15
Aug

Telemarketing Continues to Provide Very Strong Returns Against Investment As Compared to eMail, or Social Media Approaches

Despite an enormous amount of material arguing to the contrary, in this writer’s opinion, telemarketing continues to provide the best return on investment of any sales lead development approach. Recent conversations with personnel from a number of prominent ISVs (active in markets related to Microsoft’s Office platform) indicate these organizations share the same opinion.

Perhaps it can still be argued online product promotion (web content in all its forms — online press releases, web site editorial content, blog articles, status updates to prominent social media venues, etc) is, nevertheless, the best method of driving prospect interest in a product. Further, it may be the case the best method of nurturing prospects through a series of interactions leading up to a purchase interest in a specific solution is to periodically contact these people via email messages. But, ultimately, as these leads transform into consumers with a defined appetite for a specific product, the best method of engagement available to ISVs remains telephone contact, meaning telemarketing or teleprospecting.

To provide some sense of how much more effective telephone contact can prove to be, at the right time, we refer to some work we recently undertook for one of our long standing clients. This ISV had recently exhibited at 3 prominent trade shows for its market. The initial effort to engage with booth visitors, after each event, took the form of a comparatively impersonal broad email message sent to each visitor, in HTML format. In each case the level of incoming activity from booth visitors, post receipt of this email message, was weak. Further, the follow up efforts we undertook immediately after the broad HTML email had been received by booth visitors, which took the form of a personalized text email message, produced equally anemic results.

In contrast, a serious effort to reach out to each booth visitor via a telephone call exposed healthy interest in our client’s solution. Approximately 5% of visitors contacted even expressed some serious interest in purchasing the solution albeit at a later point in time (for example, the next fiscal year).

Bottom line: telemarketing (and, by extension, cold calling) should play a prominent role in any ISVs lead generation planning.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

4
Jan

Teleprospecting is Not to be Confused with Telemarketing

Teleprospecting services are not to be confused with telemarketing services. This is hardly the first post to this blog intended to provide readers with a look at how IMB Enterprises, Inc. implements teleprospecting services for clients. Nonetheless, as we just alluded to telemarketing services in the prior post, we thought it would be helpful to follow with a post dedicated to teleprospecting.

Usually we recommend teleprospecting services when a client needs to sample market sentiment. Market sampling is very much about collecting information from a set of telephone contacts on a formal list of topics of discussion. Therefore, teleprospecting is our preferred method of successfully delivering on a market sampling requirement. As well, clients can opt to avail of teleprospecting services from us when the objective is to collect what we refer to as “environmental detail” about sales prospects; for example, to fill out an organizational chart, or to establish the authority of contacts that appear to play a role in a decision-making process. In the same vein, we find that teleprospecting activity contributes substantially to the usefulness of market studies and product viability reports.

The approach of our personnel on this type of an assignment is more about collecting information than is the case for our telemarketing services. In fact, the scripts that we have prepared for teleprospecting assignments read very much like a reporter’s interview.

We highly recommend teleprosepecting services for so-called under the radar product marketing requirements. After all, successful management of these requirements usually requires ongoing analysis of lots of information. Teleprospecting techniques are particularly useful as a method of data collection. Ongoing activities built on these techniques can provide our clients with fresh, absolutely current information about markets under close consideration, competitors, and even candid opinions of products and plans.

We have lots of experience producing reports and opinions from the information our personnel have gathered through teleprospecting activities. As well, we have good experience designing marketing communications campaigns to create opportunities for teleprospecting activities. Finally, we welcome interest in our capabilities with regards to mentoring teleprospecting teams, and even managing outsourced teleprospecting resources.

From the above information it should be clear that we see a very close connection between teleprospecting services and requirements for market viability reports and the like. We will be happy to expand on this information upon request. Please feel free to contact us for further information. You may also telephone us at +1 631-673-2929.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

3
Jan

Telemarketing and Teleprospecting Should be Components of a Coordinated Direct Marketing Campaign

This is the second of several posts to this blog which are intended to provide more substance to a description of IMB Enterprises, Inc. as a unique resource, capable of delivering a combination of marketing expertise (effectively a suite of tools) that can be used to craft a highly successful set of coordinated direct marketing campaigns for appropriate businesses. In this post we will present our view on why it makes sense for these campaigns to include a telemarketing and/or a teleprospecting component.

