It’s a classic debate: inbound lead generation or outbound lead generation? Inbound offers a steady trickle of self-educated leads, though, inevitably, some of these leads are a poor fit for the company. Outbound, on the other hand, produces a predictable volume of target leads, though they often require additional nurture to cultivate intent. It’s not hard to construct a case for either outbound or inbound as the superior form of lead generation.
So, which is better? Well, it’s impossible to definitively answer this question without knowing the specifics of the situation (time, resources, budget, etc.). Even then, it’s rare that a company would be best served by investing everything in one or the other.
For most, a better question might be: Why do inbound and outbound lead generation need to be mutually exclusive? The answer is, they don’t – and they shouldn’t be. There are many cases where inbound and outbound lead generation can support each other and offer greater benefit to the company as a duo. We outline the four most common of such cases below.
1. Covering Gaps in Inbound Production
Just like your business, inbound is subject to seasonal ebbs and flows. Even the most developed efforts can struggle to support the sales team’s needs during slow times. With some basic tracking over time, productivity cycles will become apparent. Companies can use this information to strategically plan outbound campaigns to generate leads during anticipated downtime.
Example: You work for a company that sells industrial heating and air conditioning services. You get a lot of inquiries during the hottest summer months and the coldest winter months, but this traffic tends to slow during the milder weather of spring and fall. A strategically employed outbound campaign in April could help you to keep busy during the off-season, while one in September could help you to ramp up for winter.
2. Reaching a New Audience
Inbound does a great job of cultivating a core audience. Inbound processes are designed to engage and convert a specific type of visitor. The system works by providing value and building notoriety within the targeted community. This notoriety translates to qualified website traffic and relevant conversions with limited costs. The drawback is that the requisite authority takes time to build.
Like inbound, outbound campaigns are designed to reach a target audience that matches specific criteria. Unlike inbound, outbound’s reach is limited only by the associated database. This trait makes outbound ideal for reaching a new audience. A company is able to launch an outbound lead generation campaign to a new audience in a matter of days, while securing such an inbound audience would require months or more. Moreover, these initial outbound leads can help to get the ball rolling for future inbound efforts.
Example: You work for a company that sells sales software. Your company recently discovered that, with some minor changes, your software is also very useful for those who work in human resources. Accordingly, higher-ups have decided to launch a new offering targeted to Human Resources Managers. Your website is currently frequently by salespeople and the new human resources pages get significantly less traffic. An outbound campaign sent to Human Resources Managers would provide early leads for the new offering and start buzz in the industry.
3. Growing Efficiently
Sales teams require a certain amount of leads in order to be productive and meet organizational goals. At the same time, there’s also a maximum number of leads that a sales team can effectively handle. Well-constructed inbound lead generation efforts will naturally scale, leading to greater opportunity, but also the need for more sales staff. Rather than smooth growth, companies are often left with transitional periods where they have either too many leads to handle or too many people for their leads. Outbound lead generation can help to smooth these periods by providing addition leads to keep new reps busy.
Example: At your company, reps handle 30-50 leads each month. You currently have four reps. Recently your inbound lead generation efforts have grown, boosting your overall lead generation to more than 200 leads per month. Your company decides to hire an additional sales rep. Given the production of current reps, the new rep would only receive 15 leads per month. A small outbound campaign would provide enough leads for each salesperson to carry on at full capacity.
4. Increasing Per-Asset ROI
Assets have a fixed development cost, whether it’s paid in employees’ time or to an outside firm. In most cases, assets work equally well for both inbound and outbound lead generation. Using a single asset for both types of lead generation allows companies to maximize the returns from the asset.
Example: Your company sells information security solutions. Your team takes time to create a white paper that explains the distinguishing features of your solution. Between writing, editing, and design, it takes three team members the better part of a week to complete. You promote the white paper on your website and secure leads through a download form. After a couple of months, you secure 50 downloads and your boss is on the fence about developing another asset. Using some additional budget to run an outbound campaign to generate more leads using the same white paper could help to cement the value of such assets.
Though the balance is largely dictated by the organization, both inbound and outbound have their place in a balanced lead generation strategy. Both methodologies bring complementary strengths to the table and, together, they create a more consistent and productive sales pipeline.
For more information on combining inbound and outbound lead generation, download our full guide: The Savvy Sales Manager’s Guide to Inbound and Outbound Lead Generation.
Let us know what you think:
- Do you use inbound and/or outbound lead generation?
- In what situations do inbound efforts support outbound?
- In what situations do outbound efforts support inbound?