Technology has developed at speed – sales and marketing teams have struggled to keep pace with the development of new tools – marketing automation, web prospecting, sales acceleration – the proliferation of new channels and, the volumes of customer data now generated through digital sources. At the same time, B2B buyers have grown to expect convenience, and a highly personalised experience across all channels and devices.
More than ever, it is about a relevant dialogue at critical touch points in the customer journey steered by the interests and needs of the buyer, rather than the linear progression of a lead through the sales funnel, driven by the priorities of the supplier. Getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time has never been more important, or more challenging.
To differentiate their offering B2B companies must prioritise personalisation
Mastering Omni-Channel B2B Customer Engagement, Accenture
In a perfect world, digital sources provide a full view of your buyer in terms of their interests, preferences and social connections, as well as interactions with your brand, either via your website or social media pages. In the case of an existing customer this synchronises to provide a 360 degree view of that customer in your CRM, including their previous enquiries, full purchase history and any interactions with your service or support teams. With the sales and marketing automation tools available, you can score your leads and harness that insight and intelligence to prioritise those with the greatest likelihood of becoming profitable customers. You build an understanding of their interests and can deliver relevant and engaging content that steers them effortlessly from interest through to qualified sales ready leads for the sales team to work and convert, taking advantage of productivity-enhancing tools to accelerate the process.
But what about the real world…?
Recent research reports that only 12% of B2B marketers rated themselves as “very effective” at delivering a consistent customer experience. Kapost: B2B Customer Experience Benchmark Report 2016
In reality, marketers face many challenges in bringing together all these threads – data, content, tools and digital programs - to achieve a personalised customer experience across channels. Some of the many challenges faced include:
- How do you get your prospect to engage in the first place, if you don’t have their details? Unless their email is in your system and they have clicked on your content, they remain anonymous.
- Web prospecting tools may show your individual’s behaviour on your site, but the prospects that are actively downloading your whitepapers, or reading your blogs don’t necessarily fit your target customer profile.
- Your marketing automation system is only as good as the data you feed it. If you don’t have the right prospects on your database, or you can’t source that list, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated your software is, you won’t reach the right people.
- Emails are easy to ignore, open and click rates are at an all time low. You may have a prospect’s email but there is little you can do when they consistently ignore your communications.
- Social media can help with brand awareness and overall trends, but there is a limit to what it can really tell you about an individual. Limited intelligence can lead to wrong assumptions – a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
- Even when prospects do engage with you digitally, you may have some indication of which areas of your general proposition interest them, but little real understanding of their business challenges and where they are in the buying process. Without a clear understanding of your prospect’s interests, how can your communication be relevant, timely or your automated programs effective?
- Automated lead scoring can help ensure your sales team receives only well qualified leads that are likely to convert. However, many factors influence whether a prospect is likely to become a valuable customer and many of those will be outside the scope of the data your system holds. Scoring based on incomplete data, or informed by digital behaviours only, can create a superficial view of your prospect and their interests and needs. As a worst case scenario this can produce high volumes of low quality leads, with very low conversion rates costing your business time and money
How can Telemarketing help?
How can telemarketing help achieve a consistent, high-quality, personalised customer experience across channels, technologies and content? A flexible and highly targetable channel, telemarketing brings the human touch to an often impersonal digital experience and can add value in many areas:
Clean, accurate, profiled data
Identifying the right contacts as the starting point for any sales and marketing campaign is crucial to securing a return on investment from any related activity, be it your automated email, social media, inbound marketing, or the valuable time spent by your sales team following up on the leads that are generated. Depending on your target audience, it is not always easy to source a clean, accurate database, which contains up-to-date contacts matching your ideal target customer profile.
Telephone research can generate new lists or enhance existing company data where you don’t have the right contacts. It can plug gaps by cleansing and enhancing poor quality data, updating phone numbers and adding decision maker emails, which can then feed your other marketing programmes and channels.
Once you have a clean list, you are in a much better position to profile and segment your data and activate your digital and non-digital programs, prioritising key segments of your database to ensure you are targeting the right people with the right content and messaging. A clean profiled data set may also help you identify patterns and uncover untapped opportunities, allowing you to redefine and improve your sales and marketing strategy.
Cutting through the noise of digital channels
Your systems may contain the right contacts and your automated programs may be serving up content on a regular basis, but your digital programs may still fall short. Individuals are weary of email, open and click rates are increasingly low, and ad blockers now prevent marketers getting their message across through online advertising. There is a limit to how many of your prospects you can effectively reach via digital routes. The disruptive nature of a phone call cuts through the noise of digital channels allowing you to get through to contacts that you haven’t been able to reach via other means. Unsolicited calls are far more acceptable in the B2B sector and can connect you to high value individuals in a far more personal way than digital alternatives, whilst at the same time delivering higher value outcomes including face to face meetings.
Once you have reached your prospect, a two way phone conversation allows you to build rapport and develop a real understanding around the prospect’s interests and individual challenges. Leads can be qualified based on real insight into the customer’s situation, and intelligently nurtured by your marketing automation with content that addresses their needs at the right point in the buying cycle. The deep layers of insight provided by one to one communication facilitate relevant dialogue at each touch point in the customer journey whether via an automated nurture or other marketing programs, interaction with your customer service team or ongoing voice contact with your sales team. In this way, the sales team benefit from highly qualified, sales ready leads and insight based on real customer feedback that increases their ability to convert the lead to sale.
The increased relevance of communication helps accelerate the sales process but, most importantly, provides a highly personalised experience for the customer, which is the foundation for long term relationship-building. Nothing is as personal or as persuasive as one to one communication and nothing builds trust as effectively as human interaction. Prospects may engage with you via social media but this cannot match the depth of engagement that can be achieved through real, dynamic, one to one conversation.
Integration and ROI
Whether standalone or integrated with other channels, voice contact can add value throughout the sales process. A real, two-way conversation builds trust and enables the caller to present a tailored, compelling proposition that speaks directly to the prospect’s needs and wants. In addition, a phone call, and the data and insight it provides, can also enhance the value of other channels. It can integrate seamlessly at any point in the sales funnel, filling the gaps to provide a more coherent approach and, through the data and insight it generates, supporting a more personalised and relevant customer experience across multiple channels and platforms.
With low response rates for email, a call can be made to recipients who clicked on a relevant link and high quality content sent out as a follow up, once customer needs are properly understood. Where marketing programmes have previously failed to penetrate specific departments within your key accounts, a targeted phone call can help you reach and engage influencers, with social media research helping to fill gaps in intelligence. Once engaged, the prospect can be steered via automated programs to valuable online collateral or exclusive events or webinars, and gently nurtured through tailored content on your landing pages, PPC campaigns and other programs, ensuring your channels and technology really work hard for you. In this way your valuable marketing effort and precious sales time can be prioritised and targeted at the contacts with highest potential lifetime value, who will deliver the best return.
In the real world…
Ongoing dialogue and human interaction at different stages of the customer journey establishes the trust that is essential to sustainable business relationships. Providing insight that drives relevance across all channels, telemarketing can join the dots between data, digital programs, content, marketing automation and sales productivity tools. It can ensure personalised communications and relevant dialogue throughout the customer journey, with increased focus on the high value individuals and data segments to increase overall return on investment.
If you are struggling to integrate your channels and technology to support a seamless, personalised B2B customer experience, introducing voice contact into your marketing mix is worth considering.