Does telemarketing have a role in integrated marketing and ABM? It’s a fair question to ask with the explosion of digital channels awash with content. Inbound is all the rage. So, why would you go ‘cold’ prospecting when you can embrace ‘warm’ leads?
Some marketers would argue that lead generation using the phone is well past its sell by date. Yet, others, including many large corporations, still include outbound calling as part of their sales and pre-sales strategy. So, what’s the answer?
Horses for Courses
Of course, the choice of which route, or routes to market to deploy is never that simple. The answer is that it depends. Your target sector will play a role in your decision. Your desired level of integration will be important. Equally, your level of niching in terms of your audience will drive certain decisions about your chosen approach. And, it may depend on your brand strength and awareness. What’s more, the options are almost endless.
Likewise, the higher the value of sale, the more economic the use of outbound calling could be. There are lots of factors to consider.
Types of Calling
The other consideration is your audience selection. Somewhat incorrectly, telemarketing is often labelled as ‘cold calling’. Some calling is undoubtedly to fresh prospects. Yet, there are plenty of other options for the use of the telephone for lead generation. For example, if you have a large customer database and don’t have the internal resources to regularly reach out, why not call those customers to promote a new product or service? There are various alternatives to pure cold calling. These include:
- Calls to follow-up event attendees
- Calls to respond to inbound enquiries e.g. from your website or from social media
- Cross-selling and up-selling to existing customers
- Lapsed customer resuscitation calls
- Updating your database with new contact details to support email or LinkedIn marketing
- Research calls including profiling your audience as part of an ABM strategy
Blending Social and Telemarketing
Some audiences are hard to reach no matter which channel you use. And, we’ve already mentioned that social channels are awash with content. Yet, good content can open the door to an initial engagement and, potentially, provide those warm leads for phone follow-up. These are often called ‘Marketing Qualified Leads’ or MQL. The idea is that your content reaches the target recipient through either sponsored posts, advertising or simply via organic posts on social channels.
But what happens when those leads come through the door? Inevitably, some won’t be relevant. Many people just download the whitepaper or other content simply out of interest or even for competitor evaluation. So, those individuals need qualification and profiling. This may include lead scoring. How is that possible with limited internal resources that are often focused on other tasks? That’s where outbound calling can be extremely effective in focusing the time, for internal sales, on those prospects most likely to convert.
Proactive Lead Generation
With the clutter and noise now associated with most social and digital outreach, there has been an appreciation that peer to peer marketing still has an important role. And, with that in mind, the one to one nature of telemarketing can be important in building relationships.
Despite the advent of new media, channels and solutions, the discipline of ‘telesales’ persists. It is still used successfully by many large and small companies to market their products and services. In many ways, it is the only channel that remains largely unchanged since telephone marketing became a thing during the 1970s.
And, despite all of the hype surrounding newer channels, this form of business development means you don’t have to wait for prospects to come to you. Simply, you go to them!
Calling as part of the lead generation process is a relatively simple concept. Ultimately, you need a list of target contacts and organisations with phone numbers, and off you go. There’s a lot more to it than that but the essence is that you need a good caller who can articulate your proposition to the right prospects.
Thankfully, improvements have been made to data quality through targeted databases. We also have sophisticated CRM systems, the arrival of LinkedIn, increased use of artificial intelligence, and other tools to enhance data integrity and the accuracy of the calling.
Nevertheless, the core component is largely the same. Ultimately, it’s about one person calling another and having an engaging conversation built on good communication and rapport about a mutually relevant subject.
The Law Permits Continued Use of Calling
It’s important to say a few brief words about the legal position regarding outbound calling. The GDPR rules that came in during May 2018 continue to permit the use of telephone marketing under two main conditions. Firstly, all numbers (both for individuals and businesses) must be screened every 28 days against the opt-out registers (TPS and CTPS). If a number is registered, you cannot call and this is a breach of the legislation. Secondly, if an individual requests you to stop calling and to take them off your list, you must do so immediately. Outside of these two circumstances, calling is perfectly legitimate and reputable companies will operate correctly.
Expectations have Changed
Certainly, in the last 10-15 years, expectations have changed. The speed at which calling exercises need to deliver has accelerated. Could that be due to the fact that we have become accustomed to having everything at our fingertips instantly?
But how immediate are other routes to market? Is the use of social media a silver bullet? How long does it take for other marketing channels to bear fruit? Marketing results are usually hard-earned. Whatever the reason, it appears that calling campaigns are under more pressure than ever.
Maybe the pressure is down to the relative overhead cost. However, the overall cost of a telephone marketing campaign is perhaps no different to other channels. Ultimately, it is driven by client budgets. And, outbound peer-to-peer calling delivers deeper qualification that should lead to bigger business wins.
Ultimately, if your budget is £5000 or £50,000, that is your budget and you need to decide how to spend that amount to get the best return on investment.
What Factors Influence Success?
To some extent, this is an impossible question to answer since there are a wide range of components. Some lead generation exercises do very well right from the outset since the stars are aligned. In those cases, there are usually a number of factors that contribute to success including:
- Market triggers such as new technologies, legislation, the drive, and necessity, to change etc
- Who you are calling e.g. customers, cold prospects, inbound leads from advertising and social etc
- The strength of your offer/proposition
- The quality of the caller – this is crucial since perception is everything
- The price you charge for your products and services – some sales have long gestation periods
- The level of disruption that adoption of your service would require for the customer
- The speed at which the right decision-makers can be reached
- The quality of the target data including valid names and numbers
There are lots of factors that play a key part in your likelihood of success.
Cold is Harder
In the most basic terms, regardless of which channel you use for business development, cold calling is harder than warm. It takes time to build a solid pipeline, not least due to some of the factors above.
Targeting other than ‘new’ business is often overlooked. We’d always recommend warm as opposed to cold calls if at all possible. However, if cold outreach is essential, results generally won’t come overnight. Momentum in calling is essential. That’s in addition to making sufficient calls in the first place. This will enable your caller works through the data to:
- Validate the decision-makers
- Reach enough prospects to whom they can present your proposition
- Identify immediate interest (the quick wins)
- Build a pipeline of current interest (call-backs in 1-2 weeks)
- Build a pipeline of future prospects (follow-up in 3-6 months)
How Long Should Success Take?
Unless you have a ‘no-brainer’ proposition to a target market that is desperate for a solution to a problem, few marketing methods will deliver quickly. Yet, every channel needs to provide results and very little is guaranteed. No matter which avenue you use for your lead generation, there is rarely a sure thing. It’s about testing and measuring.
How long should you give the activity before questioning its effectiveness? There are inevitable barriers to faster results such as:
- low response to email
- lack of response to LinkedIn outreach
- poor quality leads from advertising
- slow response to social
- voicemail, out of office, gatekeeper blocks and other hurdles for telemarketing
There will always be hurdles to jump over. You need to have patience. This is to allow the pipeline to build and the leads to flow. Therefore, we’d recommend allowing for a 3-6 month initial programme of activity. The more ‘blended’ this can be with other activities the better. Calling LinkedIn connections, email click-throughs, and MQLs from contact forms is likely to give a better immediate output than going for entirely new targets.
Making sure that you have an ongoing view of KPIs is essential with at least weekly reviews that will enable you to steer a good course during the period of activity.