02 September 2009 Category: Blog
A round up of the latest trends and developments in B2B telemarketing, with contributions from The Telemarketing Company
BEST PRACTICE: The changing face of telemarketing
Telemarketing is one of the oldest forms of marketing still in widespread use by B2B marketers – but how has it changed to keep pace with new developments? Lucy Fisher asks the experts how to manage this most interactive of media
We all know those nuisance calls asking who is responsible for travel insurance in your company – when you've no idea and are busy replying to hundreds of emails – don't make you think kindly of a brand.
But, alongside the advent of new technology and the inexorable rise of digital marketing techniques, telemarketing is quickly evolving. Lead management software and techniques have made prospect-targeting easier, and the phone offers that all-important element of human interaction too.
It's intimate: the most interruptive and the most truly interactive of media, it has great potential for both good and bad. So how do you avoid the pitfalls, build up your knowledge of your customers and prospects and not only protect, but also enhance, brand perceptions?
Data, data, data
As with – and perhaps more than – any other form of direct marketing, data is key. A telephone call tends to be perceived as an interruption. It's therefore dangerous for your brand to use old records that are out-of-date and will lead you to the wrong person or to an invalid phone number.
So, spend time researching and updating files and finding the right decision-maker. “Anything up to 35 per cent of your data is probably out-of-date at any given period,” warns Guy Harris, marketing director at GasboxDMG.
Fortunately, the old-fashioned telephone is one of the best tools for rapid data updates, due to its speed. It can be used in advance of that important call, to clean your data.
“Capture information at each call, keep it simple and quick and have one objective,” advises John Price, director of Price Direct and chairman of the DMA's Contact Centre Council.
Map your approach
Don't cut corners when it comes to mapping the decision-makers. Even if your data is correct, people still make incorrect assumptions when it comes to dialling in. “You see people approach the HR manager, when it's the IT manager who would appreciate the benefits of what you're offering,” says Niall Habba, managing director of The Telemarketing Company.
Bear in mind, too, that nobody operates in a vacuum. Geoff Wells, client services director at Slipstream, stresses the importance of understanding the business or technical environment of your target audience; what issues they are facing relating to the proposition, what other solutions they may be looking at and what language or terminology they may use.
And, yes, getting through to the right person may seem like hitting your head against a brick wall, especially in the current climate, but this is no reason to give up. Treat the gatekeeper with respect and you may find your way around immediate obstacles.
“But don't lie or pretend to be their best friend. You need credibility to establish a rapport,” warns Gary Kemp, managing director of Connection2.
A holistic view
No marketer these days can afford to view any one channel in isolation.
Harris explains that 'almost every client' he works with is looking to integrate digital techniques.
Clearly, it's not just about working through cold calls.
By sending out emails, you can use information about open and click-through rates as a means of flagging top prospects. And by monitoring activity on your website, you can identify which products and services people are interested in.
In order to achieve a truly holistic campaign, however, it's important to have ready-prepared content in place that can be rolled out across channels.
The Telemarketing Company's Habba says he has turned away potential business for this very reason.
“If a client doesn't have a website or PDF collateral it can be tough going.”
Lead-management – like following up on interest signals such as the download of a whitepaper or a newsletter – has gone mainstream.
Key to success with such techniques is defining and agreeing what constitutes a 'lead' from the outset, say experts.
“There's a lot of rubbish about when people talk about leads,” explains the DMA's contact centre council chief Price. “Quite often it's just a record saying somebody clicked on a certain page. It might be someone who rejected the site. It might be less of a lead that somebody who didn't click at all.”
But here B2B does tend to have an advantage over B2C: One good lead that's converted can make all the difference when you're dealing in higher value items.
In order to maximise the chances of success, the sales director, the marketing director and the ecommerce director need to be talking to each other.
Quality not quantity
That old adage again. Training and support is critical. It's not just 'pick up and dial'.
Yet insiders claim that many large organisations treat telemarketing as a commodity product. “Do procurement people realise how tricky it is to put an inexperienced marketer in front of a company's biggest clients?” asks Kemp.
Telemarketers need to be trained adequately in how to structure calls; how to qualify; how to use probing questions and how to handle objections. Ultimately, it's about relationships.
The art of conversation
When you do get through to the right person, it's important to turn a proposition into something meaningful rather than repeating brochure-speak. “Get under the skin of a proposition; give them a reason to be intrigued,” advises Wells.
Remember that too much technology or automation can actually distance you from the prospect. “Emotion is the most important part of marketing. And it's fundamental with the phone,” adds Price.