July 26, 2007

Exclusive Data: How Many Telemarketing Calls Does It Take to Initiate a Lead Gen Conversation? (More Than You Think)

SUMMARY: Marketers have so many fancy online options at their fingertips, they forget how useful (and successful) telemarketing can be for lead generation. So many don’t follow the right rules or give up too soon.

We have exclusive new data and strategies to help you to make the right calls in your next campaign. Includes:
-> How many attempts it takes to complete a conversation with a C-level executive
-> Nurturing a lead through the entire process
-> A sample voicemail message
Business-to-business telemarketing has survived every technology that’s come along in recent years. Even with the development of the Web, email and now Web 2.0 as marketing tools, the telephone still remains a crucial piece of a B-to-B lead generation strategy.

Why? Telemarketing works. Business prospects surveyed by MarketingSherpa earlier this year were surprisingly positive about the telemarketing experience:
o 53% said they added a technology vendor to their database for consideration after receiving a cold call
o 40% said they invited vendors to provide additional information by phone or electronically

It’s clear that prospects respond to a well-conducted telemarketing effort. But with so much pressure to try sexy new lead generation tools, some marketers might not be paying enough attention to this old-school tactic. “People are using telemarketing, so how can you make sure you’re doing it right?" asks Kathy Rizzo, VP Marketing, TeleNet Marketing Solutions. "What are some things you need to look at to make sure you’re not becoming complacent?”

To answer these questions, Rizzo and her team conducted a survey of 205 B-to-B marketers in Q4 2006-Q1 2007 and analyzed thousands of telemarketing campaign records in their database. Based on some key findings of this research, we have identified five tips to help you tweak your own telemarketing campaigns for maximum effectiveness:

-> Tip #1. More calls to fewer, more targeted contacts

Conventional wisdom in the telemarketing industry says that failing to connect with a prospect within three or four calls means it’s time to move on. But Rizzo says marketers who give up after three calls are missing out on prime opportunities.

Analyzing their database of completed telemarketing records, Rizzo’s team found:
- The average number of telemarketing attempts required to complete a conversation is 3.68.
- For C-level executives, it takes roughly seven calls to connect.

What’s more, the rate at which return on investment starts to diminish for call attempts (and getting completed interviews) is higher than most people expect:
- The average number of telemarketing attempts for the daily call returns to start dropping is 5.76.
- For C-level executives, it’s not until 12 call attempts that daily call returns start dropping.

This means that it takes an average of four calls to connect for most contacts. Yet, many marketers still start with a large list and try to touch every name on it -- often by limiting the number of attempts per name to only two or three calls.

Instead, given tight marketing budgets, Rizzo suggests that marketers spend more up-front time analyzing their list of names to find the best prospects, then making a minimum of four calls. “It’s the difference between taking a shotgun approach -- calling all names one or two times -- and being really more strategic about your contact list.”

-> Tip #2. Develop a voicemail strategy

Further analyzing their call records, Rizzo’s team found that nearly 75% of all calls reach a prospect’s voicemail. Yet, there is surprisingly little focus among marketers on improving their voicemail messages.

Most marketers spend a great deal of time -- as they should -- on telemarketing scripts that guide phone reps through key questions and outline offers of significant value for prospects. But when it comes to voicemail messages, most take a generic approach, such as, “Hi. I’m calling on behalf of Company X, and we saw that you downloaded a recent white paper on X topic. I’m calling to follow up and see if you have any additional questions I can answer for you.”

Messages like this don’t give prospects a compelling reason to call back. “People download a lot of white papers,” Rizzo says, “and they don’t tend to follow up on a telemarketing call 24 hours later, let alone weeks or months later.” Instead, she recommends creating a Critical Business Issue message that truly captures a prospect’s attention.

The good news is that the focus of this voicemail is probably the same industry pain point or value proposition contained in your telemarketing script.

