In 2015, HubSpot published the result of their traffic research, stating that 46% of traffic that B2B companies across all the industries get to their websites is direct. However, according to Paul Koks and Online Metrics, direct traffic over 20% is a sign of incorrect Google Analytics settings.
Direct traffic remains an enigma for marketers.
Yet the truth of the matter for any organization practicing both Outbound and Inbound go-to-market strategies is that Outbound is a much bigger contributor to this Inbound >> Direct traffic than realized.
The Outbound Assist is real, material, and likely misattributed throughout most of your Inbound traffic (and Google Analytics isn’t helping).
Since the average B2B website ends up with > ⅓ website visits that come Direct, this is an area to pay attention to. And since the majority of these visits were somehow generated and you have little idea how, the guesswork required when it comes to correct attribution of website visitors and inbound leads is critical.
This article is an attempt to unveil the mystery behind a portion of direct and organic traffic as well as the inbound leads a company generates on a regular basis.
How CIENCE Found A Traffic Source That Few Took Into Account
In late 2017, we used different domains for email (ciencemail.com) and website (cience.com). We were rapidly growing and for some time it was an issue nobody could handle. The old website on the domain we were using for email purposes only received huge traffic despite that it was hidden from Google’s Spiders. CIENCEmail.com actually saw more visits than the core cience.com website for a number of months. From the outside, this seemed illogical. However, we realized it was solely due to our outreach.
At that time, we had a team of 12 SDRs (CIENCE internal-only) who actively reached out to our potential clients via multiple channels (mostly email and telephone).
Nevertheless, sometimes the sales process stops at the very beginning. Reasons behind it can vary: not the right time, not the right person, or potential clients weren’t even aware of a problem they had.
Timing is Everything
But when the time comes, decision-makers often choose vendors that have engaged with them in the past. And this is exactly what happens– and happens all the time. Our potential clients typed in the domain name they saw in the emails they received (e.g. [email protected]) and went directly to our website.
We decided to investigate a little deeper and here’s what we found:
- SDRs’ Insights
Some of our SDRs pointed out that their leads were actually attributed to the inbound of our clients. Here’s how this happens:
Every letter our SDRs sent on behalf of our clients contained a signature like this:
Sales Development Representative
Some leads simply click on the link in the signature, copy and paste it, or type in the company name in their browser. Obviously, they increased the traffic for our clients. Some of them even converted as inbound leads to the disappointment of our SDRs (who did not receive credit for these leads generated).
- Client observations
We also had several clients who stopped their cooperation because their website suddenly began to perform better. They saw an increase in traffic and decided to abandon outbound because Inbound performed better.
They experienced a similar situation as we described above. However, they didn’t attribute it to the efforts of our SDRs.
- Success story
Finally, one of our clients told our CMO Eric Quanstrom an interesting story of how CIENCE helped him earn more clients via inbound channels. He shared the screenshots of the CRM he was using at the time. It demonstrated a bunch of clients who converted via his website but had been targeted by CIENCE SDRs first.
Early in 2018, our CMO began tracking the inbound leads (and converted clients) in HubSpot. He found that our SDRs had previously targeted a fair portion of these leads.
Sometimes, it would take several days, weeks or even months for a decision-maker to visit our website and fill out the form after the initial outreach. More often than not, we’d see a lag time between Sequence-end and inbound form-fill… As if the prospect had “paused” for a month or even half a year before typing CIENCE in Google.
We called this the Outbound Assist.
The Outbound Assist Phenomenon
Outbound assist is the percentage of inbound leads or converted inbound leads that had been initially targeted via outbound channels (an email, a phone call, or a message on social networking website).
Few marketers know about outbound assist and even fewer calculate it. There are several reasons for that:
- Lack of knowledge
Type in ‘outbound assist’ in Google or any other search engine. The term is new and even if people try and look it up, they will find no materials explaining the concept.
- Lack of acknowledgment
Few marketers want to recognize the impact that outbound outreach has on inbound. If an outbound activity doesn’t get any visible results with a lead, usually marketers would assume that the campaign failed with this or that lead. Actually, that very same lead may be entering through the inbound door. This effect should be noticed and embraced.
- Calculation issues
Modern CRMs like HubSpot make it possible to track the outbound-assisted leads. You can look it up in the history of engagement with each incoming lead.
Still, it’s not a perfect option. Since we have really scrupulous Customer Success Managers and sales teams there’s much scrolling for each customer. Option B is comparing lists of outbound and inbound leads. In addition to this, we’re still aggressively growing and adding new clients. That’s why CIENCE only calculates the share of outbound-assisted leads that converted to deals.
Here’s CIENCE’s outbound assist data for 2019:
CIENCE calculated that 17% out of inbound closed deals in 2019 was outbound assisted.
How Outbound Assist Impacts Inbound
- Increases awareness about the solution.
It’s about spreading the word about your product or service. A lot of your potential customers don’t know what they need. Even if it’s not the right time or they are not ready for the purchase, they will start thinking about it and they will come back to you. We hope that if we introduced a potential customer to the solution that can take place, it would be associated with our brand’s name.
- Increases awareness about the brand and the company.
For instance, you need a CRM solution for your business.
Option A – you start looking for CRM providers. You stumble upon the name of HubSpot and you’ve heard it somewhere before. This name is familiar, therefore it has some of your trust already. And you will look at it more closely.
Option B – before you start looking around, you recall HubSpot’s name. They’ve reached out to you some time ago. Why don’t you give them a call? After all, now is the right time for you.
Any other in-between options work too. The result stays the same. It makes the company name sound familiar when the lead is searching for opportunities.
- Increases the number of visitors to your website.
Each new website visitor is a potential customer and your chance to start a new business relationship. It is simple math. The more visitors you get, the more of them submit contact forms or request a meeting, the more your blog is read if you have one, the more opportunities you get to start a conversation.
Outbound assist is the percentage of the leads that came via inbound channels but had been initially generated by outbound efforts.
It impacts inbound in a few different ways: increases the number of visitors to your website, raises awareness about your product, your brand, and solutions your business provides.
Outbound assist is an important indicator that few companies are eager to acknowledge and even fewer of them are ready to calculate. However, it is essential for a better understanding of your direct traffic as well as the efforts of your sales development team.