I hosted a webinar yesterday for our partner OnPath. The guest panelists were Tim Washer (@timwasher) and Deborah Strickland (@deborahs) of Cisco. It was a fun 29 minute discussion (not counting Q&A) about social media and the lessons that Cisco - the 2010 B2B Twitterer of the Year - has learned. These people were really honest and transparent, and I might add, very funny. I hope we can work together again and I suggest you follow them on Twitter. With that said, the webinar attempted to tackle the following six questions in our relatively tight timeline:
- How does Cisco use social media and why?
- Does a higher volume of views, fans, followers, subscribers, translate into more sales?
- How many people does it take to manage a successful social media strategy?
- What can a small-medium size company do to get started? Do they need a plan or just jump into it?
- How do you coordinate the technology of scheduling posts, building lists, and measuring clicks with team collaboration?
- Should a company consider outsourcing these activities?
Sidebar: If GoToWebinar is listening, you folks really need to work on your conference call technology. The webinar started 7 minutes late because of major issues and tech support never get to us until after we had resolved the matter. That said, a big shout-out to all of those who patiently waited for the webinar to start. We didn't lose a single audience member! Thanks!
What Tim and Deborah shared can best be summarized as follows:
- Use humor to engage: whether it's in your posts, or in your content you create (videos, blogs, etc.), people react better, and engage more, with a touch of humor.
- Be transparent, be relational: don't just push your posts out there non-stop, rather you should be conversational and honest with your audience. It should be a two-way dialog but not necessarily an ongoing diatribe of your daily existence.
- Sit back and watch while you're getting started. You'll soon figure out who is worthy of watching and engaging with compared to who is simply shouting/spamming with no interest in being "social".
- Use services like Technorati to find cool blogs to follow, and then get active contributing.
- Look at your competitors and see what they're doing. There is a good chance that you should be following some of the same people they do.
- Create a schedule and stick to it. Consistency is critical.
- Social Media takes a lot of effort. Don't let others in your organization make the false assumption otherwise. Assume at least an hour or two per day. If you don't have the time, or the additional resources or budget, to make that commitment then consider eliminating something else from your existing marketing mix or daily obligations.
- Social Media does not necessarily result in a dramatic increase in lead generation activity. It does, however, positively impact your search engine optimization (SEO), your thought leadership, and your exposure. It's great to get a handle on what customers are saying about you or your services and products, and it absolutely allows you to respond to any concern they may have.
- There is lots of technology out there, so use it. The usual suspects like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite are good, but so are more analytical tools like Radian6 or PostRank.
- Outsourcing of social media is a challenging thing, as the vendor will never know your business like you do. That said, it can be safely done in controlled circumstances with sufficient checks and balances.
- Foremost, what I took away, was a comment that for social media to be successful, you have to have a goal. Once you start the program, always be measuring against your goals. What was very interesting was the observation that your goal may not be the same as what others in your organization believe the goals should be. That means you need to get consensus early in the process.
Of course, I'm just hitting the high notes. The actual webinar is worthy of a quick listen. The questions submitted by the audience were powerful and the answers were honest.
Thanks to @onpath for the opportunity to host.
If you want to hear it yourself, you can find the recorded version here.
Social Media is a major part of any B2B sales or marketing strategy that we endorse for our clients at My Lead Agency. It doesn't mean we always enjoy or embrace social media. Despite the typical verbosity of my blog posts, I don't always have a lot to say. I'm good with 2-4 character posts ("Yup", "Nope", "OK") rather than 140 characters, and blogging can sometimes be downright painful. I've got so much to do during the day that social media can sometimes be an afterthought. With that all said, is it effective for lead generation? Well, as it relates to inbound marketing, it's critical however we need to keep perspective; it's still only one tool in our bag of business development weapons. In other words, stay focused on developing a comprehensive and holistic approach to your lead generation efforts; do not get tunnel-vision and believe social media is the answer to all of your sales pipeline woes. Trust me when I say that many companies we work with have been barraged with sage advice preaching that social media will fill their coffers. With that as the inspiration for today's post, I decided to go have another look at the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report and see what the numbers say about this topic.
