Survey Says: Outbound Marketing Still Effective

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I’ve written many times before about the bias against outbound marketing by those who sell inbound marketing products and services. But a recent survey of 1000 IT executives should serve as a wake-up call to companies who choose to ignore traditional outbound marketing techniques like cold calling, emails, and print ads for generating sales leads.

  • 60% of IT executives said outbound calls or emails have led to an IT vendor’s offering being evaluated
  • 75% said they’d decided to attend an event or take an appointment after receiving a cold call or email

Long before HubSpot CEO and founder Brian Halligan coined the phrase inbound marketing, Yellow Pages companies contrasted the difference between inbound and outbound marketing as creative vs. directional advertising:

Creative Advertising: “The Seller Seeking a Buyer”

Anything we consider to be outbound marketing is creative advertising: cold calling, direct mail, email, and traditional media like television, radio and outdoor advertising.

Directional Advertising: “The Buyer Seeking a Seller”

Back in the day, Yellow Pages was the only form of inbound marketing. Companies who sold Yellow Page advertising emphasized the difference in order to make a point: that small businesses needed to do both. A number of studies demonstrated how advertising in the Yellow Pages increased the effectiveness of a company’s outbound efforts. I don’t imagine that’s changed.

Here’s a short list of outbound marketing strategies to consider implementing right away.

Cold Calling

A cold call is nothing more than an attempt to initiate a business relationship. Anyone who’s annoyed or “not interested” isn’t the right person. Remember, the right person will be receptive to your call, because he or she has a need you can fill.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to cold call. Here’s a link to point you in the right direction:

Cold Calling: Does it Work?

Cold Canvassing

Cold canvassing is simply door-to-door cold calling. Why would anyone resort to such an outdated, ineffective method of generating leads? Because it works. My cousin built his company from the ground up using no other marketing than cold canvassing. Over 90 percent of my company’s prospecting is cold canvassing. It even sustained us through “the Great Recession.”

LinkedIn Prospecting

LinkedIn is the only social media platform where overt prospecting is considered somewhat acceptable. The key is having a clear understanding of who your client is—or targeting specific verticals. Here are two articles to get you started.

How to Build Your LinkedIn Network
Using Linkedin to Prospect for Larger Clients


Email marketing is one of those marketing strategies I’m skeptical about because of my own behavior, but I’ve heard studies showing conversion rates of 12 percent or more. If you choose to market with email, I suggest you go the opt-in route, rather than sending unsolicited emails. (The disclaimer at the bottom of the SPAM email I received, explaining how it’s really not SPAM, doesn’t convince me not to hit ‘delete.’)

Email isn’t your only option. When everyone was jumping on email marketing, I wanted to stand out amongst the clutter. So I mailed a full-color, single-sided newsletter, printed off my inkjet. It landed me more than one client.

Trade Shows

I don’t considered trade shows to be outbound marketing, since prospects voluntarily attend the event. But since it tends to be included in a list of “ineffective marketing strategies,” I’m including it here.

Small businesses-themed and industry-specific trade shows can be an effective way to meet business owners and decision-makers, even if you just walk the floor as an attendee.

Base Your Marketing on Real Data, not Anecdotal Evidence

According to Google, television is the biggest driver of online search. Yet, how can that be if even 10-year-olds aren’t watching TV commercials? Do you know how many articles I’ve read from SEO “experts” whose only evidence against Yellow Page advertising is to ask “when was the last time you used it?”

It’s dangerous to base your marketing strategy on anecdotal evidence or your own behavior, because there’s always someone with a different story or experience.

How about you? What outbound marketing techniques have you found to be effective? Post your experience in the comments below.

John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

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