Demand generation is the process of creating awareness for your product or service. The ultimate goal of demand gen is to create qualified leads that can be fed into your sales funnel. There are two primary methods for generating leads: Outbound Prospecting and Inbound Marketing.
Outbound is a fancy term for activities where you proactively contact prospective customers in order to market your product or services to them. It’s a catch-all phrase for the following activities:
- Cold calling
- Cold emailing
- Conference stands at industry conferences
Most people are put off by the idea of making cold approaches to prospects, particularly the idea of cold calling. However, outbound prospecting is a well-understood science and is highly effective for generating new business. Also, if you do it right, you can make it feel like you’re making warm calls or sending warm emails.
When you understand who you’re selling to (your buyer personas), and what their problems are, you can turn cold calls and emails into warm outreach. People are generally very receptive to being contacted if you’re contacting them with a solution to a burning problem that they have.
When you understand who you’re selling to (your buyer personas), and what their problems are, you can turn cold calls and emails into warm outreach.
Aaron Ross’ book, Predictable Revenue, provides a great guide to what he calls Cold-Calling 2.0. These days, email is the preferred and generally most scalable method for cold outreach. We’ve also written a comprehensive guide on how to do cold email outreach.
In most organisations, outbound is a specialised function handled by Sales Development Reps (SDRs). SDRs are responsible for all outbound prospecting activity. Once they’ve contacted a prospect and established that they qualify as a viable opportunity, the lead is handed over to the sales team to take through the sales process and close.
The pros and cons of outbound
- It generates leads immediately.
- It helps you target high value prospects.
- It ensures that these prospects know you exist.
- You get immediate market feedback on your products or services by speaking to prospects.
- Outbound is interruptive (i.e. it can irritate people).
- Buyers may not be ready to buy when you contact them.
- Outbound also scales linearly with the number of staff employed to do outreach and can be expensive at scale.
In the past, B2B buyers’ primary source of information was salespeople. The internet has completely changed this. Research from Gartner has shown that by the time a buyer engages with salesperson, they are typically more than 50% of the way through their buying journey. These days, buyers will conduct internet research on a problem long before they engage with a potential supplier. This is where inbound marketing comes in. The aim of inbound is to help prospective buyers with their search for a solution, and steer them in the direction of your products or services.
There are plenty of resources available on inbound marketing and how to do it. In a nutshell though it’s about getting potential buyers to find you when they search for information, and then taking them through a process where you convert them from being strangers into buyers of your product. The below graphic from Hubspot provides a good overview of this process.
As marketing takes a prospect through an inbound process, they’ll use a set of criteria such as actions taken, and personal information provided to “score” the lead. If the lead matches certain criteria they become a marketing qualified lead (MQL), which is then ready for handover to sales to take through the sales process.
The pros and cons of inbound
- It can scale exponentially as it’s typically one-to-many (a single blog post or video could be viewed by a million people).
- Buyers find you when they are searching for a solution to a specific problem (which you hopefully solve).
- It’s a non-interruptive way of generating leads.
- Inbound generally requires a significant investment in content creation, SEO, technology and marketing automation.
- It generally takes time for your content to rank and to start generating leads.
- If you are focussing on a small market with a limited number of potential customers, inbound might not produce a good ROI.
- Unlike outbound, you have no control of when the buyer is reached.
- It doesn’t necessarily provide a good feedback loop for market info
Should I start with inbound or outbound demand gen to get leads?
Our advice is to start with outbound as you’ll see quicker results and initially it’s cheaper to do. It’s also a great way of getting quick feedback from the field on your products and services. In the medium term you should probably also invest in inbound so that you have a second source of leads for your business.
Even if you’re just doing outbound and are not pursuing an inbound strategy, you should support this with content on your digital channels. Most potential buyers will search for information about your company, products and services, and content is an important way of positioning your company as an authority in your space.
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