The Demise of Cold Calling

coldcallOne of the most difficult tasks in selling is the cold call. Okay, the training says that every straight ‘no’ is a time saver that enables you more time to talk to customers who may have an interest in what you have to say, but it is nevertheless a soul destroying activity. One of the key drivers behind cold calling was the need to establish or widen your customer database and the catchment area for your business, and to win direct business quickly. But really, cold calling was the spam of yesterday. Cold calling used to be done by a range of people, from industry professionals like I tried to be, calling business-to-business, through to commission-only business-to-consumer appointment fixers who seemed to have a knack of regularly interrupting the first mouthful of my evening meal!

The rise of the internet

The Internet has changed many things, and it has certainly significantly reduced companies’ reliance on cold calling techniques and their associated costs. One email can reach thousands simultaneously that even the most dedicated cold caller could never hope to reach in months. So it follows that an email marketing campaign, properly timed, with good content and impact, can be an extremely cost-effective and efficient route to new business, as well as being a great way to keep key customer groups informed about your products, services, and other activities. This is the story of how email marketing has helped Exportaid to interact better with our customers….

In the beginning…

I started working with BSA Marketing in 2005 on the recommendation of Jan Klin, one of the UK’s most respected authorities on e-commerce. At that time, I needed a company with the right technical expertise who could make work the designs that I wanted for the Exportaid website. Since then, I have occasionally been a BSA guinea pig as they have tried new software products or marketing techniques that they believed would provide wider benefits to their customer base.  They have never disappointed, have always suggested new ideas rather than push them at me, and for some years now have been an essential element in the development of Exportaid’s marketing activities.

Professional persistence…

BSA Marketing is run by brothers David and Duncan Wright, who first made me aware of their views on the potential of email marketing in 2010. I don’t think a meeting went by during that year without one of them pointing out its advantages! In the end my light bulb moment happened after I became more involved in managing social media, both for Exportaid and for several of my clients. I felt at the time that social media had its place, but that it somehow lacked professionalism, depth, impact, and that I needed something more.

And now…

We are now into our second year of email marketing, and our newsletter, Seventh, seems to have been well received. The initial reaction from the first Seventh was very positive, and that encouraged me to continue. Companies were interested to see what Exportaid was up to, and in the concept of receiving an email called Seventh at 7am on 7th of every month. It told them that unless they chose to unsubscribe, they could expect to receive a regular copy. After more than a year, many customers now expect to receive Seventh at that time. I had done something similar with snail mail back in the early 1990’s, when I created a monthly newsletter for my employers, WA Fell & Co of Windermere, to keep customers informed about what we were doing as a company, where we were selling machines to, offers on tooling etc., and it achieved a regular 8% enquiry return. Seventh achieves an average 16% return, and has allowed me to mix Exportaid articles with those from partner companies, company features, advertisements, and news articles that are relevant to international traders, but all within a recognised, and hopefully trusted, format.  Seventh has provided a ‘soft’ method of keeping Exportaid in front of our customers, so they feel they are being kept informed and not sold to. And most importantly, there has been a steady but definite increase in interactivity with customers since Seventh was first launched.

Review and refine…

After several months of running our email marketing campaign, analysis told us that there were some popular sections and others that were less well read. So we restructured the content a little and found that the percentage of general ‘opens’ and ‘links opened’ in each area started to increase. You have to take a long term view, and adapt your regular bulletins to what your customers prefer to read, and that can take time to establish. It is also the case that trends and expectations change, so it is vital to keep your offer fresh, and to provide substance behind the initial impact. So if cold calling was the spam of yesteryear, email marketing can be equated to the daily visit by your postman, something that is anticipated, welcomed, and hopefully of value. I have read several articles recently that have led me to believe that cold calling has lost significant impact as other methods of communication have become more effective in building and maintaining customer relationships. Email marketing is certainly something we would now recommend.

