Although there's been plenty of attention lavished on digital and social marketing this year, traditional direct-marketing channels remain robust when exploited correctly. Outbound telephone marketing fits neatly into this category, according to Hewlett-Packard Co., which has increased its commitment to the channel over the past year.
“Different forces push us to go one way or another,” said Juan Carlos Guerrero, marketing director-enterprise services, storage and networking for the company's Americas region. “Everyone thinks of marketing as black or white when using one tool over another, but it's really very gray. The success is in balancing and optimizing all tools available.”
The current economy has tended to blur this reality even more, Guerrero said.
“Marketing often is seen as an expense, not an investment, so the cheapest marketing tools are often used,” he said. “This sometimes results in not being able to balance all the different marketing capabilities that are available. We at HP have focused on driving demand by optimizing all of the tools available, from digital marketing to telemarketing and direct mail. We focus on how our customers want to be reached and informed.”
From 2004 to 2008 Guerrero was in charge of HP's Latin American region for services, storage and networking, and he found that telemarketing worked well as an integrated marketing outreach there. When he was promoted to his present position in October 2008, he decided to try to blend outbound telemarketing into the mix for both North and South America.
“If you're calling 10,000 customers a month and almost 16% say don't call me again, that's not good,” he said. “We found that combining e-marketing strategies with telesales outreach was very successful in Latin American countries. We started replicating this in the U.S.”
Important to the process, Guerrero said, was using simple analytics to determine customers' past purchasing behavior—or nonbehavior. For example, identifying those HP customers who hadn't upgraded their technology in the previous 12 months led to scripted cold calls about appropriate upgrades. Other scripts were tailored for positive actions, aimed (for example) at those prospects who had downloaded a white paper.
“As long as you provide value, the churn will be low,” Guerrero said. “It also is very important to continuously monitor how customers and prospects want to be contacted—whether by phone, email or some other marketing channels.”
Outbound telephone marketing at HP is complemented with other methods. When the target is primarily larger companies, Guerrero said, the company incorporates small face-to-face events with groups of 20 to 30 participants, with strategic discussions around storage and networking, as well as customer outcomes. For midsize prospects, e-marketing and direct mail work well, he said, driving visitors to a landing page offering white papers, webinars or podcasts.
For the cold-calling campaigns and nurturing of leads, he employed Telenet Marketing Solutions, which specializes in the high-tech product arena.
“Telemarketing can complement these other ways of nurturing,” said Kathy Rizzo, VP-marketing with Telenet. “Companies typically will evaluate prospects with analytics, and when a certain score is reached they're turned over to telemarketing to add in the human element. Even then, only a relatively small percentage are ready for sales attention.”
Rizzo said prospects may tolerate, and even welcome, far more numerous telephone calls than have usually been believed.
After examining more than 1 million b2b telemarketing calls logged, Telenet found that the average number of calls required for a completed conversation to take place was 5.07 and the average number of calls that can be placed to a lead before the daily production rate drops was 7.2 attempts. If the target market is comprised of C-level executives, those statistics nearly double, she said.
“You don't want to give up too soon,” Rizzo said.
But you also don't want to become a pest, Guerrero added. His HP unit has a policy of contacting large-company prospects no more than four times a month via all channels (eight times a month for smaller companies), unless some action is taken. Then, contact follows quickly, regardless of the number of recent touches.
Guerrero said that since implementing the telemarketing portion of his division's marketing efforts, qualified leads have increased 30% to 40%, compared with the same period the year before when telemarketing was not part of the mix.
“The economy helped,” he said. “People hadn't been going to events as much as in the past and were getting less clear communications in the IT environment. They had become hungry for information.”