There has been a strong surge behind the idea of inbound marketing, the concept of pulling leads and revenue to your business rather than pushing your business, in the past several years. While we are huge fans of inbound marketing strategies and the results that they achieve for our business and our clients’ businesses, we haven’t forgotten about good old fashioned outbound marketing strategies like distributing printed marketing collateral and attending networking events. Outbound marketing tactics sometimes receive a negative connotation for being out of touch with changing buyer behavior and patterns of information consumption. While this may be true for some outbound B2B marketing tactics, it is certainly not the case for all. In fact, the marketing plans we create for our clients usually feature a combination of both inbound and outbound marketing tactics. With this said, there are certainly outbound strategies that are much more effective and conducive than others when it comes to B2B marketing. Let’s take a look at what’s in and what’s out!
Networking events and opportunities: While it can be difficult to get individuals in the B2B arena, especially in professional services, to commit time to networking and business development, the value of networking opportunities should not be underestimated. This is a direct opportunity to demonstrate what your company is about and to make valuable connections for potential partnerships and new business opportunities. The key to successful networking is to join a group where you are likely to find and develop quality leads. Local chambers and community groups may work for some, though many B2B companies may require more specialized groups and prospects.
LinkedIn Introductions from trusted sources: LinkedIn is the number one professional networking site in the world and can provide some of the same benefits that may come from in person networking like access to new opportunities and prospects. It can also open doors to building strategic partnerships and alliances. Just like in person networking, you can use LinkedIn to get introduced to new people through a trusted mutual contact. LinkedIn has the added benefit of being quick and easy to use and allows you to overcome geographic barriers.
LinkedIn Inmail: In addition to using LinkedIn to gain connections and expand your professional network, you can also use it as another means to reach out to potential business partners and clients. Sending a message through LinkedIn Inmail offers a more personal experience than cold calling or sending an email out of the blue. People are usually more likely to open and read an Inmail message from someone they don’t know, compared to an email from someone they don’t know. Plus, the recipient of your message can check out your profile to learn more about you before accepting the message. Overall, it is a great way to reach out to new people.
Printed newsletters: These are becoming rare in the digital age, but it can be so nice to read something that is printed out in a beautiful format. Because printed newsletters are becoming less and less common, this gives you an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your professionalism. Plus, clients and prospects tend to appreciate something they can hold in their hands, as long as the information is appealing and adds value.
Branded marketing collateral: Like printed newsletters, branded marketing collateral may feel a little bit old school, but these items can still be effective. Now I’m not talking about silly key chains or felt tipped pens. However, a piece of collateral that (like the newsletters) makes an impressive statement about your company, is appealing and provides added value to its recipients can be incredibly effective. My favorite example of a successful and modern approach to marketing collateral is flash drives. You can have them branded with your company logo or can even get them in a shape that is reflective of your brand. Not only this, but you can load them up with interesting content, articles and slide shows that your prospects will appreciate.
Web site pop-ups: Just the word “pop-ups” can make some of us feel a little irritated. There’s nothing worse than when you get to a website, ready to look for the info you came for, only to be stifled by a slowly loading pop-up on your screen. Ugh! Whether the pop-up asks visitors to take surveys or enter information for mailings or databases, these are just a no-no. Your website should be about facilitating the customer/client experience and helping them fulfill a business need. Remember, it’s about their need, not yours.
E-newsletters that are not opt-in (Spam): Like pop-ups, spam is a dirty word. Nobody likes a spammer. Regardless of whether your intentions are good or slightly questionable, you should always get permission to send your email newsletters or other email marketing communications. Not only does sending spam show a lack of courtesy for your clients and prospects, but it can also get you placed on “blacklists” for certain email servers, thus inhibiting future campaigns.
Forced opt-in: Have you ever gone to a Web site where in order to access specific information or obtain a major benefit from the company, you were forced to opt in to their email list or some other marketing campaign? This gives potential clients and customers a negative image of your company and it is also ineffective. When people are forced to subscribe to something that they don’t want, they will quickly unsubscribe and the end result of the whole deal is that you have only made a bad impression. Steer clear!
Cold Calls: As someone who has made cold calls in my previous jobs, I can assure you that they are not fun to make. I think we can also safely assume that they are not fun to receive either. It has been my general experience that both parties involved usually can’t wait to get off the phone and escape the awkwardness. Not only this, but it seems rare these days to actually get someone who picks up, especially if you’re looking for high level decision makers. I say skip the cold calling and put that time towards nurturing some of the warmer leads you may have generated using the approved tactics above!
TV and radio ads: These traditional types of advertising are often what come to mind when companies think they are going to ramp up their marketing, and while these can be incredibly effective mediums for big B2C brands like your favorite cereal or beauty product, television and radio ads are not likely to make the same impact on your target market as a B2B company. Additionally TV and radio advertising is incredibly expensive as we all know. The bottom line? The low ROI on this type of advertising for b2b companies combined with the prohibitive cost makes this a “don’t” for smaller and mid-size professional firms.
What do you think is in an “out” for outbound b2b marketing? We would love to hear if you have other items to add to our lists!