When asked to indicate the effectiveness of social media for their organization, the answers were as follows:
- 16% - Very effective
- 59% - Somewhat effective
- 25% - Not effective
What's interesting about these numbers is how MarketingSherpa chose to interpret them: "the majority of B2B organizations perceive this as either a very effective or a somewhat effective tactic.". Personally, I see the glass half-empty on this one. That is, that the majority of B2B organizations perceive this as somewhat effective or not effective at all. And, it should be noted, my "majority" is bigger than MarketingSherpa's "majority" when you add up the numbers. So, that tells you that the experience of most marketers is somewhat still out on the impact of social media. Of course, many pro-social-media pundits will simply claim that these organizations aren't effectively using social media, nor do they have the expertise or resources to implement it properly; and they would be right in most cases. That said, it's just another affirmation that social media, like any marketing tactic, must be implemented intelligently.
If I drill down further on this topic, MarketingSherpa asks the question "Which of the following social media tactics does your organization currently use? Check all that apply". The answers are intriguing:
- 87% - Participating on company branded or managed social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- 64% - Microblogging on company branded or managed microblogs (Twitter, Jaiku, etc.)
- 64% - Blogging on company branded or managed blogs
- 62% - Sharing content on multimedia sites (YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, etc.)
- 59% - Using social media to improve search engine rankings (SEO)
- 41% - Social media news releases
- 33% - Blogger or online influencer relations
- 30% - Sharing email content with social media sites
- 21% - Advertising on blogs, social networks or other social media sites
So my takeaway here is that companies engage what requires the least amount of effort, such as Facebook and Twitter. Everyone can do a small little update here and there. That's not too time consuming. However, blogging does take more time and effort, as does content creation and SEO. Influencer relations can take an especially long time, as you need to develop a relationship over time; that will only happen if you have something valuable to say or great content to contribute. MarketingSherpa actually has another chart that details the perceived level of effort required for each of these initiatives, which fundamentally documents our noted assumptions.
Alright, let's bring this blog post home and reference the chart that really means something to those within the organization responsible for revenue: Please rate the following tactics for their level of effectiveness in achieving social media objectives (1 star is the lowest level of effectiveness, 5 stars is the highest level). For brevity, I'm going to add up the percentages for those who answered 4-stars, or 5-stars, into a single percentage, as that percentage reflects a strong perception of the tactic's effectiveness in achieving the organizations's goals for social media. For our clients, that goal is almost always lead generation.
- 44% - Blogging on company branded or managed blogs
- 40% - Using social media to improve search engine ranking (SEO)
- 34% - Blogger and online influencer relations
- 30% - Sharing content on multimedia sites (YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, etc.)
- 30% - Participating on company branded or managed social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- 24% - Microblogging on company branded or managed microblogs (Twitter, Jaiku, etc.)
- 20% - Social media news releases
- 24% - Sharing email content with social media sites
- 17% - Advertising on blogs, social networks or other social media sites
So what's my takeaway from this? Organizations are not optimally using social media. While Twitter and Facebook are good, and often fun, they are not ranking well enough on achieving corporate objectives relative to the investment required. On the other hand, blogging, SEO, influencer relations, and content creation is more successful at achieving those goals.
In the end, deals occur because of relationships. One party trusts another to help them resolve a pain they have. Trust is built slowly, often after repeated demonstrations that a vendor has skill, and a track record of success, such that a Buyer's objections, and fear of risk, are mitigated. The vendor becomes credible. As is often the case behind earned trust, word-of-mouth implies credibility. When a trusted advisor refers a vendor to a friend (virtual word-of-mouth), the vendor is perceived as credible and trustworthy. That's what content does for you. It puts your knowledge in a consumable format. That content is then shared among friends. If it's deemed valuable, trusted Influencers reference and endorse you. Blogs also convey personality and are a more personal way of referencing and delivering content. Content builds SEO. Content becomes a sales and a marketing tool; it's embedded in your processes with things like lead nurturing or objection handling. And all of these factors generate inbound leads which then results in measurable lead generation success.
So there you have it. My musing for the day. Sorry I went a bit long. I did admit initially to being verbose with my blogs. I'd love to hear your feedback.
