The value of traditional outbound direct marketing

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More than ever before, today’s economic climate dictates that sales are crucial for corporate survival. Every marketing dollar spent must create a positive ROI. However, marketers may believe that inbound, Web-based marketing provides more bang for the buck than more traditional, outbound methods such as teleprospecting and other direct marketing activities.

But Web inquiries—especially those requesting content—are not truly leads but generally consist of “hand-raisers,” or inquirers. They are not nearly as valuable as qualified leads, especially where complex products or solutions are concerned.

Salespeople who depend on the real-time revenue they generate are compelled to evaluate whether these inquirers are worth their valuable selling time. This is particularly so if marketing hands off these inquirers to sales too soon. Too often, even the most experienced salespeople shake their heads and decide not to pursue.

So—even if there are some nuggets to be found this way—that low-cost investment in generating hand-raisers can disappear down a proverbial black hole pretty quickly.

Here are helpful ideas to help lower customer-acquisition costs: 

•Know the real costs. Marketing must not ignore the cost of sales. And sales must not ignore the cost of generating highly qualified leads. Both marketing and sales are in the same boat. 

•Focus on fully qualified, sales-ready opportunities. There are a number of factors that differentiate an inquiry from a sales-ready lead. The most important are identified need and pain, decision-making authority, ability to purchase and the most important: an agreed-to path and time line to implement change. Any salesperson who is spending his or her time engaging with companies where these factors are unknown is not being productive. 

•Manage the sales process effectively. If you employ a lead-qualification effort, make sure all your people buy in and use the processes and systems put in place effectively. Poor processes, systems and management inevitably result in higher costs per sale. 

•Improve sale conversion ratios by increasing front-end qualification levels. Though this often raises costs up front, it ultimately will decrease the cost per sale as conversion rates rise. So in effect the conversion from inquiry to sales-ready lead may fall, but the back-end conversion ratio of lead to sale will increase. 

•Engage in a more cost-effective lead-generation effort that produces more highly qualified leads at a lower cost. A sustained outbound teleprospecting effort focused on targeted accounts or specific markets has the potential to produce better-qualified leads at lower costs per sale, than pursuing leads with lower inquiry costs, in particular if these inquirers are handed off to sales too early in the sales funnel.

The Web promises opportunity for marketers, but it is not the only opportunity. By bringing the basics, such as traditional direct-marketing efforts, including teleprospecting, back to the marketing mix, businesses can create their own economic stimulus plan, raise ROI, increase sales productivity and create actual revenue.

Michael Falkson is the founder and CEO of eti Sales Support (, a b-to-b lead generation and qualification services company. He can be reached at

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