We think it makes sense to follow up marketing communications efforts with telemarketing and/or teleprospecting activity. In order for this type of activity to be effective, the marketing communications piece must provide recipients with some advance notice that telephone activity will follow. Further, the activity itself, must be undertaken while the marketing communications effort is fresh in the minds of recipients, usually no later than 3 days from verified receipt of communications.

It is very important that the personnel charged with placing calls to campaign recipients refrain from using the opportunity of the telephone call for any other purpose than to gather information. The actual specific information which ought to be gathered by these calls, in our experience, varies from client to client; therefore, we cannot be more specific than to simply refer to it as “information”. With a highly specific objective that is heavily weighted towards gathering information, rather than presenting information, we make much more use of personnel for these calls who exhibit high quality listening skills for this endeavor than might be expected. Further, it is essential that these calls be placed in an absolutely courteous manner. We instruct our representatives to always request a moment from contacted individuals. Of course, where a moment is not presently available, then an appointment needs to be made to speak at another, more convenient time.

Of course, with broad guidelines like the ones we have just provided, it makes sense to equip telemarketers with call scripts. We do not advocate requiring that telemarketers strictly follow scripts; rather, we look to work with personnel capable of adhering to the boundaries of courtesy delineated by the script, yet within their own creative presentation. Successful representatives generally exhibit an ability to ingratiate themselves with call contacts. This ability is important as, in our experience, comfortable contacts generally share more information.

We do make a heavy use of recording telephone calls. In our experience, recordings of telephone calls provide management with the information required to gauge the progress of coordinated direct marketing campaigns. It is our policy, particularly throughout the early stages of working with a new client, to share all recordings with our clients to ensure that calls are handled in an acceptable manner.

In the next post to this blog we will take a look at teleprospecting as a separate type of telephone activity with prospects.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

28
Dec

Teleprospecting Resources can Successfully Manage Public Relations Engagement for Enterprise IT ISVs

Where possible, enterprise IT ISVs should maintain teams of trained telemarketers. We have often alluded to these specially trained telemarketers as “teleprospectors.” The objective of teleprospecting is clearly to gather as much information as possible from opportunities to engage with the public over telephone calls. This objective contrasts with the usual objective of telemarketing, which amounts to securing the agreement of the other party on a telephone call to purchase a product, or to sign up for an event, etc. Teleprospecting not only works very well for sales leads development for enterprise IT software. This activity also works well for software companies that need to do an effective job of managing public relations.

We think it makes sense to include teleprospectors in a public relations team. When teleprospecting is applied to the overall task of managing a business’ public persona, the activity can produce useful information on a variety of points, not the least of which (in terms of importance) amounts to an estimate of marketplace visibility. For some ISVs, opting to operate under the radar, the purpose of implementing teleprospecting within a public relations function will be to ensure complete marketplace opacity. For other ISVs, the same function can be highly useful to ensure that message and brand are familiar to an appropriately sized, and positioned segment of targeted markets.

With specific regards to ISVs that opt to use teleprospecting for this latter purpose, in other words, to ensure that targeted levels of transparency are achieved by public relations efforts, we highly recommend that a representative sample of targeted markets provide the pool of contacts for the teleprospecting function. Putting together this representative sample does not require purchasing a potentially expensive method of building statistical accuracy. Rather, operating off of an accurate list of prominent prospects — specifically picked to represent each important level (small/medium/large) within targeted markets — should suffice for a successful effort.

Once groups of contacts have been collected as useful samples, then teleprospecting efforts should be designed that can be successfully used to obtain marketplace information on enterprise software product visibility, as required. In this manner the teleprospecting effort amounts to an outbound effort to engage with the market. Of course, as needs arise, the same team can be used to respond to incoming requests for contact. Finally, the same team can be used to quickly determine market sentiment about changes in products.

It is likely a given, but nonetheless worth stating here that ISVs with an accurate familiarity with their public persona should be better equipped to predict business performance than their counterparts that lack this information.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

26
Dec

Marketplace Sampling Efforts Need to be Carefully Designed to Provide Ongoing Accurate Results

When an enterprise IT ISV public relations effort is equipped with a teleprospecting function, this function can be used to regularly verify the level to which products, and even a brand name are visible within targeted market segments. However, to ensure that the information produced by this type of telephone contact function is as accurate as possible, we think it makes sense to design these campaigns around broad benefits, features, and the actual historical performance of a brand than to do the same around the product brand name, or the company behind it.

