If you're reading this blog, there is a good chance that you have a vested interest in generating more sales leads for your business. Perhaps you're tasked with it, or measured by the leads you create, or are being constantly pressured to fill the pipe to overcome the challenges of an ineffective sales team. There are many reasons why we need sales leads, beyond keeping the lights on, but typically we're challenged by resources and budgets in our execution. Therefore, the promise of automated lead generation facilitated by marketing automation is very attractive. Could it be as simple as "set it and forget it" as I watch the leads come in? Certainly that is what is promised by many vendors. I can assure you it's more involved than that. The reality is that many businesses not only lack resources, but they also lack budget. Without budget, marketing automation can never be implemented simply because you can't afford it. With budget, you may still not be able to implement it because you lack resources to maintain and develop it. It's a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Give me more people and more money and I'll make you more leads. Unfortunatley, management often responds by saying you'll get more money and more resources when you bring in more leads to pay for them. What's a marketer to do?
The answer is simple - take it one step at a time. Then, repeat if necessary. Let me explain.
Auto Responders and Email Marketing
For many of our clients in this situation, we simply suggest you start with tools like Campaign Monitor or Constant Contact. These tools rock for their ability to create online forms which can be embedded in your web site. Once a form is completed (because you had a kick-butt Call To Action), a series of emails can be sent to the opt-in subscriber on a periodic basis. It's the simplest form of lead nurturing. There truly is minimal, to no, intelligence such as lead scoring, or complex branching logic, or persona segmentations to dynamically adjust and nurture the new prospect. That said, it does do a great job of engaging them softly over a period of days or weeks or months such that you can ultimately follow up with a phone call and anticipate a somewhat warm reception. As a Marketer, you can control the messaging and monitor the reports to see how they're engaging with you. It's a nice start, and it's very cheap to implement.
Once you've gotten some ROI from the auto-responders, you can move onto Inbound Marketing. Vendors like HubSpot have pioneered this space. It's definitely more expensive than the auto-responders, and it's essentially on-par, cost-wise, with some of the very low-end marketing automation providers, however it gives you so much. The essence of Inbound Marketing is that it does what the auto-responders do, plus gives you some basic lead scoring, plus gives you incredible insight into the leads that complete your forms. Beyond that, the secret sauce behind Inbound Marketing is that it will help you get found by your target audience using tools such as social media, search engine optimization, landing pages, etc. It's a great tool for non-technical marketers who need to quickly and efficiently drive traffic to their site without the expense of telemarketing, or direct marketing, and in a way that is credible and develops a firm's thought leadership. We have a quick little video you can watch at this page to learn more.
Finally you've had success with the above two tactics, and you now have the budget to really invest in a deluxe implementation of marketing automation. Congratulations. Of course, now your decision is whether to go low-end, middle of the road, or high-end with your vendor selection. Tools from Act-On, to LeadLife, to Pardot, to Genius, to Marketo, to Eloqua will span the spectrum of both budget and capabilties. The only immediate advice I'd offer here is to balance your wants with your needs with your budget. Always remember - it's not a linear equation. When you double your monthly spend on a marketing automation vendor, you're not doubling your feature list or your ROI. Also recall that the more complex a tool is, the more maintenance and oversight is required on your end. Accordingly, the costs are not contained just to the service subscription but also to the associated staffing to maintain and leverage your investment.
Aim for the moon, start with a single orbit
Okay, it may be a corny analogy but the space race was not won with the first project. They built on their successes and ultimately achieved their goal, using the lessons learned from each incremental step and effort. This is a great strategy and one you should seriously consider.
For the past five days we have been discussing the use of the phone to support marketing in a B2B sales setting. We have covered functions like using the phone to promote marketing initiatives, using the phone to pre-qualify inbound leads before they go to sales and using the phone as a tool to proactively prospect for new sales opportunities. Today we’ll tackle the issue of outsourcing. Should you build these capabilities in-house, or hire an outside vendor to deliver them for you?
Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. The right decision is going to be different for all organizations. Obviously there are cost issues to consider. It isn’t just the salary involved in hiring, the overhead for giving your team a place to sit, phones to call from or a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to track their activity. Depending on who you ask, you will hear that either the cost to outsource is less than the cost to build and manage a team in-house... or that the cost to outsource is more. In the end, you need to crunch the numbers and decide for yourself.
A few things to keep in mind, and to consider in your business case, when contemplating the In-House vs. Outsourcing Decision:
- Is this your core-competency?
- Do you have a clear sense of what it is going to take to get a telemarketing team up and running?
- Do you have management resources that are experienced in telemarketing?
- Do your management resources have time to dedicate to ramping-up and maintaining a team of the size that you need in order to be successful?
- Will your labor market support the acquisition of quality resources at a rate of pay that makes sense for your budget? Hiring the wrong people can be costly.
- Which is more important to you - Flexibility or Immersion?
- Do you need a team that can ramp-up/down each time you have an event that you need to promote?
- Is your inbound lead flow consistent throughout the year or is it more sporadic or seasonal?
- Do you like the idea of using tele-prospecting or inside sales as a training ground for the next iteration of account managers and/or field sales executives?
- Do you have the processes, metrics, and infrastructure to monitor and measure the activity and the results?
- Will you be able to hold the responsible teams accountable for the program?
- Have you modified the employment agreements and compensation plans such that the individual performance is tied to, and rewarded for, achieving corporate and revenue goals?
- Do you know what the appropriate margins, or cost per lead, should be?
- Do you have the incremental budget available to you so that you can fill the gaps in your infrastructure?
At the end of the day, I can’t tell you how to use telemarketing for your business, or how to manage it. Only you can decide. What we can tell you is that it’s still a very effective tool, albeit sometimes misunderstood, as this recent blog post attests to. Hopefully, we have given you some insights that will help you on your path. Thanks for reading.
So far this week, we’ve discussed the merits of the oft misunderstood phone for B2B Sales and Marketing campaigns, specifically as it relates to the ultimate goal of lead generation. In our Monday post we discussed the big picture perspective, whereas Tuesday and Wednesday we dove deep on the tactical roles of promoting marketing campaigns, and subsequently following up and qualifying the resulting activity. Today we’ll discuss the third key role and application of the phone. It’s definitely the most sales-oriented of the three and probably what most people think about as a traditional telemarketing approach to lead generation. In some companies they call it Telemarketing. In other companies it’s referred to as Inside Sales. Finally, in other organizations, it’s simply another term for Lead Generation. None of these terms are entirely accurate. It’s really Proactive Tele-Prospecting. And, as I alluded to in the title of this post, there is a right way and a wrong way to approach it.
Proactive Tele-prospecting is about finding the opportunities that already exist, but you don’t know about yet. It is not about using trickery, pushy sales tactics or charm to convince people that they need to buy something. Period. The latter doesn’t work. It results in meetings, leads, scheduled demos, etc... that are a disappointment to the sales person and the prospect alike. You need to be “prospecting”... you know, like during the gold rush. You are looking for the gold in the cold, not using alchemy to turn whatever you happen to find into gold.
So how do we do this? How do we find the gold? It’s all about asking good questions, having some idea what answers to expect, and what to do with them when you get them. It’s about building credibility and being relevant. You need to have an understanding of what makes a good sales opportunity for your company. In the most basic sense you are looking for someone who has a problem that your company’s product or service can solve. You need to know who (as in the department and level of hierarchy) buys your products or services, who participates in the buying cycle and who to avoid talking to. Sure salesman-ship (or person-ship) comes into this - you have to be good at all of the things I’ve already described in this paragraph - but pure selling skill is not enough to turn something into an opportunity which isn’t already. This works in a flea market, but not for B2B products or services costing thousands or even millions of dollars.
There’s far to much involved in this to describe in one blog post... or two, or ten, probably. I have found that the right approach combines skills and techniques from sales, marketing and market research. If you are thinking of bringing someone in-house to do this for your company, consider looking at a candidate’s experience in all three of those areas, not just sales. In terms of selling tools, “Solution Selling” has a lot that can help you build credibility, and SPIN can help craft the questions. But relying on one selling strategy to help with this is misguided. Instead, an approach that blends the best of a variety of selling strategies (those that aren’t about the hard sell, but about finding out what your prospect needs are and trying to match it to your unique value proposition) will help to ensure that the leads, appointments and demos that your tele-prospecting team is generating are real opportunities and not just a waste of time and money.
