With the dawn of Web 2.0 and all the latest and greatest demand generation technologies that go along with it, there have been reports B2B telemarketing is dead and buried. But I am going on record to say it isn’t so.
I am happy to report telemarketing has not left the building. It’s just had a makeover and may be unrecognizable. And I will be the first to say the outdated, cold-calling approach, which is all too often associated with telemarketing, has been replaced with a new, relationship-building coif.
And it looks good.
The New World of B2B Marketing
To understand the new nature of B2B marketing, we must first accept that the basics of marketing haven’t changed. In fact, with the newly-empowered B2B buyer, the basics are more important than ever, as Lisa Barone, Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, describes in her blog, Old School vs. New School Marketing. Marketing is now and has always been about building relationships. The new tools used in marketing aren’t about out with the old, in with the new; they are about incorporating new tools with old techniques.
The most obvious change in the new world of B2B marketing is the ever present buyer’s voice. Before social media platforms and the Internet, with its online review sites, the buyer’s voice was limited to a small, inner circle of colleagues and peers. But in today's world, everyone has a voice – from the Fortune 500 CEO to the mom and pop shop.
It’s more important than ever to treat people well and to build a solid foundation – it’s about the interaction, not the transaction. And while online marketing and inbound techniques do their part in the interaction, nothing beats a one-to-one connection.
This is where telemarketing still plays a role.
Telemarketing vs. Telesales
Before I go into more detail about how telemarketing can be used as an integral part of your company’s B2B marketing strategy, I think it’s key to understand what telemarketing really is. According to one freelance writer in his blog, telemarketing is the process of delivering your message to prospects and creating an opportunity to build a business relationship.
Telemarketing should not be confused with telesales, though it often is. Telesales is the conversion process wherein opportunities are converted into a sale. Telemarketing is a marketing tool – activities designed to generate interest, provide information, and ensure customer service satisfaction. Telesales is a sales tool – activities designed to sell your product or service.
Using Telemarketing as Part of Your B2B Nurturing Campaigns
Now that everyone understands telemarketing is not about using sales reps to convince a prospect to buy a product - it’s about using marketing resources to build relationships and share information - we can talk about how to use telemarketing as part of your overall marketing strategy. As I stated in my introduction, and has been agreed upon by other contributors to this blog, including Carlos Hidalgo, marketing is about building relationships and then using these relationships and trust to convert prospects into customers.
As B2B marketers, this is nothing new. In fact, you probably (hopefully) already have campaigns in place designed to do just that.
As a marketing activity, telemarketing cannot stand alone. It should be used in conjunction with a holistic nurturing campaign – and in this Web 2.0 world, preferably an email nurturing campaign. (If you haven’t yet, check out my last post on this blog about B2B email nurturing to ensure your online nurturing programs make the best 'first impression.') Telemarketing should be another piece of your marketing puzzle used to connect and nurture your prospects. And to that end, no one marketing tool should be used in a vacuum by itself – they should all play a specific role in your overall strategy.
When you consider using telemarketing in your campaign, there is no perfect answer to the ‘when to call’ question. But you can be sure there is no question when it comes to ‘should you call’ as Craig Rosenberg, The Funnelholic notes in several posts on his blog. The phone is still your best chance at conversion. Nurturing programs complete with automation and scoring make marketers more efficient and give us a better understanding of who our prospects are and what they need. But there comes a time when the online relationship isn’t going to cut it. That is the point, wherever it may be, when you should pick up the phone. After all, a relationship alone is not going to turn that lead into a deal.
When you make these calls, who has the conversation is just as important as the conversation itself. As we already learned, telemarketing and telesales are not interchangeable. Sales reps should not be making your marketing calls. (Sales calls are an entirely different topic.) Remember these telemarketing calls are calls to further solidify the relationship the prospect has with your company and to share information – this is not a product pitch. Use qualified marketing resources knowledgeable about your product/service but who aren't trying to sell it. And make sure these callers understand your overall goals and marketing strategy – don’t let them go in blind or run off on their own tangents.
So remember – to call or not to call; there is no question. Call. The phone is alive and well and in use. So pick it up and make telemarketing an integral component of your overall B2B demand generation program.