Are You Going In or Out?

Which works best for B-to-B lead generation—inbound or outbound marketing? Inbound refers to prospects contacting marketers “out of the blue,” because they are actively interested in specific products or services. Conversely, outbound marketing requires marketers to reach out and touch prospects proactively, e.g., with a postcard, telemarketing call, e-mail or magazine advertisement.

The question of which marketing—inbound or outbound—generates the best leads can’t really be answered authoritatively, because it’s too broad. If we say the winner is “inbound,” does that mean every type of inbound communication produces better leads than every type of outbound communication? Such is not the case.

A better way to approach the question is to examine each inbound and outbound marketing channel and evaluate the quality of leads produced on a case-by-case basis.

In the table to the right, I list the major marketing communication methods of B-to-B lead generation, indicate which I consider inbound vs. outbound (you may disagree with some of my choices), and rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = low, 5 = high) for quality of leads and ROI. Quality of leads mainly measures whether the marketing communication attracts prospects who fit your customer profile, have a need for your product or service, and are predisposed to buy from you instead of your competitors.

ROI measures whether the leads turn into orders, generating revenues far greater than the time and money spent to obtain them. Note: These ratings are my own and to a degree subjective, based on three decades of experience in B-to-B marketing; they are not based on statistically valid research.

I rated social networking a 4 in lead quality. Networking always has produced good leads, and social networks are basically networking moved online. So far, however, most B-to-B marketers have been unsuccessful in establishing metrics to measure social media ROI. Some argue that the ROI has to be high because social networking is virtually free. But they neglect ROTI, return on time invested. A survey by Michael Stelzner of WhitePaperSource found experienced social media users spend two to four hours per day using it, which means an investment of up to half their work weeks.

Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at or call (973) 263-0562.

Publish date: October 1, 2009 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT