Some people think that outbound marketing can be entirely replaced with inbound activities. Other organizations believe that they need both (without ever combining them together). We, at CIENCE, know that outbound and inbound marketing can complement and empower each other. All you need to have is a good strategy and great cooperation between departments.
For both our clients and ourselves, we’ve conducted multiple successful campaigns that combine the two. In this article, we will detail how to use outbound marketing techniques to enhance events (conferences).
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Although some experts consider participation at events to be a classic outbound marketing technique, we would argue that it’s inbound in its essence – depending on what you deem at “essence.”
Many people mistakenly believe that all the old methods are “outbound,” while new digital era marketing is inbound. Others say that the former is when you send your message to the masses and wait for the response, while the latter is when you wait for people to find you on their own.
As a sales enablement organization, CIENCE has its own definitions:
From this standpoint, conferences are inbound marketing because:
- Your engagement is passive – you mostly try to attract their attention to your booth and wait for people to come to you.
- You work with a segmented audience.
- The ROI is hard to measure, and the timeframe might be really long. For example, you talked to 10 people at the conference and handed out 40 leaflets. And you also gave a speech.
- You didn’t manage to directly convert any of your conversations. However, the awareness you created brought a couple of clients in several months (and you may never find out that they actually came from your conference).
- At the end of the day, you get what you get.
However, the engagement at conferences can become much more efficient when empowered by outbound marketing.
Outbound Marketing at Conferences - How Does It Work?
The key weakness of any inbound tactics is that you never engage directly with the leads that are a perfect fit for your company. Instead, you wait for them to come to you.
It’s somewhat similar to an old-fashioned strategy of attracting a husband. Women didn’t exactly approach the men they liked. Instead, they adorned themselves (dresses, cosmetics, and jewelry) and hoped to attract them.
Don’t get me wrong – we love inbound. It’s so nice to just stay in a safe environment and demonstrate your potential and greatness to anyone who visits. However, there’s nothing wrong with making the first step – out of your comfort zone towards someone you really want to engage with.
Inbound can also be a very long process. Not every company can wait that long. You create a great website, begin filling your blog with high-quality content, try to attract a large audience on social networking websites, and start your SEO activities. They will pay off… in 6 months or more.
In the meantime, your company needs to pay salaries, production costs, taxes, and more. You can’t wait half a year or longer. Similarly, you can’t just let your sales managers sit in a booth at yet another conference and hope that a Chief Operations Officer of a $250M-annual-revenues company will stop by.
Why not invite her or him to your booth for a cup of coffee?
You can reach out to your good-fit attendees before an event begins and arrange a meeting with them. By doing so, you ensure that you’ll have a much better return on your investment for attending.
We run event-related outreach campaigns for our clients and for ourselves. They have several key stages:
1. Sales Research
Our client creates an Ideal Customer Profile. Next, our dedicated researchers filter the list of attendees to sort out only those who match the ICP. Then, we generate the contact list for these people. Often, for events, this involves getting creative – using past years’ attendees or making educated guesses about likely attendance when master lists of attendees are not available.
2. Sales Development
We create a personalized message to each prospect on the list. Our copywriters mostly focus on the upcoming event (see example below). Next, our sales development representatives handle send-outs to prospects. We also often make phone calls (after the emails are opened). After several conversations, an appointment is set to take place at the event.
3. Reminders and Post-Event Follow-up
As a rule of thumb, our SDR reminds the prospects about the upcoming appointment to make sure that they connect. We also make post-conference send-outs to prospects who didn’t make it to meetings or never responded.
Sometimes, we make additional preparations for the upcoming event (e.g., conduct additional research so that sales managers can demonstrate to the prospects that they did their homework). For more information, see below.
To check out a case study for one of our clients, download it HERE.
Additionally, we recently held our own successful campaign for a HubSpot conference.
Outbound Marketing at INBOUND 2018 - CIENCE Case Study
In September 2018, CIENCE CEO John Girard and CMO Eric Quanstrom attended INBOUND Conference 2018. The event took place on September 4–7, held 330 sessions, and welcomed over 24,000 attendees. Needless to say, the event was mostly dedicated to inbound marketing methods. That’s why presenting outbound marketing techniques seemed like a crazy and absolutely irresistible challenge for CIENCE.
How We Prepared to Present CIENCE Inbound SDR Solutions
CIENCE launched a new service – Inbound Sales Development Representative – in late summer. And we thought it would be natural to present it at the upcoming INBOUND 2018 conference (held in early September 2018). The key marketing idea was to test the time and quality of Inbound SDR responses of the event attendees and give fair feedback.
