Over the last few weeks it seems that the intensity of the debate about ditching cold calling and moving to digital lead generation has increased to a level of intensity where it is getting a bit absurd. It seems to me that proponents of both sides are trying to make unrealistic claims about the efficiency of their pet route to market, I decided it had all got a bit too extreme when I read the following quote: “And that’s when it hit me: Cold calling isn’t just a terrible idea during a recession, but may actually be contributing to the recession itself! Think about it…”
Well I did and I thought it was just about the most ridiculous statement I had heard in a long long time. We have the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Global Banking crisis, massive individual and corporate debt, and then we have cold calling. Nope, I just can’t get my head around that one.
So I thought I would go back to basics to try to bring some sense back into this debate. Cold calling as we know is a rotten job, I’ve been in sales and marketing for all the best part of 30 years and I can honestly count on the fingers of one hand those people who enjoyed making cold calls. Yes cold calling has its drawbacks; in particular cold calling in a B2C environment can be very difficult and counterproductive. Increasingly that type of intrusive marketing is getting a bad name, partly because telemarketing companies are having to make more cold calls per sale, and partly because of the damaging effect some of the “Cowboy” operators out there are having on the industry as a whole. Nevertheless the there are many situations when cold calling is effective.
Going right back to basics, a cold call, or lead generation through email marketing or even printed mail shots, are all attempting to achieve the same purpose; to identify if the recipient has a need for the product or service on offer. With a cold call you find out immediately because of the person at the other end will tell you “no” straight away. This is the essential problem with cold calling, as the vast majority of people can’t cope with being told repeatedly “no, I don’t want what you are offering.” We eventually get the same answer from a mail shot or an email but it is a much more comforting “no” as it is simply no response at all, that’s much less hurtful and much easier to cope with.
Also lead generation has volume on its side, it’s much easier to contact 10000 people by email than to phone 10000 people volume gives you a greater chance of success; and as George Bernard Shaw said, “God is on the side of the big battalions.”
What seems to have got lost in this argument is any form of analysis about what is the best way to contact your target market. In order to come to that decision, it seems to me, we just need to understand how people in our target market prefer to be contacted. In the UK certainly many industry sectors work on the basis of cold calling, and this is particularly true of construction where main contractors will expect calls from a multitude of subcontractors who may be interested in using their specialist skills to deliver a small part of the overall solution. By contrast if you were to contact media companies many of the office based organisations, in particular, service companies, you might find that using lead generation techniques an effective way to contact your target prospects.
The essential point here is that we should be led by our prospects preferences and not be dictated to by the method of communication. So just remember put yourself in your customers place and try to understand what form of communication they are likely to respond to best. Now this isn’t easy and you will probably have to try a number of different routes which may involve using both cold calling and lead generation.
After all let’s face it, marketing, or at least getting marketing right, is hard. If it was easy we’ll all have very successful companies, and because it’s not we don’t. The trick is to engage your customer to either progress or close the sale, and from my point of view I don’t care which route gets me there as long as one of them does.