The difficulty of building these public sampling efforts around the familiarity of targeted markets with products and manufacturers is that the effort becomes, over time, self serving, and, therefore, inaccurate. On the other hand, when the topic of discussion is a specific benefit that can only be achieved, within a reasonable doubt, with a handful of products, including one’s offer, then the results can be highly useful.

A side benefit of this type of teleprospecting campaign design is that the public relations function should be able to use the results of the campaign to inform product marketing about the likely level to which targeted markets have received the correct message about products. If the data indicates that the markets are not receiving the right messages, then product marketing (via the enterprise software marketing communications effort) can adjust, as required.

It should be obvious that receiving this information about market sentiment as early in a product life cycle, as possible, makes sense. After all, why should enterprise IT ISVs sit back and wait to collect incoming market reaction to products? As we have written at length elsewhere in this blog, in 2013 enterprise prospects will likely engage with vendors only after completing extensive product research. Therefore, waiting to receive marketplace contact, which will, in all likelihood, only occur once prospects have selected one’s product for further inquiry, can result in an unsuccessful effort to launch a product — a potentially disastrous event for very early stage ISVs.

It is, therefore, much better to design useful campaigns around discussions of targeted benefits with marketplace participants. Where possible, these campaigns must commence right after products are launched, and be maintained as a regular, funded activity, throughout the entire early stage of a product launch. In turn, other types of public relations efforts, like seminars (or webinars), can be designed around the same topics to act as a stimulus of incoming engagement with the same cross section of marketplace participants.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

26
Nov

Teleprospecting can be Successfully Used Within a Product Development Program to Identify High Probability Opportunities

One of our clients, Rehmani Consulting, Inc. has been awarded the bronze prize for SharePoint product of the year, 2012, by Windows IT Pro magazine. Our client’s product that won this award, VisualSP is a help system for Microsoft® SharePoint® 2010. We provide Rehmani Consulting, Inc. with teleprospecting services as part of our sales and marketing offer. Teleprospecting provided highly useful information about market requirements for this type of help system, which were incorporated into the design of the feature set for this product.

It is currently a widely accepted precept of product marketing for information technology (IT) products, services and integrated solutions, that building products based upon market requirements makes a lot of sense. In fact, IT product development has matured far beyond the obsessive approach of the early 1980s, best characterized by the notion of entrepeneurs building “solutions without problems.” Now, the two leading tenets for IT product marketers are to

  1. build products that offer merely the minimum set of features requested by a significant portion of a market, and
  2. to maintain conversations with representative contacts within markets on topics that can produce useful indication of future product requirements

When social media are used in conjunction with a judicious application of teleprospecting, then highly valuable information can be collected, which, in turn, can be used to put together the type of successful product that Rehmani Consulting, Inc. achieved with VisualSP.

We need to note that we have implemented a wide open approach to teleprospecting for this client. The primary objective of this type of telephone contact is to collect impressions from contacts on topics relevant to a computing environment (in this case where SharePoint® provides the computing foundation). We have found that discussions on these topics can produce information that may be suitable (depending on a client’s objectives) for inclusion in a features plan for a product like VisualSP. As we discussed the results of our work with our client, some of the key features of the help system took shape. We do not see how our client could have identified the features included with the VisualSP without access to the kind of candid market opinion that we collected through our telephone calls.

Of course, we need to note that the type of marketplace sampling effort we have undertaken with teleprospecting methods for this client is far removed from the type of telephone sales approach that usually typifies lots of telephone outreach campaigns to prospects. Telephone sales is usually very much focused on prospecting for customers. In order to achieve the type of results that we obtained from this teleprospecting effort, we needed to carefully scrutinize ancillary information that generally has little to do with sales prospecting, but lots to do with truly attending to candid statements of marketplace sentiment.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

25
Oct

High Quality Contact Lists are Essential to Telemarketing Efforts to Generate Leads for Enterprise IT Software

We have little tolerance for low quality contact lists. Our tolerance is especially low where list vendors prominent. We recommend corrective action whenever a client encounters excessive list errors. The higher the cost for list subscription, the greater our urgency in bringing the need for corrective action to client attention.

