Are You "All In" With Inbound Marketing? Hold On A Minute...

There may have been a rush to judgment when marketers began putting all their chips into inbound marketing practices. You see, like poker players, digital marketers are convinced that inbound channeling is the best hand and they're willing to commit large caches of money towards inbound-only channels – without knowing if what their competitors are doing is better. Many marketers are betting on a singular, expensive strategy of creating digital content that puts the buyer in charge of where, when, and how long they will engage with your brand before purchasing.

It may be risky to elevate inbound to a primary position in your marketing arsenal. Why? Because metrics support that outbound is still viable and necessary. Take these figures posted by a leader in the marketing space, Dan McDade.

Inbound vs. Outbound Results

(2010 – 2013 based on approximately 60,000 dispositions per year)

  2010 2011 2012 2013 (YTD)
Overall Qualified Rate 26.5 26.9 28.5 28.6
Inbound 27.7 25.2 25.4 29.7
Outbound 25.7 27.3 28.9 28.4
Overall Lead Rate 6.3 4.3 4.8 5.9
Inbound 8.4 4.2 4.9 6.3
Outbound 5.0 4.4 4.8 5.8

What you see here are relatively similar success rates (with the exception of 2010). Although it makes sense to invest in some inbound strategies, those that go all in with inbound are paying more for those activities. It takes longer to cultivate leads to the point where they've been qualified as a prospect. Qualification through outbound contact is typically achieved quicker because the nature of the instant exchanges between sales reps and leads.

As McCade points out in his post, a large software company experienced a dramatic rise in cost-per-qualified-lead through inbound activities. The company's CPQL from inbound was nearly $2,700 compared to nearly $1,400 from outbound channels.

While inbound marketing should be a part of every marketer's arsenal, outbound has "resurfaced" as an effective tactic. Now marketers are able to access an immense library of data from social, mobile, and SaaS sources that can strengthen outbound marketing and provide returns that equal or better ROI from inbound channels. Those that manage Big Data effectively are able to blend channels in a holistic approach.

Inbound channels have been purported to be more effective at establishing long-term buyer relationships. But challenges still remain for inbound. How is ROI measured? Are tools collecting the right data? Using a marketing and sales intelligence dashboard, marketers can easily manage and benchmark pipeline flow from inbound and outbound activities. But accurate sales attribution modeling is still in its infancy. Until effective channel attribution exists, it's a good practice to retain outbound strategies.

In our next post, we discuss how to effectively blend inbound and outbound activities.