There’s been a lot of digital ink spilled about how inbound marketing tops cold calling for generating sales leads. If you listen to the pundits, the battle is over — cold calling is all but dead.
As a content marketer I should embrace that message. But as a long-time technology seller I say, ‘not so fast’.
Any IT sales or marketing leader will tell you that the role of marketing is to grow sales (71% say it’s the top priority, according to Hubspot). And there’s no debating that inbound marketing (content, social media and SEO) has transformed how IT vendors develop leads for new business.
The case for inbound marketing
It’s easy to make the case for inbound. It educates customers and establishes your bona fides, eventually leading prospects to you (instead of you chasing after them). Cost per lead for inbound is pegged at 60% less than for outbound marketing — another major advantage.
Inbound also aligns to how IT decision makers do their research. 47% of buyers view 3-5 pieces of content prior to connecting with a sales rep. That means if you’re not using inbound marketing and publishing content, you may be excluded before you ever engage the customer.
What about cold calling?
You’ve heard the arguments against cold calling. Only 1% of cold calls result in meetings. 90% of B2B decision makers don’t respond to them. Interruption marketing is BAD.
But if that’s the case, why does Hubspot rank the telephone as the most successful channel for connecting with prospects?
Here’s why — in the right hands the phone may be the most powerful tool for qualifying leads and establishing new prospect relationships.
A phone call can yield a wealth of information that inbound marketing can’t. What influence (if any) does the contact have on the buying process? What are the business drivers behind the contact’s interest? What is the competitive landscape, and the installed base profile? And so on…
It’s not really a cold call if…
Successful marketers rarely make a true ‘cold call’. They’ll use any information they can find — about the prospect, the company, or industry trends — to make that initial conversation relevant and turn it into a ‘warm call’.
And that leads us back to what good inbound marketing does. It informs, establishes your credibility, and induces your prospect to learn more about your company and your solution — often before you speak to them for the first time.
Bringing it together
So which has more impact in driving leads for technology vendors, inbound marketing or cold calling? The answer is both, used together, and at different points in the sales cycle.
Inbound marketing is most effective early in the buyer’s journey, as prospects self-select and opt into your sales funnel.
To move that inbound lead from ‘prospect’ to ‘qualified opportunity’ to ‘customer’ you need something more — a dynamic, ongoing dialogue with the prospect. In many cases the telephone is the most effective way to make that connection. These aren't really cold calls, as they build naturally on the credibility and interest you established with your inbound marketing efforts.
Together, inbound marketing and ‘cold calling’ create a synergy that’s hard to beat — and a winning combination for driving leads and growing sales.