Are you looking for ways to generate more leads? Are you trying to decide if you should allocate more resources to inbound marketing instead of the more traditional outbound marketing that has served you well over the years?
In the last week, as the host of my podcast, I have had the good fortune to interview two ultra successful CEOs. One relies 100% on inbound marketing, and the other, thus far, has relied 100% on outbound marketing.
In today’s post, I’m going to share with you what I believe are the pros and cons of each approach, as well as a hybrid approach that I’ve created.
Inbound or Outbound: That is the Question
As the founder of Groove, I’m always thinking about how to generate more of the right leads for my company.
As a content marketer, I know from personal experience that getting website traffic and leads is pretty easy to do once you understand the process. With that said, I’ll be the first to admit that this approach, while very effective in the long term, doesn’t generally deliver immediate results.
As a veteran sales guy, I know from personal experience that prospecting can deliver meaningful results in a fairly short period of time. Although, I must also admit that thanks to the fact that most people don’t answer their phones any more (they let the call go to voicemail) prospecting in the modern era is a lot harder than it was when I first got started in sales back in 1990.
So which is a better use of time? One-on-one prospecting, or content creation?
The Case for Inbound
Last week, I interviewed the CEO of a very successful agency and within two years of launching their blog, traffic has risen to about 35,000 visitors a month. With this amount of traffic, the volume of leads is substantial enough that his sales team can afford to be really choosy about who they invest the time to actually speak to.
To achieve this result, in year one, he published about 560 blog posts. If you figure that each post cost about $200-$300 to produce & promote, that means his cost for content & promotion in year one would have been roughly $112,000 to $168,000.
His firm generated $1.2M in its first year, so it would appear that this was a good investment.
What isn’t immediately obvious to someone not yet familiar with the benefits of content marketing is this: by creating such a large volume of content, he has turned his website into a very valuable asset.
Relative to his competition, his website is now become an incredibly valuable library of helpful information, and Google is rewarding him accordingly. At the time that I interviewed him, approximately 45% of his traffic comes directly from search engines.
With so many posts now published, not only will the traffic keep on flowing (even if he stopped or slowed production of new content), but his competitors will have to work extra hard and create a huge amount of their own content to ever outrank his site.
As you can see, when it comes to digital marketing, content has become an incredibly valuable asset.
Remember what I said earlier though…success wasn’t instant. Creating all this content and building his website into the incredibly valuable asset that it is today took time.
The Case for Outbound
Earlier today I interviewed the CEO of a 3 year old venture-backed startup. Three years ago, the company was considered a failed investment by the VC and the new CEO was brought in to right the ship.
Last year they did $10M and in the first quarter of this year, they did $3M.
How did they get these results? Did content play a role?
Content didn’t play a role at all. In fact, they don’t even have a blog.
Instead, they have relied on a traditional outbound approach and employ a sales team.
In the interview, I didn’t ask the cost of the sales team; however, some simple math tells me that it’s probably a lot more expensive for them to generate leads from outbound than it is for the other company that is using the inbound approach.
Here’s what I did learn. To do outbound, each sales rep they hire must already have an established book of business (warm contacts).
Reps that have this aren’t cheap.
Then, for the cold outreach they do (their warm contacts alone aren’t enough), each sales rep relies heavily on LinkedIn to painstakingly research each and every prospect. Once this research has been completed, the outreach begins with up to as many as 10 cold emails per contact. Each email has just 2 sentences in it has only one purpose: to get a face-to-face meeting.
Meetings generally last 15 to 20 minutes plus the time & expense to physically travel back and forth. On average, the sales cycle is 2 to 3 months.
Thanks to a very compelling product, they are closing about 50% of qualified leads. Perhaps this is one of the reasons they can afford the expensive sales reps.
Given their huge increase in revenue, this approach is definitely working for them; however there are three major drawbacks that I see:
- Their cost per lead has got to be extremely high. If you take a sales reps salary and divide by the number of leads they can potentially generate using this approach, it’s got to be expensive on a per lead basis
- This approach is 100% reliant on highly skilled sales reps and these folks are hard to come by
- Unlike the agency I wrote about earlier, because they don’t produce any content at all, they aren’t turning their website into a sustainable competitive asset that will generate leads on autopilot
My Hybrid Approach
In my case, I want a way to generate highly qualified leads fast and I want to turn my website into a valuable asset that will generate leads on autopilot.
The problem is that my company is not venture-backed, and therefore, I cannot afford a team of writers and a team of sales reps. It’s just not feasible at this point in time.
So, what am I to do? How can I generate highly targeted and highly qualified leads in the short term, without taking away from content production?
For me, the solution is my podcast.
By using my podcast as a way to get my foot in the door, I’ve been able to repeatedly establish relationships at the CEO level and since making Groove my focus just 30 days ago, we’ve thus far landed two clients and have a few more conversations now in the works. (The CEO of the venture backed firm is now talking to us about our services as a result of being on the show)
When you use a podcast to get your foot in the door, you are not seen as a salesperson. Instead, you are seen as a journalist.
Rarely, does a CEO turn down the opportunity for exposure, so my ‘close rate’ on invitations to my podcast is quite high.
When you consider how many cold emails it would take for me to get an hour long conversation with a CEO of my choosing, the ROI of the podcaster approach is off the charts.
But there’s more…
Not only does my podcast get me in the door, but it also accomplishes the following additional benefits:
- My CEO guest is grateful for my having given them the opportunity for increased exposure
- I am seen as an expert (by asking them smart questions)
- I get an hour of their time without having to travel
- I am able to simultaneously create very high quality content that I can use in a variety of ways
By putting my journalist hat on and using my podcast as a way to get the ear of the CEO, I’m saving a massive amount of time that would have otherwise been wasted sending out hundreds of cold emails. I’m also creating very high quality content that I’ll be able to publish & re-purpose to my hearts content.
Unlike relying purely on content marketing alone, by getting super-specific about the type of company I want to interview (ventured-backed, growing fast, not yet blogging), I can easily generate very high quality leads in a very short period of time.
Want to start your own podcast? I’ve written a detailed post on how to do it here.
Want me to help you launch your own podcast? Feel free to contact us directly. If you found this post helpful, please share it on your social networks.