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The conventional wisdom in today’s digital marketing circles is that the cold call is outdated as a method of finding new customers. Consider for a moment that tens of millions of people have signed up for “Do Not Call” lists. People don’t even want to talk on their smartphones – they’d much rather send text messages back and forth. As a result, a phone call of any kind is usually a very unwelcome intrusion into everyday life.
So if cold calling is dead in the digital age, what comes next?
According to a recent Harvard Business Review survey, cold calling is ineffective 90% of the time, and less than 2% of cold calls ever result in so much as a meeting. If each meeting results in a final sale only 25% of the time, you’d literally have to make more than 1,000 calls to make just 5 measly sales. Surely, there are better ways to spend your time, right?
As you might imagine, marketers have been scrambling to fill the void left by the demise of the cold call, and some of the possible solutions have proven to be more viable than the dreaded phone call involving the pushy salesman and the rehearsed 3-minute script.
One solution that has been offered as an alternative to cold calling is “social selling.” In the classic social selling scenario, you find potential prospects on social media platforms, establish some sort of (tenuous) relationship with them, and then use that relationship as an opening to discuss a sale.
How many times have you accepted a LinkedIn invitation, only to find yourself being spammed by all kinds of requests and offers? Or how many times have you had people DM you on Twitter with requests? Those are both (unfortunate) examples of social selling strategies at work.
Another solution is called “inbound marketing.” This is the concept that it’s a lot easier to have customers come to you rather than you come to them. That might sound like a bunch of obfuscating semantics, but it basically means that you create a lot of content explaining how to solve customer problems, and (thanks to the genius of Google), those customers will eventually find you online. You don’t even need to call them – they’ll communicate with you via social media.
It’s the reason why “how to” videos are so popular on social media. You might be looking for “how to fix my leaky roof” on YouTube, when you run across a whole treasure trove of videos from roofing contractors showing you exactly how to do it. The idea, of course, is that you’ll hire them to do the job for you.
Another potential solution leverages the power of data and predictive analytics to find customers who are “primed” for a sale. Thanks to modern data analytics, companies know WAY more about your web browsing habits than you ever thought possible. As soon as they catch wind of the fact that you’re ready to buy (as the result of a link you’ve clicked or a webinar video you’ve watched), you can be assured that you’ll be getting an email, text message or other “friendly reminder.”
How many times have you priced hotels on a travel booking site, only to find emails soon waiting for you, reminding you to buy? Or how many times have you checked a few items on Amazon (perhaps for a friend or for a business project!), only to find an Amazon email soon arriving in your inbox? These companies know that you are ready to buy, and they are trying to make that final sale without ever lifting the phone to make a call!
So, even though the days of the cold call are over, there are plenty of alternatives waiting to take its place. Just as the cold call replaced the days of people going door-to-door to sell you stuff you don’t need (encyclopedias!), something will replace the cold call. The digital marketing era is making it easier than ever before to find the right prospects, and to reach them at exactly the right moment when they are most open to a sale.