Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why People Are Cautious About Telemarketing Services And What You Can Do About It

Even B2B telemarketers themselves will admit that more than a handful of people either don't like what they do or just have a negative understanding of it. There are good reasons for that though and they're either the result of bad telemarketing practices or just a lack of transparency. In both cases, it's the duty of those in telemarketing services to avoid such practices and be crystal clear about what they do when engaging with businesses.

So first off, what are some of the things that turn people off from telemarketing?

  • Pushiness – B2C telemarketing isn't the only form of the practice that was stigmatized by the pushy attitude of both marketers and salespeople. Such hardheaded characters don't give decision makers any peace of mind because of their constant marketing calls. Gatekeepers can easily sniff out a persistent caller and take necessary security measures to block their calls completely.
  • telemarketing servicesContact Data – While decision makers are more or less used to the idea of publicizing their contact data, telemarketers still have an obligation to use that information responsibly. And once they know it's listed on your customer database, they expect you to keep it secure. A breach in that security will result in a severe breach of their trust.
  • Impersonality – Impersonal marketing approaches are just that: impersonal. They're bland. They're repetitive. They're also a terrible waste of time. It's no wonder that not even company gatekeepers are impressed with a message that they've heard over and over again.

Now, what can be done about this? This might be surprising but those of you who were just considering outsourced telemarketing still have good reason to, despite the above flaws. Why? It's because many telemarketers have long taken the hint. The mark of a good company is one that is aware of these mistakes and has taken measures to avoid them. And if you're using your own in-house telemarketing team, you might be able to employ some the following yourself!

  • Exercise proper follow-ups – Instead of being pushy, make sure your telemarketers find ways to get around instead of constantly hammering the decision maker. If they're not willing to talk just yet, then call at another time. They can also learn to use other channels of communication in order get permission (e.g. emailing them first or attracting their interest with a website).
  • Treat data responsibly – Secure that data as much as possible. In the case of current customers, you should also make sure they're aware that you're using their data and know how you're using it. If you're contacting businesses to qualify completely new B2B leads, then you have tell them where you got their contact information when they ask.
  • Diversify your marketing approach – Use other forms of marketing like blogging or social media to show that you're not just limited to telemarketing. You can also improve the telemarketing approach itself by turning it into an opportunity to engage with prospects so you'll know more about how your business can help theirs.

Ultimately, it's all about improving the quality of the telemarketing service and not really about doing away with it entirely. Even if it does prove a hassle for yourself, the continued existence of experienced B2B telemarketers is living proof that it can be done right.

And when it's done right, fewer people will be cautious about it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Professional Telemarketing – Professionalism Goes Both Ways

Many people dread the prospect of professional telemarketing whether they're being the ones called or they themselves have to do the calling. May it be the former or the latter, there are just times when businesses feel that the process has become too stigmatized. The fear of getting (as well as giving) angry responses haunts the minds of marketers everywhere.

However, on that note, maybe this fear isn't so well-founded as you might think. Professional telemarketing is called 'professional' for a good reason. Not only that, the context of B2B telemarketing also means that this professionalism goes both ways. Therefore, if you're still either afraid of getting cussed out or feel tempted to rage at a telemarketer, you might want to read about this research recently cited by Forbes. Just from the title of that article, you can already tell that dirty words reflect badly on character when it comes to business. It denotes a lack of professionalism (as stated directly by the quote below):

It found that employers tend to think less of an employee who swears at work for a variety of reasons. A majority of hiring managers said they believe that the use of curse words brings the employee’s professionalism into question, while others are concerned with the lack of control and lack of maturity demonstrated by swearing at work. More than half said using dirty words at work makes an employee appear less intelligent.”

If such a majority has a negative view on swearing in the work place, why continue to fear being on the end of it? In the worst case, a raging response will only say more about them than they will about you. And since that a majority of managers and decision makers don't have high regard for such people, you probably wouldn't want to do business with them anyways.

Still, be warned as the same goes for you. If you're going to contact decision makers, then you have to make sure that your telemarketers are also professional enough to maintain proper business decorum. In fact, this call to professionalism isn't just limited to telemarketing. It applies just as equally to any other marketing approach. The statistics in the article above should also indicate how important it is to train your telemarketers to avoid unprofessional behavior. And in the case of an outsourced provider, you need make sure that they also live up to such standards. Ask around for referrals and do some research on the companies that you're considering if you want a telemarketing service.