5 Golden Rules for Effective E-Mail Marketing

golden_rulesFundamentally marketing is about communication – and always has been. The digital age has done nothing to change this. What it has done however is significantly expand the communication options & reduce delivery costs. For SMEs this has opened up some great opportunities for developing and enhancing their marketing communications but the ease with which it can be accessed has also maybe reduced the perceived need for planning and measurement. Here, I focus on how effective email marketing can deliver cost-effective, sustainable communication for SMEs.

5 Golden Rules for effective email marketing

1. Do your preparation – Marketing only becomes truly effective when you have done the preparation to clearly understand what message you are trying to communicate and to whom you are trying to communicate it. With this in mind, an email marketing campaign must start with the marketing fundamentals of what is your offering, who is your target market and what are the benefits you will deliver to your customers. 2. Don’t ignore the list – Good email marketing relies on a well targeted and qualified list. All other things being equal, a bigger, well targeted list is always going to deliver better results and be more cost effective. But quality is at least as important as quantity. As your email campaign moves forward, keep an eye on building your list. Even if it is just a case of making sure when you meet someone in your target group, you get their email address and add it to your database. 3. Content is king – If developing your list is important, great content is essential. Remember (particularly with B2B marketing) you are not so much trying to sell your services/product directly, but more to engage with your audience and to develop your position as an expert in your field.  Good emails are about informing and engaging rather than about selling. They build the framework against which the selling is done. If people have confidence in you and believe you can meet their needs, they will buy from you. 4.  Commit & Plan – Good email marketing is a sustained process rather than a one off. In our experience this is one area where people fall down.  Publishing your first email is a great feeling, but it is publishing your 5th, 10th or 20th when the process really starts to work. It’s not about sending one every week, but more about looking at what you have to say, and how often you can practically resource producing good quality content. Planning the frequency & content of emails should simply be a part of the ongoing management process and should dovetail with other activities (see rule 5). 5. Join it up –  Email should not be seen in isolation, but rather as an element  of a joined-up marketing approach. Often email can be used to support and promote other activities (eg events or exhibitions) and in turn, these activities will feed great content into the email process Although email is a great tool, it is not a magic wand, and to be effective it needs to be used as a tool in a joined-up marketing programme. When it is used in this way, it is a great resource for engaging and communicating effective messages with your marketplace – which is fundamentally what marketing is about. Follow these 5 rules, and you will be well on the way to delivering an effective email marketing programme.

What is your key business proposition?

Good strategic marketing should start with the basics. One of the first things to consider is what it is that you actually do for your clients. You may think this is obvious, but try to consider the point of view of your customers.

  • Why do they have a relationship with you?
  • Why are they willing to hand over their hard earned cash to secure your products/services.

What you have to decide is:

“What is my key business proposition?”

To illustrate the point, I will take a look in the mirror and outline the thought processes that we have been through to answer this question.

Asking ourselves the question “What is your proposition?” set us on an interesting journey of discovery!

Our first answer to the question we a lengthy description (which I won’t bore you with here) of the tasks that we undertake on behalf of clients (mainly focused around design and delivery of websites & email newsletters within a strategic marketing framework).

After this, the question was repeated:

“Yes, but why do clients use BSA and not someone else?”

After more discussion, we came up with the following:

  1. We take the time to understand our clients’ businesses
  2. We give unbiased advice on marketing in a world where so much is focussed on “The next big thing”
  3. We tend to under promise and over deliver
  4. We offer specialist marketing knowledge in the context of a digital age. We are marketers first and web techies second
  5. We focus on making things happen, not just on the strategic planning process
  6. We stick with clients, and gently encourage them to stick with the marketing process (We know that good marketing takes time)
  7. We have a great track record of delivering value for our clients
  8. We understand the SME environment, the concept of budgets & the need to maximise the effectiveness of marketing spending

Interestingly, “We develop websites” and “We do email marketing” don’t appear on this list, even though we are specialists in both. What came out is our proposition that we work with SME businesses to deliver planned, joined-up marketing communication programmes that are sustainable and effective. In this context, websites & email, social media, data management, content, copy-writing etc are important elements of our offering, and the ability to deliver these is vital, but they are simply tools in our core offer to our market:

  “BSA Marketing designs and delivers joined-up marketing communication programmes that are strategically planned, sustainable and effective”

and this, in a nutshell, is our key business proposition!

