For decades, B2B companies viewed the traveling salesperson as their primary means of generating leads, winning business and growing revenue. Then the push became online lead generation through inbound marketing.
However, companies that rely too much on face-to-face visits will fail just as surely as those who focus solely on inbound marketing. A marriage between inbound and outbound marketing is critical to success.
It's easy to succumb to the idea that online lead generation is the only way to go. It's less expensive than conventional marketing. It's easier to manage and far simpler when defining your costs of getting new customers.
However, it can't close the deal in a business marketplace the way a salesperson or business development professional can. The perfect balance between inbound marketing and customer-facing approaches must be your overriding goal. So, how is this balance achieved?
Inbound Marketing Strategy Second to None
Your inbound marketing strategy is your primary means of online lead generation. It focuses on your buyer personas by identifying how each of these individuals goes about making a go/no-go decision to buy. Each persona has a different buyer's journey. Understanding how each persona navigates that journey helps you to reach your target audience at the right time with the right solution.
There are multiple ways to generate leads online, but the best way forward is to continually assess your progress and adjust when needed. Social media plays a role, as does digital advertising and search engine optimization (SEO). A consistent content marketing strategy is vital to online lead generation because it focuses on specific pain points for your buyer personas and showcases your solutions.
Driving targeted traffic with content marketing, a solid social media presence, organic search, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising makes inbound marketing work. Drive traffic to a welcoming website and clearly-defined landing page coupled with a simplified lead capture form, and you will see your conversion rates increase. Ultimately, you must come to see online lead generation as the set-up for bigger things to come.
Proactive Customer-Facing Strategies
"Customer-facing" doesn't just mean standing in front of your customer. It means having a proactive strategy to engage your customer directly. It means immediately reacting to the leads you generate online. This involves calling customers, visiting them, attending and exhibiting at trade shows, exhibits and conferences in addition to visiting their business and having them visit yours.
The best enterprises and market leaders combine their inbound marketing strategies with a customer-facing and customer-centric philosophy. They see inbound marketing working in unison with their outbound marketing and they are quick to use feedback from salespeople to adjust both marketing approaches as part of their overall marketing strategy.
In essence, inbound marketing works because of your extensive knowledge of your market. In turn, how well you know and engage with your customers dictates the level of knowledge you actually have of your market.
Balance is about driving online lead generation and then handing off those opportunities to a customer-focused sales team that will continually work to exceed customer expectations while also bringing the marketing team up to speed on emerging market trends. You need both inbound and outbound approaches in today's business world. The more aligned these approaches are, the greater your successes.
Inbound marketing alone won't negotiate the deals you need to reach your objectives. It simply can't outperform the benefits that come from developing strong interpersonal relationships. On the other hand, you'll never cover your market with just outbound marketing and a traveling sales force. You need both to win and each must balance out the other.