In this article, Clare Tweed, sales director of More Than Words (Marketing) Limited, a long-standing Marketscan partner shares her vision for the future of B2B marketing in the next five years and why telemarketing will still play a vital role in winning new clients and persuading existing customers to spend more. Among the company’s services, it provides telemarketing services to companies targeting businesses, educational establishments, and the public sector.

My first exposure to telemarketing was in the mid-90s when fresh out of school, I was taken under the wing of a consummate advertising sales professional at a local newspaper.

She taught me so much for which I will be eternally grateful but I think the greatest lesson she ever gifted me was understanding that, for a company to survive and for a sales rep to hit his or her target, you have to gently persuade a company and a decision-maker to work on your timescale and not on the timescale they have in their mind.

A moment of clarity

One of my fellow directors had a similar experience. He started working belling out for double glazing and conservatories on a summer job between school and college.

For him, the biggest revelation was that he could choose a name at random out of the phone book, call that person up, and persuade them that they should invite an unknown sales rep into their home.

When that rep visited the homeowner, they would be persuaded to spend £1,000s on double glazing from a company they’d never heard of a few days ago.

To this day, when he relates the story for the umpteenth time about how one phone call of his turned into a £10,000 conservatory sale four days later, he still looks astonished and a little disturbed 😊

Telemarketing in a changing world of B2B marketing

Since then, the internet, a science-fiction notion in the early 90s, has infiltrated every part of our existence. Nothing is now unknowable.

I am not saying this as a moral judgement but the presence of the internet in our lives has bred a sense of entitlement into us as individual consumers and as business decision-makers. In the early part of the century, consumers expected to be able to download music whenever they wanted for no charge. The idea of making a profit from online activities was anathema to idealistic early adopters.

Of course, much has changed since then. As each year goes by, more and more business is done online – whether a direct credit card purchase on Amazon or the submission of multi-million-pound tenders for public sector work.

“I want everything free and without commitment”

What hasn’t changed is the feeling that we should get something for free – almost like it’s now a necessary sign of goodwill from a company to a potential customer prior to any meaningful business conversation taking place.

When our new website launches, there’ll be nearly 20 different white papers for different products and different sectors in our effort to prove our worth to clients, whatever stage of the buying cycle they’re at. Marketscan are professionals at this – their Resources section is the finest example of this approach that we’ve seen in the data market.

There is a term for this approach – “inbound marketing”. Inbound marketing attracts both website traffic and new leads by the creation of interesting and actionable content for the benefit of the potential customer. Think blog posts, white papers, social media posts and downloads, and so on.

“How long do I have to wait for this person to contact me?”

Now, it takes seven to thirteen “marketing touches” to deliver a qualified sales lead, according to the Online Marketing Institute. Inbound marketing aims to capture as many contact details as possible from consumers of your inbound marketing material so you can continue to contact them by email or via their social media newsfeed until that point in the future when they’re finally ready to think about buying something – maybe.

If it sounds like I don’t believe inbound marketing works, I apologise. It does work – I myself have landed five-figure orders from it.

But putting too much emphasis on this strategy makes me instinctively nervous because, if a company’s entire marketing approach is inbound, then can that company truly say that they have control over their own destiny? Do they ever get the opportunity when no actual conversation takes place to take control of the sales process?

No – you still have to speak to a decision-maker for business to be done, particularly on B2B sales. And I believe that there is a growing realisation among business owners and senior sales managers that they and their companies need to take back control.

Hence, if our sales figures are reflective of the industry as a whole, more businesses are choosing to take back control by using telemarketing and telesales teams. Whilst their investment in inbound marketing is right and justified, sometimes the phone calls and the emails can really slow down.

Telemarketing short-circuits decision-making cycles

Inbound marketing is about building credibility in yourself and in your brand. It’s about providing insights and advice to people as yet unwilling to pay you money for your time and your experience.

Perhaps only 4% of the people you touch through inbound marketing are in the right part of the buying cycle at that particular time.

