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Cold calling leaving your brand out in the cold? Why marketers needs to change the way they think about telemarketing

It’s time we approached telemarketing in a different way. For too long, it has been viewed as the poor relation of direct marketing: a boiler-room industry of banked telephones, automated dialling and repetitive scripted sales pitches. It also suffers from the perception that it is the best way to irritate potential customers, and turning off potential prospects.

The situation isn’t helped by the fact that telemarketing is seen as a lo-tech approach, in an era where business decisions are increasingly informed by data and algorithms. In fact, telemarketing can deliver much more valuable data than any IP tracking or cookie-based system. These technologies, it is true, can gather a rich variety of structured data that helps to qualify prospective leads. But telemarketing is a fantastic way of gaining insight that is very difficult to gather through digital alone.

These include things such as a customers’ perception of your brand or product, their specific needs, who else in involved in the buying process, and where they stand in the decision-making process. Not only is this unstructured ‘human’ data invaluable to every marketer, but it also brings a vital human element into what is becoming the very impersonal and machine-led process of marketing.

That’s another misconception about telemarketing: that it simply about lead generation and appointment setting. That may have been the case when it was the only way of gathering data about prospects; today, however, there are many better ways of getting this information than cold calling. What telemarketing can do (and which few other methods can manage) is to build rapport and to nurture the buying cycle, rather than giving a hard sell on a cold call.

Sometimes we get so fixated on the capabilities of new technology that we ignore its limitations. In marketing, our ability to track, segment and target people means that we tend only to have conversations with highly-qualified leads. That looks good on paper, but it means that we are only talking to the converted, or to those who are likely to buy. As any marketer worth their salt knows, it’s just as important to find out why someone isn’t interested in your service, or why they think that your competitor is better. Only once you have this insight can you begin addressing problems or change perceptions about your brand.

Similarly, if you use a digital-only approach to discover how your customer became your customer, you’ll miss out on how to catch those that don’t. With telemarketing, you can find out why you lost a sale and what, if anything, you can do to correct it.

While telemarketing might not get the same attention as other marketing disciplines, it works. A study by the DMA found that 92% of businesses say it is e­ffective, and it delivers an ROI of £11 for each pound spent.

So let’s recognise the value that telemarketing can bring, and make sure that we do it right: not by spamming prospects with constant cold calls, but by complementing the data digital we gather elsewhere with insight that we can only gather through human interaction.