Inbound vs outbound – which method has more merit in terms of lead generation? This has been a bone of contention between sales, marketing and content marketing professionals for a long time. The basic goal of both these tactics is quite similar: to generate significant leads for the organization/business and help build your brand to a wider audience. However, their approaches towards achieving the end result are notably different.
Some critics argue that the method of inbound lead generation is the key strategy for the long haul, especially in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, as outbound lead generation has become less effective in general. Others, however, believe that outbound lead generation techniques continue to have a major role to play in the marketing scenario.
So, is there one better way of lead generation? To answer that question for yourself, you will have first to understand the basic and the more advanced features of these two techniques.
What is an Inbound Lead Generation?
Businesses often implement different marketing strategies to draw the attention of their target audience to their websites, such as SEO-focused content production, targeted social media campaigns, email marketing, etc. This results in customers reaching out to the organization or business on their own accord, potentially paving the path for a two-way relationship that ends in a sale.
A customer who interacts with a part of an inbound lead marketing campaign and willingly divulges their details, (that could be via filling in a form, booking an appointment, etc.), is known as an inbound lead.
Inbound lead generation, accordingly, is the practice of generating such viable leads (for the purposes of sales, marketing and content marketing) through the appliance of this strategy.
Some of the chief techniques of inbound marketing include:
- Quite literally putting your brand on the map, i.e., on Google Maps and Apple Maps, to increase visibility.
- Producing prolific social media campaigns leveraging algorithms and trending keywords/topics.
- Warm calling, i.e., reaching out to potential customers after they have willingly shared their contact information and showed interest in doing business with you
Pros and Cons of Inbound Lead Generation:
- Inbound marketing assets are generally more precise in terms of lead generation as the customers themselves choose to interact with your brand
- Inbound campaigns can help you leverage content marketing, one of its most crucial assets, to hone in on a larger target audience
- Inbound strategies help the customers feel in charge, which, in turn, helps build a trustful relationship with the brand.
- These tactics can boost business growth significantly as it flourishes on the idea of developing brand recognition that gets the audience to come to you
- Inbound lead generation can be a time-consuming process as it revolves around consistent content marketing and brand interactions
- It also calls for niche skills and expertise knowledge in areas across the board, such as content creation, SEO management, social media campaigning, digital marketing, etc.
- Inbound lead marketing focuses singularly on the pool of people who are actively looking for solutions or services that the brand may offer, hence making you or are related to the ones that you offer.
What is an Outbound Lead Generation?
Now that we have discussed inbound lead generation, imagine what its opposite scenario would look like. That’s outbound lead generation for you.
Outbound lead generation, in other words, is when a business or organization reaches out to people regardless of whether they have expressed an interest in doing business with you, in an effort to make a sale or popularize their brand.
Since in this scenario, it is the brand and not the prospective customer that has chosen the time and place of the interaction, it is quite often termed as ‘interruption marketing’.
Some of the chief techniques of outbound marketing include:
- Text messaging
- Email campaigns
- Social media or other forms of advertisements
- The good old tactic of cold calling, i.e., unsolicited phone calls in an attempt to sell a service or product.
Pros and Cons of Outbound Lead Generation:
- Since outbound marketing uses proactive outreach techniques, it can potentially create a larger target audience for the brand than inbound marketing.
- Outbound lead generation processes give brands more control over market strategies as they are the ones deciding on the time, place and means of communication.
- In outbound prospecting, businesses can implement more aggressive and active campaigns, which, in turn, allows them to project themselves uniquely as compared to their competitors and stand out in the crowd.
- The biggest drawback of outbound lead generation is that no matter which means you choose to reach out to your prospective customer, it is basically an interruption. That often backfires as the communication, be it via cold calling or a video ad, annoys the audience rather than piquing their interest.
- As a reaction to Point 1, an increasing number of people are installing features like do-not-disturb ad-ons, ad blockers and spam filters on their devices to block such outbound campaigns, which is making targeting audiences through outbound lead generation methods more challenging by the day
- It mainly institutes a one-way communication with your prospects that might result in a positive outcome
Benefits of Inbound Leads and Outbound Lead:
Inbound lead generation benefits:
- The brand/business is in control of the engagement as the potential customer is reaching out to them, showing interest in their product or service.