-> Tip #3. What’s in a Critical Business Issue voicemail

Specifically, a CBI voice mail message should:
- Be no longer than 45 seconds long.
- Mention an industry pain point or issue that the prospect is likely to have.
- Describe a solution your company offers that can address that issue and offer additional resources, such as a case study relevant to their industry, another white paper or webinar or a product demonstration.
- Mention the prospect’s name twice, at the beginning of the call and at the end.
- Offer a callback number twice, also at the beginning and end of the message.

A sample CBI voicemail could sound something like this approach, which Rizzo might use to contact prospects for their lead nurturing service:

“Hello, John. This is Kathy with TeleNet Marketing Solutions. My phone number is X. The reason for my call is that we’re experiencing a dramatic growth in the area of lead nurturing because a primary challenge among marketing managers is seeing their leads fall into a black hole when they’re passed along to sales staff too early. If you share that challenge, I’d like to pass along our methodology to you. Please feel free to contact me at X phone number. Thank you, John.”

“Ideally, you want them to call you back. But even if they don’t call you back, next time you contact them they may remember who you are because your voicemail caught their attention,” Rizzo says.

-> Tip #4. Assign different telemarketing teams to different tasks

Companies can use telemarketing to support a range of projects, including registering people for an event, following up on prospects who downloaded a white paper or viewed a webinar and setting appointments for salespeople. But assigning this workload to one group of phone agents won’t yield the best results.

In fact, Rizzo’s survey of technology marketers found a trend among companies to assign specialized tasks to different telemarketing teams. Nearly 30% of companies currently using telemarketing said they planned to evaluate telemarketing vendors within the next 12 months.

Of that group, 55% primarily used an in-house team, but were looking to external sources for specialized activities:
- 25% of the companies said they were evaluating vendors to help an internal telesales team that is handling “too much,” and needed to become more focused by offloading specialized projects.
- 29% of companies said they were evaluating vendors to supplement internal teams during the volume peaks that come with special projects.

Whether you choose to employ an internal team, an external team or both, it makes sense to assign teams different tasks depending on the skill set that is needed for the conversation. For example, a high skill level may be needed for lead nurturing projects, which form long-term relationships with prospects to check in on current needs and provide appropriate marketing information over time. The type of conversation required when following up on a response to a white paper might call for a less skilled phone agent.

The key is to make sure there is good communication between the teams and a way to integrate different databases, so prospects can be passed along to different teams or to the sales group without losing data. “You want different teams doing different tasks, but you don’t want to silo information,” Rizzo says.

-> Tip #5. Follow-up tactics and the big picture

A telemarketing mistake Rizzo often sees is teams that are too focused on an immediate goal and not on the long-term marketing potential of a telephone conversation. “There is so much time and attention spent on locating the ‘hot’ lead or appointment among your prospects, that it’s easy to bypass having quality conversations with qualified prospects who are not ready to buy."

Indeed, when MarketingSherpa recently asked technology decision makers about their key concerns with telemarketing calls, the second-most important factor (after respecting the prospect’s time) was that callers listen to what they say and follow up with relevant information.

To encourage teams to stay focused on opportunities that deliver relevant follow-up information to prospects who aren’t sales-ready, Rizzo recommends developing a prospect profile. The prospect profile is developed by telesales reps asking key questions and should be broken down by two types of information.

Details that you need to know to determine qualification:
o Is the person a decision maker
o In the right industry
o From the right size organization
o In the market for a new product or service
o Ready to buy, with a timeline and budget in place

Details that are nice to know:
o What vendor/solution are they currently using
o What business factors would make them seek a new vendor
o What are the most important industry challenges they face
o What kind of information is most useful to them when making a buying decision

You don’t have to capture all this data on the first call. If a prospect isn’t a hot lead, a good conversation that delivers some of the need to know/nice to know information will create openings for additional contacts or nurturing over time.

If you know what business factors or industry issues are most influential to a prospect’s buying decision, you can offer to send additional white papers or invite them to a webinar on relevant topics. If you know what vendor a prospect is currently using, you can target the person with a competitive marketing campaign that offers case studies or product information that outlines the advantages of your company.

“The data captured in the profile will prepare you to deploy nurturing strategies and can provide key market intelligence to aid your next marketing campaign,” Rizzo says.

Useful links related to this article

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