Some stats I recently uncovered from Ikhana Software indicated the following:
-Typical sales and marketing databases contain 27%-40% duplicate data
-Account level duplicates can run as high as 60%
-Lead generation forms generate up to 40% trash on a daily basis
The truth is that most of us have much experience using CRM systems that contain a fair amount of questionable data. What do I mean when I use the term "questionable"? I mean:
- Leads that are very old and were never converted into Accounts/Contacts or retired
- Contacts that no longer work at the Account
- Incomplete records typically missing any or all of the following:
- direct line
- web address
- Accounts that are no longer in business
Can you relate so far? If so, let's continue. How does this data quality issue impact your sales and marketing efforts? These symptoms may sound familiar:
- high bounce rates in email campaigns;
- low connect rates in telemarketing campaigns;
- high rate of undeliverable direct mails;
- under-performing lead generation campaigns, or new business development efforts, due to incomplete prospect information or engagement history;
- too much time reviewing the prospects web site trying to find contact information rather than trying to engage them;
- missed sales quotas or lead generation quotas
It's a real problem. A client of ours recently went through an exercise to clean up their data. According to them, it hadn't been done in over five years, and the data in the system had potentially traveled through three different generations of CRM systems they'd used over the years. He managed to reduce his Leads volume from approximately 2,400 leads down to 1,400 leads. That impact seems to be spot-on with the stats quoted above. The effort to clean the data took one person four solid days of effort. When it was done, they had quality over quantity, productivity over inefficiency, deliverability over bounces, and morale over frustration. The client felt good. The sales and marketing teams felt good. The impact was good, all around, and they're well on their way to hitting their annual goals and objectives.
So what's holding you back? What is so important that you cannot make this happen in your organization? Is it resources? If it is, then perhaps you need to use technology. All of these products can make your life much better when it comes to data cleanup and new business prospecting:
By using a bit of technology, and implementing some standard data entry processes across your sales and marketing teams, you can spread the load and dramatically increase the cleanliness of your data in a relatively short period of time.
Bottom line is this - data is not something you can get too, eventually, when things slow down. It's something you need to deal with now.
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...”
I'm a former CMO/VP of Marketing several times over. In fact, I'm also a former VP Sales several times over (we won't discuss how many times - that would be rude and might reveal my age). I've lived with the pressures of managing budgets that are never big enough, managing sales expectations that are never realistic, and managing staff that are never quite capable enough. Often, when it comes down to lead generation, I felt very alone. Can you relate? Are you in an organization that suffers some of these symptoms?
There were many times when I felt like outsourcing the whole marketing department. I never did. But, I did outsource elements of the department. I had to. We simply didn't have the talent in-house, nor the budgets, to do it right. However, even when I did this, it was always a struggle to find a vendor, or an agency, that understood how the whole, big, marketing picture worked together. Many of my vendors were right-brained, creative types and didn't understand accountability, or measuring results. When I hired left-brained, logical vendors, I lost the creative edge I sought. Only occasionally could I find vendors that got the big picture, that had the resources to be both right- and left-brained. I loved those vendors! They understood my pain and my exposure. They were my partners. My lead generation efforts were most successful when I worked with them.
Recently, a colleague called me up to seek my advice. He's a CEO at a very cool SaaS company. He was trying to figure out what type of marketing resource to hire. Instead of answering him, I spent a very long time quizzing him on his current infrastructure, his corporate culture, his corporate goals and financial objectives, his sales team (including roles, mandates, and compensation). Finally, he said "Darryl, I want to know about marketing, not about what you're asking!". I laughed and said that it all related. I had learned that his inside sales folks did all of the sales opportunity qualification, as well as sold the low-priced, commodity products while his account executives sold the enterprise deals handed to them by the inside sales team. I also learned the organization was distributed and already overburdened with deliverables. Because of this, I advised him that he needed a self-motivated, accountable, experienced marketer to generate content and inbound marketing leads so that his inside sales team could take over from there. The individual should have worked somewhere previously where they had been involved with such an initiative, had seen it done right, had made the mistakes, and now wanted to make a name for themselves. Simply put, he couldn't afford to hire a junior marketer because they would only be successful if he held their hand, and he didn't have the time. It would be a waste of his time and his company would miss their objectives.
Then I told him the salary he would expect to pay for such a person.
After a lengthy silence, I said to him "You hoped to pay less, didn't you?". He acknowledged this truth. I understood he had a budget to respect.
At that point I said to him "You know, you could outsource much of this to an agency or an experienced independent. You'd get them for 10-20 hours per week and in that time they'd be just as productive as a full-time, junior resource but they'd be a whole lot more successful due to their experience and infrastructure and processes."
Ironically he said "Hey, don't you folks do that?" whereupon I laughed and said "That's not what I'm trying to do here. This isn't a sales call. It's advice." Of course, as we speak I'm quoting him on his project.
The lesson of this post is that outsourcing does have benefits, if used wisely and holistically. Be smart. Do the budget math. Document the expectations and hold your outsourced partner to these expectations.
