Saturday, September 13, 2014

Is Traditional Outbound Marketing Dead?

For those who like to believe all the hype, it's easy to think that outbound marketing is dead. After all, it's rare to hear about marketing experts extolling the importance of direct mail. Instead, they're usually talking about website conversion rates and developing content that will appeal to the reader. Don't fall into this trap.

While outbound marketing has lost some of its glamour in recent years, it remains as viable as ever in today's digital world. It's role has just changed. Understanding those changes and how to integrate outbound marketing with your inbound efforts is a challenge well worth undertaking.

How the role of outbound marketing has changed

Before the digital era, outbound marketing was the primary means of finding new customers. Everyone in sales remembers doing 'cold calls,' which basically involve picking up a phone and trying to convince someone new to buy a product or service. Often, that phone call represented the first real contact between the company and the prospective customer. In other cases, cold calls were used to follow up on a direct mail campaign.

While cold calls are still necessary in some circumstances, the whole idea of just reaching out randomly, blindly, trying to find new prospects has largely gone by the wayside. Such practices are now more often used to complement inbound and other outbound marketing efforts.

For example, say your marketing team has been running an online promotion that allows people to start a free trial of your service from your website. After the free trial is over, many customers decide to continue, but others don't register for the paid version. This is where a follow-up phone call or email can help. When contacting these prospects, ask them about their experience and what in particular might be preventing them from making a purchase. This kind of outbound marketing follow-up can provide you with valuable feedback and help convert more leads into paying customers.

Similarly, when customers complain or compliment your company on social media, use the opportunity not only to address their concerns right away with an immediate follow-up, but also to provide a tangible means of letting them know you appreciate what they have to say (good and bad). Once you've done what you can to alleviate any issues your customer has raised, follow up with special coupons and a thank you note. This simple gesture can help reinforce to a disgruntled customer how much you really care, while at the same time encouraging those who offer compliments to keep spreading the word about your company.

As inbound marketing continues to change the way many of us communicate with our customers, we must be careful to avoid thinking that outbound marketing is dead. It's not. But its role is changing and will continue to evolve in the future. Understanding the new role outbound marketing plays can help all of us adapt our efforts and get the most from our marketing campaigns.

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