Yin & yang, inbound & outbound – a case study in business development harmony

Sonja Jefferson

Pull vs. push, inbound vs. outbound, marketing vs. sales, new vs. old – business development is fraught with tension these days isn’t it. Does it have to be so black and white?

Make valuable content your focus and these tensions disappear. This article shows how putting valuable content at the heart of all communication can bring harmony to your business development strategy. We look at a case study of one UK consultancy company winning business with a balanced approach. 

Valuable content drives inbound and outbound success

“You can’t say in the corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” Winnie the Pooh

If your company follows the advice on this website and in our book it will draw leads into your business for you to convert into sales. All of this valuable content spreading around the web will bring you a satisfying increase in inbound leads. People will find you via your content – through your website, your blogs and deeper content and your growing social networks. They will learn to trust you and remember you through the value of the information you deliver.

The value of using content for outbound sales contact is less discussed. If you create and share valuable content you can use it to open doors and make direct contact with potential clients who have never heard of you before – the hardest job for any sales person. It’s a ‘push’ strategy that won’t switch off potential clients – the perfect conversation starter for people you want to do business with. Lead with the valuable stuff – send an article, a guide, or even a printed book – and you will earn the right to engage with your prospect. Valuable content like this flies under an organisation’s anti-marketing radar, because it’s useful.

“Stop spending money on brochures and invest in valuable content for your sales team instead.”

Many outbound lead-generation techniques such as blanket-bomb direct mail campaigns and traditional telemarketing are not working as well as they once did. Remember, the prospects you are targeting are as busy and cynical, as suspicious and over-sold to as you. The only way to stop them slamming down the phone, hitting the delete button or marking you as spam is to provide something that they find genuinely interesting and of value.

Here’s a B2B company getting it right

Ascentor is a UK consultancy working for government and commercial clients to help them manage their information security and reduce business risk. They invested in a content-rich website and marketing strategy that is pulling leads into their business. (Just to be clear, Ascentor is our client. You can read about their content marketing strategy here). But it’s not just about inbound. Ascentor uses this content to proactively engage with prospects. Here’s an example of how this worked for one of their recent valuable content-led sales campaign.

MD Dave James recognised an opportunity to assist businesses who sell to government to get accredited for the G-Cloud (the new Government cloud) and wanted to generate awareness of Ascentor’s services in this field. His campaign involved a combination of inbound and outbound activities:

  • Inbound: creating compelling web pages describing their service, with a series of useful blog articles around the subject and a downloadable guide to the process.
  • Outbound: proactive contact with potential clients – offering them the valuable guide to the accreditation process, and motivating a sales conversation on the back of this (See their tips).

“Businesses that want to sell to the Government have to be in the G-Cloud framework and they need their service to be secure — that’s where we come in. But the accreditation process is jargon-heavy and the requirements are written in government-speak. So we put together a guide to demystify the process for them.” Dave James, MD of Ascentor

The hybrid approach gets results

This combined approach – inbound with outbound – really works. They have already secured work from inbound leads – 6 businesses have contacted Ascentor about G-Cloud accreditation via web search. And on the outbound side MD Dave James reveals: “So far I have rung 25 businesses, 17 asked for the guide, eight meetings were arranged and we have already won two new clients from it.” That’s a very impressive conversion rate!

Learning from Ascentor

  • Make valuable content the focus of your marketing.
  • Pack your website full of value – invest time in a blog, useful resources for your clients as well as sales pages, and carefully link between the two.
  • Distribute this valuable content via social media; make sure people can find it easily via Google search, share it with your current contacts via your newsletter.
  • Give it to your sales team – teach them to lead with valuable content, not brochures.
  • This takes a different approach to selling – a desire to add value right across the sales process, to build relationships; a targeted, respectful approach to sales.

The valuable content approach will bring harmony to your business development activities. It means sales, marketing and your subject-matter experts all working together to produce and share high quality content that potential clients appreciate – valuable to those who receive it and to your business too.

Pull or push; inbound or outbound; marketing or sales; new or old? I don’t think it has to be so black and white.

“Yin and yang are actually complementary, not opposing forces, interacting to form a whole greater than either separate part; in effect, a dynamic system.”

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