3 Differences Between Outbound & Inbound Marketing for Distributors

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Inbound marketing is no longer novel or trendy. The inbound approach has become the new normal.

Distributors with strong brands, effective marketing, and strong sales programs recognize that all functions must work together. In the distribution industry, you must consistently deliver an outstanding customer experience, marketing to all your customer personas.

Any outlier to a holistic inbound approach can reduce its effectiveness. Sales are sometimes this outlier, operating outside or adjacent to an inbound philosophy. This occurs partly because the relationship of sales to inbound marketing is murkier and somewhat less understood.

What will we discover if we compare traditional outbound sales and marketing to a more modern inbound sales and marketing approach?

First, we’ll immediately recognize how much of an outlier outbound sales are when compared to inbound. That’s not to say outbound sales and marketing tactics have zero merit. They must integrate within the inbound strategy.

Let’s quickly examine some differences between the outbound and inbound marketing and sales approaches.

Outbound calls vs inbound calls

This one is pretty straightforward. Outbound marketing calls are generally cold calls where the caller and the caller have had no prior contact. They are total strangers to one another and have little context for a relationship. Cold calling could no longer be anti-inbound.

Cold calling has proved to be inefficient. It can require up to 8 calls to connect with an individual. The ROI is also ineffective, as only 1–3% of cold calls result in an appointment.

On the other hand, inbound marketing calls, an additional inbound marketing method, are always “warm” calls. In this scenario, a prospect has already received content or interacted with the brand on social media. They may chat with a sales rep or exchange messages via Twitter.

Simply put, a connection occurs before making a call. The sales team warms up the prospect and guides them along the buyer's journey.

Of course, a true inbound marketing call is where a lead calls the sales rep or company directly. The disparity between cold and warm calling is about as stark as possible.

Warm marketing calls are a versatile tool that distributors can use to achieve various business objectives. Such goals include lead generation, customer engagement, and promotion of products and services. The effectiveness of marketing calls depends on proper targeting, timing, and adherence to relevant regulations and best practices. 

Lead conversion

Sales representatives in a purely outbound sales ecosystem do not have the tools to be sharpshooting lead conversion experts. Instead, they constantly work deals, regardless of the potential buyer's current needs or stage, making lead conversion difficult. 

Salespeople often waste time searching for marketing materials. It may not match the lead's needs, even when they find some. In simple terms, outbound sales teams often send out content incorrectly. It's usually at the wrong time or not at all, making it hard to target their sales approach effectively.

In contrast, inbound sales use content marketing specifically designed for each step of the buyer's journey. Because sales and marketing work closely together in an inbound setup, finding the appropriate content is more straightforward and consistent. This content matches the right lead and is sent at the right time. Digital marketing tools often measure inbound sales to ensure consistency and correct timing. 

Outbound sales and marketing force prospects to drink from a firehose. Mass emails, big direct mail campaigns, and pushing demos when a prospect is just starting to research their pain points.

Inbound sales are surgically precise. They connect with the buyer persona and tailor it for a specific moment in the buying cycle. They are about nurturing and nudging a person through the sales pipeline and building trust.

Distribution businesses should embrace inbound marketing strategies because they offer a powerful and cost-effective approach to attract, engage, and retain customers in today's digital landscape. Inbound marketing focuses on creating valuable content tailored to the needs and interests of potential customers, drawing them in rather than interrupting with intrusive advertising.

This approach builds brand credibility and establishes the distributor as an industry authority. By delivering relevant content through various online channels, such as blogs, social media, and email, distribution businesses can nurture leads along the buyer's journey, ensuring that prospects receive information and support precisely when needed.

Additionally, inbound marketing allows for precise targeting and data-driven decision-making, enabling distributors to allocate resources more efficiently, measure the ROI of their efforts, and adapt their strategies as market dynamics evolve. Ultimately, embracing inbound marketing can lead to increased customer loyalty, improved sales conversion rates, and sustainable long-term growth for distribution businesses in a competitive marketplace.

Single versus multi-channel inbound marketing

Lastly, outbound sales typically use just one or a few channels, like cold calls and outbound emails. In contrast, inbound marketing employs a multi-channel approach.

Outbound sales, speaking broadly, is a less integrated sales approach with fewer customer touchpoints.

The inbound marketing approach aims to create a strong brand presence across various platforms. These include digital, print, video, email, and social media. This helps improve the chances of closing deals. It also includes a practice known as social selling for best-in-class content marketers.

Social selling is not just posting on social media. Instead, it’s a multi-channel sales approach that builds rapport, fosters trust, and nurtures prospects. This occurs through the delivery of valuable content and meaningful sales rep-customer interactions within your distribution company.

Consistently applying these social selling strategies, a distributor can create a solid online presence. A distributor's rep will nurture relationships and convert social media connections into loyal customers.

Hootsuite describes the core of social selling this way:

“Perhaps equally important to explaining what social selling means is to explain what social selling is not. It’s certainly not about bombarding strangers with unsolicited tweets and private messages ... social selling is not just about gaining access to contacts but about building relationships and listening for the right moment to join the conversation so you can present yourself as a solution to a problem. The aim is to address a pressing need to make your prospect’s life easier rather than becoming another online irritant to ignore.”

And that gets to the heart of the difference between outbound and inbound sales. Outbound sales and marketing are intrusive, disconnected, and too brand-centered. Inbound sales are about helpfulness, solving problems, and knowing what your prospect needs and when to deliver it.

At Illumine8, we work with distributors to improve their sales processes. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you streamline your sales process. We're passionate about inspiring your sales team to close more deals efficiently.

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