Imagine you’ve been tasked with selecting a supplier for a custom manufacturing project. You’ve been involved with the design from the start and, despite some lingering questions about the part’s geometry, you’re heavily invested in a good outcome so you can bring an innovative product to market quickly.
Now consider the time it would take you to pick a supplier if you received:
- a voicemail message from a company you’ve never heard of
- a voicemail message and then a follow up call from that same company
- a voicemail message, follow up call, and a short email of introduction
- a voicemail message, follow up call, and an email focused on their prototyping services with a link to their homepage
- all of the above plus a link to an ebook about design for manufacturability (DFM) concepts and a case study showing how they helped a customer improve time to market
As a potential customer, which of these is most likely to make things really click for you? Which is just a little too easy to ignore?
It Takes Two
In this series we’ve looked at the two major approaches to lead generation:
Outbound, in which you reach out to potential customers (often by cold calling), many of which may not know who you are, with the hope of having a conversation and gaining them as a customer. This approach takes time to identify and reach prospects, build a relationship, handle any rejections, and often to wait for them to have a need you can meet.
Inbound, in which you create content (e.g. blog posts, ebooks, infographics, videos) targeted to specific types of customers, with the goal of being found online and drawing in potential customers. It can be a long game approach of identifying personas to target, developing content, and waiting for website visitors to arrive and see you as a resource.
Both take planning, time, and effort to execute effectively. In our experience with manufacturing and industrial clients, companies who use both approaches instead of one or the other have more success.
As an analogy, most manufacturing companies have two broad categories of employees. One is the operators, engineers, designers, and everyone involved in production. The other is front office staff and management who handle business aspects of the company.
Both are vital to keeping the business afloat. Production staff rely on the office staff to process payroll and talk with customers, and office staff rely on production staff to do the manufacturing work. You would never prioritize one at the expense of the other or your business would grind to a halt. Likewise, you wouldn’t only do production one week and only office work the next. The teams need to be working at the same time and aware of what each other is doing.
It’s Worth the Time
In lead generation, taking a two-pronged approach of integrated outbound with inbound has these advantages:
- You are always doing something toward your goal. From follow up phone calls, to email drip campaigns, to publishing new content that targets personas, you’ll have more ways of staying in touch and nurturing prospects even if you’re not directly in contact.
- You’ll have a unified message. Integrating outbound and inbound requires communication between teams to create a single message for all of your channels from phone calls to blog posts. For example, use feedback from sales reps to inform content creation, and develop a robust content library for sales to point prospects to. It’s always easier for prospects to understand your product and what you’re about if they see and hear a consistent message every time they connect with you.
- You will understand your market better. You’ve done research for content, spoken with prospects (and existing customers) on the phone, nurtured them and taken notes in your CRM, and shared insights between inbound and outbound teams. If you thoughtfully consider things from the prospect’s perspective, you’ll be able to speak their “language” more fluently when you make contact – it all leads to a better relationship.
- You can take full advantage of the technology tools you probably already have. From tracking email opens and downloads to taking notes about each sales call, your client-facing team and content/digital marketing team can work in the same tools (i.e. CRM, marketing automation platforms like Hubspot). Working in the same tools to track calls, clicks, opens, and deals puts the full picture at your fingertips with analytics and dashboards for data-driven decision making.
Integrating outbound and inbound into your lead generation program will take time, but as we’ve shown in this series, relying solely on one or the other takes even longer and comes with pitfalls.
As author Earl Nightingale famously said, “don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.” We think the best possible use of your time is developing a coordinated program of inbound and outbound methods – if you’re not sure where to start, get in touch. There’s no time like the present!