The standards of professionalism aren't just about indicating if a telemarketer knows what it's doing. It's about knowing if that telemarketer exhibits professional behavior that is only befitting the standards held not just by you but by your prospects.

Ultimately, it goes both ways

But on that note, this should also be good news for those who are still terrified of telemarketing. If you think that telemarketing has been stigmatized, there's a lot more stigma upon the unprofessional behavior that it gets. The statistics above should indicate that you have nothing to fear and that there is still a call to professionalism within the business world.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Outsource A Telemarketing Company When Faced With The Flaws Of The Internet

Suppose that, for a while, online marketing has been your business' only means of getting in touch with prospects. It's not even a core process but you have to do it because you believe it's the most up-to-date way to market yourself (even for B2B). However, this new report from Mashable could mean that it's high time to outsource a classical B2B telemarketing company.

A study conducted by Harris Interactive highlights just how widespread this lack of trust in information on the Internet is for most Americans.

According to the survey of 1,900 Americans, 98% distrust information found on the Internet, with 94% saying 'bad things can happen as a result of acting on inaccurate information online.'”

Take note, this isn't really to say that a telemarketing company is superior to online marketers. In fact, a quick read through the comments on the article will actually point to an irony: despite how 'unreliable' online information is deemed, the article itself is a form of online information. Therefore, why should anyone trust it? Doesn't that look like a typical case of shooting one's own foot?

Setting that irony aside though, both the comments and the article itself do prove a simple truth: the internet isn't always reliable. Therefore, relying on it all the time can be counterproductive. Here are just two ways that the flaws of the internet can affect the success of your overall B2B marketing campaign:

  • Reliability On Information Found – Lead generation is a staple for B2B marketing and leads are more or less packages of information. More specifically, it's information you can find that can direct you to a potential client. Still, even contact numbers and email addresses found on the net aren't entirely accurate or up to date.
  • Reliability On Information Presented – This can also reflect the way people view the information you've put on your own website. They might not entirely trust it and if it's just too insufficient, they'll seek out another company. A business that is just too limited to the internet also limits the means with which prospects can contact it, inquire about it, and verify what is being presented.

An outsourced telemarketer is simply a cost-efficient way to expand your overall marketing capacity when a single channel proves insufficient. If you're relying on the internet for contact information, search for contact numbers and have the telemarketer acquire more information through the phone. That way, anything you've learned from a prospect via their website (or even a lengthy email exchange) can be confirmed. Using telemarketers can also give you new ways to gather information from both your target market and from among your current customers. On the other hand, having an outsourced call center will also allow your prospects to verify the information you've put out on your website.

The truth is dependence on a single medium isn't always the best idea. Before, people distrusted telemarketers for the pretty much the same reasons that people now distrust the internet (at least, the same reasons cited in the article). Expanding your marketing efforts is simply a way to paint a clearer picture of your businesses when one medium proves insufficient.

Monday, July 23, 2012

B2B Telemarketing - Driving Social Engagement Beyond Social Media

There seems to be no end to social media marketing and last week, cNet published an article reporting that the Global Fortune 100 are have only just begun maximizing this new channel. The article also mentions five findings as the result of the study but here is one that's most notable:

3. Engagement is becoming second nature to companies. Seventy-nine percent of corporate accounts on Twitter attempt to engage with other users by retweeting and using @mentions.”

Indeed, engagement is the critical factor in social media marketing. It's what both makes it an effective medium and at the same time, it's what proving to be the challenge for these companies. However, is such engagement necessarily limited to social media? You see, when you make that the goal, the medium might hardly matter.

In this case, telemarketing services can also be used to drive engagement and achieve similar results:

  • Interest – It checks for a prospect's interest and responds appropriately. If there is clearly no interest, then simply move on. If there is more interest but not enough to warrant a lengthier conversation, they're tagged for follow-ups. The more interest there is, the more a telemarketer can engage with them and send them further into the sales process.
  • Needs – A potential client won't have interest if they don't have any needs for the products and services offered. On the other hand, you can only learn to serve better if you knew the finer details of these needs.
  • Time – Engaging a prospect through telemarketing does not necessarily consume as much time. You just need to make sure that follow-ups are done right and measures are placed to take the conversation elsewhere if the phone is proving to be too time-constraining.

