A to Z: Choosing an Outbound Agency Part 1
With all the choices, advice, best practice, opinions, writing, technologies and methods currently available with respect to inbound and outbound marketing, who am I NOT to join that discussion. I started what would now be called an “outbound” agency back in 1993. We might not have been the first of its type, but we got enough arrows in our backs to have earned the label “pioneers”. As much as the tools have changed since then, the challenge remains the same – “how do I get in front of my prospect and get a fair hearing for our solution, which I know will help them.” It has gotten more difficult. There is an endless list of solutions promising prosperity; with many different providers of these solutions all vying for the prospect's attention. The prospect is under siege; adrift on an ocean of choice, lashed by waves of homogeneous product, blown by the winds of confusion and uncertainty.
This blog series will help anyone looking to add or change their use of an outbound agency. We’ll go through it using the A, B, C’s of facets I recommend you consider as you progress through the process. I may miss some, so feel free to chime in.
In this first blog, let’s level set on outbound and inbound. Any definition of inbound is usually derogatory toward outbound. Inbound was seen as the highbrow, more thoughtful method of direct marketing. The more grown up, better respected, older brother where you created and provisioned thoughtful, relevant content in convenient places which suspects would gush over, and then call you and place their order. The early days of outbound were just as thoughtful, by the way. Both inbound and outbound methods have become over used and more thoughtlessly deployed diluting their effectiveness. The usual human behavior prevailed; the heard rushed from one extreme to another, causing outbound (which in those days consisted of cold calling, with email added to the mix in later years) to become less effective. The herd then migrated to the mantra of inbound. In the last few years, people realized that there is no one silver bullet. No easy answers and no free rides. You must think through the uniques of your customers, markets and your own companies to come up with the right formula – which will usually involve some blend of both inbound and outbound. The latest fashionable expression of this, of course, is Account Based Marketing.
So, without getting too poetic or over complicated – outbound involves you taking a direct action to connect with a suspect. You might use email, texting, and direct messaging through social media platforms. You might even pick the phone up and call someone…who’d a thunk it? Some methods are outbound but the "inbound in-crowd” had them masquerading as inbound (like email). Inbound includes SEO, PPC, digital advertising, content syndication & placement, social media and blogs. Both have an endless supply of technology available to improve performance, drive data, deliver analysis and reporting.
The "Verto Verdict"
As a reminder we’re going to consider what you should think about, when selecting an outbound agency. There are plenty of agencies out there that do both inbound and outbound. You’ll do both in the normal course of your own prospecting. It's not an “either/or” situation in most BtoB companies with a high enough price tag. Agencies that position themselves as outbound will (might) still use elements of inbound, and vice versa. Don’t get hung up on this. Find an agency whose services match up to what you think you need, but remain open minded as good agencies can teach you how to be more innovative, and add new twists to your approach.
In the next blog, we’ll start with the A’s of choosing an outbound agency. "Agreement" will be the first; figuring out what challenge you want to conquer, why, how to define and measure success and gaining the internal "Agreements" so everyone's Aligned (that's another "A") So, until then we’ll say goodbye using some other A’s, like Au Revoir or Adieu.