Telemarketing lead generators: Do they have a place in AEC marketing?

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ATENTO2460 S12 SP 09.03.2006 ECONOMIA -- Trabalho de telemarketing na empresa Atento -- FOTO DIVULGAÇAO
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Does “dialing for dollars ever succeed?” Perhaps — but much thought needs to go into the process.

In recent years, I’ve believed that one of the dumbest things you can do with marketing is to cold call “prospects” hoping for business. Beyond the rejection stress, in the era of voice mail and a culture that we don’t need to respond to inbound solicitation calls, the reward-for-effort suggests futility.

However, a recent SMPS Marketer article, Dialing for Dollars — Outsourcing lead generation by Rich Friedman, suggests a more nuanced approach.

Friedman talked with marketing representatives of two organizations, 900-person engineering/architect firm SSOE in Toledo, OH, and architecture planning/program management firm, The Jones Payne Group (JPG) in Boston, MA. Both have been working with phone lead generators (that is, telemarketers) to set up appointments or develop a list of organizations willing to receive more information.

The programs appear to be succeeding, but this is not blockbuster/massive success — and it comes at a cost — namely the fees for the lead generators (and, unsaid in the article, the possible reputation cost of intrusion/irritation from people who don’t want to receive these calls.)

The key to success appears to be (a) well-targeted and planned calls — this isn’t taking massive business directories and calling everyone on the list and (b) a proposition that lends itself to further interest and follow-up, with enough integration between the lead generating business and the hiring company that the “elevator speech” and message comes off as authentic (the lead generators always say they are calling “on behalf of” the practice that hired them.

“For JPG, the 100 calls resulted in 10 meetings and another 15 developers who asked for additional information,” Friedman wrote.  “Fifteen developers received additional information.”

“I’ve been keeping in close touch with six of he 10 developers and am getting an RFP from one,” says (Sarah) Degutis, (JPG’s architectural practice lead). “But this isn’t just about lead generation. There’s the aspect of focused market research,” adds (JPG president Michael) Payne. “InTeleSearch gathers valuable information about the prospective client, what they outsource, and to whom. We’re testing the marketplace for a potential project type to determine whether there’s sufficient demand.”

In this context, using outside vendors to gather information and leads certainly can make sense. Just remember the numbers still aren’t overwhelming. The effort to develop a quality list of 100 potential prospects, the fees in hiring the outside service, and the stress and effort in this case have so far resulted in just one RFP request — and who knows if that will succeed, especially if there are any other well-connected competitors out there?

Another way of looking at things is from our own business perspective where, in the US, we combine offshore-based data researchers (at about $2.75 US an hour) and broadcast emails (that would be illegal in Canada, but are quite okay in the US), to populate our database and create some special offers. These generally don’t produce much in the way of results, but the revenue for effort still makes it worthwhile. However, our results are always several orders of magnitude better when we combine our data-mining processes with real human connections and conversations with individuals in centres of influence. When we rebuild our offers with the relevant valid references, sales skyrocket.

So maybe cold calling isn’t dead. Just be aware of its limitations, and that if it is to be applied correctly, it needs to be associated with thoughtful, relationship-focused strategies.

Have you worked with outsourced lead generating services (telemarketers)? Have they helped, or hindered your business?  I welcome your comments or email observations to buckshon@constructionmarketingideas.com.

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