How to Use Multi-Channel Marketing to Increase Lead Generation Results

May 29, 2015 Brian Watson

iStock_000028355156_SmallSmart marketers are always on the lookout for the next-big-thin to help them connect with audiences and reach conversion goals – for less. 

Today, inbound marketing is a strategy that increasingly fits that definition, both in terms of effectiveness and adoption.

According to HubSpot, 85% of marketers reported practicing inbound in 2014, up 25% over the 2013.  And 40% claimed inbound techniques were their company’s primary lead source.

Not surprisingly, the growing importance of inbound techniques is increasing the use – and importance – of content marketing channels.  For example, of the lead sources that marketers reported as increasing in importance over the last six months, three of the four involved inbound tools.

Why The Rush to Inbound?

Most people don’t like intrusion. 

Hardly breaking news.  But it does explain why do-not-call lists are so popular, neighborhood associations prohibit door-to-door solicitation, and businesses are required to comply with all sorts of CAN-SPAM regulations – or potentially face legal action and expensive fines.

The beauty of inbound is that there is no interruption involved.  Consumers seek you out – because of your expertise, or the usefulness of the information you provide, or maybe just because you’re really good at creating funny memes and cool vines

Whatever the reason, with inbound, consumers provide explicit permission to receive your marketing because they actually want to hear what you say.

Whereas outbound is a push medium – unanticipated marketing messages are sent to consumers to drive sales – inbound is all about attraction.    You create and share relevant, helpful, engaging content that aligns with the interests of target consumers.

Because of their interest in your area of expertise, inbound traffic is also a natural source of qualified prospects that can be nurtured through conversion and close.   And the process doesn’t end when a stranger is converted from prospect to customer.  The emphasis on continuously sharing quality content helps keep new customers coming back over time – until they gradually become brand evangelists.

From a metrics perspective, inbound delivers impressive ROI because the tools used to create and share content is often less costly than traditional outbound media.  Creating a series of targeted, helpful blog posts is more likely to be efficient – not to mention have a much longer shelf-life – than advertising on a billboard for a few months, for example.

Why Inbound Alone Isn't Enough

Despite the built-in advantages, inbound is not a panacea. 

As more and more marketers embrace inbound and the benefits of a content-based approach, the competition for consumer time and attention online is increasing dramatically. 

In many respects, consumers are swimming in a sea of content these days.  Consider that each minute:

571 new websites are created

• Over 347 new blog posts are published using Wordpress alone

• Email users send 204,00,000 messages

• Facebook users share 2,460,000 pieces of content

• Twitter users tweet 277,000 times

• YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video

Or put in another context: from the beginning of the world through 2003, there were 5 roughly exabytes of content created.  Today, there are over 5 exabytes published every day.

For marketers, the sheer amount of content that people can choose from makes it more difficult and costly to compete for attention on non-niche keywords.

With more Fortune 500 companies embrace inbound, achieving the kind of objectives that move the needle on ROI – like first page placement on major search engines, or content sharing on social networks – is becoming much trickier for the average business.  As inbound gains influence, content will continue to proliferate – increasing competition and taking aim at ROI.

Inbound is also not a quick-fix strategy.  Developing the right audience takes time.  To gain a search engine foothold for key terms, you need quality content and a measured, big-picture sharing strategy.  And nurturing leads from initial visit through conversion can take several touches.   

Once you do start to gain traction, inbound is positioned to provide scalable marketing momentum.  But the ramp-up can take months of intense, hands-on attention.

Why Multi-Channel Marketing Approach Makes Sense

Enough about the limitations of inbound. 

I’m a marketer, and I use content marketing strategies every day in my job to generate leads, communicate with prospects, and quantify marketing efforts with real data. 

There’s a reason why inbound marketing continues to grow in profile and popularity – it’s systematic, it’s data-backed, it focuses on generating leads and conversion, and it works

That said, profitable marketing plans rarely involve a zero-sum channel strategy.  And most businesses can’t afford to go all in on inbound – and wait months as the process scales and begins to generate leads

Fortunately, marketers aren’t forced to choose just one strategy.  And inbound and outbound are perfect complements, balancing flexibility and non-intrusiveness (inbound) with the ability to quickly reach a wide audience (outbound).

In the rest of this post, I’ll outline four strategies that marketers can use to create a multi-channel approach that is effective, data-driven, and scales quickly

Combine Inbound Content with Outbound Reach

Building an inbound audience can take a lot of time, focus, and productivity. 

It’s not as simple as writing a quick blog post or two and waiting for the leads to come flooding in.  It takes careful planning, a consistent publishing schedule, and content that people actually want to spend their time with.

Outbound tools can help shorten the time it takes to build a viable inbound audience.  Or act as a bridge until you’ve built up enough content and momentum that your inbound lead engine starts to purr.

Consider the following example:

• Valuable content (an eBook, whitepaper, video, or trial offer) is added to a landing page with a call-to-action sign-up or download form.  This is a common inbound technique.

• Targeted, direct response tools – like direct mail or search engine advertising – are used to drive prospects to the landing page to sign-up for your content or trial.

• New leads are added to an outbound email or direct mailing list that provides additional supporting content designed to move them through the marketing funnel – from prospect to conversion.  

Use Outbound to Connect, Inbound to Nurture

Not every lead is ready to make a purchase right away.  That’s especially true of prospects that enter the marketing funnel from traditional outbound direct response channels – like mass media ads, trade show leads, or direct mail.

For those top-of-funnel prospects, inbound is often the perfect qualification and nurturing tool – providing gradually more in-depth content at each stage of relationship.

Top-performing lead generation strategies often use multiple channels to develop the entire sales funnel – with outbound acting as the catalyst to connect and build awareness, and inbound content nurturing a more in-depth relationship. 

For example, warm leads can be passed along to sales immediate for conversion and close.  While cooler, top-of-funnel leads become part of a multi-channel campaign that uses inbound content – relevant blog post, whitepapers, and eBooks – as a way to further qualify and engage prospects.                                   

Include a Relevant Call-to-Action in All Media

One of the weaknesses of traditional mass media – TV, radio, print, and outdoor – is that it’s difficult to quantify results beyond brand awareness and general impression figures.

In that respect, inbound tools are a perfect complement to mass media campaigns – helping marketers track lead and conversion data from specific media on a granular level to better calculate ROI. 

The process works like this:

• Add a relevant inbound call-to-action – an online offer or gated content download, for example – to all marketing, regardless of media type.

• Provide a slightly different URL link (often called a campaign URL) for each media type. 

Segmenting URLs based on media type will help your analytics package differentiate traffic to an inbound landing from various sources, improving allocation for lead generation and ROI purposes.

Use Inbound Testing to Shape Outbound Campaigns

Experimentation is critical to effective direct response marketing strategy.  A marketer may have a gut feeling about what offer or messaging will best persuade prospects to take action, but until it’s tested and proven, it’s just a theory.

The problem is that running marketing experiments can be costly and time-consuming. Generating enough views and conversions to meet statistical significance usually doesn’t happen overnight.  And there’s not a lot of flexibility built into a control mail piece, making on-the-fly changes difficult to execute.

Testing is yet another area where inbound and outbound aligns perfectly.  Inbound’s built-in flexibility can help marketers split-test competing messages and offers quickly and efficiently – improving the speed with which your outbound campaigns can scale and go to market.  :                                              

• Build competing landing pages to test core elements, like offer, message, and call-to-action based upon conversion data.

• Once you’ve established winning elements with inbound data, use the new control strategy in your outbound marketing.  By skipping a long, costly outbound testing process, you can roll direct response campaigns out faster and generate more success, earlier in the campaign.

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