Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Inbound Sales Leads Still Need Qualification

Businesses who prefer an inbound marketing strategy for sales leads are usually the cautious type. They don't want to use overly direct means for fear of being labeled disruptive, intrusive, and just plain pushy. Many inbound marketing advocates feel the same way (which is why they're ready to back up this attitude with very convincing statistics, research, as well as personal experience).

However, it can still logically follow that inbound sales leads still need to be qualified. Attracting them purely through their interactions with your website or even on your social media page will not be good enough reason to appoint them to a sales representative right away. Here are two reasons why:

  • People still doubt online information – Not all business owners are quick to believe what's on the internet. In fact, some business owners can be quite critical of what businesses promise online. If they can't find anything else to verify what's being said on your website, then they won't move any further in the sales process. 
  • Online information from clients can also be unreliable – The information you receive via website contact forms or sent through social media isn't always what it appears. Anybody can write a message on the internet, send it, and claim it so long as they have access to the account. Why do you think many businesses (perhaps even your own) are being extra careful with whom they share online contact information? You might need more than a name, an email address, and a few words expressing interest before you can fully qualify a prospect.

There's a reason why the qualification process is one of the longest phases in lead generation. It's the stage where you engage a prospect even further, identify their needs, as well as verify the shared information for both sides. And despite what critics say, telemarketing is still one of the most commonly used forms of verification. You can replicate a typed message but you can't replicate a live person's voice nor the discussion you can have with that person. Below are just some of the ways that inbound marketing channels can use B2B telemarketing to qualify their sales leads:

  • Email – Inbound leads generated via email come from positive responses to a well-aimed email blast. But again, these responses could be made by anyone. Using a phone call to follow-up assures you that you are indeed communicating with the sender. 
  • Social media – Chatting on social media after an extended period might seem like an alternative to talking over the phone. However, remember that one of the biggest criticisms against social media is that it still allows a considerable level of anonymity. You do not want that anonymity being a cause for doubt among either your salespeople or your prospects. Direct the latter to give your business a call and don't neglect the things being discussed through social media to show that they're still talking to the same company. 
  • Website – Put a CTA in your website that encourage interested prospects to call. This helps convince your salespeople that the prospects are real and at the same time, lets skeptical prospects know that you're real as well. However, that's just the ideal. There are factors that still leave much room for skilled and honest communication so don't forget those!

Sometimes you'll find that it's not even enough to combine telemarketing with just one of those channels. Multi-channel marketing approaches are seeing increasing favor because more businesses (even small ones) are asking more transparency and information just to be convinced. Qualify your inbound sales leads with telemarketing today!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Combine Telemarketing And Awareness To Quickly Identify Demand

appointment setter, b2b leads, business lead, lead generation company, targeted sales leads, telemarketingThe energy industry is an industry that covers different forms, applies different sciences, and caters to different markets. Despite that, there are common, unifying, but sad traits that are faced by everyone in the industry: cost and scarcity. Awareness of these, however, can actually help things improve if combined with precision lead generation techniques like telemarketing.

For one thing, awareness of problems will help you get a general idea of how your entire market (which includes both current clients and prospective ones) is behaving towards your industry. Meanwhile, targeted telemarketing can react to this behavior and further confirm any demands as well acquire more specific information about individual businesses. Consider it a gradual descent from general information to more specific details of their needs and preferences.

Now, here are some of the following problems and perceptions people have about energy and power companies:
  • Expenses – Factors such as the rising cost of fuel, the expensive research for cheaper alternatives, and even just the maintenance of current sources are just a fraction of the cost-related issues people have with this industry.
  • Scarcity – Speaking of which, these costs are popularly believed to be the result of scarcity. And in fact, this can be true in some cases. If you find these cases to be though, it's constantly brought up in various political and economic discussions on the issue of energy resources.
  • Inconvenience – Aside from major issues like costs and scarcity, you have minor issues like inconvenient power outages. Consumers aren't the only ones you should be worried about. A more painful backlash could come from business owners who find such outages damaging to their businesses.
Any of these could be a cause for concern for your market. The key is to first be aware of the large picture before narrowing down to different individual businesses. A few ways to maintain awareness include:
  • News and current events – These issues are more than just a business' concern. It's everyone's concern from the politicians to the homeowners. Because of that, these issues usually make the news. Pay attention to any changes in prices and try and predict reactions from your market. Use outbound telemarketing to engage your customers and prospects to see if your predictions prove to be accurate.
  • Event hosting/participation – Given the urgency of the issue, hosting or attending related events is not a bad idea. It gives you exposure and a large venue to exchange information on important issues. Inbound telemarketing services can be used to receive additional inquiries while outbound calls can send personal invitations to your customers.
  • Surveys – Surveys can be done in numerous ways with more varying measures of size and scope. Regardless, it's another good way to generate feedback and understand what the market is thinking. Inbound telemarketing can also be used to receive additional input should participants have something more to say.
Once you've obtained the information and awareness of basic problems, you can then market your efforts to fulfill these demands and analyze the traits of those who makes them the most. This could mean a change in marketing messages or even an entirely new solution for sales to offer when pursuing targeted sales leads. Identifying demand is one of the first steps of marketing after all. Combine the power of general information and that of well-aimed marketing efforts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Is Telemarketing Dead With The Rest Of Marketing In General?