Then again, perhaps what really puts social media over telemarketing is that it has enabled customers to organize themselves and given them a greater voice. This blog from the Harvard Business Review already demonstrates how this is so for B2C companies:

In other words, social media improves service by making the market for peer-to-peer opinion more efficient. This is good news for good service and bad news for bad service. End of not-so-complicated story.”

Still, does this apply to B2B? As far as organizing peer-to-peer opinions, it actually does! While businesses would rather be treated on an individual basis, things like referrals and reviews can improve your image and in turn attract more prospects towards your business. On the other hand, negative feedback can also call you to fix things up and improve services.

That doesn't mean that other forms of communication cannot compliment that though. For example, once you've received your feedback, you can try outsourcing call center services to gather more data. Since businesses would still prefer to be treated on an individual basis, using both the collective feedback from social media and the individual feedback from one-on-one phone surveys can help paint a clearer picture of what you've done right and what you can do better. It also shows that you're not just engaging them as an entire audience but also as separate entities with separate needs. Don't just limit social engagement to social media. Go beyond it!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Outsource A Call Center For Phone-Related Marketing Efforts

Despite the prevalence of email, website, and social media, people will still use a phone. If these people are in business, perhaps it's even more so. While the other three, digital-based channels have the capacity to transmit more information, it has also indirectly given them more capacity to transmit junk and eat up time. You have spam messages, drawn-out content, as well as the need to be active on social media even when you have other important things to do.

Those are just some of the reasons why the phone is still used in marketing efforts. This doesn't mean that the pushy telemarketers are about to make their dreaded return. (DNC lists have put an end to that.) It only means that the phone is the best tool to utilize in business activities such as:

  • Phone Surveys – Telephone surveys are a part of research. Research, in turn, has always assisted in shaping up marketing strategies, identifying targets, as well as qualifying B2B sales leads. The results could also indicate trends and changes in B2B buyer behavior. A phone survey could even more suitable for B2B because, as stated before, the phone is a channel still highly used in business.
  • Inbound Marketing – When it comes to B2B, there's only so much information you can put out on your website or in your marketing emails. (And in fact, it's likely that you need to minimize the volume of that information as much as possible so that your prospect won't be overwhelmed). This calls for an inbound strategy which allows prospects to inquire only about certain things they wish to know about your business.
  • Customer Service – One of the things that distinguish B2B from B2C is that there is a clearer emphasis on business relationships. Such a relationship goes beyond closing the deal. It's about ensuring that the client receives the full benefit of what you have sold. Neglecting customer service can result in bad referrals and a poor reputation all around. It's only worsened however if your prospects try to contact your business but end up frustrating themselves with long waiting periods and constantly being redirected.

On the other hand though, building up your own center can be very expensive. You need to hire more people and train them. In order to train them, you need to educate yourself first as well. Couple this with the costs of adequate technology and you might as well offer telemarketing services of your own in order to help cover for them.

Fortunately, that's why you have outsourcing. The only thing you need are the tools and the personnel after all. Outsourcing to telemarketing companies gives you access to those services without having to bear the heavy price of investing in them yourself. Another benefit to outsourcing is that it also saves you the time as well as the money when using the phone for the above purposes is a little bit too far from your core functions. Still, just because it's not what your business would normally do, doesn't mean you can't benefit from those who can do it for you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Can Your B2B Sales Afford Your Lead Generator?

Many of those working to generate sales leads get so caught up with impressing their superiors about the benefits and advantages of their campaigns. They end up forgetting that it doesn't even matter sometimes! Some CEOs don't care too much about the complications or why one method works better than the other.

Sometimes, they just want one thing: results.

No matter how many statistics you cite or how many experts you consult, you're just wasting your breath if it just doesn't show in the final results. Therefore, whenever you encounter someone whose sole focus is on the results, why don't you try seeing things from their perspective?

