Don’t Settle For Inbound Marketing
4 Outbound tactics that bring 400x more ROI than any inbound marketing when it comes to growing our B2B sales
If you haven’t ever heard the term “inbound marketing”, you should stop reading this and go do something more interesting. But if you have, you’ll know “inbound marketing” is extremely hot at the moment. No matter whether you work in a startup or for a large corporation, these days everybody working in marketing seems to be sold to the promise of making a huge sales leap by solely relying on a content strategy and inbound tools. However, my experience tells me that “inbound marketing” is a broken promise, especially when it comes to B2B marketing.
As a background, I work as the head of marketing for a software company, and we sell our software to device manufacturers (phone makers, laptops, drones, action cameras, cars, speakers, etc) and telecom operators. This means that we are purely a business-to-business (B2B) company, where our products are directly sold to other companies and integrated into their products that will be finally sold to end consumers.
When it comes to marketing, and specially being in a heavily-oriented B2B industry, we always have the internal debate of “inbound” vs “outbound”. So, in order to figure out where to put our effort, I decided to make a return-on-investment (ROI) study and measure the cost and impact of each marketing activity. Please note that I typically measure marketing return in terms of revenue. Here’s why: https://medium.com/@claudiomkd/how-we-measure-marketing-roi-inside-our-growth-organization-6e7bd858333b
The ROI quadrant for marketing touchpoints shows exactly that: the return on investment for each marketing tactic (or customer touchpoint). After building our own quadrant, one thing was clear to me: when in a B2B industry, outbound marketing still brings much higher return than any other inbound marketing activity.
Here are the four top-performing outbound marketing activities that we use that bring the most revenue to our company:
#1 — Trade Shows
Industry events, or trade shows, are the #1 performing marketing activity for our company, for two reasons:
- You will typically find a product manager at every booth, which means you’ll get, at least, one relevant contact that you can use either to turn into a lead or to get one step closer to the actual decision maker.
- Sending people to a trade show gives the global message to the industry that your company is on the market and has an offering. So make sure you have a strong communications plan alongside each event you attend.
Activity: attend an industry trade show
Return: brand awareness and numerous highly relevant leads
Cost: approx. $1,500/person sent
#2 — Thought Leadership
Whenever you have the opportunity, do public speaking. Be it a conference keynote, a open mic event or an industry panel. This is one of the main reasons why most tech companies have people in the role of “evangelists”. They are people who know how to speak and how to inspire the audience, which will turn into huge brand awareness, numerous leads and eventually potential customers or even ambassadors of your brand.
The picture above is me participating in a discussion panel at CES Las Vegas, back in January 2017. The panel was about one hour long, which surprisingly means I had a total of 5–10 minutes to speak. These were the actual results that came immediately after the panel:
- Two tech media interviews (one with a famous online publication and another one with NBC)
- Appearance in a global report for car manufacturers
- A line of 20+ people from different companies waiting for me to ask more about our company and our products
- A total of 12 highly relevant leads, out of which 5 are already evaluating the purchase of our products
Activity: thought leadership through public speaking at relevant conferences
Return: attract relevant media, potential customers and brand awareness
Cost: $0(most speaker opportunities cost typically zero)
Pro Tip for public speaking: don’t waste your time trying to sell your “great” products or being smarter than the audience. Just show brutal facts and use short sentences (i.e., punchlines). After all, the audience will remember you for that they felt while listening to you, not for what you told them.
#3 — Customer Meetups
When it comes to building strong customer relationships and feedbcak loops to understand new customer needs, meetups are one of the most efficient ways to do this, and very affordable as well.
The main point is to gather as many customers and partners as possible under the same roof for some hours. By giving the opportunity to do cross-company networking, you’ll be able to gain access to a much deeper knowledge of the market trends and, more importantly, to your customers’ current needs. This information will be vital for your marketing department to figure out “what’s next” in terms of new business and product development.
In our company, we take advantage of large industry events, like CES, to arrange an evening party where all customers and partners are invited (yes, the picture above is also from CES 2017). The main reason for this is that most customers and partners are flying and staying there for a few days, so it makes it so much easier for everybody to accept the invitation and come around.
Activity: meetup with customers and partners
Return: stronger customer relationships, value co-creation and feedback loops for future product-market and business development
Cost: approx. $4000 (60-people dinner + drinks, hotel suite)
#4 — Road Trips
The fourth tactic we heavily employ in marketing and brings lots of benefits to the company are road trips. For us, road trips mean roaming abroad for a few days meeting various customers and prospects in different countries. The goal → to sell our current products and learn more about the future of the industry to develop new offerings.
In one of our business development & strategy meetings, our CEO said
“We have two doors in this office, one at the front and another one at the back. In 8 years, do you know how many customers have come to our door and asked for a product? Zero.”
By this I don’t intend to underestimate the power of inbound and good content. In fact, we have plenty of relevant B2B leads who consume our content religiously and gives us food for the sales funnel. However, in my experience as a B2B marketeer and business developer for OEMs and operators, I know that the best (and fastest/most cost-efficient) way to sell, is to visit the customer in their own country and speak their own language.
Among all the activities I have enjoyed the most at my role and what I can see that brought the most, was to travel to places like South Korea, Taiwan and USA, to make sure the deal happens. By taking a quick look at my contacts, I can see I have a stronger connection with those companies I’ve visited in their own country. And those are the ones that typically advance faster in the funnel and bring the biggest revenue. Plus, they’ve always been our best candidates to become our brand’s advocate ;-)
One more thing that you’ll get with road trips and visit to customers is that, sitting face-to-face with you at the café of their head quarters, they’ll give you extremely valuable feedback about your existing offering and even ideas for the future. This is something that has been extremely hard for us to figure out just from social media or website interactions with our customers. And believe me, in the long term, you really want to have that feedback that comes directly from your customers and trusted partners.
Activity: fly a couple of sales & marketing people to a few countries, rent a car, visit customers
Return: fastest way to close a deal, stronger customer relationships, real feedback about existing products and new innovations
Cost: approx. $6000 (4–6 flights, hotels, rental cars) / 2–3 times per year
- Inbound is still great for B2B, but ROI justification is simply not there, specially if you focus on OEMs and operators
- Inbound cannot do many things outbound can, like build a much stronger relationship with customers and create feedback loops for your current products and future innovations
- In B2B industries, outbound targeting is just much better than inbound’s, specially in terms of how fast you can find the decision maker (which is the main thing in B2B)
- Outbound can do stuff that web forms simply can’t → build feedback loops from customers. My claim is: 1 day spent with the customer can equal 2 years of actual development and market research
- Trade shows and outbound tactics feel very expensive upfront, but social media and inbound paid campaigns are in fact more expensive in the long term, it’s just that their payment methods make you feel you are spending less