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Nathan Topping 10th October 2017

Is telemarketing dead?

The rise of inbound marketing tactics has led to some suggesting that more traditional, outbound marketing channels – such as telemarketing – will die out. But maybe, rather than seeing them as conflicting approaches, we should look at how to integrate the two.

Over the past few years, inbound marketing has become one of the biggest buzzwords within the sector. Proponents often position inbound marketing as a radically different way of thinking about marketing – and one which superseded more established “outbound marketing” strategies.

The argument goes something like this: Traditionally, marketing is about interrupting its target audience – trying to grab their attention when they are doing something else. The glossy full page ad half way through the magazine article they are reading. The billboard ad taking their eyes off the road. The mailer vying for attention when sifting through the morning post. The cold call which interrupts them at their desk. Advocates of inbound marketing argue that such attempts become less and less effective as decision makers are flooded with marketing messages, all demanding to be heard. Instead of trying to grab attention, marketers should be earning attention – providing content which decision makers want and chose to consume.

Telephone contact provides an additional channel that can be used to nurture leads, extend personalised contact, cleanse the data you hold and give prospects that additional nudge towards the next stage in the sales process once your lead scoring system suggests they are qualified to the right level.
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So far, the argument for inbound marketing has little to fault. However the conclusion that is sometimes drawn from this – that ‘outbound marketing’ techniques are somehow becoming redundant – is flawed.

Take the example of telemarketing. Frustratingly for us, we often get approached by businesses who see this purely as a numbers game; get your message to as many people as you can, and surely someone will bite. Throw enough mud at the wall and some of it will stick. This approach to telemarketing is spammy and outdated, and is on the way out.

If you are in a noisy room there are two ways to make yourself heard. You can shout louder – and catch the attention of everyone, relevant or not – or you can make sure you are directing your voice at the right people. If what you’re saying is really relevant to them they will hear you above the din. The fact that decision makers are bombarded with more and more marketing messages simply increases the pressure to ensure that you are directing highly targeted messages towards specific segments within your audience.

In fact, far from being in conflict with inbound, content driven marketing methods, telemarketing done properly – with personalised, targeted, one-to-one interaction – is the perfect fit. Take most marketing automation programmes which marry content marketing with automated lead nurturing and scoring. Telephone contact provides an additional channel that can be used to nurture leads, extend personalised contact, cleanse the data you hold and give prospects that additional nudge towards the next stage in the sales process once your lead scoring system suggests they are qualified to the right level.

Telemarketing should focus on what you can do for the prospect, not on promoting yourself.
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More broadly, the trend in marketing is towards more accurate targeting and increasing personalisation on the one hand, and towards content driven marketing which actually provides the prospect with something useful to them on the other. Telemarketing – done properly – is on the right side of both these trends.

Firstly, telemarketing should be very data driven, targeting specific segments with tailored messages, honed both for the profile of the company and the profile of the decision maker. In addition, it should be delivered by professionals with enough knowledge and expertise to engage adeptly, modifying the tone and content of the call to reflect the response of the decision maker. Far from being dead, telemarketing is evolving to become less rigidly scripted and impersonal, and more responsive, agile and personalised.

Secondly, more than ever, telemarketing should focus on what you can do for the prospect, not on promoting yourself. What content can you provide for the prospect? Do you have whitepapers you can provide them with and webinars they can attend? Are you calling to hard sell to them, or to invite them to an event which has an industry expert as keynote speaker? The appointment you want them to agree to – will this be an hour of aggressive sales tactics or an informative consultancy session which provides them with something actionable? The lessons of inbound marketing should filter right through your engagement process – and this includes your telemarketing.

So yes – there is a form of telemarketing which is dying out, thankfully. Undifferentiated, volume based marketing is on the wane across all channels – but particularly with telemarketing, where ‘nuisance calls’ have come to epitomise the worst of marketing tactics. Replacing it, however, is an altogether more powerful form of telemarketing – telemarketing as a responsive engagement tool, one touchpoint of many to help the buyer navigate the complexity of their purchasing decision in an increasingly complex world.

Written By Nathan Topping
Nathan has recently completed his CIM Diploma in Professional Marketing, and works on a wide range of customer projects across the public, private and third sectors. He has a particular interest in marketing data and how to harness this to get the most from your marketing.

Also written by Nathan