Outbound Marketing: Is it even a thing anymore?

outbound marketing

Inbound versus Outbound – Part One

This is part one of a three-part series pitting inbound marketing against outbound marketing. Learn what outbound marketing is or skip down to the fun stuff – how to implement outbound marketing.

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing is the process of pushing a marketing message out to the consumer. Many consider it to be an invasive form of marketing which has past its sell-by date. The best way to decide if something is outbound is to ask yourself the question “who initiated the first conversation? If the answer is the business, then it’s outbound marketing.

Who initiated contact? If it was the brand then it's outbound.

The following is a list of some of the most popular forms of outbound marketing:

#1 – Cold calling

Phoning someone up with the aim of selling them something when there’s been no prior contact is referred to as cold calling. Few would argue that a business calling a consumer out of the blue to sell them goods or services is ineffective, invasive and in some cases illegal. However, you can improve the effectiveness of this technique for business-to-business sales by ensuring that:

  • You contact the correct person – the decision-maker or influencer.
  • You choose the right timing – during budget or vendor decisions.
  • You’ve researched their business thoroughly – and know your product can benefit it.
  • You use a consultative sales approach.

#2 – Cold emailing

The process of emailing someone who has not directly given you their email address for the purpose of contacting them can be referred to as cold emailing.

While it’s essential that you comply with all local laws and regulations regarding data protection, third-party emails and spam – a cold email does not need to be a mass email. The more detail you have accompanying the address, the more targeted, personalised, and effective your email can be.

#3 – Direct mail

Unsolicited commercial mail through the post is referred to as direct mail. Direct mail shots are usually highly designed paper flyers which are sometimes referred to as junk mail.

Direct mail is particularly popular amongst food delivery services and home repair providers.

You can improve the effectiveness of direct mail with the right targeting. Who’s more likely to order Indian? A block of one-bedroom flats or an estate of four-bedroom homes? There’s also been a recent resurgence in direct mailing amongst B2B marketers supporting their other marketing efforts with something that will stand out in a digital world. Even Google is doing it!

#4 – Print ads

Print advertisements that appear in newspapers and magazine are perhaps the most traditional form of advertising and often the main revenue stream for these publications.

Traditional print ads remain common though the production quality has improved with ads in glossy magazines often indistinguishable from the editorial content. Print is important for brand building, awareness and sales campaigns. There’s also been a rise in sponsored content such as advertorials.

#5 – Billboards & signage:

Roadside billboards have long been used to attract attention. Nowadays while still used to support wider brand campaigns these are a particularly popular way of driving direct sales to businesses such as fast food outlets. However, costs are often prohibitive for small businesses.

#6 – Display ads

Display Ads are the form of digital advertising that most closely resembles newspaper and magazine ads. These ads appear on websites, apps or social media platforms. Display ads usually take the form of static or moving (flash) image banners, videos and occasionally text ads.

Display advertising still accounts for the largest percentage of digital ad spend.

Display ads can pop-up (interstitial) or can be embedded at the top, side or within a webpage.

Although widely criticised for being obtrusive display advertising still accounts for the majority of digital ad spend globally. Display is largely used for brand building and awareness campaigns.

Over-saturation and adblockers have made display ads less and less effective, however as with all forms of advertising they can be made more effective with the right targeting and retargeting.

#7 – TV & radio advertising

Television advertising is the primary source of revenue for all commercial tv channels. However, with the advent of streaming traditional television viewership has significantly decreased. In addition, Smart TVs have allowed users to pre-record and fast forward through tv ad segments.

Sports matches buck this trend as live viewing is key to enjoyment and advertising remains strong. Globally radio listenership and associated advertising is down however Ireland is an exception.

#8 – Social media ads

Although social media ads are officially a form of display advertising their prevalence is such that they really need to be discussed separately to website and app display advertising. Like, display social advertising can be text, image or video. Video is however often the most effective.

Social Media reach for brands is so far down it’s almost disappeared.

Social media ads are used for a variety of purposes, to grow followers, increase leads or generate sales. You can narrow your ad targeting by audience behaviour, demographics or interests.

With organic reach on social massively down advertising is increasingly important. Getting your goal, targeting and creative right on social will mean the difference between success and failure.

Other types of outbound marketing

There are lots of other types of outbound marketing. For example, press releases are a common form of outbound marketing. Similarily trade shows and other forms of event marketing are extremely common in certain industries such as publishing. Guerilla marketing which utilises surprise to engage with consumers is also a form of outbound.

There is a bit of a debate about whether search engine advertising is outbound or inbound. Some believe that it is inbound as it’s the customer who initiates the conversation by searching for a term. However, it can equally be considered outbound as it is the advertiser who is pushing a message out to the public who are searching for organic results.

Just because it’s outbound doesn’t mean it has to be old-fashioned.

How to implement outbound marketing

Outbound marketing is about the approach taken rather than the channel used but some channels are more commonly used. But how and when should you use these channels?

Think of outbound marketing like picking up a good looking guy . . .

  • You gotta ask yourself: “Is he worth it?” Find out what you can about him.
  • Next, you’ll want to increase your chances: “Are you more likely to succeed if he’s seen you around? What if he’s heard nice things about you from a friend?”
  • Then, you’ll need to pick your opportunity: “Are your chances better if you talk to him while he’s queueing for the bus? Or should you approach him in a cafe?”
  • Lastly, you’ll need to think about what you’re going to say: “Should you go with a practised pick up line? Or would asking him about something he’s interested in work better?”

This analogy is a little tongue-in-cheek but the principle remains. Don’t be creepy, never be a stalker and try not to make a fool of yourself. 😉 But do be selective, be strategic and above all be original!

In marketing, as in life, sometimes you’ve got to make the first move.

Read part two of our Inbound versus Outbound series – Inbound Marketing: What’s all the fuss about?