Tomorrow, in part 5 of this series, I will be discussing the million dollar question - Should you build your telemarketing capabilities in-house, or outsource them to a trusted vendor?
As I mentioned previously in my Monday and Tuesday posts, the phone is still a very viable tool for B2B marketing. Last post we discussed using the phone to promote your marketing initiatives, including lead generation. As a result of that effort, more (and more targeted) people are visiting your trade show booths, attending your webinars, and signing up for your regular email correspondences. You’re getting more leads! Yes!
But...what do you do with them?
Traditionally, when leads are collected, nurtured and ultimately achieve a high enough score (See video about Lead Scoring for more context), they are sent to sales reps to follow-up. Common sense used to be that more is better; you need to keep your sales people busy, right? But do sales people want to be busy chasing down leads?
Nope and nope.
Sales people don't want to be busy; at least not busy making cold calls (because that's what following up with an unqualified lead really amounts to). What they want is to be successful. Too many unqualified leads limits their ability to be successful. This is where telemarketing can really help. You see, telemarketing resources are much less costly than a sales executive, and, as I mentioned earlier, they are much more efficient at making calls. Using a telemarketing agency, or even staffing up with one or two in-house telemarketers, in order to pre-qualify every seminar attendee can really help separate the wheat from the proverbial chaff, ultimately boosting your lead quality and acceptance while managing your overall corporate budgets.
As a result, the Sales team are really happy. They are still getting leads, but only the good leads. They don't spend as much time chasing people down on the phone, so they are actually closing more deals because they are using their time more wisely. Even better, your telemarketing resources continue to nurture the warm leads, supported by other lead nurturing programs, until they are ready to become hot and handed off to Sales. Successful marketing is ultimately about implementing tactics and campaigns to work your prospects through the funnel. Each stage of the funnel requires different tactics and different styles of engagement. Once you understand that, your sales conversion rates will increase dramatically while you’ll suffer much less from the peaks and valleys of the typical sales pipeline. Understanding all of this doesn’t exactly mean you’re saving lives, or anything remarkable like that, however you have just saved your company money! And that’s worth writing about.
Tune in tomorrow to learn about the right, and the wrong, way to telemarket.
Last post I discussed the fact that the telephone, or telemarketing, can still be useful to modern B2B marketers. At the end of the post I suggested 3 different uses for the phone that marketers should consider making use of... so let’s see what’s behind door number one. Ah, yes...using the phone as a vehicle to support and promote marketing initiatives.
This is a pure marketing function and involves integration with the rest of your marketing department’s activities. For example - if you are planning a series of webinars or seminars, ostensibly for lead generation purposes, you might consider using the phone to promote these events and drive attendance. Alternatively, a post-event telephone survey, seeking feedback on the recent event, would not only provide valuable direction for future events but would also provide you an opportunity to qualify the prospect and determine if they may be a candidate for your products or services. Or, perhaps, you are attending a trade show and you want to drive traffic to your booth. It might be a good idea to contact people you know will be attending the show, or who you think will be attending, and invite them to stop by your booth. Since most marketing tactics require budget to implement and execute, you want to ensure these programs have the highest possibility of generating a return on your investment.
This seems like a no-brainer, no? You have a list of people that you think might be interested in your event, you call them up and invite them to attend, come see your presentation or visit your booth. Surprisingly, I find that most people rely on word of mouth (WOM), Twitter, Facebook and email communication to promote their online events. Often it’s just the company website. While I would never suggest dismissing these tactics to promote your marketing events, I know they don’t go far enough.
There are 4 main benefits of using the phone to promote your marketing initiative:
- This is a proactive approach. You are not waiting for people to RSVP, find your site, read or re-tweet your tweets. You are directly approaching people, letting them know why they should be interested in your event and, in many cases you can help prospects to register for events by having your telemarketing agent actually fill out the registration form for them.