We prepared and conducted a special “Inbound Channel Response Time” Survey. Basically, we submitted sales inquiries to companies and measured how and how quickly they responded.
The survey consisted of the following steps:
- Going to a company website and looking for contact information
- Contacting them via a submission form or an email during:
- normal business hours.
- their NIGHTTIME hours.
- Calling the contact number and expressing interest in their product:
- during business hours
- AFTER business hours
Example of our survey table:
As you can see from the table above, some companies had serious problems with time and quality of response to inbound inquiries.
Frankly speaking, a couple of our prospects were in charge of these tasks themselves (and terrifyingly enough, we targetted mostly C-suite). For example, some CEOs would respond to emails and chat messages on their own – a truly impressive finding!
We do believe that C-level titles have more important and complex tasks to invest their time into. A well-trained, fully dedicated Inbound SDR can do this job much better than a CEO. That’s the essence of our new service.
One of our goals at INBOUND 2018 was to speak with those prospects and discuss how we could help them with this pain point.
I love conferences in which our C-suite participates. The campaigns are always a success. Everyone likes face-to-face meetings and being invited to have some coffee. : )
The positive results from outbound marketing for conferences depends on the quality of sale research. If the list of leads isn’t up-to-date, you will target people who aren’t attending the event and fail to set up appointments. Luckily, we have great researchers at CIENCE. They always manage to find actual attendees and we receive many positive responses.
My responsibilities included:
- Conducting the multi-wave outreach via email
- Setting up the appointments with our CEO, John Girard, and CMO, Eric Quanstrom.
- Conducting the “Inbound Channel Response Time” Survey
- Sending the reminders before the appointments (I also specified what Eric and John look like and what they were wearing that day).
- I was in charge of all the follow-ups during the conference and afterward.
- Finally, I “polished” those who hadn’t responded with 2 waves of post-conference emails (these were also successful).
I’m looking forward to January and February 2019. There will be tons of sales events and I’ll get a chance of conducting more campaigns like this one.
How We Reached Out to Our Prospects
Of the 24,000+ attendees, only about 700 people fit our ICP. We sent them emails offering to meet our CEO or CMO for a short discussion about the improvement of lead generation. For this particular campaign, Anna didn’t make phone calls (except for research purposes).
We also wrote and sent additional letters to those prospects who never replied or opened previous emails. Anna was in charge of all the follow-ups and making sure the people would make it to the meetings.
Our C-levels could only spend 2 days at the conference (5-6 September). So the SDR’s task was to set the appointments for only those days.
Outbound Marketing Results
While CIENCE didn’t have a booth at the event, we didn’t really need one. Both Eric and John had fully booked calendars each day with great – and many cups of coffee. 🙂
Overall, Anna Tkachenko and our copywriter, Lindsay Thompson, did a great job with this outreach. They brought us several clients, and the ROI of our outbound marketing campaign at the conference was 5X expenditures and counting (we still have several potential buyers in our sales pipeline).
Nothing beats face-to-face. We are wired for in-person interaction, and nearly all important relationships (including business relationships) are cemented by face-to-face interaction in a way that just isn’t possible over the phone or email.
The most popular services discussed was our “SDR team” to create outbound prospects and “Inbound SDR.”
We set 36 appointments over 2 days, had 33 shows, 3 reschedules, and 9 “overflows” that were pushed later. So far, five meetings have converted to clients, and five more are currently in our sales funnel.
Apart from INBOUND SaaStr has been another series of events we’ve orchestrated. The trick with shows is being extremely purposeful with your time. No wasted minutes. It’s the difference between being lucky and being good.
INBOUND 2018 was a fantastic experience. It was a great opportunity to get face-to-face with interested prospects and must-see people.
We chose a location that was a lounge setting… Mainly because it was easy to find, accommodated seating, and was conducive to 1-on-1 meetings. Further, we were able to engineer the small amount of free time we had in our schedules to go out and meet with Booth Sponsors, grab a few sessions, and otherwise purposely interact.
We, at CIENCE, believe that inbound and outbound marketing strategies can and should be combined. They complement and empower each other while simultaneously helping compensate for the disadvantages of every single method.
The experience of CIENCE and our clients have proven the effectiveness and efficiency of our event-based outbound marketing campaigns (as well as the power of coffee). It is based on the principle of active engagement with the good-fit prospects leading up to the event, instead of simply waiting for leads to come to your booth.