Now just what is it in the results that they're so concerned with? Well in a nutshell, it's all about how much it costs to generate leads versus how much is being made off of them. You don't need to lecture them about how leads represent sales opportunities. They probably know that already. What they want to know is if the sales being made can afford the entire process and then some. In order to answer that question, you should figure out where these costs are coming from:

  • Time – As the saying goes, time is money. Unless you can find a way to reduce the costs being spent over time, maybe you should check to see if there's anything in terms of time management that's raising the price of lead generation.
  • Tools – What exactly is your approach? Do you stick to just one method you know best (e.g. telemarketing) or do you go the multi-channel route? Are any of these asking more money? What kind of equipment do you use? Here's a surprise: It doesn't really matter how cheap or expensive it is. If it's cheap but the poor quality is killing your efforts, then that's where you've been flushing down your company's cash. Likewise, it's the same thing if the tools are expensive but aren't used to the fullest.
  • Personnel – How much do you invest in training the people who are actively responsible for making the calls, sending the emails, or maintaining your online properties? Did you hire the right professionals? Were they taught the right skills? Did you yourself teach them the wrong set of techniques or strategies?

Oddly enough, this can apply whether you were investing in an in-house lead generator or outsourcing lead generation services. You can judge either party using the same criteria above. And surprise, surprise, so can your superiors. Like them, you should be focused on how the results are reflected in the effort. The only difference is that it's your job to go further down into the details and discover the leaks.

You can really learn a lesson from their seemingly narrow-minded perspective. It's about realizing when and where the details matter. They don't matter if the result is your lead generator costing more than what sales can make. They matter when you're trying to find the problems and discover ways to make the lead generation process more affordable.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lead Generation – Is It Worth Outsourcing?

There are many questions (and even controversies) surrounding the topic of outsourcing. Some consider it as a cause of change in both the political and economic environment. Others say it is simply misunderstood and think people are only concerned when scandals are involved (such as what happened with Nike).

Regardless, the concept of outsourcing is simple. It's simply one company entrusting another to execute a certain business process (e.g. accounting, manufacturing, marketing etc).

Now another misconception prominent even among outsourcing supporters is that cost is the primary reason. That's not always the case. Cost can simply play a role in the overall decision. Here are two other common reasons as to why companies outsource that only involve costs indirectly:

  • Non-core Functions – Simply put, companies outsource processes that are important but still a little far from the company's main function and field of expertise. A car manufacturer might outsource another company for accounting services because accounting doesn't really have a lot to do with cars. (That doesn't mean they don't need accounting.)

  • Expansions – Many companies today are seeking to expand by placing more focus on their core functions. In relation to the first reason, outsourcing enables them to focus on these functions and thus enable expansion.

Take note that in the reasons cited above, neither of them deny that outsourcing saves them the costs of hiring experts and purchasing technology specific to a certain business process. In turn, what has been saved up can be used to focus on core functions and for expanding the business.

With that said, see if you can determine if it's worth outsourcing the process of generating B2B sales leads.

  • Is it a core function? - Generating leads for any B2B product or service doesn't automatically demand for its respective field of expertise. Sure, expertise is necessary in order to demonstrate and assure quality but there are times when such expertise tends to work against your best interests. One might even say that generating leads is its own field! Remember, you may be an expert but your prospects might not. All that knowledge does not automatically translate into knowledge of how a B2B customer thinks. Therefore, it might not really be as close to your core functions as you might think.
  • Will it make expansion more expensive? - Following up on the previous question, will this distance make it more expensive in-house? Take note that hiring and training the right experts and representatives requires a bit of expertise on your part. And as pointed out, getting qualified leads isn't necessarily within every company's expertise.

To further demonstrate, consider the tools used by lead generators. Some use email marketing to contact your prospects and exchange information. That may require a bit of industry expertise but it takes communication expertise as well. It's the same with older tools like telemarketing. Hiring and training your own agents might make expansion more expensive when compared to just using outsourced telemarketing while you focus on the core of your business.

There's no denying that a bit of industry expertise is necessary but that's why it's always a staple feature in many companies that are in the business of generating B2B leads. Some companies might even be more adept in marketing one form of product and service over another. And while they might not be as knowledgeable as the people in your company, they can be knowledgeable and at the same time, they're more knowledgeable about knowing what your prospects want.