When your sales and marketing programs have scaled to the extent that you need to maintain a large, consistent volume of leads, outsourced lead gen is the next logical move.
You can use another company’s resources and databases to drive new conversations with your reps, and you can specify targeting criteria to weed out the undesirables.
ALSO READ: Setting a Budget for B2B Marketing Services
Telemarketing and email marketing — both outbound — are two favorites for driving this kind of activity at the top of the purchase funnel. Both can produce a high volume of qualified leads, but they aren’t the same.
Understanding the Process
Most programs run through these two channels will focus on content syndication, which means the provider uses your content asset to start conversations and vet leads. They either ship it out in a few carefully crafted mass emails, or they offer it for free during a phone call.
If you have experience with media buying and outsourced demand generation, you already know that. If you don’t, you can learn more here. The short version: content syndication is extremely valuable for B2B companies looking to expand the tops of their funnels. Take it from Spear Marketing President Sewell, who says “It’s the rare B2B client for whom content syndication should not be a foundational part of their demand gen mix.”
Deciding to run a content syndication program is only the first step. You also have to set a budget, choose a provider, pick a content asset to use, define targeting criteria for your leads, and, of course, decide which channels to pursue. In the longstanding debate between telemarketing vs. email marketing, there are risks and aptitudes on either side. Some swear that email marketing provides better administrative control and better leads without the invasiveness of cold calling. Others point to the endemic of SPAM email and swear that a phone call is (still) the best way to engage any prospect.
If you should know anything going into this, it’s that neither strategy can offer a guaranteed win, and neither one is easy. Even the experts admit that it can take 8-12 phone attempts to successfully make contact with a prospect, and that only 79 percent of permission-based emails make it to the inbox.
Still, you have to choose.
Email Marketing Pros and Cons
Let’s be honest. Telemarketing has a slightly bad rap in the B2B world . . . and in the world in general. Companies worry about their brand being misrepresented and their prospects being pestered by a team of third-party call center agents with poor communication skills.
If those are your concerns, email marketing can seem attractive as a less invasive, more regulated alternative. Here are some of the pros:
- Greater control: Demand gen managers can review and approve all copy and creatives used for an email program before it runs. The message will be 100 percent your own.
- Ability to test and optimize mid-campaign: You can work with your provider to A/B test email copy, content assets, and subject lines during the program. This, of course, will help increase conversions.
- Lower cost: Although this is not true for every content syndication provider, email marketing programs tend to cost less (per lead) than telemarketing.
Those benefits are compelling, but they aren’t the complete picture. Email marketing also has some distinct drawbacks that should give you pause if your goal is to produce engaged, qualified leads:
- Communication is one-way: no opportunity to verify business credentials (is the lead a decision-maker?) or ask additional qualifying questions; no ability to record prospect feedback or gauge level of interest.
- Low level of engagement: Since your prospects’ inboxes are already flooded with marketing emails, they may have trouble remembering yours, if they didn’t ignore it altogether. An email program only gives you 3-4 sentences and a landing page to win people over.
- No promise of connection: Just because a lead clicks an email does not mean they will answer a follow-up phone call, or even read subsequent emails.
- Higher risk of false/invalid leads: Since contacts aren’t verified with a live conversation, it’s a lot easier for fake or invalid leads to slip through the cracks. This can happen when your provider buys lists from questionable sources that use web scrapers or bots to capture info, or when they use an auto-populate feature to capture more data (even inaccurate data) on landing pages.
Telemarketing Pros and Cons
As you can see, email marketing doesn’t live up to its saintly reputation, especially when it comes to lead accuracy and engagement. That doesn’t mean it’s bad choice, ipso facto, but it does mean you should weigh other options and consider what’s best for your needs.
Telemarketing is no royal flush either, but it does offer several unique advantages that make it a solid choice for top-of-the-funnel lead generation — especially when your goal is to feed effective sales conversations and drive revenue. According to a 2014 survey by DMA’s Contact Centre & Telemarketing Council, 93 percent of marketing executives find telemarketing either effective or very effective.
- Engagement: A live phone conversation leaves a much more lasting impression on leads. They are more likely to remember the call and be receptive to a follow-up.
- Interest: When telemarketing reps speak directly with leads, they can get a more accurate read on the leads’ level of interest (“Sure, send it over, but we’re not interested,” vs. “That sounds great”). You cannot judge intent from an email form.
- Intent: Phone call gives you a chance to explain the purpose of your content and the reason for sharing it, which means people are more likely to opt-in. In an email, you have limited space to do this.
- Opt-in: Where the opt-in language on a landing page is often small-print or deliberately concealed, telemarketing reps must specifically ask each prospect to opt-in. Explicit opt-ins, of course, make for better follow-ups.
- Verification: Phone reps can verify business credentials and make sure each lead is a decision-maker at their company.
- Promise of future engagement: The call cadence process used by most telemarketing providers will separate responsive leads from those who don’t answer their phones. Each delivered lead has answered the phone at least once.
- Stigma attached to cold-calling: You may be concerned about the frequency of calls and the competency of the outbound team. The solution here is to choose a reputable provider with at least some U.S.-based teams.
- Less Control: You can’t control what happens during an outsourced telemarketing call or the messaging used. Scripting, agent training, and call cadence are out of your hands, which means there is a risk your brand could be misrepresented.
- Limited ability to test/optimize: Where every interaction with email can be tracked, tested, and optimized, phone conversations consist mostly of unstructured data, so it’s harder to do this.
Choose a Provider, Not a Channel
Neither channel is perfect, and neither channel will yield BANT-qualified leads who are ready to buy tomorrow. You’ll also still need to run most of these leads through a nurturing program in order to realize full ROI.
But again, outsourced prospecting is a great way to scale your marketing reach and build pipeline for your sales team. Choosing a channel for content syndication should be a decision driven by your needs and budget, but in a way, it puts the cart before the horse. Shouldn’t you be more concerned with finding a lead gen provider you can trust — one that has a proven track record and can back their marketing promises with measurable results? A qualified lead is a qualified lead, no matter where it comes from.