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


Enterprise IT ISVs should Engage with the Public to Manage Market Message, Brand and Reputation

On December 7, 2012 we published a post to this blog, Cloud Service Providers Scale Back Features to Reduce Operating Costs. The position that we presented in this post was that a combination of at least two factors:

  1. transitioning cloud service subscribers from a free to paid feature model along the lines of a Freemium Business Model
  2. and, consumer-driven pricing pressure, which is typical of markets for commodities

had produced some impediments to cloud services providers in the public relations area.

In our opinion, both of these factors (in some fashion) have contributed to public perception of clumsy progress on the part of a number of cloud services providers as they look to extract more revenue from subscription offers. Our post mentioned two of these providers (though we need to note here that the issues we raised appear to us to be widespread across the industry) Salesforce.com and LinkedIn.

On December 14, 2012 Ira Michael Blonder, who writes this blog for IMB Enterprises, Inc. was contacted directly at our corporate telephone number by a contact at Salesforce.com. This contact requested a telephone call to collect more of Ira’s opinion, as well as to discuss the point further.

While we have some concerns about how this type of outreach could transpire, if handled ineptly, we generally think engaging with the public is a good idea for any business with a subscription revenue model looking to better manage its message, and, therefore, its brand.

Public misunderstandings about products, policies and/or terms, should be clarified as quickly as possible. Further, the public should be engaged to sample opinion as to how feature changes have been received. These conversations should be communicated back to product management to ensure that marketing communications messages have been optimized, and stay that way. As well, product management should analyze these conversations to gauge likely public reception of product offers, policies and terms and recalibrate, as required.

Our judgement on the value of Ira’s conversation with the above mentioned contact from Salesforce.com is positive. This contact adhered to the type of etiquette that we think needs to be exercised over this type of engagement. In fact, we had not published anything untrue, therefore, there was no effort made on the part of this contact to request a retraction of our post. Rather, the telephone call was used, correctly, to gather additional information about an opinion that we had opted to voice publicly, via our post. At the same time, the occasion of the call was used to provide us with some additional important details, ostensibly to help us reconsider our opinion. Both of these points make sense to us. We think other cloud services providers should think about implementing similar efforts.

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


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