Develop a Strategy to Handle B-to-B Leads
Develop a Plan for Generating and Handling Business Leads
By Terry Arnold
There are only two types of companies that need outbound telemarketing: the ones not generating enough leads, and those generating too many leads.
In today's tough economy, rising lead generation demands are being placed on sales and marketing departments. Coupled with the more complex selling environment many business-to-business marketers face, a great number of companies are turning to telemarketing as the cost-effective answer to increase leads.
Or maybe you have a different challenge. Perhaps your marketing materials, Web site and trade show exhibits are producing more leads than your sales force can qualify in a timely manner. So now what? Telephone qualifying of leads can decrease the number of leads passed along to a sales force, while increasing the quality. This gives your sales force more confidence and motivation to follow up on the leads.
In either scenario, telemarketing may be an unpopular task for a sales force, but its importance can be mathematically proven. One of the strengths of outbound calling is its accountability, because this is a measurable and metrics-driven tactic.
Outbound: Perception vs. reality
If you feel that outbound telemarketing is too expensive or wouldn't work for your particular industry, that's not surprising. Many b-to-b companies felt that way at one time.
However, the data show that outbound telemarketing is cost competitive. Many of our clients who rely on a variety of media have found that the cost per qualified lead with telemarketing is lower than most other types of marketing communications—and this has remained consistent for the past 30 years.
Consider the example of a company that sells executive training programs to Fortune 500 firms. The company told Harte-Hanks that its strategy of multiple mailings to the same prospect list was giving them a cost per qualified lead of $115. By testing a response compression strategy of outbound telemarketing following direct mail, the company was able to lower its cost per qualified lead to only $48. Not only that, but these leads were more qualified and produced in a shorter amount of time.
One perception among marketers is that they feel that their target customer is too hard to reach by phone, but contact rates as high as 70 percent are achieved regularly. Others believe that a company's individual marketing needs require high-level, strategic interaction, too far beyond a call center representative's capability. Again, results show that opportunity identification rarely requires an exhaustive knowledge of a particular product or service.
How to make b-to-b telemarketing work
To promote products and services in the most cost-effective manner, outbound lead generation should combine skilled telemarketing representatives with a database. Typically the data originates from a purchased list or is derived from a company's own standard response management activities such as inbound calls, trade show leads or advertising responses. Ideally, outbound lead generation is part of an integrated marketing campaign, but can be used as a stand-alone effort, too.
Both product and service companies are finding success with outbound lead generation. Sometimes the reason a company puts a program in place is that it does not have enough leads and needs to generate them; for others, the reason is an abundance of leads that must be qualified and prioritized.
Inhouse or outsource?
Some marketers may believe it would be cheaper to handle telemarketing lead generation in house. This could be the case if you have an existing in-house call center, and need only to invest in training.
If you want to avoid investments in technology and training, outsourcing is the way to fill a pipeline with new prospects. Outsourced solutions enable a marketer to avoid the costs of hiring, training, equipping, housing, motivating, coaching and managing telemarketing managers and representatives. By amortizing these expenses over many projects, your outsourcing partner is able to lower your costs.
Terry Arnold is vice president of outbound teleservices at Harte-Hanks, a worldwide direct and interactive marketing services company based in San Antonio, TX. Reach him at email@example.com or (512) 434-1120 in the Austin, TX area office.