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The Beginner’s Guide to Outbound Marketing

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Welcome! This is PART 1 of a 3 part series in which I will discuss the three components of a Systematic Marketing Strategy. Part 1 covers Outbound Marketing.

In our Digital Marketing 101 article, we reviewed how to find congregations of your target customer online and introduced the concept of the Systematic Marketing Strategy. The goal of a Systematic Marketing Strategy is to target the congregations of perfect prospects that you’ve found online and convert them into  paying customers. Deploying ALL 3 of these elements creates a reliable, predictable system for generating revenue!

In this post, we will dive into the nitty gritty detail of the first component.

The 3 Components of a Systematic Marketing Strategy:

  1. Outbound Marketing
  2. Inbound Marketing
  3. Subscriber Marketing

Each of these can create success on their own, but in order for a company to scale, it must master all three. Let’s hop to it.

What is Outbound Marketing?

Once you know exactly how to find your ideal customers online, it’s time to talk about the first weapon in your arsenal: Outbound Marketing. What is it?

Outbound Marketing is any proactive tactic used by a company that is designed to interrupt a potential customer, capture their attention, and present them with an offer.

The key word in the above definition is INTERRUPT. Outbound marketing involves you taking the initiative, seeking out your ideal customer, and trying to convince them to give you a sliver of their time, a moment of their attention, their email address, and ultimately, their money.

In a popular metaphor where marketing is compared with fishing for customers, Outbound Marketing strategies are often called Spears. As a marketer, you must create the spear, sharpen the point, and toss it into the deep sea of your ideal customers. Master the tactics outlined in this article. If you do, when you pull the spear out of the water, you will find that dinner is served.

Three Outbound Marketing Tactics

There are 3 primary Outbound tactics that are used by eCommerce companies:

  1. Cold Email
  2. Cold Calling
  3. THE BIG ONE: Paid Advertising

Cold Email & Cold Calling

I want to start with Cold Outreach (Calls & Emails). This is a wildly unpopular approach to marketing these days. However, these methods should not be swept under the rug. They can be huge engines of growth for certain business types. Cold outreach works especially well for high-ticket products, B2B, and services businesses.

In truth, it isn’t that Cold Outreach doesn’t work for smaller businesses. But the sales cycle, the time between outreach and a customer purchase, is longer with Cold Outreach. So, in order for the time spent to be worth it, we need a higher sales price (or, a higher lifetime customer value: the sum total amount all purchases a customer will make).

Find Your Target’s Contact Info 

The first step in cold outreach is to identify your targets and acquire their contact information.

A great little-known secret for how to do this is to use Reference USA. It contains a database of US Consumers and Businesses, including contact info. It requires a paid subscription, BUT, most public libraries have a subscription that you can leverage once you get a library card. This is 100% free!

Within Reference USA, you can search and filter on a number of factors, then export a spreadsheet full of names, phone numbers, and email addresses.


Armed with a list of potential customers, it is time to craft your plan of attack. In Mike Weinberg’s book, NEW SALES, SIMPLIFIED, he outlines a timeless strategy for conducting cold outreach. It all revolves around what’s known as the Power Statement.

The Power Statement is designed to quickly grab your target’s attention, demonstrate how you can solve their problems, and set next steps. 

Below, I outline the elements of a power statement and, in red, give a REAL LIFE example from one of my eCommerce Brands, Conscious Products.

Elements of a Power Statement
  • The Headline: quickly introduce your brand, the clients you work with, and what problems you solve.
    • Conscious Products is a full-service supplier of eco-friendly disposable tableware. We work with caterers, food trucks, and party planners to ensure the people and businesses that are using disposables the most are doing so with sustainability in mind without compromising on quality.
  • Customer Pain Points: list out the most common problems you solve for your customer.
    • Companies look to Conscious Products when:
      • They’ve been losing sleep over the environmental footprint left by using styrofoam, plastic, or paper products, but haven’t been able to afford expensive eco-friendly options on the market.
      • + 1-2 more examples
  • The Offer: in one sentence, describe your product.
    • Conscious Products provides a full product suite of eco-friendly plates, to-go boxes, and cutlery.
  • Differentiators: describe the ways in which you are different and SOLVE the customer pain points you identified.
    • A growing number of clients are ordering from Conscious Products because we are simply different from our competitors. Here’s how:
      • Our products are as eco-friendly as it gets, but they are actually affordable.
      • 2-4 more examples.
  • Call to Action: give clear next steps.
    • I would love it if we can set up another call to review our packages.

This format and content can be used to create a Cold Call Script, an Email Outreach Template, or an Elevator / Sales Pitch. Mike Weinberg has given you a great blueprint for cold outreach. It’s up to you to put it to good use!

