Why Social Media Doesn't Replace Tradition

Why Social Media Doesn’t Replace Tradition

If you are skeptical of the relevance of traditional marketing, or are even considering a replacement of traditional lead generation tactics with social media – think again. Traditional marketing remains critical to business-to-business marketing strategy, particularly in the area of lead generation.

According to a 2010 B2B Survey conducted by Forrester and MarketingProfs, fewer than one in five businesses who actively deploy social media in their marketing strategy say it is highly effective for lead generation. Despite all the increasing excitement around social media marketing, the survey found that traditional marketing elements – specifically email, search marketing and inside sales – were the only tactics to show steady upward trends in demand generation since 2007.

With more than 16 years of experience in the B-to-B telemarketing industry supporting high-tech enterprises, I am not surprised by these findings; particularly as they highlight the importance of inside sales, which utilizes telemarketing extensively. In my experience, when businesses are considering a new technology solution, which will require a substantial monetary investment, the decision-maker requires one-on-one engagement. This requirement is further heightened by a lengthy sales cycle, and sales cycles certainly have lengthened in an unsteady economy.

Today’s IT buyers are highly engaged throughout the sales process, are well-educated about their options, and value very much the personal credibility of the companies they are considering, as well as the relationships they forge while doing business. While social media has become a component of this process in recent years, it does not replace the need to proactively engage in direct communication with your prospects. Even for technology companies selling to IT savvy people, no amount of online “interaction” has been able to replace real human conversation.

Many successful sales have started when someone proactively reached out to a prospect, even before the prospect had started his or her own research online. Engaging early helps position your organization as a trusted advisor and sets the appropriate bar for engagement with other vendors. If you wait only for buyers to enter the social community (following relevant blogs or industry Twitters, for example), you risk opinions being set, which may or may not work in your favor. Conversations designed to gain insight into your prospect’s requirements and challenges, while sharing relevant information about your products and services, should start when buyers are just beginning to define and understand their needs. Telephone conversations are particularly important to establish personal rapport with your future customer early in the sales cycle. The old saying that “people buy from people” continues to hold true and is a top reason that inside sales and telemarketing continues to be important.

This is not to imply that social media has no place in your lead generation strategy. While B-to-B marketers should not replace their lead generation mix with social media methods, social media can enhance and enrich traditional campaigns and even expand their reach.

When proactively contacting prospects via traditional B-to-B telemarketing, one of the most important components for success is ensuring you are able to pique interest by providing prospects with valuable information. Social media is rich with useful content that telemarketers can share with prospects to enhance a dialogue. Your social media components can also be used to reach out to your prospects. A newly launched blog focused specifically on their industry, for example, is something worth calling targeted prospects about, particularly when you are using an ongoing telemarketing strategy to assist with nurturing relationships with your prospects. This type of proactive (and targeted) communication is welcomed, and even appreciated, by many business decision-makers, and most importantly, it leads to direct conversation – during which a new sales lead may be uncovered.

Over the last year, our telemarketing business, which supports some of the largest high tech companies in the world, has grown 18 percent. Neither the unstable economy nor the onset of social media has slowed the need for – and use of – traditional telemarketing. Why? The answer is simple: measurability. There is no other marketing media that has the ability to illustrate your company’s value and build rapport, while simultaneously learning your prospect’s needs, budget, decision-making process, and purchase timeframe. Once a marketing lead is defined to this extent, your sales team will be eager to receive and pursue it. The measurability of ROI from telemarketing, tying dollars spent to the addition of new customers, is not going out of fashion anytime soon.

This article, written by Kathy Rizzo, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at TeleNet, was published in the January 28th issue of the Atlanta Business Chronicle.