You’re probably used to hearing how quickly things change in the world of technology. Things that were the latest and greatest a few years ago now seem obsolete. But, amidst the big developments of all of the technology we use today for digital marketing, there has been a slower, more deliberate shift in how we market ourselves online.Google was founded in 1998, and by the mid-2000s, SEO was becoming a part of the Internet lexicon. Companies like Newfangled were talking about the importance of inbound marketing – creating valuable content that would attract visitors to your website through organic means, such as search and referrals. The decade that followed saw many companies begin utilizing and preaching the ways of inbound marketing and how outbound marketing was dead.
Today, inbound marketing is still a very important part of what we do, and what we are teaching our clients. We offer consulting services to help agencies plan out their content strategy in a manner that will ensure they are producing a high volume of high quality expertise-based content that is targeted to their audience. All of the other consulting services we offer are founded on a strong inbound marketing strategy.
However, with the rise of marketing automation, we’ve seen a shift from solely inbound marketing to a marketing program that uses both inbound and strategic digital outbound communication.
Marketing automation tools, such as Act-On Software, Marketo, or Pardot, allow companies to strategically push their message out to potential consumers in a way that is less intrusive and more targeted.
Let’s look at a common example.
Often, agencies come to us with a list of prospects, leads, and clients that is only a few hundred names long. Through inbound tactics alone, it would take years for them to organically grow that list to our recommended size of at least 3,000. A list of 3,000 names is our benchmark because it will allow you to drive a critical mass of people to your website through you’re email marketing if you’re seeing typical email open rates of around 20% and clickthrough rates of 3-5%. Thus, we often encourage our clients to purchase a targeted list of potential prospects within their primary audience (assuming they are already well-positioned). They can then begin emailing this new list, pushing them to specific, relevant content on their website that speaks to their needs. Then, based on how each of the prospects on the list behaves (i.e., did they click through the emails, were they looking at other specific service pages, etc.), they will receive different targeted messages that guide them to take the next step, guiding them to a premium, gated piece of content such as a webinar or white paper, nurturing them through the buying cycle until they’re ready to make a purchasing decision.
This is an outbound communication plan, in that agencies are pushing content out to prospects who did not find them organically, but it is all built on their solid inbound strategies. Without this foundation of a strong content strategy that is the cornerstone of their inbound marketing, this type of strategic outbound marketing is not possible.
Another way this has shaped how we approach our marketing is through lead scoring. In this example, we still rely on our content strategy and inbound marketing for prospects to find us and begin engaging with the content on our site. However, as they are doing this, we can track and monitor their engagement, assigning points for various actions, such as visiting key pages, attending a webinar, or clicking through several emails. We pair the points they earn from their actions with points we assign based on demographics – things like job title, location, company size, and industry – that help us determine if they are a good fit for us.
Once a prospect reaches a certain score threshold, we receive an email alert with a link to view that prospect’s activity and profile. At that moment, we can decide to reach out to the prospect via email or a phone call. But it’s far from cold-calling. This is a very warm lead. They’ve not yet raised their hand, but their profile and behaviors are telling us they would be a good opportunity, so we then transition from our inbound strategy to a more strategic outbound approach where we are reaching out to them in a very targeted manner.
The agencies that are succeeding with their digital marketing efforts are moving into a space where they are taking advantage of both inbound and outbound. They aren’t just creating content and waiting on their prospects to come to them, they are building targeted email campaigns and utilizing lead scoring to reach out to their prospects in a way that doesn’t seem “sales-y” but can complement their inbound marketing efforts and help move prospects through the buy cycle more quickly.
As always, if you feel your agency could use help building the right mix of inbound and outbound marketing, finding the right tools, and creating the right habits, please let us know, and we’d be happy to help.