Normally when people think of inbound and outbound, they feel they have to choose one or the other, adopt that philosophy and own it. However, it doesn’t need to be an either/or situation. Both can be leveraged together for the benefit of the business.
While the two methodologies have some opposing tenets, they can work together.
Inbound aims to meet buyers where they’re at and provide value without being intrusive. But while that philosophy is effective, there are scenarios when people don’t recognize the problem they have.
People don’t know what they don’t know, so if they haven’t identified their problem yet, they won’t be able to search for it or find solutions organically.
Sometimes you need to interrupt someone’s status quo in order to help them, and outbound can help people become aware of solutions that will improve their lives. If outbound outreach is done with the customer’s needs in mind, it can be part of an inbound strategy.
Balancing Inbound and Outbound
There are times you might want to put more of a focus on your outbound efforts: for example if you need immediate quick wins to meet your short-term goals. But there are also times when you won’t want to be investing in outbound because it’s costlier.
Regardless of what you’re doing with outbound, you should also always be investing some resources into inbound. While inbound takes longer to build up, it helps you build trust and show you’re consistent and reliable, and inbound has a higher long-term ROI than outbound.
The key to balancing the two methodologies is planning for the goals you have for a given time frame.
Your inbound-outbound balance shouldn’t be a set it and forget process. It should be fluid and change as your business develops and changes. The amount of focus you place on each method could even change month to month.
Allbound Example: Airbnb
The inbound methodology dictates you add value before you extract value. You want to provide value for people without being disruptive, but the point of a business is to solve for a need in the market. If a company is ahead of its time, it will need to push its message out there so people become aware of a new, different way of doing things.
For example, Airbnb used the inbound methods of word-of-mouth marketing (WOM) and referral marketing to grow in existing markets, but as the company expanded into new regions, they found setting up booths, posting flyers and hosting in-person events like info sessions helped kickstart new markets.
Additionally, one of their early marketing tactics was an integration with Craigslist. The integration posted their listings on Craigslist, allowing them to meet customers where they were already searching, but on top of that, Airbnb also poached listings from Craigslist by emailing property listers about renting their accommodations on Airbnb too. Those unsolicited outbound emails helped the company grow the number of listings they could offer.
Airbnb has now reached maturity in multiple markets worldwide, but still uses a mix of inbound and outbound tactics. They utilize a blog, user-generated content and WOM to gain organic reach and supplement those efforts with paid advertising and influencer marketing.
Airbnb’s combination of tactics makes them easily findable by travelers searching for places to stay in specific locations and keeps the company top-of-mind for people looking to plan their vacation around an experience or unique accommodation.
Match Your Allbound Tactics to Your Product Lifecycle Stages
The handoff between inbound and outbound tactics aligns with the different product lifecycle stages. As your product switches stages and the relationship between your product and customers adjusts, the tactics that’ll reach and resonate with those customers most effectively will change as well.
Stage 1: Introduction
When you’re first introducing yourself to a market, you need to inform people who you are and what you do in order to get buy-in from innovators. Because your product is new, people might not be searching for it yet. This is a great time to consider outbound to break into the market.
Once you have innovators using your product, you can use referrals and word-of-mouth marketing to start getting momentum. However, those innovators only know so many people and can only help spread your product so far.
Once you have a solid customer base, you can then use them as a case study of your product’s success and amplify it with outbound methods to overcome the skepticism that prevented early adopters from embracing your product before this point.
While you are using outbound methods to gain awareness, you should also have your inbound foundation built by the time you conclude this stage.
Stage 2: Growth
When you hit the growth stage, the inbound foundation you developed during your introduction stage will have ideally taken off and put you in a position to soar through the growth stage.
Your SEO strategy will be bringing visitors to your website, and those visitors will convert on education content that helps them better understand their challenge and how your product solves for it.
You might still use outbound methods for hyper-targeted outreach, like re-engagement or account-based marketing, but you’ll be primarily focused on optimizing your inbound strategy.
Stage 3 & 4: Maturity and Decline
Unfortunately, inbound can only take you so far. Eventually, you’ll reach a point of diminishing returns. This will probably take years, but when it happens, you’ll need to create a new set of buyer personas and expand the groups of people you’re marketing to.
This might require some repositioning or additional product offerings, and you might have to promote that new product in an outbound way to reach that new market share.
For example, a lot of Airbnb’s paid advertising once they reached maturity was focused on changing their product’s perception from being a cheap place to stay to a one-of-a-kind experience.
To continue their company growth, Airbnb had to expand their customer base beyond travelers on a budget to a new segment of the market, and they’ve been using outbound marketing to communicate with those new audiences.
Inbound and outbound don’t have to be at odds with each other. As long as your marketing tactics are carried out with your customer’s needs in mind, the two methodologies can be used to complement each other.
You can prioritize outbound or inbound tactics to best suit the goals you’re trying to hit. Outbound is better for short-term quick wins, and inbound is better for long-term ROI. Combining them into an allbound strategy will prime your company for growth and success.
Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.