Monday, June 8, 2009

Contact Marketing

Special Blog Guest, Mike Pilcher. Author of ProSultative Selling, and VP WW of Sales at Marketbright.

Contact Marketing is the phase in which a person continues the nurturing of a prospect. The Contact Marketing person guides the prospect toward the most probable contact point that would move them to engage in an interactive dialogue. This phase is characterized by a high volume of contacts, usually requiring multiple contacts to move the conversation forward. Using qualification criteria to target a prospect, the Contact Marketing team’s role is to make outbound contact to a prospect who has no expectation of agreed next steps. When the prospect agrees to active next steps with the prospect expected to expend resources, the interaction moves from Passive Contact to Active Contact.

Metrics must drive the process rules defining the frequency and content of these contacts, constantly monitoring the optimal blend of low-cost Passive Contacts, e.g. press and mail, with higher-cost touches such as advertising and Contact Marketing. Use tools to refine accurately the messaging presented to these prospects and thereby enhance the results of this activity. Tools designed to initiate contact include LinkedIn, InsideView, Jigsaw, etc. Ensure the message is pertinent and specific to the target prospect.

I once asked a customer, the CIO at Barings, to monitor the number of in-bound calls he received a day. After monitoring his voice mail for a month, the CIO found he was receiving an average of 18 unsolicited vendor calls each day. This did not include emails, direct mail, or other messaging. With this level of incoming static, the best way to break through the noise and gain sufficient interest is to make the message pertinent to the individual buyer.

Intelligent Contact Marketing is targeted at the right prospect at the right time with the right message and further nurtures the relationship. As with the consultative nature of the sales process, it is important to demonstrate an understanding of the prospect even in the Passive Contact phase. As there is no Active Contact interaction during this phase, Contact Marketing offers an initial perception of listening to the prospect by demonstrating an understanding of information about the prospect’s business, the prospect’s individual needs and the functionality of the product. Nurturing involves feeding a prospect with information to increase their awareness of a product and enhance this knowledge to the point where it meets a prospect requirement. Once the prospect understands this match and is ready to engage, they are ready to move to the Active Contact phase.

The Contact Marketing team must be available to make initial contact, take in-bound telephone contact, and follow-up on contacts made through other methods until the prospect becomes a qualified lead, agrees to next steps and passes to Internal or External Sales.

For clarity, and to ensure clean metrics are gathered, delineate between Contact Marketing’s Passive Contact and Internal/External Sales’ Active Contact. When the Contact Marketing team tries to interact and close business, the metrics will no longer be clean data. Clean data is at the core of the success or failure of ProSultative sales. The increased volume of interactions is only supportable with automation and constant refinement of the interaction. It is essential to connect the interactions and form patterns, understanding where proactive sales can replace consultative sales and where automation can replace manual intervention.

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