By Ian Heslop – Account Director, The Verdi Group, Inc.
B2B telemarketing is almost always an effective way to generate leads. In more than two decades of involvement in telemarketing programs—as an agent, as a team manager, as a program manager, on the agency side as a production manager, and currently as an account director at The Verdi Group—I have rarely seen a telemarketing program that did not produce qualified B2B leads.
But the programs that really pay off in terms of ROI (for very different businesses)—programs that are continually funded and refunded because of their success—have a number of things in common that contribute to their results.
Successful programs always start with a program brief.
The brief states the goals, the quantitative objectives, and the conditions for success; includes a specific definition of a lead; and articulates how the program will be measured. The brief sets expectations and identifies potential obstacles.
The brief may be quite extensive or take up only a few paragraphs on a single page, but it will identify:
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You’ve worked out your B2B strategy to generate prospects for your very ambitious sales quota. You have worked with your sales team to identify the ideal candidates for your company’s products and services. You’ve researched the key buying decision-makers and influencers on the buying committee. There was a time when the next step would clearly have been to spend half your marketing budget on a few key shows for your industry—with pre-show mail, email, booth design and tchotchkes to beg, cajole, and entice these juicy potential buyers to visit your show booth, meet with your sales teams, and engage with your show microsites. Timing was a given. Prospects were at the show to shop, and your team was there to sell. And the power of those face-to-face encounters vaulted over several steps in the sales process of converting a prospect to a warm lead. That was then.
This is now. 2021. Almost post-COVID. This year has changed almost everything about the sales process in business-to-business. Prospecting – and its timing – is particularly challenging, without chance meetings at trade shows, networking events and introductions to your customer’s teammates from other departments when you’re on site for a sales or service call. Now we have “virtual” shows, with “virtual prospects” attending, and salespeople are having Zoom conversations with “virtual opportunities” that often never emerge from the shadow world to become real. So what now?
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As a direct-marketing agency specializing in B2B clients, we’ve been recommending (and implementing) account-based marketing since forever. Since long before COVID. There’s nothing particularly new about it, except that technology has made deploying and measuring it easier, and of course intent data has made it sexier. But the ideas are age-old:
Get together with your sales team to decide on your best targets for prospecting.
Collaborate to develop/create a list that includes all the purchasers, users, and buying influences.
Use marketing automation to deploy a campaign with content aimed at these key members of the buying committee.
Capture the response, while scoring responders for nurturing content appropriate to their roles and their content consumption.
Follow up with telephone (in-person) contact.
Continue to deepen the collaboration with sales to expand the content library, improve lead qualification, analytic techniques, and evaluation criteria.
We did this in 2019. In early 2020, we pivoted. COVID reality was budget uncertainty, together with prospects dealing with the new reality, managers working out new expectations for their staff, salespeople unable to call on their prospects.
By mid 2020, we had adjusted to a new “normal,” requalifying prospects, reevaluating marketing criteria, and planning for a world without face-to-face trade shows, while still focusing on our clients’ best and most desirable prospects.
Today, we are recasting these programs to reflect the new working realities—WFH, less reliance on Trade Shows, integration with virtual trade shows, and overall lower budgets. We are placing even more emphasis on high quality leads aka MQLs and SQLs, which plays into the superpower of any creative agency worth its salt: Content.
Talk to Verdi about any aspect of an account-based marketing program from planning strategy through content development to measurement and analysis. Or learn more at theverdigroup.com