My recent experience with a few service related businesses is that making a massive shift away from traditional kinds of sales work over to inbound marketing and marketing automation does not always pay off. Too sudden of a change and too much change is not only time consuming, but also detrimental to sales. There is just too much anecdotal, yet reliable evidence of this issue for me to ignore it.
Double the Irony
Very ironically, I just got off the phone with a persistent, cold calling sales rep for a… marketing automation company!
After her 5th or 6th call, I made an appointment with her to learn a few things about how their product could be useful to my clients and my business. I never received one email solicitation and never saw nor clicked a single ad for this company. Yet, their sales rep found my website and cold called me on the phone – several times.
Now here’s a marketing automation company using cold calling as its number one prospecting tactic! The other half of the double irony is that she called me as I was composing the first paragraph of this article! It was Mariah’s spoken words, not a strategic bombardment of digital messages, that was my call to action.
In the beginning I was slightly annoyed by Mariah’s call interruptions but she never gave up asking for another chance to try at a better time. With that I kept the door open. By the end of today’s unexpected phone call, Mariah and I connected as human beings and we chatted briefly about a couple of unrelated things. Her company is now top of mind in an important service sector for my business. Nothing but the telephone made it happen. Of course I will thoroughly examine their website – which better be damn good!
Thanks Mariah, for your persistence and the extra article fodder! :)
By the way, just before posting this on my blog, I got a cold call from an email marketing company directly competing with Constant Contact. I didn’t have time for the call and asked him to put my email on their mailing list. “We don’t have one…” was the reply. I am telling you the truth!
Trying and Failing
One of my clients, after about 3 years of building an inbound marketing program with fully integrated website, landing pages, social media channels, email, auto-response feedback, etc., is shifting back to traditional selling. They are having fine results working with a sales trainer on targeted sales calls. Unfortunately, the significant investment in their robust inbound marketing program proved to show little or no return.
If you examine your current customer list, perhaps you’ll find as I did that the majority of your business originated from word-of-mouth, a previous sales call or business networking – all live human interactions. In my case I discovered that about 70% of sales came from those traditional selling approaches and 30% came from this newsletter combined with social media marketing.
Of course every business will get different results from inbound marketing programs and some are better able to harness it than others.
In general, if your business is service intensive, you need to talk with prospects – a lot. You need to have a 2-way conversation from the very beginning and that often means actually calling them up. Too much focus on the program can take valuable time away from the people whom you need to be talking with today.