Is cold calling really dead or does its spirit persist in its more effective and increasingly mainstream alternatives?
Articles that define cold calling usually start by reminiscing about a time when cold calling was a plague unleashed upon every American household with a working telephone. Telemarketers called people out of the blue to introduce a product or a service, and convince them to make a purchase. What’s interesting is that, in tracing the practice to its origins in the heyday of telemarketing, these articles frame cold calling as something that is fundamentally defunct. Something anchored inescapably in the analog past, in the same way that landlines are irremovably tethered to your childhood kitchen wall.
The thing is – that’s a little misleading. Because while cold calling or telemarketing products and services have been legally and technologically restricted, the principles behind them have only become more empowered by the rise of data analytics. Cold calling’s marketing operatives didn’t really disappear. Like everyone else, they just became wireless. They crawl untethered across the Internet, targeting – instead of just prospecting – eyeballs in ways that are less annoying and persistent than a phone call, but far more cunning and arguably more effective.
What is Cold Calling?
Cold calling is the practice of calling people with the objective of introducing and selling a product or a service. In a very similar way to “prospecting” for gold, telemarketers are not always sure if the person on the other end of the line help them turn a profit. But they go in anyway because a call could lead to a sale, a lead, or a referral. And it certainly raises awareness about a product or service.
Nowadays, most marketing experts believe that cold calling, notorious for harrassing people in the middle of the night, no longer has a place in the information age. More effective alternatives have began to dominate the marketing landscape. There are many reasons why.
Is Cold Calling Dead?
Firstly, our relationship with phones have changed legally, technologically, and culturally.
The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) created the national Do Not Call Registry in compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. By registering their phone numbers, users make it illegal for telemarketers to reach them. In addition, caller-id and apps that can screen and block calls have only become more commonplace. Even carriers offer services to automatically screen and block calls. Android and iPhone have built-in systems that make it incredibly easy and cost-free to block unwanted numbers.
Most importantly, our very relationship with our phones have changed entirely. Our phones are no longer just a device for making and receiving calls anymore. They are living spaces. Many marketing strategists realized that amidst all the changes, more promising strategies to reach people were emerging
Which leads us to the second reason why professional cold calling is considered outmoded. A lot of effort goes into cold calling. Experts agree that the return on investment has never been commensurate to all the tireless persistence it takes to do. The very nature of sales has changed. Consequently, the jobs prospects in sales have also shifted. With businesses relying more and more on predictive analytics and inbound marketing, the demand for telemarketers and their cold calling expertise has declined.
So, while cold calling isn’t dead in spirit, it has certainly been reduced to a husk of its former notoriety. But like Voldemort, the intent remains very much alive. So, as long as there is something to sell, marketers will persist. It’s just that, nowadays, they have turned to much more effective strategies, ones that help them to work smarter, not harder.
Three Powerful Alternative Marketing Strategies To Cold Calling
In the digital age, information is ubiquitous. People navigate sales information in ways that don’t require being on call. They often buy products or services after accessing information at their own convenience, at their own time. They rely on social media platforms. People are more likely to buy things that their friends recommend and buy from companies that they understand.
In response, companies have shifted towards inbound marketing methods. They dedicate their resources to building a strong online presence, as they once had with public billboards and brochures in the past. Search engine optimization specialist create relevant content to create information that contributes to a business’s credibility.
According to the Harvard Business Review, marketing has changed from push to pull. Instead of pushing information to people, they’re using online spaces to creat content that will pull people towards them.
Below are some of the alternative marketing strategies that are pushing out outbound marketing practices such as cold calling.
Red Dot Digital says that cold calling may have given way to social media-based alternatives. But within the latter, the former represents a mindset that still exists today.
Businesses do social selling when they’re seeking to expand their network and build business-to-business relationships. They rely on data from social networks like Facebook and Instagram. In place of a cold call, they DM a business, leave a comment on their page, or send a direct email.
Social selling is a combination of public and private performance on the Internet. Businesses use the social environment and tools to build relationships in a way that is organic rather than intrusive.
Of course, organic doesn’t mean it is any less calculated. An important aspect of social selling online is that businesses are no longer conducting sales blind or pestering uninterested parties. If anything, they’re making much more informed, much more targeted decisions.
Another alternative is seismic marketing. Antonella Bonanni discusses how seismic marketing allows her to reach a larger consumer audience by engaging her consumer base.
“Consumers are now telling brands what they want,” she says. Customized products and personalized customer assistance in various industries are becoming the standard.
Seismic marketing hits two birds with one stone.
Firstly, by engaging their consumers, companies signal that they are ready to provide not just backend but, rather, integrated customer service. The relationship between a brand and a consumer does not end with a transaction or just after. Instead, it circles back when companies integrate customer needs and input into their approach and design.
Secondly, customization and personalized service gets people talking. Everybody likes to feel special. More importantly, everybody likes to tell everyone when they feel special. At the risk of repeating a well known fact, there is no better marketing strategy than having your consumers speak for you. Peer-to-peer testimonials create organic buzz that boots reputation, shape consumer decisions, and turn profit.
Done right, greater engagement with consumers can generate significantly much more leads than simply dictating sales information to potential consumers.
You may have heard about Bill Gates’ essay heralding the power of content in 1996.
He said, “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”
Needless to say, his foresight has proved spot-on. Companies and businesses are dedicating increasingly huge resources to online marketing. Part of it includes creating informative and strategic content as an important strategy in building their presence and generating revenue.
Content creation adds a lot of value for consumer experience, whether they’re navigating the web for information or for purchases. Creating helpful content that offers information and solutions shapes not just consumer behavior. It also influences what Gates calls “the marketplace of ideas” online. Companies endear their presence to consumers not just as sellers and service providers, but as authorities on information.
According to Gates, the interactive nature of online advertising compels marketing agencies and companies to innovate their means and methods of reaching consumers.
“Those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products-a marketplace of content.”