Bill Lee of the HBR Blog Network caused quite a stir recently after publishing an entry that declared the death of traditional marketing as it is making way for a new paradigm that's customer-centric and more highly controlled by social influence. So, does this mean it applies to telemarketing as well?

Well while many in the comments are finding the article insightful, the same can also be said of the discussions among them. Some of the noteworthy ones come from those who find Lee's definition of marketing 'narrow' as opposed to the definition covering a wide array of practices (which, ironically, include the alternatives that Lee himself is advocating). So just what is it that Lee is advocating as a sort of 'replacement' for marketing? Will it truly 'kill' marketing (and telemarketing with it)?

Restore community marketing. Used properly, social media is accelerating a trend in which buyers can increasingly approximate the experience of buying in their local, physical communities.”

It goes further on and says that social media is the medium of which businesses can start replicating the community that markets for the company instead of themselves. That might sound ideal for marketing to consumers but what about B2B? Are decision makers really the types to rely solely on peer-review? Are they just going to instantly be influenced by the words they'll read on a forum or social-networking site?

Find your customer influencers. Many firms spend lots of resources pursuing outside influencers who've gained following on the Web and through social media. A better approach is to find and cultivate customer influencers and give them something great to talk about.”

Sure, find customer influencers. Just one question: How do you plan on contacting them? They're still customers too you know, and in B2B, a customer with that high amount of influence is going to have a very well-guarded communication line (from email to telephone) and is also not likely to be influenced by just peer-reviews.

Help them build social capital. Practitioners of this new, community-oriented marketing are also rethinking their customer value proposition for such MVP (or "Customer Champion" or "Rockstar") customer advocates and influencers.”

Making it easier for your advocates to influence in the world of B2B might still warrant an appointment setter or at least a flexible, multi-channeled means of communicating for exchanging information. Sharing data that backs up their sphere of influence is good but wouldn't it better if you showed them how to properly use and understand that information?

Get your customer advocates involved in the solution you provide. Perhaps the most spectacular example of this comes from the non-profit world... Using the techniques for building a community of peer influence, Florida solved it. They sought influential teen "customers" such as student leaders, athletes, and "cool kids," who weren't smoking or who wanted to quit — and instead of pushing a message at them, they asked for the students' help and input.”

If you try and make a B2B version out of this, it sounds suspiciously like getting customer feedback and the only significant difference is that it's limited to strong customer influencers. That still doesn't rule out the need for communication (the kind of which telemarketing can provide for inbound customer input).

In short, he might have a point about relying more on customer communities for marketing. It compliments the rising demand for customer freedom. Still, his proposed model requires a form of communication between the key influencers of that community and the companies themselves. Social media may not be enough for that kind of communication.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Be Careful With Contact Data When Outsourcing B2B Telemarketing

You might think that outsourced B2B telemarketing services can save you the hassle of directly managing the process for generating targeted sales leads. However, that doesn't mean people still won't find a way to hold you responsible. Guilt by association may be a logical fallacy but if there's a direct connection between you and a telemarketer of ill-repute, then that won't be the case. In some way, you still played a part in whatever offense they committed.

Fortunately for you, excellent telemarketing is neither blind nor deaf to the demands of responsibility. One the greatest and gravest of such responsibility is the handling of customer data.

There are two ways that telemarketers acquire their data:
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  • Self-acquired – Their contact database is the result of their long years in the business. It's the compilation of many call campaigns, qualified leads, and even customer surveys.
  • Client-Provided – Some clients approach them with readied contact lists and hand it over to  telemarketers to manage and qualify as targeted sales leads.

Regardless of how it's done, information like that is sensitive. It won't just contain phone numbers but it could also include physical and email addresses, their company websites, and the names of the decision makers. Whether you rely on them to obtain that information on their own or provide it to them, you should keep that sensitivity in mind. There are many dangers out there that threaten the value and quality of that information. Your outsourced telemarketer must be ready to assure you of security and is capable of taking countermeasures.

Here are just some of the things that can jeopardize business contact information:

  • Lack of Back-Ups – Luckily this danger is the easiest to avoid. It's also the most basic. Many things can cause the loss of data whether it's something as sinister as a virus or something as natural as physical damage to the infrastructure. In any case, backing up your data is just as good an idea in business as it is when you're maintaining your own PC.
  • Lack of Updates – This too is another basic requirement but what's interesting about this danger is that it also tests the quality of the telemarketing service. Information gained from lead generation should provide accurate insight based on up-to-date information on a prospect company. It should also tell you in what stage they are in the whole sales process and how fast they are being qualified. A lack of updates can indicate laziness and an unreliable lead generator.
  • Outside Threats – In this category, you will find the dreaded hackers and viruses that will always remain a threat to anything digital. Anybody who reads online tech news will always encounter a report about password leaks, security breaches in even major web companies, and the growing notoriety of the so-called internet 'hack-tivism'. These threats should merit standards of security that you need to hold every telemarketer.

Now remember, if you hand over data to a telemarketing firm (or any other kind of marketing company for that matter), you can tell how much they've invested when they have a credible reputation for data security. You can never be too paranoid about competitors so you can't be too paranoid about the safety of your prospect data either. Storing, maintaining, and protecting that information is a great responsibility that every lead generator should be willing to bear.