This means that one in nineteen isn’t ready to buy but you want them to remember you when the time is right – when that magical 13th marketing touch happens. But just because they might be ready to buy and just because you have provided them with a load of freebies on the previous 12 touches does not mean that they’re automatically going to contact you.

If they do contact you, that’s great – you can work your magic on them.

To take back control of your marketing, you need to take back control over when conversations with clients happen. Telemarketing, when done well, can imbue a B2B decision-maker with exactly the same level of trust in your company as 13 inbound marketing touches can over a two year period. In fact, in our experience, the trust level is even higher because this is an actual two-way conversation – one human being speaking to another human being. No matter how digital we become, people buy people first – still.

You can use good old-fashioned telesales techniques to find and focus on the 4% of decision-makers who are ready to buy and whose purchasing timescales you can persuade to alter to your timescale – just like salesmen and women have been doing for centuries.

Whatever you take from my article, please don’t stop your investment in inbound marketing. It certainly plays an important role in the overall marketing mix. However, don’t discard what’s worked well for so long at the same time.

Make sure your marketing mix includes telesales

No one method of marketing is going to capture every decision-maker who may or may not have an interest in your product.

Email marketing is a proven method of generating new leads and orders – in fact, according to the Data and Marketing Association (of which Marketscan is a founder member), there is nearly a £43 turnover return for every £1 spent on email marketing when you do it every month to the same audience.

Postal marketing’s returns have always been impressive. You can really drive leads through pay per click marketing online as well.

Make use of multiple channels of approach to your target audience because if you don’t reach some of them by inbound marketing or email marketing, you’ll get them by telemarketing.

What can telemarketing be used for?

According to the UK DMA, every £1 spent on telemarketing generates £11 worth of revenue of a company.

B2B telemarketing is a two-way conversation between you and your client. During that two-way exchange, your telesales reps can make extensive notes on the information your client is giving them – that’s the valuable market insight that can be used in your sales and marketing strategy going forward.

Book new appointments

If yours is a product or service which requires…

  • a rep to visit your customer at their premises or
  • an online demonstration,

…then you can increase the number of appointments or online attendees by using dedicated telemarketing.

Although requiring your rep or online demonstrator to find their own leads is a legitimate use of their time, they will be able to speak with and close more deals if someone else is either helping them or taking the responsibility away from them.

Generate new business

In quite a few business sectors over the past ten years, there has been a division between lead generators and closers. Early on in my training and throughout most of my career, the telesales person who finds the customer closes the customer.

Now, many companies operate a different system and it does make sense. By having specific lead generators making many more calls a day, they feed these warm leads through to the telephone closers who can prep more in advance and spend longer on the phone with the potential customer.

If you have people within your business who are very capable of closing the business over the phone, telemarketing will provide them with more opportunities a day to generate brand new revenue.

Gain valuable market insights

Perhaps it’s something about being British but we seem less inclined as people to tell a company when they’ve done right by us or when they’ve done wrong. When the inclination is actually there, they do tend to tell us what’s wrong.

For companies whose customers pay them regularly for their services (like accountants), getting in touch over the phone with those customers every so often strengthens the loyalty they have towards them. Getting in touch also allows you to:

  • understand your customers better
  • know why they bought from you in the first place
  • find out what you need to do to make it more likely that they’ll stay with you in the future
  • find out their potential future needs so that you can add that product or service to your portfolio.

There is an additional benefit too. When we’re doing this type of work for our customers, the number of leads we gather from existing clients is generally high. That means that not only are you discovering important market intelligence about your clients, but contact with them also presents further revenue-generating opportunities.

Build trust and awareness in your company

When calling for new appointments or to generate leads, it’s rare that more than one in 50 people contacted will be in the market right now for what you sell.

However, to extract maximum value from each call you make, you should have a list of questions which will help you understand the client better. Questions could include who their current supplier is, what they buy from that supplier, how much they spend and contract end date (if applicable).

Even greater value can be extracted by obtaining their permission to add them to your email newsletter list. It might be a year or two away from the time that they might be ready to buy from you but you can use the principles of inbound marketing I mentioned earlier in this article to build your credibility and gain their trust.

