The use of telemarketing to generate highly qualified leads for technology solutions is no doubt a mature, established approach to lead generation. True, it’s never been the coolest part of the marketing mix [that crown used to go to creative and now sits with social media] and yet it has the ability to achieve very high, demonstrable returns. With nearly 20 years of experience executing telemarketing lead generation programs for technology vendors, packed with natural evolution and plenty of innovation, we thought we’d share our top tips for ‘how to be a lead generation champion’. Follow these tips and you’ll run successful lead gen programs every time:
The decision to outsource core business development activities such as lead generation, channel development and even sales desk functions is nearly always set to divide opinions; typically between those that have had a bad previous experience and those that have had a good one. No doubt there are good and bad agencies out there and a key ingredient to success is choosing the right partner. We’ll be releasing a second white paper shortly on this particular subject - ‘The inside-track on how to test, evaluate and select a truly excellent partner’.
I’m always surprised by how many companies are not happy with their sales channel. An all too common view is that, up to a point, partners do not work hard enough, get too much margin, do not appreciate sales leads and marketing assistance, need too much support and generally do not perform as well as expected. My view is that, often, there is an element of truth in some of these comments but mainly the issues arise because the channel relationship is not being optimised.
A CEO of a software vendor I once worked for once said, when discussing Lead Generation: “Until we get an order, all we’ve done is spend money”. On the face of it, that seems like a pessimistic view, but actually it is very insightful. Every lead is a cost centre that only ceases to be so when it is turned into revenue. If this view is truly embraced by an organisation, the end-to-end process from selecting target data, generating the lead through to pitching and winning the business becomes much more strategic. And if you get the fundamentals right, you can enjoy a much better return not just on your marketing investment but on your sales investment too, whilst competitors are left chasing their tails.
Over the past 10 years I have worked and still work with many channel focussed technology vendors. Most if not all vendors understand their top tier partners very well but conversely know very little about their lower tier partners. Personally I think they might be missing a trick. In order to achieve significant, meaningful growth vendors operating in a mature market need a long reach and to achieve that they need a motivated, loyal and active ‘wider base’ of partners. Unless a vendor knows its lower tier well enough identifying their future stars is like finding a needle in a haystack. Here are some questions I think vendors should know the answers to for all of their partners, both big and [currently] small:
Having identified the Industry Trends in Telemarketing in part one of our Industry Trends Blog, we ask Andy Rutherford, “What are the Best Practices and strategy in the industry to manage Telemarketing services whilst demonstrating relative cost effectiveness and efficiency?"
There are really 3 major trends in the Telemarketing world at the moment: 1. Greater focus on ROI: IT vendors [i.e. our customers] have become more & more ROI focussed when looking at the value of all forms of marketing, including telemarketing. This trend started 4-5 years ago but has gained momentum over the past few years. What’s exciting now is that vendors are beginning to look much more carefully at spend prior to a lead being generated, and what happens beyond a lead being handed over, and quite rightly so. All elements of the marketing mix & the chosen sales channel [whether direct or indirect] need to be scrutinised to understand where waste occurs and where opportunity for refinement still exists. Looking at the process end to end is where the real savings can be established.
When it comes to deciding which channel partners you’re going to engage with directly, who is it that decides the selection criteria and what percentage of partners get left to self-service or distributor resources? This is a tricky call to get right. Partner Marketing budgets are often restricted and therefore rarely stretch further than the top to middle partner tier. But isn't the real question, can you afford not to invest time and money into engaging and motivating all levels of partner? Are we missing the point with those partners who are currently buying low volumes but might be tomorrow’s stars? In my experience vendors tend to be very good at servicing the top and middle tiers, but leave the lower tier partners reliant on their web tools and the relationship with the distributor. I now see both sides clearly, having worked for the vendor and for the partner....
Getting lower tier channel engagement right isn't easy; here are some of the top challenges that we think vendors face today: 1. Partner marketing funds, in whatever form a vendor chooses to distribute them in don’t stretch to lower tier partners, particularly those that aren't doing very much revenue today. How do you develop partners without funds? 2. The wider base tends to be pretty wide by nature and with a high number of lower yield partners to engage with even spending a little time per partner gets expensive. How do you go about building an ROI case in today’s budget restricted world? Execs are looking for 12 month returns not 3 year investments. 3. Partners [even lower tier ones] are supposed to be excited about doing business with you [the vendor]. They signed up, they agreed to the terms, yet they don’t use any of the marketing collateral you develop for them, they don’t use the tool and they don’t follow through on the activities they said they would....
In today’s budget restricted world Channel Execs are faced with a tough problem to solve - ‘How do I cost effectively engage with all of my partners, not just the top and middle tiers?’ The received wisdom is often to focus the most effort on the top tier of partners [fair enough], at least do something with the middle tier [like partner packages, partner marketing as a service], and accept that you can’t afford to tackle the lower tier with anything more than e-mail broadcasts of the vendor’s latest promotions plus access to some online tools. It’s a safe strategy in the short term, and if done well it most likely will deliver a return, but will it grow your market share significantly? Will it achieve the big picture goals? Will it make you number one in your market? Or give you the revenue spread that you desire? Here are a couple of quick ‘industry knowns’ that we’ve picked up on that suggest that a ‘standard’ channel strategy might not deliver anything other than disappointing results, if you have ambitions to grow your wider base: