Ask an Expert: Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing

Oct 20, 2016

Welcome to Invest Ottawa’s new series Ask an Expert; where OUR experts answer YOUR questions. If you have a startup related question and are looking for some help, send us an email. Our EIR’s, Advisors, and Entrepreneurs are on the job!

Missed our last post? Click here to read about how to transform your free model into a paid platform.

Of all the milestones that come with building a startup, very few compare to the feeling that happens when you get your first paying customer. Finally, someone believes in you and is willing to pay for your solution! All that hard work feels worth it and you have the motivation and validation you need to move forward.

Pat Crosscombe, CEO & Founder of BoardSpace, has been chasing that feeling since  2013 when she first came up with the idea for her startup. After five years as President of her condo’s Board of Directors, Pat was fed up with the time it took to get meeting minutes approved and spending way too much time on administrative tasks instead of on more important duties. Pat decided to build a software for condo boards to streamline this administrative burden and save directors and property managers time and money. Now, Pat is looking for customers for her all-in-one board management software ready for use by condos, HOAs (homeowners’ associations), Community Associations, and non-profits.

With only two employees, the next step on Pat’s agenda: Get her first paying customer. “I’m trying to drive my first paying customers so I’m implementing my go-to-market strategy at this very moment.  Hubspot will tell you that inbound is King and outbound marketing is dead or archaic” says Pat. “Is traditional outbound marketing truly dead (i.e. cold calls, cold emails, etc…)?”

Ask a Biz Expert:

Samer Forzley: Virtual CMO and Managing Director at Market Drum, Part Time Professor at the Telfer School of Management and Invest Ottawa EIR

Samer Forzley

First things first, Hubspot is 100% right, content is king, but even kings need help to get things done. Cold calling is not for everyone and it really depends on who the company is and who their potential customers are.

Take for example Invest Ottawa companies like Signority. As an eSignature SaaS (Software as a Service) company serving Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMB), their go-to-market strategy depends highly on customer acquisition via content marketing. Rightly so, their customer segment expects a self-service model and cold calling should not serve as a primary method for customer acquisition.

On the other hand, take a company with an extended sales cycle like Flyta. For Flyta, content marketing is good for lead acquisition, great for lead nurturing, but not enough. In these cases, sales prospecting is required.

Whether you call it cold calling, prospecting, sales development, or any other fancy title, if done right, cold calling should yield results.

Here are four things to consider if cold calling is part of your customer acquisition mix:

  1. Only call people who you can genuinely help, and that means you have to understand your target market well.
  2. Only call if you understand the customer, that means you know what their day is like, what issues they are solving, what makes them tick, how they buy, etc… Research, research, research and then call
  3. Prospects are people and have lives they share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram….Talk about them, not the weather. More importantly, be ready to talk at their level and be well versed in their business – you call as a problem solver and as an advisor. They should be happy you called.
  4. When you prospect, don’t call a couple of times and give up. Data shows that people give up too early and it takes about nine tries before you get ahold of someone. Be patient.

“Content is King” works as a go-to-market strategy when the company is 100% in tune with its market. This means that the company is a true thought leader, who feels the customer pain, and helps define where the industry is going. In a “Content is King” strategy, delivering average content is not good enough; it has to be exceptional. If you are a startup, ask yourself: can you afford a team to consistently churn out extreme quality content? Not only that, but the content must be delivered at a frequent pace and for an extended period. Lastly, you have to match it with the right content distribution strategy.

Dane Bedward: CEO of NBot Inc., Executive Fellow at Mistral Venture Partners and Invest Ottawa EIR

Dane Bedward

I do not think that outbound marketing is completely dead. Though Demand Metric shows three times as many leads by inbound as compared to traditional outbound marketing at 63% less cost, I still believe that there is room for some targeted outbound marketing. This would entail identifying the target market you wish to service and honing in on the particular communications methodology that these potential customers consume i.e. trade journals, specific radio, TV programs etc, that are directed to this segment. I agree that inbound can be more effective but a focused approach with outbound can also be useful to find qualified leads. With outbound marketing, you build your contact list through these actions:

  • Creating a profile for a potential customer
  • Choosing the industry you want to target
  • Focusing on the specific geographic area where you have or intend to have sales support
  • Deciding on the company size that could realistically afford your product or service
  • Selecting potential contacts by job function or job title

So in short…

Inbound Marketing is Not for Everyone

This is a complex topic that depends on many factors. B2B companies will see very different results than a B2C company.

Don’t Settle for Average Content

If you can’t afford to consistently produce engaging and worthwhile content, then do yourself a favor and pick up the phone.

Know thy Customer

The reason why so many people think outbound marketing is dead is because they aren’t doing it properly. Understand your customers and narrow your targeting for a more successful outbound strategy.


Have a business question for our experts?

Email us at [email protected] and we’ll be in touch!

Back to Blog