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Monday, November 24, 2008

I was chatting about this with one of my associates recently (an experienced telemarketer who's made 1000's of pitches over her career) and we were discussing the process of refining a pitch. It was apparent to me that in the business-to-business (B2B) space, telemarketing is much more of an art than a science.

Here's why I say that.

Direct marketing has always included both a creative element (such as writing copy) and then a science element (metrics, split testing, etc). These things go hand-in-hand because a minor change to the copy, when tested properly, can show a huge uplift in results.

That's why I've always thought of myself as a direct-marketer (coming from a sales background initially) as I'm always focused on results.

Anyway, the same is true for telemarketing but here's the difference: in B2C direct marketing campaigns, the volumes are such that tactics like segmentation, split testing, etc can be applied. For example, if you're sending out 500,000 direct mail pieces (or emails, or whatever) then you can test 1,000 on two different versions to find the one which makes a difference. A 1% uplift can make a huge impact to the overall campaign ROI.

However, in business-to-business telemarketing, and particularly high-end B2B telemarketing, these numbers really don't make sense.

For many clients, we may work on a campaign targeting a few hundred companies. When you really target your sweet-spot, for most small businesses, this is normal. When you are faced with a very small segment, it's not as easy to see statistically relevant results from making discrete changes.

Plus, add to this the human element. That is, even with a script (if you use such things, we don't) the message isn't delivered exactly the same way every time - even using the same telemarketer. So many variables come into play that it's impossible to determine which one made the difference.

Hence, it's an art, and one which is best practised by experienced people who have learned their craft by making thousands of pitches.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 8:56 am |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The other night I attended a client event in London. Most of the attendees were in the digital & new media space and, between the alcohol and canapes, conversation inevitably centered around the recession and deteriorating economic conditions.

I find these informal events are great at gauging sentiments in the market as people tend to open up much more than usual.

The general feeling I got was that, as expected, budgets are getting tightened and projects deferred. And, whilst I've blogged previously that this represents an opportunity for smaller businesses to disrupt some of their larger, less agile competitors, it also presents real challenges for new business growth.

I've read many blog posts and articles recently with top tips on how to survive the recession (my favourite so far is John Doerr's "How to manage your start-up in the downturn") so I thought it would be useful to provide a few tips on new business in a recession:

1) New business is not an option - if you're a start-up then this is pretty obvious, but it's also true for all companies at all stages. You cannot simply rely on existing business; I guarantee that's going to shrink. Of course, you should maximise existing accounts and ensure you both exploit account growth potential and defend against competition, but that alone will not be enough.

2) Get tough - whether it's an in-house new business team or a new business agency, are they really delivering for you? Sure, it's getting tough out there but that's not an excuse for under performance. You may need to re-calibrate targets in line with market conditions, but make sure those targets get hit! If you're using an agency, make sure some of their fee is pegged to hitting agreed targets; now is not the time to carry passengers.

3) Get real - there's no denying that economic conditions have changed rapidly. Deals that looked sure-fire for Q4 are now sliding into Q1 next year. Get real! Many of those deals in your pipeline are going to disappear. Sit down with your new business team and ask the hard questions.

4) Do more - now is not the time to do less new business activity. Of course, you need to make sure you're getting a real return on your investment, and that could mean re-shaping the marketing mix and dropping less effective activities, but cutting back is suicide. It's not rocket science; if it's getting harder out there then you will need to do more just to get the same result.

So, that's my message: Get tough, get real and do more. And remember, new business is not an option.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 9:31 am |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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