If you're still not sure, check out this video. It'll go into much more depth on why Outsourcing might make sense for you.
So what do you think? Do you agree?
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!
It's a great question - how frequently and at what time(s) should I tweet? - and while I've been active enough on the social media scene for some time now, I admit that I am no Rhodes scholar when it comes to knowing the answer. That, however, I blame on my own impatience; I often just want to get the post out there and move on to my next deliverable. However, if I am honest with myself, that's not really optimizing my social media efforts, or my marketing ROI, or my lead generation efforts, which means I'm ultimately wasting my time by not being strategic on my tweeting initiatives.
Can you relate?
So I did a little research online. I used this little tool called Google. I researched some tweets and posts from various Trust Agents (accolades to Chris Brogan for this term). I read a bit of online journalism. What I learned is that I should have trusted my gut (as opposed to my historical behaviours). Because this is a blog, and I am often more verbose then I should be, I'll cut to the chase for you.
- You want to post for maximum exposure. Twitter is analogous to the CNN news ticker. People tune in, read the news, then tune out. If they happen to stay long enough to see the news ticker repeat itself, they're not actually offended. They accept and expect it to happen. Said another way - you need to tweet your tweets more than once.
- Some suggest the best time to tweet would probably be 9:00am PST (this assumes a North American audience primarily) because:
- The west coast has arrived at the office
- The east coast is catching up on Tweets over lunch
- It's the end of the day in the United Kingdom
- Malcolm Coles has an amazing, albeit somewhat subjective, study where he reviews Twitter "margin" - the difference between tweets read and tweets sent. Accordingly, he claims the best time to tweet is at 4:01pm. Now he's based out of the UK, but he does somewhat address this in his study. I love his concept of "margin".
- Guy Kawasaki has been famously quoted that he retweets nearly every post 4 times (of course, this would be spread out over the course of a day or more).
- General consensus on the frequency is a little more divided although most successful Twitterers agree that the number is at least three times for each post.
- There is differing opinions around the text of the tweet, if you tweet something more than once. Some people feel they should change the text (while using the same link) so that it appears different while others find this approach deceiving. These advocates would rather keep the text the same so that people who click through on your tweets don't click through more than once to the same article, thus resulting in a perceived 'bait and switch' and thereby negatively affecting your credibility.
- A great suggestion for how long to wait between tweets, or perhaps better said "when to post your tweets", was posited by Anil Batra. The proposed schedule is:
- initial post at 9:00am PST
- post the same tweet again at 1:00pm PST (4:00pm EST)
- and finally post again at 4:00pm PST.
- of course, this all assumes most of your followers are west coast. If you're outside of North America, you would change this for your own time zone.
- Personally, since I'm an EST person, I like the idea of posting at 9am EST, again at 12pm EST, again at 4pm EST and again at 7pm EST. (notice I had 4 posts, and not 3 posts!)
So, for the next little while, I'll be experimenting with my frequency and timing. I'll let you know how it goes. And maybe, when I do follow up with my results, we can start the conversation about when to retweet. That's a whole other blog post.
In the interim, there is a cool tool called Tweek O'Clock that can tell you the best time to tweet a specific individual if you're trying to get face time with them. Check it out.
And if you're wondering how to manage the scheduling of these tweets, rather than doing it manually, I think you'll find tools like Hootsuite, and others, do a wonderful job. Just like I began this article, I suggest you use that Google tool to find the Twitter client for you!
Oh! One more thing. Check out this awesome article by Fast Company. It really gets into the math behind tweeting.
I read an interesting blog post yesterday. In it, the author talks about why your social media campaigns aren't working. It was a refreshing and candidly frank post. All too often, the answer to generating more demand, more lead generation, is "social media". We need to be on Twitter more. We need more followers. We need to be on Facebook. Arrrghh! If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, or read that, then I'd have a whole lot of dollars. The honest truth is that social media is only one trick in a Marketer's bag. It's not the only trick. And that's where things break down. All too often, companies believe that the secret to dramatically increased demand generation is social media. Let's be honest. It's not.
It is, however, a critical and necessary component.
Why? Because being active in social media - whether it be writing blog posts, contributing to ongoing forum discussions, tweeting, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc - is a great way to get picked up by Google and deemed a worthy contributor, maybe even a thought leader, concerning specific topics and keywords. In turn, that results in greater organic search engine rankings, more pervasive presence online, and greater share of voice and conversation. These result in a substantially higher number of non-solicited, inbound inquiries (aka Leads) to your website. The theory goes that you will then be able to close more business.
