In this day and age, most unsolicited business calls go unanswered. Modern sales and marketing professionals are up against savvy buyers that are more empowered than ever by easy access to detailed product information on the Web.
Everyone is connected to the latest information. And if buyers don’t want to hear from marketers, they have a variety of technologies (e.g. Caller ID, email spam filters, etc.) to block out marketing attempts to get in touch. But surely some people are able to get through all these defense mechanisms and land that one magical deal. Or are they?
That was the subject of a Google+ Debate, “Does Cold Calling Still Work?” I recently hosted. The panel brought together inbound marketing and inside sales experts to debate three questions:
- Given how the Web has empowered B2B buyers, is cold calling still relevant in the Internet Age — and are companies still generating a return on investment (ROI) on it?
- With other lead generation activities on the rise, like paid search and content marketing, can cold calling help marketers stand out from the noise?
- Can inbound marketing and analytics help us better decide who to cold call and when?
Here are the key takeaways from the debate.
A shift to warm calling
Understandably, every panelist agreed that cold calling (in it’s original form) is decreasing significantly in effectiveness. Furthermore, there is no good excuse for business calls to be random and unsolicited anymore.
In the words of Anneke Seley, Founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, “in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a call to be cold anymore.” There are a variety of technologies and automated marketing systems out there that allow you to learn something about prospects before you give them a call. For instance, many marketing automation systems can help you determine your visitors’ companies, interests and location, which provides valuable clues as to their identity and might indicate a warm prospect. Then, even if the user doesn’t convert on your site, you can proactively reach out with a call because they’ve expressed a level of interest in your brand by visiting your site.
Beyond that, there are so many options for connecting with people on the Web (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook) it’s very easy to find out information about your prospect before you pick up a phone. And they, in turn, can learn a little about you before you commit to a call. The group called this “warm calling.”
Only call the people that come to you
But Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, thinks that marketers can take it one step further and not even waste time reaching out this way. Volpe believes that the world is shifting away from any type of outbound marketing and that your inside sales team should only reply to inbound inquiries because they’re already interested in your product or service.
Meanwhile, Volpe explains that inbound marketing tactics like SEO and PPC are significantly cheaper that doing things like employing an expensive sales rep to make outbound calls. He also pointed out that this is a much less invasive approach to contacting buyers.
Find a happy medium by employing both tactics
Of course, there’s usually room for middle ground. And that’s where Ken Krogue, President of InsideSales.com, sided on the debate. According to Krogue, InsideSales.com relies very heavily on inbound marketing tactics but the leads they generate by purely inbound means just aren’t high enough value. So he turns to very targeted outbound calling after warming up contacts. To quote Krogue:
If we [at InsideSales.com] just rely on the Internet to bring us leads, it’s like a fish sitting in a pond waiting for the river to bring whatever it brings them. What we’ve found is that if you look at a typical bell curve, 70 percent of all the leads that come in are small. For example, we’re moving up to enterprise class companies and we have to forget about the Web bringing us those leads and have to reach out to initialize the conversation (usually through calling), then we move to a Web-based type of nurturing.
In any case, marketing is becoming permission-based
A point each panelist could agree on was that lead generation is shifting toward a permission-based model of marketing. This means marketing will need to evolve into being about showing buyers how valuable you are, and ultimately getting them to come to you. If you aren’t demonstrating your value in a tangible way, then buyers will increasingly overlook your company and not engage with your marketing efforts.
What are your thoughts on the evolution of outbound and inbound marketing? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.