- You are deciding the audience that you want to market to. This is true for email as well, but this gives you the opportunity to specifically select the list of people who you want to invite to your event.
- The phone gives to the greatest degree of flexibility in terms of how you approach and customize your message. This is not true with an email or word of mouth. If you send a corporate VP an email invite to your event, they might not open it...might not even notice it if they are particularly busy and you have no control over who sees a re-tweet of your tweet. However; if you call someone and they are busy, you always have the opportunity to engage their gate keeper in conversation, 0-out to the operator, etc...giving you the opportunity to find out if this is something the gatekeeper thinks they might be interested in, when/how to approach them best, whether they have a direct report who might be easier to reach, etc...
- You are cleaning your lists at the same time. Each time you make contact you have the opportunity to update your contact information so that future campaigns have a lower email bounce-rate and a higher sales rep productivity rate.
The phone (or more specifically one-to-one human interaction which is best facilitated by the phone) is a very powerful tool for promoting marketing initiatives. Too many people rely on the sending of digital communications to convey an idea, or an invite, or an opportunity without ever reinforcing that communication with verbal, live dialog, thereby making it easy for the recipient to ignore or forget you. If you’re going to spend the time and money to send an email, or post a tweet, the assumption is that you need to earn a return on that investment. Not phoning the contact seems like a recipe for failure; even more remarkable is that we’ve seen so many marketing campaigns go from good to great simply by adding this one additional element. And I haven’t even dealt with the idea of proactively soliciting opt-ins!
Tomorrow we talk about how pre-qualification might just save a life. Check back for it.
My Lead Agency regularly produces Best Practices blog posts, often spanning multiple days, or even a week. This week, we're building off a previous blog we crafted last week, asking "Is telemarketing misunderstood?". We hope you enjoy Part 1 and invite you to return for parts 2 thru 5, as we release one segment per weekday.
OK - First, lets define telemarketing. For the purpose of this post, I am specifically referring to the use of the telephone for business to business lead generation. Not B2C, not inside sales; real B2B sales, and B2B marketing, that utilizes the phone as the message vehicle. Inside sales is sales, it isn’t telemarketing and, well, B2C telemarketing (or telesales) is dead... if it isn’t, it should be. Does anybody actually switch phone companies because of a telemarketing call?
So - B2B telemarketing. Used to be you’d buy a list from a broker, hire a couple of guys, write a script and hammer the list to pressure people to set an appointment with a sales rep, maybe schedule a demo, whatever. Then sales follows up with the leads, attends the meeting or demo... Or in most cases they try to for a couple of weeks before giving up and moving on to something else. When they do end up connecting with a lead it usually turns out not to be a real opportunity. Sales becomes frustrated with marketing; money and time are wasted. We already know what gives B2C telemarketing a bad name, but this scenario right here is what gives B2B telemarketing a bad name.
Well then, if we can't just throw a person on the phone and expect results, then what can we use telemarketing for? The way I see it, telemarketing in a B2B environment should deliver on 1 or more of 3 specific functions which require quite a lot of thought and planning and at least two very different skill-sets:
1) To support other marketing and lead generation efforts by helping to create and cleanse lists, gather market intelligence and to promote marketing initiatives like webinars, email, online and trade-show marketing;
2) To follow-up and qualify leads that are generated through other marketing activities in order to qualify them before they are sent to sales;
3) To proactively uncover sales opportunities via tele-prospecting, making more outbound calls (and therefore covering the market more efficiently) than sales reps who have quotas, proposals, meetings and customers taking up a huge chunk of their time. Why is this more efficient than quota-carrying reps? It’s simple. Once the rep finds a deal, they stop prospecting and transition to closing. While that’s a good thing, it doesn’t continue the requirement to always be filling the sales funnel with prospects.
Join me for the rest of the week as we discuss these telemarketing functions and explain why it ain’t just “Sell, sell, sell...”
Telemarketing! Teleprospecting! Telesales! Oi! I've heard every spin possible used to describe it. I know vendors who swear by it, and I know vendors who despise it. It seems to have a dirty connotation. I'm not sure why. I wonder if it's a generational thing. Some of my non-Gen-Y clients (you should read that as "older") always revert to Telemarketing as a first response to dwindling sales pipelines, whereas the Gen-Y clients typically refuse to even consider it.
