantly, it is cheaper and easier to send.
High Seas is an example of a company that excels in outbound email marketing. Even though this is a plain-text email, the copy is concise, doesn’t beat around the bush, and gets to business straight away.
The call to action is also not intimidating – all the sender is requesting is a call, not a purchase.
Let’s be honest: you can’t expect to be successful at outbound marketing without the right tool stack. More often than not, you need more than one tool to run your campaigns smoothly.
When we asked our respondents about which tools are crucial for their outbound marketing efforts, here’s what they had to say:
If you’re just starting out with outbound marketing, your best bet is to sign up for tools that offer freemium plans. This way you can test if the product’s functionality is consistent with your requirements and then you can upgrade your plan if needed.
No matter the tactic you follow as part of your outbound marketing strategy, you need to consistently monitor its effectiveness. This involves constantly monitoring important KPIs to identify improvement areas and then following through on them.
One thing we’ve learned from the companies we surveyed is that you need to employ more than one tactic to witness the conversion rate you’re after. If you decide to follow in their footsteps, you must also think of a mechanism to track these different KPIs spread over multiple data sources.
I’ll save you from that headache – use Databox to track the performance of your outbound marketing campaigns.
Connect to more than 100+ data sources, including Google Ads, Instagram Business, and Facebook ads, and monitor key metrics in real-time displayed on visual dashboards.
You don’t even have to create these dashboards yourself (unless you want to). Choose from 200+ predesigned templates and customize them using the drag-and-drop editor.
My favorite feature? The AI-powered summaries feature, hands down. It summarizes the performance of your campaign and shares ideas for improvements.
Like what you read? Why not create a free account to test my above claims? Sign up for a free Databox account today.
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