In the past, cold calling was the primary (and, usually, only) strategy that a salesperson could utilize to generate leads. If you’re not in sales or are just unfamiliar with the ancient technique, cold calling is the act of tirelessly dialing potential clients and pitching your product or service over the phone with the hopes that the person on the other end will take the bait.
In the ideal cold calling scenario, the prospect will make a purchase or set up an appointment to learn more.
Sound annoying? That’s because it usually is.
Time is money, so you can’t legitimately expect someone at the managerial-level to sit there listening to a stranger’s spiel for longer than 30 seconds. Why would a business executive want to waste their day listening to a spammy sales pitch when they could be off improving their business?
If you think I’m exaggerating or just dead wrong about how bothersome the whole cold calling process actually is, now is probably a good time to remind you that there are now 229+ million phone numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry who would probably agree with me.
Cold calling isn’t only an aggravating experience for the prospects, either. Unless you’re made of stone, dealing with rejection after rejection can take a toll on even the most seasoned sales pro.
Thankfully, it seems that in 2018, cold calling has virtually become a dead practice. Digital marketing has paved the way for simpler lead generation, causing more and more businesses to leverage inbound marketing strategies over intrusive and outdated practices to produce the results they’re after.
Inbound Marketing Explained
For those newer to the realm of digital marketing, you may be wondering what the phrase inbound marketing refers to, and how it differs from outbound. Hubspot describes the approach as follows:
“Inbound marketing is focused on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in your customer’s buying journey. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media.
Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing does not need to fight for potential customers attention. By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.”
In a nutshell, inbound marketing empowers consumers by granting them complete control over their buying process from start to finish, without the company tracking them down and contacting them first. Unlike outbound marketing, which refers to more traditional practices such as print advertising, direct mail (and of course — the dreaded cold call) inbound marketing acts as a more non-intrusive sales funnel, which in turn creates a more beneficial experience for both the user and the business.
Inbound Marketing Generates More Qualified Leads
If you are someone who is well-versed in traditional marketing, there’s a good chance that outbound methods are all you know. It can be a bit intimidating making the switch from traditional to digital; but fear not. The pros outweigh the cons. Once you convert (no pun intended) to online marketing, you won’t want to go back to traditional.
While inbound marketing takes away the anxiety of dealing with strangers who aren’t interested in your service, the increase in “qualified leads,” is what really makes it an invaluable tool. Knowing the person you are calling is not only interested in your product but meets most, or all, of your company’s qualifications is an advantage that cold callers of yesteryear could only dream of.
This is crucial because unqualified leads can be a serious waste of time and money. If you have ever been stuck cold calling on the job, then you already know how pointless it is pitching to prospects that just aren’t in need of your product or service, and don’t want to give you the time of day.
In a study conducted by the Keller Center for Research at Baylor University, realty agents made 6,264 cold calls over the span of a seven-day period. The results? It was concluded that for every 330 cold calls that were made, one sales appointment with a potential client was scheduled. Ultimately, only 19 appointments were made along with receiving just 11 referrals. And, most shocking of all, only 28% of the calls made by agents were even answered.
If that sounds like a complete waste of time, you’re not alone. Stats and studies like these are the reason why businesses have learned to embrace the advantageous world of digital marketing.
Inbound marketing is unique in that instead of your sales reps tracking down any trace of a prospect despite whether or not they’re qualified, it attracts consumers who are already seeking your product or service at that exact moment.
According to Hubspot’s 2017 State of Inbound report, 59% of businesses report that inbound practices provide the highest quality leads for their sales teams. This proves that if you’re serious about making sales, inbound is the way to go.
Inbound Marketing in Action
Inbound marketing is a much broader specialty than most professionals realize. It isn’t made up of just landing pages and contact forms, though that is a large piece of the puzzle. Inbound marketing is the entirety of all of the digital tactics involved that engage a user and eventually convert them into a customer of your company.
Take my employer, Fast Capital 360, for example. We provide straightforward business funding to small companies who are in need of working capital. Fast Capital 360 was founded in 2009, back when inbound marketing wasn’t as prevalent as it is today. So, as you can imagine, obtaining new clients once required Business Advisors picking up the phone and making hundreds of calls a day with the hopes of being connected with someone who was looking for a quick funding solution for their company.
In our industry, creating relationships with our clients is paramount; it can be hard to do that when a prospect’s first interaction with our company is entirely unexpected and catches them off-guard.
With this in mind, Fast Capital 360 has come to embrace the dynamic world of digital marketing to generate leads. Instead of strictly relying on traditional outbound marketing to create client relationships, we now have a digital marketing team that focuses on inbound marketing methods, including search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media to attract sales leads.
With so much competition in our industry, we knew that if we wanted to stand out from the crowd that our first focus would have to be on optimizing our website for organic search. HubSpot has conducted research that shows 75% of users won’t even scroll past the first page of search results — meaning that if your company’s SEO isn’t up to date with Google’s latest trends, well, you’re just out of luck.
Like many digital marketing professionals, we turned to SEMrush’s tools to conduct keyword research and audit our site to determine how and where we could improve our SEO efforts. By efficiently optimizing our website, leads are now able to discover our company by merely searching “quick business funding” on Google.
We also knew that we had to establish trust with our website’s visitors, so we started a blog that could act as a go-to resource for small business owners. Our content marketing strategy focused on providing quick, knowledgeable answers to a variety of financial questions troubling our client-base, such as “What The 2018 Tax Cut and Jobs Act Means For Your Business” and “How Small Percentage Owners Can Still Get a Business Loan.”
According to DemandCentric, not only does content marketing cost 62% less than traditional marketing, but it also generates approximately three times as many leads. By affirming our expertise in business finance through the avenue of educational content, readers are more likely to choose us for their funding rather than opt for one of our competitors they don’t already have a relationship with.
We also wanted to create a compelling social media presence to show prospects that the team at Fast Capital 360 is made up of real, live people that care about the needs of our clients. We’re not just a bunch of soulless robots hiding behind a website. We share behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram of what goes on at our headquarters and even share the occasional funny dog .gif on our Twitter account. With Forbes reporting that more than 50 million business pages are now on Facebook, social media definitely isn’t a domain that a company in any industry wants to neglect.
Between employing the inbound marketing techniques we discussed, along with the occasional landing page campaign, inbound has completely revolutionized the way our company conducts sales. I’m not saying that we completely abandoned the landline for communicating with our consumers, but what I can say is the time our Business Advisors spend with our clients and prospects is so much more valuable and efficient to everyone involved.
By the way, I am not bashing the art of cold calling; after all, it contributed to our client-base and helped get our company to where it is today. But now that we have seen the advantages of taking our marketing efforts digital, I think it’s safe to say that the cold calling approach is becoming an obsolete marketing tactic that has seen much better days.
Has your business undergone a marketing strategy transformation like ours? Share your story in the comments below.