Inbound vs Outbound Marketing – It’s a Dating Game

By Jonny Prest

You’re in a bar with your friends when some random person comes up and interrupts your conversation with a delightful pick-up line, something akin to ‘you’re well fit’. Urgh. That’s outbound marketing… Or, we should say, impersonal, cold outbound marketing. An unsolicited, unwanted, generic approach by someone you don’t know, have never heard of, and don’t want in your life.

It’s like when a business directly contacts prospects by phone (cold calling) or email (spammy email marketing) when you’ve had no prior engagement and haven’t got a Scooby who they are. Annoying, disruptive and even hassling. 

Man and woman clinking glasses at a bar

How marketing and dating have both improved with technology

Thanks to modern technology, the dating game now offers the much more pleasant experience of online dating. You get to spend time getting to know someone before you take the plunge and meet them. When you do meet them, you’re much more likely to be a good match and have a positive experience than if you decided to take a punt on the ‘you’re well fit’ smooth-talker in the bar. This is inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing and technology

In business terms, it’s when a prospect has seen, watched or read a piece of content created by a company that has sparked interest. They do more research, consume more content (in a blog post, for example) and then contact the business themselves when they are ready to find out more. 

Don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t mean inbound is right and outbound is wrong. The truth is, a combination of inbound and outbound marketing is what’s needed in a business. Not one or the other.

Customer-centric marketing

This means creating a well-thought-out, customer-centric marketing and sales journey strategy that grabs the attention of a prospect and then takes them on a journey that they are in control of. A journey where they have time and space to decide if a business is a good match for them and also when to take the next step… just like in online dating. 

Let us explain further…

Finding the right match 

Remember, dating is a two-sided game. It’s about finding the right match, the right fit. More than that, it’s being aware of whether it is the right time for each party. Are they ready to commit? If not, there’s no point in the pursuit! 

Who are your potential customers?

So, let’s go back to basics for a moment. In order to create a customer-centric marketing and sales journey strategy, you have to know who your target audience is. Who do you want to attract with inbound and outbound marketing and sales? If you don’t know this, you’re just chancing your luck on pretty much anyone and the likelihood of you getting to the conversion line is very slim. 

Where does inbound marketing work?

Once you’ve figured out who, find out where – where do your prospects hang out? And is it somewhere they’ll be open to being approached? At speed-dating events and in singles bars, there is a mutual and clear understanding that everyone is there for a reason – and the same goes for networking events and trade shows. These are great examples of where outbound marketing can be incredibly effective and successful. 

man with a name-sticker on holding a glass of wine at a speed-dating event.

Start from the beginning

But beware. Finding the right match comes with that wonderful flurry of excitement of having found someone you could have a connection with. Don’t get carried away. Being too direct and ‘down to business’ won’t get you anywhere. With outbound marketing, you’re starting the conversation at the beginning. Prospects have no idea who you are or what you do – to them, you are a stranger. So even though you’ve done your research and are with the right people in the right place, you have to implement softer skills such as amazing storytelling and empathy, sprinkled with a lot more charm than the wannabe smooth-talker in the bar. You should focus on their needs and lead them to your solution – showing them how it solves a problem they either know or don’t know exists! 

What is called for at this stage is some good old-fashioned wooing!

Woo them!

Now you know who and where, you need to think of how – how you can take leads on a journey to create a strong connection to your brand, give them the desire to know more, and make them return again and again until they convert from a prospect to a customer. Your marketing team needs to lay out a strategy that generates demand by guiding the right people along the right journey, nudging them along gently but purposefully… wooing them until they opt in. 

Using inbound and outbound marketing

Outbound marketing is great for grabbing attention and demand generation, but people rarely find love on the first date. And this is where inbound and outbound marketing should work together, with inbound being used to wonderfully woo your audience.

Forms of inbound marketing

Inbound marketing can include social media marketing, lead magnets, website content, search engine optimisation, blogs, podcasts, ebooks, videos, demos… all things that prospects choose to engage and interact with and keep you on their radar. Let them call the shots and opt in to each step, to the point that they want to connect and discuss your offering further.

Warming up your prospect

Of course, they need encouragement, but that’s the work of a well-laid, transparent roadmap indicating each step clearly. And that roadmap can be peppered with other well-placed outbound options too for when your audience has started to warm up to you. Direct mail can work wonders here… a little gift or sample sent through the post at a key point in the journey. 

woman smelling a bunch of roses and smiling at the man who gave them to her

So How Do You Get it Right?

It’s about judging when the right time is to try to start that conversation and push that little bit harder. What is absolutely crucial to remember here is that every prospect is different and will choose to connect with your brand at different points of the journey… some earlier on, some later on. So it has to be a personalised and humanised approach and you have to know when is the right moment to nudge prospects along, to the point where it’s time to seal the deal…

Knowing when to seal the deal 

Knowing when marketing should hand over to sales so they can seal the deal is a delicate and pivotal moment in a customer journey. No matter how good your wooing skills are, going in for the snog too soon can negate all the hard work you’ve put in so far and end up with an awkward peck on the cheek and you parting ways.

The sales and marketing dance

Think of sales and marketing as a dance… a fabulous barn dance. The formation starts as a group, then splits into different smaller groups or duos, and progresses to the point where you swap partners.

The process of the dance

outbound marketing starting with a little bow or curtsy to say hello, inbound marketing do-si-do-ing with prospects – gently and candidly wooing them along the journey until the time is exactly right and they become an MQL (marketing-qualified lead) and are ready to be swept off by sales down through the arch of interlocked hands to the SQL (sales-qualified lead) conversion line!

big group of people dancing in pairs

Keep an eye on all parties

A word of caution, though… if you’ve ever been to a barn dance, you’ll know the chaos it causes when someone skips a step, or goes too quickly or too slowly. The dance risks falling apart completely as people scrabble around not knowing which way to turn!

Using technology to improve your marketing and sales dance

So sales and marketing have to have constant awareness of each other’s steps, and always be ready to catch prospects at the precise time to keep the dance moving smoothly… to a glorious end! But this is easier said than done when everyone is twirling and whirling at different points. So this is where a good CRM platform like Hubspot or Keap is invaluable to make sure everyone stays in time and in unison with well-thought-out systems and sequences.

Seed can be your inbound and outbound marketing cupid

We all know that wooing someone isn’t an easy thing to do… if only there was a set of instructions for it! Well, fortunately, in business there can be… in the form of a customer-centric marketing and sales journey strategy. But devising and creating one is no mean feat. It involves setting out a process and system that intertwines inbound and outbound marketing that is able to connect with the masses but then treat people as individuals once they are on the journey, responding to them in a personalised and humanised way. 

Here at Seed, we love to help clients discover and devise strategy, so why not click through to our Customer Acquisition page and book a discovery call? 


Written in collaboration with Jo Berthalot

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