Take a look at our Testimonials & Case Studies pages and you will see that our clients have been telling us this for years!

What is your business proposition and what is the best way to get your message out? Talk to us

Internet marketing response rates – an interesting stat

responseI read this post on the e-consultancy blog. OK, it is consumer focussed but at the heart is a strong message for SME businesses about response rates. High-end fashion brand Burberry allocates around 60% of its not insubstantial marketing budget to digital and boasts around 15 MILLION Facebook fans yet a good response rate from these fans is LESS THAN 0.15%. The average is much lower than this. Maybe the 15-20% open rate on your email marketing isn’t so bad! You can read the full article here  

SEO V Social Media to Deliver Well Targeted Traffic

svsLast Month we wrote a post about a web marketing experiment: SEO and its effectiveness in delivering good quality traffic to a website. The outcome was interesting but somewhat lacklustre. Suggesting that SEO might not be the magic wand ‘NBIT’ some people make it out to be is all well and good; but what are the alternatives for SMEs wanting to deliver marketing messages to their target contacts? This post aims to point to some answers.  

Social Media in a B2B world

In parallel with the SEO experiment, we have started to make greater and more focused use of social media, especially LinkedIn and Twitter (As our focus is B2B, we decided not to use Facebook for our own marketing: here is a post explaining how we came to this decision). Below, we look at the results of this activity in comparison to those achieved through SEO for the term “Effective Marketing”.

What we did

Having selected Twitter and LinkedIn, the first step was to set up profiles on each of the chosen platforms. I am not going into the mechanics of how you do this here as I want to focus on the results rather than the method – But fear not, I will revisit the ‘how’ in a future article. Once our profiles were set up, we started the process of interacting with other users on the platforms:

  • Tweeting
  • Re-tweeting
  • Recommending people
  • Requesting recommendations
  • Building LinkedIn Connections
  • Posting LinkedIn updates

Again, The details of this process will be the subject of another post in the not too distant future. Right now, I would like to get on to the results.

What we are comparing

1: SEO – Getting our website onto the front page of Google for the keyword “Effective Marketing”. AND 2: Social Media – Using LinkedIn and Twitter to get our message out there We are looking at the relative impact these tools had on the traffic to the bsamarketing.com website, as measured using Google analytics. The results look at traffic from March to May 2013.

The Results

The two key figures used in this comparison are:

  1. Traffic contribution index – The relative contribution to new traffic made by each of the traffic sources being investigated
  2. Average viewing time per page -The level of engagement with the content

Traffic contribution Index

The figure below shows the relative contribution to site traffic made by each of the traffic sources under review.

TCI_june_13

Although the SEO traffic looked promising in April, this has dropped off in May, whilst LinkedIn and Twitter traffic continue to increase (Despite the slow start from Twitter!) Furthermore, social media traffic to date in June is suggesting that the upward trend continues. Traffic from the Effective Marketing SEO on the other hand, continues to show decline in June. Average viewing time per page The chart below shows the average time spent on each page by visitors from our sources.

VT

It is clear that the SEO visitors are spending significantly (30%) less time on each page than those visitors that have reached the site through social media. This suggests that these latter visitors are more engaged with this content and are spending more time reading posts in depth.

Given that social media referrals are coming into the site via individual posts on a specific subject, this is not too surprising.

Conclusions

This brief study suggests that developing social media as a tool for delivering targeted traffic would seem to:

A: Be more sustainable than SEO

B: Deliver more engagement than SEO.

However, it must also be recognised that these media are all about engagement with the market long term rather than seeking the quick leads. In order to deliver business opportunities, they should be used as part of a comprehensive, joined-up marketing strategy, where other tools like email, networking & face to face contact are used to leverage the credibility & value delivered by social media activity. As always, Social media is not a magic wand, but it is a valuable tool in an integrated marketing strategy.