Paid Advertising

Many eCommerce businesses are reluctant to employ a Cold Outreach Strategy. While I am sure that you won’t fall into that camp, I do want to spend time on the most popular form of Outbound Marketing: Paid Ads.

The Digital Advertising Industry is estimated to be about $90B in 2020. There are so many channels, strategies, and tactics to employ with advertising, that it can be a bit overwhelming when you first get started.

You will learn the most by doing. Nevertheless, I thought I would go over a few basic strategies with you now, along with a high level overview of the 6 types of digital advertisements available for you to use to grow your business. I won’t include a tutorial about how to use any one particular platform. There are many free courses online that you might utilize. For example, I love Adespresso for their detailed walkthroughs!

Basic Ad Strategies

Let’s talk about the high level strategies you need to keep in mind when advertising. (After all, this is the Boardroom.)

First, we’ll talk about the two broad categories of advertisements in Digital Marketing: Indirect Response and Direct Response. Then, we’ll talk about how to create a captivating advertisement. Finally, we’ll review the most popular strategy for Direct Response Ads.

Indirect vs Direct Response Ads

Indirect Response Ads typically have the goal of growing Brand Awareness. They do not have a clear Call-To-Action (CTA) and do not ask anything of the audience. The idea is for the viewer to become familiar with the brand in the hopes that they will make a purchase later.

Direct Response Ads, on the other hand, seek to attain something from the viewer immediately after they see the ad.

Indirect Response Ads are really only effective for companies with a big ad budget and a long term plan. We will focus on Direct Response Advertising for the remainder of this section. And for our purposes, there are only two things we are seeking to attain from the viewer of our Direct Response Ad:

  1. Their email address, and/or
  2. Their $$

Yup, we are either trying to create a customer right on the spot, or to generate a LEAD for our business that we can convert into a customer later. When a potential customer volunteers to give us their email address, they become a Subscriber. This presents us with a totally new opportunity to market to them, which we will cover later, in the Subscriber Marketing article.

Creating Great Advertisements: Best Practices

Ads typically have three components:

  1. Copy: This refers to the text that grabs the viewer’s attention and/or tells them what the advertisement is for.
  2. Creative: This is the image, video, or graphic that accompanies the copy. Some ad formats don’t have a creative.
  3. Destination: The Landing Page a viewer is redirected to once they click on the ad. For Direct Response, this is either a Product Page or a “Squeeze Page,” where a prospect can enter their email address in exchange for something valuable.

Great. But how do we create the best ads possible?

First, make sure that your ad is framed in terms of the problems that you can solve for your customer. Return to the StoryBrand article.

Beyond that, let’s turn to marketers Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin. In their book, From Impossible to Inevitable, they talk brilliantly about the direct relationship between Trust and Attention. The idea is that the less someone trusts you, the less of their attention they are willing to give you.

This is manifestly true with digital advertising.

When someone has never heard of you or your brand, they are likely to give your ad 1-3 seconds of attention. That is, unless you can captivate them. 

How can we captivate our audience with such a short window? As Ross and Lemkin put it, by appealing to the “Dinosaur Brain.” This refers to the things that cause us to react at the subconscious level (visual processing).

Appeal to the Dinosaur Brain by making sure your Ad Copy and Creative contain some of the following attributes:

  • Newness
  • Contrast
  • Movement/Speed
  • Surprises
  • Amusing Details
  • Impressive Visuals

If you are not tech savvy or particularly creative, don’t worry. I wasn’t when I started. Like anything else, this is a skill that you can practice. Sound like too much work? You can always hire a digital ad agency or freelancer to create ads for you. Simply head to Upwork or Fiverr.

Looking for a more budget-friendly approach to creating high-quality content for your brand? Check out this free brochure creation tool made by Adobe. I love this tool because it has tons of amazing brochure templates ready-to-go, so you can get a head start. Alternatively, you can fully customize your eBrochure using all of Adobe’s incredible design tools. Check it out!

Ad Targeting

Imagine if websites did not collect any data on their visitors. In this cold world, us eCommerce Business Owners would be stabbing blindly. Fortunately, that is not the world we live in. Publishers (the websites that you might pay to “host” your ad) and Ad Platforms DO collect data about their site’s visitors. As such, we can target audiences on most platforms.

For example, most publishers / platforms will let you target Geographic Regions and Demographics. You could choose to only show your ads to men over 18 years old in the Midwestern United States. See how you can use the definition of your target customer to maximize the value of your advertisements?


Anytime you advertise to individuals for the first time, even using Advanced Targeting metrics like those offered by Facebook, it is considered Prospecting. You are essentially extending your feelers to find out who from your targeted audience is interested. And some of these people might respond to your ads (i.e. give you their email address or make a purchase) right away.