We were surprised, recently, to work with a client who had purchased a list from a very prominent business services company. What surprised us was the very high frequency of errors in the list. Telephone numbers were incorrect, or disconnected. Prospect management lists were not current. Many businesses had changed hands. New corporate parents were not listed. In sum, we recommended to our client that the list vendor be notified of these errors and that a refund, or at least a credit be applied to our client’s account.

In 2012, there is little, if any excuse for peddling low quality contact lists. With so many social media venues available for contact verification, it should be rather straightforward to verify important information — like management team members, parent corporations, etc. — before marketing lists to the public. At a minimum, low quality lists should be correctly promoted, as such, with a lower acquisition cost for the customer.

In contrast, we found the subscription cost incurred by our client to be very high. With barter resources like Jigsaw dot com readily available, we see little need, if any at all, for purchasing comparatively expensive plans (our client is looking at an annual charge in the $5K range).

In fact, we ourselves tend (at least at the outset of a client engagement) to put together our own low volume lists through a manual process that makes use of prominent social media sites (principally LinkedIn). Our accuracy is very high, but the volume of contacts is low.

We think it is very important to have a healthy volume of contacts available for outreach. Maintaining an adequate pool of available contacts empowers telemarketers to be discerning in their activities> “Discerning” means carefully avoiding the tendency to counter contact objections. Where the number of leads is constrained, we find a strong tendency on the part of telemarketers to convince contacts to sign on to lead campaigns. Therefore, it makes much more sense to provide these teams with a large volument of contacts.

If you would like your business to generate leads, at least in part, through telemarketing efforts, you should consider using the services of a third party like IMB Enterprises, Inc. Please either telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 or complete the contact us form on our web site. We will be happy to reach out to you to learn more about your needs.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

24
Oct

Telemarketing Calls Placed to Generate Leads for Enterprise IT Software Should Conclude Promptly When Objectives have been Achieved

Once contacts express interest in a topic, telemarketers generating leads for enterprise IT ISVs ought to promptly conclude calls and move on. Therefore objectives should be clearly established before telemarketers begin to work on call campaigns. Generally, these objectives can include:

  • Adding names to opt in email lists
  • Sending information about offers, white papers, etc
  • Scheduling follow up sales calls or
  • free of charge surveys
  • or participation in webinars, etc

While we are very familiar with free of charge surveys, we are not very keen on them. In fact, we are not advocates of “freemium” strategies. We have excellent recent experience working with clients who, in contrast, are keen on “freemiums”. These clients offer free versions of paid software, as well as broad surveys of customer requirements. In both cases we have noted barriers that have arisen, in our opinion, as a result of these free offers. We can’t help but think that sales prospects who are receiving some material, at no charge, are, therefore, hard pressed to accept that they will have to pay for other material. Therefore, we highly recommend that contacts not be offered opportunities to participate in free of charge surveys.

The other objectives that we have listed, above, are certainly promising. For example, securing permission to add contact information to an opt-in email list provides enterprise IT ISVs with an opportunity to build up a captive audience. If this captive audience is not subject to abuse (spam), or swooned into indifference as the result of poorly structured marketing communications efforts, it can provide telemarketing teams with an excellent set of prospects for further development. We have recently worked with a client who is very adept at maintaining these boundaries. We are happy to say that the opt-in email list maintained by this enterprise IT ISV is filled with a rich set of appropriate and valuable contacts, with whom we have positively engaged. One important point about this client’s use of the list is that communications are rarely any more frequent than once a month. Another important point is that the communications are structured in a manner that eschews a bald sales pitch. In fact, the communications are put together around technical topics, which constitutes a neutral ground upon which we have successfully engaged with prospects.

We are eager to expand on this discussion with companies who can see the value of a lead generation method that respects the privilege of engaging with valuable prospect, but, nevertheless, moves a sales process forward. Please either telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 or complete the contact us form on our web site. We will be happy to reach out to you to learn more about your needs.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

23
Oct

When Telemarketers Pursue Qualified Leads They Should Not Spend Time Overcoming Objections

As we noted in the last post to this blog, outbound telemarketers working on generating leads for enterprise IT software should be equipped with call scripts that include a short presentation of specific product, or service, or integrated solutions very early in the call. Determining whether or not a contact is interested in a topic of conversation very early in the process of a call ensures that telemarketing activity will be very efficient.