Of course, the weakness in that theory is that your website is actually compelling enough, your messaging relevant enough, your content fresh enough, and your sales processes effective enough to actually convert these new leads. This small assumption is why social media is only one trick in developing new business. The fact is you still need all of the traditional tactics, and understanding of sales, to be an effective and successful Marketer. We'll save that for another blog post.
So, with that as the setup, let me ask this: Are you actively committed to social media? Are you consistently contributing? Is your entire organization involved and mandated to also contribute? Is it part of your documented processes and procedures? Are staff incented, compensated, or measured, on their participation?
Let's be honest. The most common response I get to this discussion is that "We simply do not have the time". And that, my friends, speaks to the challenge you face. By saying this, you're effectively saying you don't have time to sell. If I were to say this to your face, you'd probably strongly protest and tell me I don't understand. The reality is that I do.
The sales and marketing process has changed. Inbound Marketing, social media, Google, etc, are all now part of the selling process. The question at the heart of the issue is "Will you change to adapt?"
I'd love to hear your comments. I'm sure some of you will strongly disagree. That's cool. I love a good debate.
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.
It's that time of year. You know the time. The time when you reflect on the fact that, from September to December, you didn't accomplish nearly as much as you'd hoped or planned to. Life got in the way. Work got in the way of work. Stuff happened but now you need to really buckle down and focus on demand generation, business development, guerrilla marketing, and general Revenue Creation 101. All I can say to you is this - I feel your pain. I get it. As my New Year's resolution, I propose we travel this road together. Here is what I plan to do. I'd love your feedback. Tell me how my plan compares to yours. Did I miss anything?
- Write down everything that's important. I've made three lists:
- Immediate To-Do's.
- Client Deliverables
- Business Development programs
- Get as many of the To-Do's off of your list as possible. Just go nuts. They'll keep you up at night if you don't do them. Remove that distraction. Stop putting off the little things. You'll feel better.
- Create a calendar of your daily must-do tasks. You know what I'm talking about:
- Write that daily blog post.
- Respond to active new media conversations relevant to your industry, with active link-backs to your content.
- Post your thoughts, opinions, etc, on Twitter, again with link-backs to your content.
- Grow your list of Twitter followers daily. Add at least five to ten new Follows every day with people you think are interesting and relevant to you.
- Read at least one to three articles of content daily to remain up-to-speed on what's happening in the industry.
- Dedicate time for at least ten emails and ten phone calls related to business development and lead generation every day.
- Reserve a consistent period of time for client deliverables.
- Reserve a consistent period of time for client discussions, phone calls, and emails.
- Be consistent. Be committed to your schedule.
- Implement a Project Management solution, such as BasecampHQ, and then commit your time in writing for each of your deliverables and projects.
- Create repeatable templates, ideally within your Project Management solution, for each repeatable task. For instance, if you have a standard method of on-boarding new clients, make a template for that so that you can quickly schedule the tasks, and the timelines, as they become clients. It makes it easier for you and your team, as well as ensures the client is properly managed from the beginning.
- Create a project plan for each client deliverable. Again, if possible, update your Project Management solution with the tasks, dates, task owners, and any relevant and associated documents. This will ensure you are committed to the delivery, and timelines, of these tasks. Effectively, you're making yourself accountable to yourself. I don't know about you, but I hate letting myself down.
- Use automation as much as possible to make your time more effective. Currently, we are trialing a CRM product called Insightly because it seamlessly integrates with our Google Apps email and calendaring solution. We never have to leave Google Apps to update our CRM. That's efficient. If our trial goes well, we'll consider replacing BasecampHQ with Insightly for our project management, thus creating a single environment for our technology infrastructure. That's our ultimate goal.
- Set goals. Measure them daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. Be candid with yourself. Do not make excuses. If you hold yourself accountable, you'll love the final results when you look back in six months time.
I know it all sounds like a lot of administration and paperwork. Trust me - it will pay huge dividends if you invest now for your long-term success. At most, we're talking about a couple of days doing the initial effort. Afterwards, we're talking about small daily updates; almost no time at all, really, in the big picture of your day. Most importantly, since people will be slowly getting back to work this week, with minimal expectations of you, now is the time when you can truly afford to make the investment of time and planning and scheduling to ensure you keep your New Years Lead Generation resolutions. Remember - you're not alone. We're in this together.
Happy New Years.