But other people will require a bit more convincing before becoming a subscriber or customer. As a result, the best Ad Platforms will allow you to use what’s called a Retargeting Ad. This is one of the most effective ad tactics out there today. With Retargeting, websites use Cookies to track which users have interacted with your ad (clicked on it) and how they interacted with it (for example, how long did they watch your Video Ad before closing the window?).

After you have, say 1000 people that have interacted with your ad, you can run a Retargeting Ad that is only shown to those 1000 people. Conversion Rates (the percentage of ad viewers who buy/opt in on your landing page) are drastically higher with Retargeting Ads as compared with Prospecting Ads.

I hope that was a good overview of some of the basic ad strategies out there. Next, I will go over the different types of Digital Ads out there.

Types of Advertisements

There are 6 Types of Digital Ads that I want to cover. They are:

  1. Paid Search Ads
  2. Social Media Ads
  3. Native Content Ads
  4. Display Ads
  5. Email Ads

Let’s briefly review each.

Paid Search Ads

Paid Search Advertisements allow you to create an advertisement that will appear at the top of results returned by a Search Engine. Since 87% of all search is done on Google, that’s where your focus should be.

You can target specific keywords so that when someone is searching for a relevant topic on Google, your Landing Page is the first link at the top of the results. You will typically pay Google only when someone clicks through to your page, that is, on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis.

Google has a very powerful advertising engine and can be used extremely profitably! Just another reason why doing keyword research is so critical when launching your eCommerce brand.

Social Media Ads

Social Media advertising has exploded in popularity over the past 10 years. That’s no surprise, when you consider just how positively pervasive social media usage has become. Facebook has over 1.75 Billion Daily Active Users. Let that sink in. Instagram, another Facebook owned property, has another 500 Million DAUs.

Social Media Ads all appear in front of users of the social platform, and blend in somewhat with the standard content on the page. For example, a Twitter Ad looks an awful lot like a normal tweet. There is just a small bit of text indicating: “Ad”.

Facebook is an extremely popular choice for Advertisers not only because of the statistics mentioned above, but also because it has some of the most advanced targeting metrics available. You can advertise to highly curated audiences based on extremely specific interests, behaviors, demographics, geography, and more.

Want to target women between the ages of 24 and 54 that live in large urban areas that have expressed an interest in fitness? Facebook has got you covered.

Plus, there is no minimum spending amount, so small eCommerce entrepreneurs can get started easily and inexpensively with Facebook Ads.

Native Ads

Native Advertisements are ads that blend in with the surrounding published content to create a seamless experience for viewers. In reality, Social Media ads are a subset of Native Ads. However, there are large Native Ad platforms, like Taboola or RevContent, through which you can place native ads onto non-social media sites (like blogs) all over the internet. For example, head over to your favorite Recipe website. Do you notice some “Recommended Articles” that are in fact advertisements? These are Native Ads.

Native is a relatively newer and vastly underused segment of digital advertising. You can get a leg up on your competition by considering “going native!”

Display Ads

Display Ads are typically an image only, perhaps accompanied by a headline, that appears along the header (a Banner Ad), in the Sidebar, or embedded in the Footer of a website. These appear on a variety of publisher’s websites and are different from Native Ads because they typically do NOT blend in with the content on the page. In fact, the main goal is typically to catch the viewer’s eye by standing out from the page.

By and large, Display Ads have lower Click-Thru-Rates (CTRs) than other ad formats, and have a less predictable Return on Investment. I recommend staying away from Display Ads during your first foray into Digital Advertising.

Email Ads

Email Ads are…ehm…ads that appear in an email. Many individuals, publishers, and companies have developed large lists of email subscribers.

One way they might monetize their subscriber list is by running ads. Email Ads could appear as a Display Ad at the top or bottom of the newsletter. Another option is to run what’s known as an “Email Solo” Ad. Instead of a Display Ad, the ad content takes up some or all of the body of the email itself. These can be very lucrative IF the subscriber list owner has an engaged audience and your offer is written in a compelling way.

Several marketplaces have cropped up where you can buy and sell Email Solo Ads. My favorite is Udimi.

Wrap it Up, Chuck

Well, that’s it for the advertising section. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I recommend starting with either Google or Facebook Ads. Do some independent research and get good at using just one of these platforms. A whole lot can be accomplished by doing so.

And that concludes this post on Outbound Marketing. Hopefully you see how Cold Outreach and Paid Ads can be used when targeting the congregations of your ideal customers. But remember it is only ONE component of the Systematic Marketing Strategy! Next up, let’s review Inbound Marketing.


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