Along the same lines, it makes sense for telemarketers to quickly pass over contacts who either express no interest in topics or products, or state that their needs in the target area are already being satisfied via other options. Keep in mind that the purpose of these telemarketing calls is to produce leads, not to close sales (neither do we think it makes sense to counter contact objections within the sales process, but we are not going to cover why sales personnel will do well to respect contact objections within a sales process, here). Therefore, including a purely directive question in the call script:

  • Would you like to hear further?

offers the contact an opportunity to cut the conversation short, which also frees the telemarketer to move on to other calls, which may prove more fruitful.

Probing the contact for more information to determine other areas of need does not make sense, unless the enterprise IT ISV has other products targeted to other common enterprise computing needs. Where this type of enterprise IT ISV has implemented a telemarketing process to generate useful leads, the call script should necessarily, be different. In this case it makes sense to include a bit of information on each of the products as well as the market need that each product is designed to address.

Once a contact has made it clear that he or she is not interested in the subject of the discussion the telemarketer should gracefully end the call and move on. It makes sense to schedule a follow up call to this type of contact approximately 3 months out. Enterprise organizations can make changes on a quarterly basis. Following Up on a quarterly basis ensures that information about prospects, and their employees, partners, consultants, etc. is adequately accurate to determine that opportunities to develop sales are not being missed.

If your business is enterprise IT software, but you lack the internal resources to determine whether your present promotional strategies are adequate, or not, you should work with a third party like IMB Enterprises, Inc. to ensure that you are on the right track.

Please either telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 or complete the contact us form on our web site. We will be happy to reach out to you to learn more about your needs.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

22
Oct

It Makes Sense to Include Some Presentation in Direct Outreach Telemarketing Calls for Enterprise IT

It makes sense for enterprise IT ISVs to use direct marketing, and, specifically, telemarketing in their lead generation efforts. We have written extensively on the topic of telemarketing and a variant of telemarketing — teleprospecting — in this blog. Telemarketing can also be used for selling. Nevertheless, when telemarketing is used for lead generation the call script should include some presentation of the product/service/integrated solution offered.

Much has been written over the last several years about best sales practices for software to enterprise customers. Most of these practices include product presentation rather late in the sales cycle, after a complete picture of a customer’s needs has been assembled. But generating leads is a wholly separate process from sales. Where the objective is to produce leads that may develop into sales opportunities, products/services/integrated solutions should be at least mentioned in the initial call to contacts. Outbound telemarketing calls to unqualified prospects cannot produce meaningful results without some confirmation that prospects have an interest in the specific offerings of enterprise IT ISVs.

There is no substitute for including a short presentation of an offer for this type of telemarketing activity. By injecting a brief presentation, upon which a contact expresses an interest, a telemarketer can produce a useful lead. We define a “useful lead” as a qualified contact who is interested not only in a subject of discussion, but, further, in learning more about a specific offer. It is much easier to start with useful leads than to spend lots of time engaging with contacts along the periphery of a market topic without ever venturing in for a closer look at specific products, services and/or solutions. In contrast, once a telemarketer obtains confirmation from a contact that a product is of interest, he or she should start to collect answers to who/what/where/how/why questions.

The best method of injecting presentation into these first outbound calls is to include a sentence on the topic within an introduction of the business. For example:

  • “My name is John Smith, I am calling you from Acme Enterprise Software. We offer a scalable customer relationship management system, either on premise, or in the cloud. Would you care to hear further?”

This simple 3 sentence introduction (which must only follow obtaining a contact’s permission to proceed with a discussion. Telemarketers must be instructed not to make any introduction unless/until a contact grants permission to proceed) provides the following product specific information:

  1. the general category of software — customer relationship management
  2. the fact that the software is scalable, and, therefore, specifically targeted for enterprise organizations with different classes of users and applications
  3. and, finally, that the product is available either on premise, or as a software as a service (SaaS) delivered over the Internet and accessed with web browsers (cloud)

In the next post to this blog we will examine the impact of including a short presentation in an opening call to contacts on other aspects of generating enterprise IT software leads with telemarketers.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. works with enterprise IT ISVs that lack internal marketing management resources. We can serve very well as a temporary marketing communications function. Please either telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 or complete the contact us form on our web site. We will be happy to reach out to you to learn more about your needs.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved