BY ELLIS BOOKER
Challenge: CenterBeam is an outsourcing firm specializing in midsize company IT services. The San Jose, Calif.-based company, which was founded in 1999, provides managed services for clients on four continents in 16 countries. Its clients come from a wide variety of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, legal, financial, real estate, technology and nonprofits.
As a provider of outsourced IT resources, CenterBeam’s key value proposition to prospective customers is that it can provide superior IT services for a lower overall cost. As a result, CenterBeam’s sales efforts focus on a very specific target: the CFO. The company’s marketing challenge was to build credibility and relay its key messages to this target while, at the same time, recognizing the sensitivity around the issue of "outsourcing" for many CFOs and their organizations.
In addition, because CFOs as a group are notoriously difficult to get hold of and engage in a conversion that might lead to a sale, CenterBeam needed to engage these CFO targets immediately by demonstrating value.
"CFOs have very tight schedules and only respond to information that they can translate to their specific needs," said Kirstin Burke, director-marketing at CenterBeam. "Our approach had to respect their time and deliver a crisp, relevant message."
CenterBeam also needed to build its sales pipeline smartly—devoting resources to the best-fit targets. "We had a sense of urgency to bring in qualified prospects and drive revenue," said Burke. "We needed to be smart about targeting our resources to reach those CFOs with the highest probability of becoming clients."
Solution: CenterBeam believed an outbound calling program was the best means to target CFO prospects, build relationships and put CenterBeam’s services into context. The company spent more than a year verifying an approach and identifying critical success factors, which helped ensure that the lead-generation partner it selected would be the best fit and could meet its top objectives.
In August 2003, CenterBeam chose Atlanta-based PointClear to provide lead generation and prospect qualification services. Six-year-old PointClear has about 20 clients in the software, services and healthcare industries. After a three-month trial, CenterBeam signed with PointClear for a year. (PointClear is paid on a project basis that includes a service-level agreement guaranteeing its client a certain volume of qualified leads.)
PointClear helped develop a comprehensive plan, including the overall approach and specific messaging that would lead to executive conversations, with a goal of qualifying prospects and setting up a time for CenterBeam field personnel to follow up.
PointClear also helped CenterBeam create its prospect database, whittling down a potential universe of prospects by half. In addition to the outbound telemarketing, PointClear handled CenterBeam’s e-mail and direct mailings.
"The leads are kicked over primarily in real time," said PointClear President Dan McDade. "We immediately send a confirming e-mail to the prospect and copy the assigned [CenterBeam] account manager." The initial follow-up by the account manager is generally a phone call, he said.
McDade noted there is close collaboration between the CenterBeam and PointClear staffs. "We recently sent some of our people to attend their sales meeting on the West Coast, and we have weekly conference calls," he said.
Results: To date, CenterBeam projects a greater than 14:1 return on their investment in PointClear. Throughout 2004, the PointClear team made 113,000 dials and 13,957 dispositions—a determination of qualification of the prospect—on CenterBeam’s behalf.
"That was quite simply coverage we could not have achieved on our own," said Burke. "It is not our core competency, and we wanted someone who knew how to do it, was staffed and resourced to do it. We didn’t want to take the time to have to learn the best practices ourselves."
Because of PointClear’s rigorous list inspection and tracking, CenterBeam has also been able to work with PointClear to identify areas that are working well and areas that need a different strategy or message. The team can then quickly make adjustments and refocus on stronger markets.
For example, PointClear worked on a healthcare industry blitz. CenterBeam saw a very strong early response rate and was able to close a number of deals. "We were able to fully coach the team on healthcare-related scripting, strengthen our list around healthcare organizations and drive positive results that are still today paying off," Burke said.
PointClear and CenterBeam’s teams continue to work in partnership on sales initiatives and generating qualified opportunities. Over the course of the partnership, CenterBeam has continued to see increases, both in qualified leads in its sales pipeline and in its revenue numbers as a result of the joint effort. Underscoring the success of the relationship is the fact that PointClear has been CenterBeam’s Partner of the Year for two years running.
"In many cases, the PointClear team is our prospect’s first experience with CenterBeam, and we have a high level of trust that they will represent our brand well," said Burke. "You know it’s working when you receive feedback, not only from the field sales team but from the prospects themselves, about the strength and quality of the team on the phones. Their customer first-focus mirrors ours, and I believe contributes to our ongoing mutual success."