Take, for example, the recently published 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report from MarketingSherpa. For context, the primary research of this report came from "the collective wisdom of 935 B2B marketers". I think that makes it fairly credible, eh?! In this report, one of the things it addresses is where are the investments being made in inbound tactics. Overall, Telemarketing investments, as a percentage of overall allocated Marketing budgets, are being increased in by 32%, whereas 54% are making no change and 13% are actually reducing investment. The only other tactics with smaller allocations of increased investment, or larger reductions in investment, are Direct Mail, Tradeshows, and Print Advertising; all of which are very much old-school tactics.
That says to me that the Marketing faithful have lost the faith in Telemarketing.
Yet, if I look at it a different way, I could spin the numbers to say that 86% of marketers are either maintaining or growing their Telemarketing investment. That sounds rather impressive, doesn't it?
Now, let's turn the page on the report and look at another chart which reports the "effectiveness of B2B marketing tactics". While the report measures and categorizes the breakdown by Very Effective, Somewhat Effective, or Not Effective, I'm going to keep this simple and look at the Very Effective numbers.
Telemarketing is deemed by 35% of the survey respondents as Very Effective. It's only beaten by, SEO (36%), Email (40%), Webinars (43%) and Website (50%). I wouldn't argue with that ranking.
What's more interesting is what ranks lower on the Very Effective results in the chart: Public Relations (31%), Tradeshows (25%), Paid Search (23%), Direct Mail (22%), Social Media (16%), and Print Advertising (10%).
That's right. Social Media ranks that low.
So what does this tell me? It tells me that Telemarketing still works, and that people still rely on it, and that if you have a bias against using it you should reconsider it.
For those of you who have been burned by Telemarketing, it may have been that you used a bad outsourced provider of these services, or perhaps your in-house team wasn't properly managed, or trained, or equipped, or staffed to be successful. In other words, it may not be the tactic itself that didn't work out for you, but how the tactic was implemented.
In my experience, the number one reason why Telemarketing has a bad reputation is because B2B companies use it without any other tactics. In other words, they do not implement and execute integrated campaigns involving all of the above listed tactics. Can you relate? I know that when a vendor sends me a series of relevant nurturing emails, followed by a webinar invite, or perhaps a compelling blog post reference, and then calls me directly, I am far more receptive to the call because I feel like I have some familiarity with them and I know they could potentially help me. Has that been your experience?
As the new year continues to roll out, let me ask you this about your Marketing plan and budget: will Telemarketing be part of the mix?
Stay tuned! Next week we'll be highlighting the very issue of telesales with a series of blog posts describing how you can make this tactic work for you!
We've all been there; the end of the quarter/year push to close business. It's done at all costs. We have to hit our numbers. The shareholders / investors / owners / management team committed that we would. And, often, we succeed at hitting those targets. It's exciting and exhausting and reason to celebrate. We go home and sleep the sleep of the contented. Until the next day. When we go back to work. And we look at the quota for the next month / quarter / year, and we realize that our sales pipeline is thin. We don't have enough new business sales leads to make our numbers. And then we panic.
Alright, already. It doesn't need to be this way. We can fix this dilemma. And it won't even be that hard, if you don't mind putting in a little bit of work, and you approach the problem strategically. Why strategically? Because usually, in our panic, we react to the problem in a method that's not optimal. Can you relate to the sales directive to start making as many calls as possible? We call everyone that's in our CRM system. We don't necessarily have anything new to say but we're dialing for dollars. At the same time, Marketing starts pumping out press releases about nothing in particular. I think you know how this story goes; the sales calls have low connection rates, and the voice mails we leave are rarely returned, and the CRM data quality is poor resulting in 1 out of 2 calls being answered by "Jim doesn't work here anymore", and the press release doesn't generate a single expression of interest (except for other vendors calling to congratulate you and ask if you need their services). Can you relate? Clearly this approach is not very strategic.
Let's break the cycle and do this right. After all, it's a new year. It's time for new approaches.
Follow these simple steps and you'll soon be sunning yourself at the President's Club rewards trip because of your sales accomplishments.
- Clean your data: make a concerted effort to have everyone involved physically call all of your contacts in your CRM system and simply review the contact information for accuracy. While you're there, ask them if anyone else should also be included. Ask them if email is their preferred method of communication or would they also like to be engaged via Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. Send them something to thank them for their time, such as a white paper or a Starbucks card. They'll remember you because of it. If you don't have the time or resources then outsource this job. This is the most critical thing you can do to increase your success in lead generation. By cleaning your data, you not only start talking to the right people, you also ensure your email bounce rate is relatively low. Nothing raises flags with the spam reporting services like high bounce rates. If they decide you're spamming, none of your corporate communications will get through. That's bad. Generally speaking, if you don't do this step, don't bother doing the rest of the steps. It's that critical.
- Grow your opt-in lists: Stop buying, or renting, lists. Instead, grow your own. Every person in the organization should ask a prospect or customer to opt-in to corporate communications whenever they talk with them; whether it be someone in Sales, or Marketing, or Support, or Management. No exceptions. Run events, such as webinars, with marquee partners and leverage their opt-in lists to grow your own. Partners are a great source of new contacts which you may not normally have access, or exposure, to. The conversion rate for opted-in recipients is significantly higher. Similarly, the likelihood of these recipients pressing the "spam" button on emails you send is substantially smaller then purchased, or rented, lists.
- Identify your target audience and key messages: Stop being generic with your message. Stop spewing every possible buzz word, or pain point, in the hope that something you say will stick with the recipient and they'll want to talk further. That's simply called "spray and pray". It doesn't work. Instead, understand your audience, or audiences, and then create messaging specific to them. Essentially, you're segmenting your efforts. If you're not sure what the message is for each audience, do something crazy like asking them. It's amazing what they'll tell you. Once you know the key bullets you're going to speak to, ensure that everyone on the team only speaks to those points. No varying from the message. I love it when a sales rep, or an executive, says "I know what to say. I'm good with the clients. Just let me do my thing." The truth is that inconsistency throughout the organization kills deals.
- Create supporting and compelling content for your audience: Once you start talking to your audience, whether it's phone, email, social media, trade shows, or even just your website, you'll need something to engage them to talk further. That something is called content. It could be collateral, or white papers, or videos, or blog posts, or case studies, or even podcasts. The fact is, if you don't have content then you don't have any reason to continue the conversation. The trick to content is reusability. Take for example a webinar. If you host a webinar, you can archive it for future use. You can then turn it into a podcast. You could also record the transcript and make a paper out of it. You can highlight key quotes for promotional purposes. You can create a press release highlighting the key points. All of this content is now available to Sales and Marketing for consumption by your target audience. Work smart, not hard, when it comes to content creation. What's great about content is that you can also post it via social media, or in blogs. All of this content gets cross-referenced by the search engines. Suddenly, you're generating inbound traffic to your site from people seeking answers to their problems, and Google is the source of the introduction. God bless Google.
- Engage them in a discussion using integrated marketing campaigns: Stop making phone calls. Well, actually, don't stop. Instead, make phone calls as part of an overall, integrated, outbound campaign. Try a series of emails, with content, followed by an invite to a webinar, preceded by a phone call to encourage attendance to the webinar. Then, after the webinar, call each registrant back to thank them for their time, ask them what they liked or disliked about the webinar, and attempt to understand how this feedback applies to their situation. I can guarantee you that if the feedback was "I didn't get what I was hoping to get out of the webinar", that means they have a problem and they need help. That's the start of a Sales Opportunity. Phone calls on their own are easy to ignore but an ongoing, consistent, dialog, using multiple outbound channels, will result in trust and thought leadership. When the prospect finally has a need for your services, they'll call you first.
Alright, so while I indicated that this would be 5 easy steps, I never suggested that this blog post would be short. Thanks for reading this far. If you want, we can help you out. Give us a shout. As usual, any advice we give is free, as is our time. We love talking about this stuff. Care to connect via Twitter? Perhaps you should opt-in to our community discussion? And did I mention the great content we have on this site? Have a great day restocking those new business leads cupboards.