The game has changed – with the advent of Big Data, the cloud, and all of the information-rich capabilities these have created; buyers today expect more sophistication from B2B marketing and sales. Specifically, buyers expect vendors to understand their business needs and challenges before reaching out to them. In this technologically enabled context, the traditional notion of cold calling is dead.
A case in point: over a two week period, researchers from Baylor University tracked more than 6,000 cold calls, ultimately resulting in a mere 19 appointments. That’s a tough ROI to justify.
Rather, you can significantly improve your chance of making genuine connections with prospects by utilizing the vast resources available to B2B marketers today, while also informing your content and strategy. Warm calls that use business intelligence to identify a specific need or problem a prospect is having are a much more effective way to make initial contact than cold calls. The following are several ways to develop intelligence about your prospects and an innovative way to develop intelligence and get your prospects to opt in to talking with your sales force.
To stay on top of industry and prospect needs and trends consider employing a healthy mix of the following resources:
Broad company & industry research
Industry blogs – Searches on Google Blogs help provide the broader picture of industry trends. Type in your relevant search parameters to find the top blogs covering your target industry or function, and see which issues are top of mind. For example, a quick search of “retail industry blogs” indicates on the first page of results, that the challenges and opportunities brought by e-commerce are key issues.
Market analysts and consulting firms –Gartner, Forrester, McKinsey & Co., and IDC, are a few of the many reputable sources regarding industry trends and insights. While customized research will come at a premium, there is still considerable value to be found in the thought leadership such firms make available online.
Database subscriptions – Services such as Dun & Bradstreet’s Hoovers, IbisWorld, and Salesforce’s Data.com provide a range of features, from company reports and list-building capabilities, to in-depth industry reports.
Listen, monitor, and spark conversation
Google Alerts – Alerts can be customized to regularly deliver to your inbox the latest Google results on the search parameters you set. Monitor specific topics, key words, competitors, prospects, etc.
Social media monitoring tools – Services such as Hootsuite, Sysomos, and Salesforce’s Radian6, feature robust monitoring, reporting, and analytics to provide you with the business intelligence necessary to understand and engage with your target market.
LinkedIn – While B2B marketers shouldn’t at all discount other social media platforms (namely, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), LinkedIn is the only true B2B social network. With over 225 million users to-date, LinkedIn is a great place to gain intelligence on highly targeted prospects – and perhaps even a warm introduction. Following industry chat groups is a great way to keep current with trending topics, while also providing you a platform for prompting valuable conversations and testing new ideas.
Customized prospect research & lead generation
Prospect surveys – Reach, engage, and qualify your prospects, while gaining valuable insights in one efficient process with survey-based lead generation. Not only do you get qualified leads from the opt-in survey, but you also get a highly targeted list of leads that chose not to participate in the survey. Survey data and insights can be used as to craft thought leadership pieces to engage those prospects who initially declined survey participation.
Keep in mind that no matter how effectively you research your prospects, your competitors are doing the same. Ultimately, what makes the difference in warm calls – and what truly distinguishes them from cold calls – is having a concrete lead in, either via a referral or an opt-in lead generation technique. In this manner, you can overcome the critical trust barrier that is the hallmark of this digital age and its corresponding anonymity, and begin to establish real, meaningful connections that remain the purview of the tried-and-true personal relationship.