While it is frequently derided as being “dead,” cold calling – or, more accurately, the process of developing an effective cold calling campaign – is the fastest, simplest, least expensive, least risky, and most reliable way for any company – B2B, B2C or B2G – to build a successful marketing program. And, even more so in an economic recession. This is because, more important than even its pure lead generation application, developing an effective cold calling campaign also provides the foundation on which any company can build an effective and profitable sales, pricing, channel, customer service, funding, market research or even new product development program.
In other words, rather than being dead, cold calling is quite simply the single most important weapon of your marketing arsenal, even if you never actually pick up the telephone!
Let's discover why!
The Rest of the Story...
Anyone who has studied marketing has heard of the “four Ps” of marketing: Product, Price, Promotion and Place. The product, of course, refers to what you’re selling. Price is what you charge for it. Promotion is how you let prospects know it’s available. And Place is where and how they can buy it. These elements of the “marketing mix” are the basic tools that every marketer has to work with in order to prime the revenue pump.
Over the years since the concept was introduced, most people have also come to recognize that there’s a fifth “P” in marketing, Positioning, that represents how a product compares to its competitor’s products, or at least how the vendor wants it to be perceived competitively or strategically. While positioning can be considered to be a subset of promotion, it’s generally more convenient to associate promotion with media selection and message formatting, and use positioning to understand and articulate the actual content of the marketer’s messages, as well as the product’s attributes those messages are promoting.
The particular challenge that positioning addresses is that different customers can have different needs, and competitors eventually emerge to serve them. Thus, for a somewhat apocryphal example, when Ford was virtually the only manufacturer who was building cars for the mass market, you could have yours in any color you wanted, as long as it was black. But once other manufacturers evolved to compete for the business, and who could offer different features and prices, the market segmented according to those needs and preferences. That’s how we ended up with Cadillac peeling off high-end buyers, Volkswagen peeling off low-end buyers, Corvette peeling off sports-minded buyers, Volvo peeling off safety-conscious buyers, and so on. Positioning is what these marketers did to identify market segments that were vulnerable to be targeted, and then to differentiate their products and appeal to those segments.
We’ll discuss, in a moment, exactly how you can position your product competitively – not by the seat-of-the-pants or “gut feeling” methods that many businesses use that often results in failure, but deliberately and in a structured manner – and what any of it has to do with cold calling. But it first helps to note that a key element of positioning is the product’s “value proposition.” A product’s value proposition is a statement describing how, and how well, the product (at least theoretically) meets the segment’s needs better than the competition. And in doing so, how the product provides greater value in return for the cost. Thus, if we identify a segment as having a higher need for speed, we can sell more Corvettes to these buyers by positioning our cars as faster (even if not necessarily building them to go faster) and telling prospects – i.e. positing a value proposition – that you can get more speed and excitement for your money if you buy a Corvette. Or if we identify a segment as being more safety conscious, we can show our cars stacked eight high to get their attention and interest. Such representations, even if sometimes humorous (e.g. “I’m a Mac” vs “I’m a PC”) attempt to answer the question: Why should I buy from you (or use your product) as opposed to your competitor? And if the positioning exercise is done well, it can mean the difference between failure (e.g. Google Glass) and success (e.g. the iPhone).
Our goal here is not to write a treatise on positioning, of course, but to show how developing an effective cold calling program can solve the positioning problem. That is, how can you come up with an effective positioning and value proposition for your products by developing an effective cold calling program?
The Secret Sauce of Successful Marketing
What makes cold calling unique as a sales tactic is time or, more accurately, the lack of it on the cold call. Specifically, when making a cold call the telemarketer usually has less than about ten seconds to get the prospect’s attention and interest; otherwise the prospect (at least in B2B) is going to hang up. And while, if you’re advertising on a billboard you also only have a few seconds to get the prospect’s attention and interest, it’s more likely then that you’re counting on the repetition effect to make up for it. This also holds for other approaches, including pay-per-click, banner advertising, SEO/SEM, radio and TV; while trade shows, networking and PR additionally leverage the venue or media for credibility. Cold calling, however, is pure. You either hit the ball on your first pitch, or you’re out of the game. You don’t usually get a second chance.
This one-bite-at-the-apple nature of cold calling forces the telemarketer to script something – specifically, to put forth a value proposition – that is so relevant, interesting, compelling and succinct that the prospect will want to stay on the phone with you and talk about it. But this is what makes developing a cold calling program the secret sauce of successful marketing: If you can articulate a value proposition well enough and quickly enough to get a cold prospect to want to stay on the phone with you to talk about it, and ultimately to meet or buy, then you have a winning foundation on which you can build any other promotional or sales technique.
Articulating Your Value Proposition
At LeadGen.com, we’ve developed a structured process can enable you to script an effective pitch quickly, inexpensively and reliably, and that can be used by any business, not only for cold calling but for any other type of marketing or sales program. To be sure, we’ve found that it’s virtually impossible to come up with a call opening that’s relevant, interesting, compelling and succinct, and that’s going to get a cold prospect to want to stay on the phone with you, and to do so on campaign after campaign, through brainstorming, intuition or traditional content development methods. (Canned scripts are, by definition, not relevant, nor generally very interesting.) But the process we’ve developed can do it every time.
Obviously the process of articulating a company’s value proposition is fraught with challenges. Some of the most ridiculous examples found on the Web don’t even answer the question of why someone should buy from the vendor. But most companies are challenged to answer it in less than ten seconds, as even most “elevator pitches” are thirty seconds long, and most that we’ve heard are horrible.
An effective process starts with understanding how customers use (or would use, in the case of new products) your products to do some function, and how they could do it better with your product than with the alternative. Since “better,” by definition, usually has a metric (e.g. faster, cheaper, safer, more fun, etc.,) the difference (i.e. between doing that function without and with your product) can generally be quantified, and from this quantification you can derive a relevant, interesting, compelling and succinct way to represent your value proposition.
From Analysis to Success
Depending on your product, the process can be a bit more complex than just these three steps. In fact, our workshop to learn the process at www.leadgen.com/workshop has over 30 lessons you could take if you need them. It can take anywhere from one day to several weeks to implement what you learn. And if you want to apply it to other programs such as sales, advertising, customer service or new product development, it does take a little additional effort. But if you want to take the guesswork out of your marketing, and be able to develop consistently successful marketing and sales programs, building an effective cold calling program is the place to start.
Discover how you can make cold-calling the foundation of your sales and marketing program with our Cold Calling Workshop today!