Why Inbound Marketing Is Not Working For High-Value B2B Sales?

There are 2 main approaches for B2B Sales and Marketing:

  • Inbound Marketing for B2B Sales
  • Outbound Sales

If you believe in the ‘blogosphere’ and marketing machines of many businesses you’d be likely to believe that the future of B2B lead generation is all inbound content marketing.

Don’t be too quick to believe the hype about B2B Content Marketing…

Research by the Aberdeen Group into companies using sophisticated marketing automation software (i.e companies that are still ahead of the game for most industries), showed that the ‘best in class’ companies used a split of:

  • 80% outbound sales and
  • 20% inbound marketing

It’s compelling reading and something we concur with and see day in day out with companies and high-value B2B clients.

Read Also: How To Create A Digital Marketing Funnel?

Why Doesn’t Inbound Marketing Always Work For B2B

Lots of blogs (from marketers) say inbound content marketing allows you to educate people early on in the sales cycle.

People who’re looking for your products or services, that you’re supposedly NOT aware of.

This has been termed ‘the invisible sale’.

As huge proponents of OUTBOUND SELLING integrated with inbound marketing we don’t agree with this at all.

And especially not in high-value B2B sales situations.


Well, when implemented correctly, outbound prospecting can connect you to the most senior people in an organization and influence their long-range business strategy.

Inbound marketing doesn’t always allow this.

Outbound sales also allow you to influence their buying criteria and ultimately their specification criteria.

And the best bit?

You’ll reach your ideal prospects  BEFORE they delegate the task of building the ‘short list’, or get their assistants to do a Google search and find you vendors via internet research.

Most often when B2B prospects find you via internet research it is just too late

They will already have determined what they think their problem is and what they think the solution is.

Oh….as well as contacting 5 or more other people to supply prices to ‘benchmark’.

“The most successful B2B businesses understand this…”

When someone says “we don’t have a budget for this”…

…you’re in the right place AND at the right time.

You might think that’s a bit of an odd statement to make, but here’s why you can use that to your advantage.

You see, at this stage…

no has influenced the senior people in that company on their long-range business strategy.

That is good for you.

Once someone has educated your ideal prospect on options that exist for their long-range business strategy you can guarantee that they won’t involve you!


Hewlett Packard and Kenan Flagler’s business school researched senior executives’ involvement in a B2B buying cycle.

They found that senior people are heavily involved at the front end of a buying cycle when they’re seeking to:

  • understand current business issues
  • establish business objectives
  • establish a long-range business strategy

Shortly after that the,y duck out and delegate decisions and research to lower management or admin staff.

This is what’s traditionally known as a decision-making unit (DMU)

Once you understand that…

You can take brilliant value-based outbound messages directly to the senior people in an organization that will educate and provides them with key insights they could never have seen without your help.

If you already have a list of Target Prospects, or Named Accounts, then inbound content marketing is a slow and indirect way to communicate with them.

These are the companies that you have singled out as being the ones to add to your top 20% percentile of potential best clients.

These are the ones that great business growth expert (but sadly deceased) Chet Holmes would have called his ‘Hot 100′.

Inbound is great at building brand awareness, ‘Top of Mind’ presence, and generating leads. We totally agree (we’re experts in it after all) but sometimes there are more direct and more successful ways…

…especially for high-value consulting contracts.

The Weaknesses Of Inbound Marketing For B2B Lead Generation

1) Badly Qualified Prospects

With inbound, it can be hard to correctly qualify the prospects that are reaching out to you. Only a small percentage of people who engage will be a great fit with your Ideal Prospect Profile.

This can often result in you spending a significant amount of time and resource with prospects that are never ever going to be a great fit.

2) It takes significant Resource

Not many people talk about this but a true inbound marketing lead generation system takes a huge amount of resources.  Unless you use something like an outsourced digital marketing agency

It isn’t just a case of turning on Google PPC and sending them to your home page!

You have to:

  • identify your prospect personas,
  • identify their different evaluation stages
  • create a MASSIVE amount of professionally written and packaged content to serve up to them

This isn’t a cheap endeavor and very often gets overlooked when people do price comparisons between inbound and outbound methodologies.

It’s NOT just the cost of the PPC…

…It’s also the army of interns or outsourcers who created the content.

The designers who packaged it.

The marketing automation platform that delivered it.

The heat tracking and analytic programs that tested engagement…

…You get my point!

3) Little or No HUMAN feedback

Very often all of the inbound marketing processes is done at the PC looking at buyer personas.


with little to NO interaction or engagement with real human beings that you desire to help (and SELL to).

“My biggest fear for inbound for B2B is that, for many, it’s creating a culture where no one is capable of,  or wants to pick up the phone and speak to a potential client.”

