It doesn’t always have to work that way. In fact, our agency Mainstreethost has excelled at growing its customer base via outbound marketing and sales methods.
Although many studies conclude that inbound trumps outbound, many companies still employ outbound as a source of lead generation and customer acquisition.
However, as outbound lead generation and sales become less and less effective (even we agree it has), businesses still relying on it should invest in becoming smarter in how they do it.
Ironically, our inbound marketing software has helped amplify our outbound sales process in a number of ways.
Whether you’re transitioning from outbound to inbound, are looking for ways to get more out of your outbound sales force with no intentions of adopting inbound, or rely on both outbound and inbound like we do at Mainstreethost, you can drastically improve your outbound process with the help of inbound marketing software. Here are seven ways.
1) Better Outreach Lists Through Prospect Tracking
Before we get into the good stuff, you’ll benefit from knowing the following:
- Our marketing automation software is not currently connected to a CRM. We’ve customized our portal quite a bit to get CRM-like features out of it.
- Mainstreethost’s Inbound Marketing Department consists of eight individuals who are very hands-on in all of the company’s marketing initiatives. We work closely with our outbound operation.
- We upload our outbound leads into HubSpot on a daily basis
Every day, 98% of the people who visit your website leave without taking action.
Would you rather build your cold call / cold email lists with the businesses and individuals making up that 98%, or businesses you randomly or with loose criteria purchase from a third party (with little to no knowledge of where else they’re being distributed)?
If you chose the first option, let me introduce you to prospect tracking. Conveniently built into HubSpot’s inbound marketing software, you can quickly and efficiently gather information (visitor name and pages visited, number of unique visitors, location, and personal information such as LinkedIn profiles) that will help you create more targeted outreach lists for your sales team. With features such as favoriting, daily reports, and quick exporting, it’s easy to keep an eye on the contacts that count. Below is a filtered search of recent United States only prospects in Mainstreethost’s portal:
Let’s look at a more detailed content summary of one of these contacts:
Through the content summary, I can see that this contact visited Mainstreethost’s homepage, contact page, services page, a promotional page, and our about us page. From that information alone, I know this is a prospect worth looking into further. I’ll “favorite” this prospect so I can find it easily should I need to refer back to it.
Continue going through the prospects, and depending on its size, you can have yourself a pretty valuable outreach list in only a couple hours.
Disclaimer: Not all contacts on your prospects list are going to be worth spending time on. You’ll find your fair share of ISPs, competitors, universities (in our case, this typically means someone researching our field), and search engines which all add little to no value for the purpose of building more targeted outbound sales lists. You can hide irrelevant prospects to keep a clean and manageable list if you have a high traffic website.
2) Know Which Contacts are Engaged With Live Alerts
Would your sales team benefit from live alerts when one of their leads revisits your website, views pricing, opens an email, or downloads an offer? Immediately after implementing this feature at Mainstreethost, our sales team was making smarter, more efficient follow-up to leads assigned to them.
Below is an example of an activity stream from one of our account managers here at Mainstreethost (notice the opened proposal and visit to the pricing page). Having this information as an overview is great, but imagine how valuable it is to get it on the fly!
Before we move forward…
To take advantage of live alerts, and most everything else I’m going to touch on in this post, there is something we need to do in order to unlock this valuable data and certain HubSpot features. We need to get our contacts to fill out a form.
With inbound leads it’s easy. A visitor comes to your site, downloads an offer, fills out a contact form, requests a demo, signs up for a webinar, etc.; it happens naturally. With outbound leads, we’re typically cold calling / cold emailing, so there are no immediate forms involved. After we successfully connect with an outbound lead, we’re going to introduce some inbound tactics to the mix. Our process looks something like this:
- An outbound lead generation specialist connects with contacts via a cold call / cold email
- Talk to the lead about problems we’ve identified with their marketing / website
- Talk to the lead about how our solutions can help them overcome these problems
- Help the lead decide whether or not moving forward with Mainstreethost is a proper fit for them and their business at that given time
- Once we decide the relationship is worthwhile to explore, the lead moves to an account manager to develop further solutions and pricing – but wait, not so fast!
Before the call with the account manager takes place, we introduce a common inbound tactic:
- A thank-you email is sent to the lead containing information about their next call, and a link to a landing page with a form which we ask the lead to fill out (the form allows us to collect some really useful information and unlocks that super valuable lead intelligence)
Below is an example of an email we send daily to outbound leads that we’ve connected with that day. Our goal is to get leads to follow the link, fill out the form, and submit their information. As you would do with inbound emails, test your outbound emails for optimal results.
3) Know Who You’re Talking to With Better Lead Intelligence
No two leads are the same, nor should they be treated the same. Once a lead has been generated, it’s the account manager’s responsibility to further discuss pain points, goals, existing resources, where we fit in their operation as a digital marketing agency, etc. Since the lead took action via our earlier email, we’ve been gathering intelligence we can use to make their “discovery” call more personal.
Prior to utilizing inbound marketing software, this intelligence did not exist. Without it, we relied on memory. In my experience, volume and memory don’t mix well. As we do with inbound leads, we’ll use our collected intelligence to tailor future conversations with our outbound leads. Intelligence gathered on an outbound lead could look like this (not much different from an inbound lead):
The information above shows me that this outbound lead opened an email, opened / clicked another email, downloaded one of our ebooks, and visited a page on our website. Instead of an account manager reaching out to this lead with very little information, we can use this lead intelligence to study the lead’s behavior and then tailor our conversations around things that may resonate with them the most. Knowing that the lead has been responsive to our email communication and has downloaded a piece of our premium content, there are a several directions an account manager can take to stay relevantand make the best first impression.
4) Keep Leads Top-of-Mind with Automated Internal Notifications
Earlier I mentioned that our marketing automation software is not connected to a CRM. Internal reminder messages can be easily executed by most CRM solutions.
In my opinion, workflows are one of HubSpot’s more powerful features, and are also a big part of marketing automation. We typically relate workflows and marketing automation with thank-you emails and lead nurturing. One of the ways we use workflows in our outbound process is for internal reminder notifications. When you’re dealing with volume (which is common with outbound sales), it’s not uncommon to lose sight of leads you’re responsible for.
With workflows, you can notify salespeople of leads they’re responsible for at frequencies you see fit. We study habits of our salespeople and the average initial “lifespan” of outbound leads and found that 3, 10, 21, and 30-day “reminder” notifications work best for our team. This helps the sometimes extra busy salespeople stay organized (among other benefits). An example of an internal notification triggered by a workflow might look something like this:
It’s been 10 days since you’ve started working with BUSINESS CONTACT at COMPANY NAME. How is everything going? If you converted this lead into a customer, please let us know so we can make sure they keep getting all the right content. Otherwise, if the lead is still open, answer the following questions so we can lend assistance if necessary.
- When is the last time you talked to BUSINESS CONTACT?
- Do you currently have follow-up calls scheduled? If so, when?
- In your opinion, where in the buying cycle is BUSINESS CONTACT (awareness, consideration, interest, preference, or purchase)?
- What has BUSINESS CONTACT showed interest in to this point?
- Have you provided BUSINESS CONTACT with any of our content? If so, what content?
- Do you need a sales engineer to assist in any future calls?
- Please get back to us as soon as you can!
P.S. – You’re awesome!
Depending on the volume of leads your salespeople deal with, you may want to include more or less questions.
Automated internal notifications are also great for gathering data you can use for bettering your sales processes. It also maintains communication between marketing and sales. Here are some other awesome examples of sales notification emails.
5) Intelligent Remarketing Through Lead Segmentation
Look for ways to collect information from your outbound leads as early in your sales process as possible. We begin with high-level overviews that include a lead’s understanding of digital marketing, their business type (B2B or B2C), and their industry, as well as their city, state, and country. From there, we have several methods that help us collect even more information along the acquisition journey.
On average, a good close percentage (outbound lead to paying customer) for an account manager at Mainstreethost is between 25% - 35%. That leaves up to 75% of qualified outbound leads unclosed! These are leads that have shown interest in our company and our services.
With that in mind: remember all the information we’ve been collecting thus far? Assuming your outbound lead converted by filling out a form, we’ll use that information in conjunction with new data we’ve collected through HubSpot to segment those leads for optimal remarketing.
If your outbound lead didn’t convert, you’re pretty much stuck with what you’ve collected manually. However, depending on the quality of information you’re collecting, you can still send fairly targeted emails.
The list segmentation tools in HubSpot are powerful and easy to use. The same methods you use to segment your inbound leads can be applied to your outbound process with very little effort.
6) Listen to Leads Through Social Monitoring Tools
If you’re uploading and segmenting contacts via smart lists, monitoring your outbound leads on social media is simple. In addition to interacting with outbound leads on social media, we’ve found this tool to be great for information gathering.
When your sales team deals with volume, they need information fast. For a broad and simple setup, give your outbound leads a unique identifier / property, and through the use of HubSpot’s list and social monitoring tools, you won’t have to worry about updating your streams with each data upload (remember, we upload contacts daily).
Things you’ll gather through monitoring your outbound leads on social media:
- Know when leads are referencing competition
- Know when leads are mentioning you (as a salesperson or as a company)
- Know who your leads connect with
- Learn how influential your leads are among their network
- Learn about your leads’ interests (professional and personal)
- Know how active / how much time your leads spend online
- Gather information for further contact segmentation ideas
7) Continuously Educate Your Salespeople
A challenge many outbound lead generation and sales teams face is finding enough time in the day. With the declining effectiveness of outbound, most days are spent connecting with businesses or individuals with little to no time for education. This makes it increasingly important for efficient, effective, and engaging training programs.
As Brandon Koch mentioned in his “5 Tips to Increase Close Percentage with Sales and Marketing Alignment” post, I form, plan, and execute bi-weekly trainings with our entire sales team. At first, it was difficult to find a style that worked. With the help of HubSpot’s Academy and Partner Resources, I’m able to spend more time interacting with our teams, which we found worked best for our sales teams.
Outbound sales are still a huge part of our operation at Mainstreethost, but that hasn’t stopped us from adopting inbound.
Three years ago, we made a commitment to make inbound marketing a bigger part of our lead generation efforts. Fourteen months ago, we teamed up with HubSpot to take our efforts to the next level. Inbound marketing is something that works, is effective, and most importantly, is sustainable. We take these proven, effective, and sustainable practices and apply them to our outbound efforts; it works surprisingly well.
If you’re considering making the shift to inbound or see value in leveraging inbound marketing software to support your outbound sales process, download our free inbound marketing roadmap for some proven insight!
Originally published Aug 15, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016