Promote any event you’re hosting or attending

There are hundreds of trade shows and exhibitions every year in the UK all competing for both exhibitors and attendees. In the last year or two, we have noticed an increasing desire among exhibitors to encourage their target audience to attend the shows they’ve paid to be at. That’s understandable because, as a trade show veteran myself, decision-makers are much more likely to agree to a meeting face to face than they are over the phone or by email.

Likewise, many solicitors and accounting firms hold workshops and tutorials within their premises or at a local hotel to which they wish local business people to come. Telemarketing is a much more effective and direct way of informing potential attendees about the workshop or tutorial’s existence and in getting their commitment to come along.

Cleanse your data with telemarketing

Professional data cleansing results in higher-quality lead information and a higher return on your marketing investment. So, whatever area your business operates in, maintaining accurate, compliant, and up-to-date information on your current and potential leads is vital to ensure profitable campaign after profitable campaign.

By using a telemarketing service to cleanse your B2B data, the data cleansers successfully remove duplicate records, amend records with incorrect contact information, identify key influencers within target companies, and suppress the data of people who have opted out of communications using a service such as TPS (Telephone Preference Service).

Data cleansing saves money

According to research, 30% of B2B data is out of date within one year. You could be wasting a significant chunk of your direct marketing budget because the data is not live anymore.

By cleansing your marketing database to ensure information is accurate and up to date, far less time is spent by your marketing and sales reps in lead generation and the cost per customer acquisition is greatly reduced as a result.

Data cleansing increases revenue

Dealing with returned or unanswered communications can be costly and time-consuming and this is why having accurate information on your current and potential clients is invaluable.

Businesses which maintain the accuracy of their data are far more efficient than those which let their databases stagnate. By using up-to-date and accurate information, positive response rates to campaigns are far greater leading to more valuable leads and ultimately increased revenue.

By cleansing your data through telemarketing, duplicate data – which is another potentially costly aspect of direct marketing – can also be eradicated. The quicker the data is cleansed the better.

Data cleansing provides market intelligence

Clean and accurate data improves business intelligence by providing valuable insight into a range of important areas – including job roles and company turnover – allowing you to improve the decision-making process within your business.

Having accurate and up-to-date information on your clients is key when planning marketing and sales campaigns, fine-tuning your product, or service offerings, and improving your customer service process.

By providing qualified market intelligence, carefully cleansed data can also help reveal new business opportunities within your field, leading to increased sales and business growth.

Data cleansing increases productivity

As well as cutting costs and increasing revenue, maintaining a clean and accurate database can also increase overall productivity within your business.

By using out of date or inaccurate information, your sales and marketing team will likely be wasting a great deal of time and manpower communicating with dead-end leads or producing inaccurate reports based on invalid analytics.

By cleansing your data, you increase productivity while reducing costs.

Data cleansing ensures GDPR compliance

Compliance is vitally important for all forms of direct marketing. Compliance requirements demand that your data is up-to-date and that it abides by privacy and data security regulations including GDPR.

Businesses can be liable for hefty fines if they don’t comply with the legislation and this is why enlisting the services of a telemarketing company to scrub your data and keep it up to date is a wise investment.

Regular cleansing of data will allow your business to keep on top of customer contact permissions, ensuring that only those people who signed up for communications are receiving them.

Please don’t risk the integrity of your business by using uncompliant data.

Telemarketing and telesales are still alive and kicking

Thank you for spending time reading this article. I had only planned to do 1,000 or so words but you know when you get a bee in your bonnet on something you’re passionate about? That’s how it’s been with this article.

I have been in telesales and telemarketing all my adult life. In 2013, I started work for a much-loved and large data brokerage which was later sold by its owners. I had always promised myself that, at some point when the kids were older, I would set up in business for myself and, as it turned out, my old directors offered me a share in their new business in late 2018. Needless to say, I agreed 😊

I hope that, if we get a chance to speak, you will hear the love and the passion I have for telemarketing and telesales in my voice. Marketing has changed so much in the last two decades but I firmly believe that, for B2B sales, telemarketing will always have a place.

Written in partnership with More Than Words Marketing.

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