- Marketing strategy selection is tailored to the needs of the target audience.
- Inbound marketing can make customers feel more confident about doing business with the brand as they initiate the conversation.
Outbound led generation benefits:
- Prospective customers are in control of the engagement as they can choose to not entertain the unsolicited call, email, etc.
- Generally, marketing strategy selection is personalized and one-on-one.
- Outbound marketing, while interruptive, can create more leads as it reaches out to a larger audience.
Inbound Leads vs Outbound Leads: Cost Comparison
Inbound cost comparison:
- Inbound marketing can be a more cost-effective way to generate leads for the long haul. Eg: an evergreen article can keep producing leads for months.
- A 2012 case study by HubSpot found that organizations/brands that take up inbound lead generation methods see their costs lowered by 61% per lead as compared to those leveraging outbound tactics.
Outbound cost comparison:
- While it may be costlier and finite, outbound marketing is easy to measure the return on investment as the business has a proper record.
- As per the same study, businesses that implemented outbound lead generation techniques saw an average cost per lead of $346, while that for inbound methods was $135.
Inbound and Outbound Lead Generation: Lead Quality
Inbound Lead Quality
- Lead quality is generally better with inbound marketing as it brings in people who are already interested, hence, pruning out those who are not.
- Based on its methods, inbound marketing is considered more likely to generate quality lead
Outbound Lead Quality
- Outbound marketing campaigns reach a wider audience, meaning they can generate more leads. However, there’s no guarantee any turning into sales.
- Outbound marketing, by its approach, plays off better in terms of quantity than quality when it comes to lead generation.
Inbound vs Outbound Lead Generation: Conversion Rate
Inbound Conversion Rate
- Inbound marketing brings in prospective customers who are already interested in the brand/business’ product. Therefore, these leads are more likely to turn into paying customers.
- Since the pool of leads with inbound marketing is smaller than that of outbound campaigns, the competition is higher as other players are fighting over the same leads.
Outbound Conversion Rate
- Cold callings, mass promotion emails, etc. are more likely to face rejection, meaning the conversion rate is likely to be low.
- With outbound marketing, on the other hand, brands can reach fresh and new leads every day, making the competition a little less severe.
Inbound vs Outbound Lead Generation: Lead Nurturing
Inbound Lead Nurturing:
Inbound marketing is more likely to pave the way for lead nurturing, i.e., initiating and maintaining good relations with customers, because the initial engagement takes place on the customer’s terms and is not forced.
Outbound Lead Nurturing:
Outbound marketing, as mentioned above, is also known as interruption marketing. Therefore, a customer may not be pleased enough to want to continue having a relationship with the brand.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Inbound and Outbound Lead Generation:
- Figure out your endgame – do you want to amass a larger audience (then choose outbound lead generation) or do you want to invest more mindfully (then inbound lead generation is for you)?
- As per a 2013 HubSpot case study, 41% of CMOs/CEOs gave positive reviews about inbound lead generation for positive return on investment. However, bear in mind that inbound marketing techniques require a vast knowledge of the services you provide.
- Be mindful of the resources you have. Successful inbound marketing requires a strong base for proper lead nurturing and after-sale services. If a customer who came to you goes back with bad services, the reviews can back to haunt your business.
- Go in knowing what kind of relationship you want with your customers. Outbound marketing often rubs people the wrong way, while inbound marketing may bring in customers with very niche demands.
Both inbound and outbound lead generation methods have their own set of plus points and drawbacks. Some believe outbound marketing strategies are losing value, while others say inbound lead campaigns can be more tasking due to customer demands.
At the end of the day, there is no definite answer as to which is better as this choice depends on what your business needs and goals are.
That said, in today’s age of fast-paced technological evolution, one needs to understand that the only viable option to survive in the business world is to be equipped for change. Marketing needs can evolve from time to time, sometimes on a very short period of notice (remember the pandemic?). Therefore, marketing strategies must be flexible as well to keep your brand relevant.
Hence, it may be best to incorporate tactics of both inbound and outbound lead generation in your business, in parts if not in their entirety. Because what works today may not tomorrow.