This is becoming extremely visible in the b2b sales world.

There is a culture being perpetuated that it’s OK to try and grow a b2b sales-based business without ever interacting with your prospects.

But here’s the thing…

“If YOU can find a way to connect with your ideal prospects without cold calling or pushy sales tactics, you’ll have a huge advantage in your market place”

The more you actually talk to your prospects, the more you’ll understand them.

You’ll also find out what’s happening in their world, which means you’ll sell more and earn more revenue.


4) Late In The Buying Process

By the time someone comes to you via an inbound lead inquiry, they are already well into their buying process and have decided what they think is the solution to the problem that they perceive exists.

You’ll do well to have any ability to influence this!

If you have a transactional sale that may well work for you.

What Are The Strengths Of Outbound Prospecting?

1) Pinpoint And Cherry Pick Your Best Ideal Prospects

Outbound contact enables you to pinpoint your best prospects and VERY QUICKLY open up a dialogue with them.

2) Make A Human Connection

In most cases, you can speak to a HUMAN, and ask questions.

If they aren’t in a position to be a good fit for your first meeting you can ask permission to put them into your marketing automation programs.

You can nurture them.

You can strategically place ads in front of them.

This will position you as the logical choice when the time comes for evaluating solutions.

3) Very quickly gain access to senior people within an organization

Most companies don’t have the traditional ‘gatekeeper’ that protects or ring-fences, and senior executives from the outside world anymore.

It’s easier today to access senior executives than it’s ever been.

The irony, of course, is that this is a time when some companies are abandoning outbound prospecting.

Now, if that includes your competitor…

…That’s great news for you!

4) Outbound allows you to profile your marketplace and get feedback on what the market is thinking and doing.

I see so much ‘analysis by paralysis’ from companies who try to determine everything about their Ideal Prospects through boardroom sessions and analyzing data.

What they often overlook is the fact that…

“You can use outbound to quickly engage with your prospects”

And that’s not all…

It also allows you to begin the process of testing and refining your messaging, your offer, and even your core product.

The Myth Of The Buying Percentages

Many people happily cite research that shows that at any one time 70 – 90% of the prospects in a market aren’t open to considering the purchase of any product, service, or solution.

They’re either satisfied with their current situation, or they’re simply not thinking about it.

About 7 – 20% of prospects are thinking about the problems you say you solve, and only 3 – 7% are in an active mode of searching for a product, service, or solution.

And they cite this as a negative which is what I find astonishing!

So what that means to me is…

The 5%

3 -7% of the market have already been influenced by someone else or they’ve come to their own conclusion about what their ‘problem’ is.

They’ve determined what they believe to be the best likely solution and they’re now actively seeking out every vendor in the marketplace to ‘cut a deal.

These prospects have very defined criteria which is often not a true reflection of what they NEED but actually what they think they WANT.

They won’t listen to you when you try to influence that choice.

They frequently won’t engage in a dialogue and want you to submit proposals, and tenders or turn up and do a ‘dog and pony show’ presentation without being able to ask too many questions.

Have you ever experienced that?

Hey, did I say that they also expect you to be the lowest-cost provider?

I’m not sure I only want a pipeline full of these prospects.

The 20%

About 7 – 20% of your prospects are thinking about the problems you say you solve and may allow your outbound approach.

These are the real ‘low hanging fruit’. These are the people and companies that’ll be willing to listen if approached correctly and aren’t too far into their purchasing decision to make them more of a pain than a prize.

The 75%

These prospects in a market aren’t open to considering the purchase…

and that’s EXACTLY why these are your very best prospects.

These are likely to be the people and companies that you look back at after finishing your project and think

“those guys were great. why can’t they all be like that?”

These are the companies that you can really influence, educate, help set a long-range strategy and provide value to.

If, that is…

if you can get to them.

And that’s a VERY big IF…

Very rarely will you get to these ideal prospects in any quantity by using any inbound marketing methods unless you or your digital marketing agency are very, very good at what they do?

BUT… most people can implement an outbound prospecting system quite quickly.

The highest returns are there for companies that can effectively use both Inbound and Outbound methods.

This is fast becoming known as ‘all-bound marketing’.

Adding inbound and outbound sales and marketing is like a childhood maths question:

Question) What’s 1 + 1?

Answer) 10

By combining effective inbound and outbound you can create value greater than the 2 component parts.

So that begs a question…

What exactly is outbound selling and which approach is the best?

The main 4 methods of outbound prospecting are available to most businesses:

  • Telesales
  • LinkedIn
  • Personalized Email and/or Video Email
  • Direct Mail

There are more changes and innovations in these areas in the last 5 years than in the previous 25. A couple of these methods are outperforming everything else by a factor of a minimum of ten times.

Ruben Harutyunyan

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