August 29th, 2012
A challenge you will always face in telemarketing (and in fact, any form of marketing in general) is being careful with what you pitch. In financial planning services, one the biggest mistakes you can make is marketing bad advice.
If you need a reminder of how important it is to refrain from such bad telemarketing practices, you need only read this brief slideshow from Time Moneyland. The slideshow is a top ten list of financial advice that people shouldn’t follow. Here are just two excerpts from notable slides that can have clear applications when marketing B2B financial planning.
“Use a Debt-Settlement Company”
“Debt-settlement firms make an appealing pitch: Contract with us and we’ll chop your debts for you. Just funnel monthly payments to them instead of your creditors and they’ll battle the banks on your behalf, they promise.”
As you can see in the rest of the slide, this is a mistake and you need to avoid making similar lies. Honesty is the best policy and you do not want to attract your financial leads with false promises. Business owners (especially more experienced ones) are not likely to buy them anyways. And again, this doesn’t just apply to your telemarketing message. Check the rest of your marketing materials (website, direct mail letters, email templates etc.) and re-evaluate the message that you’re sending. Is it just as outlandish as the one mentioned in the slide? If it is, time to change it.
“Take Investment Advice from Friends”
“‘Any ‘investment’ a friend or family member recommends that could possibly earn the money back is likely way too risky to get involved in — and possibly not legal,’ says Cristy Cash, director of counseling at the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma.”
Chances are, you may have already given the same advice to your clients! However, don’t think this just applies to financial planning. Turning this the other way around, you shouldn’t be too eager to encourage your own clients to pitch for you. The message can either get easily distorted or the word might just spread to more well-informed market influencers who will easily point out flaws that you’re still in the midst of eliminating. While it should be a call to keep improving, you should be wary about the negative impact such information will have on your market.
In either case, make sure your telemarketers don’t send the wrong message. You need to attract and convince prospects but it should never be at the expense of integrity. The loss of that integrity could only result in the following consequences:
- Loss of Trust – Losing trust among your B2B customers has got to be one of the most painful experiences for any business. It’s what’s been driving their loyalty towards your services and confidence in your advice. Nothing is worth losing that.
- Ill Reputation – Having a bad reputation in the market will divert its entire attention away from your business. And given the popularity of social media and the wealth of information on the internet, the effects of bad reputation can spread faster than you think (even in B2B).
- Decline in Sales – With fewer market interest, there are fewer leads. With fewer leads, there are fewer sales. It’s not that complicated to understand why and how it could only get worse.
No good business would desire any of the three outcomes. Consider what message is being sent via marketing and be careful with what you pitch!
August 15th, 2012
Big Data. You might have heard or read it somewhere (and most likely, the source was business IT-related). It’s a term that is seeing increased use in all areas of business management from marketing and sales to accounting and manufacturing. However, what does this have to do with financial services and more importantly, what’s the connection to making sales leads?
Well a few months back, Networkworld published a slideshow that might be of some interest to those in the financial services industry:
“When it comes to Big Data, the financial services sector has been somewhat slow on the uptake. Neil Palmer, partner of SunGard Consulting Services’ Advanced Technology Business, explains it as a cautious approach to innovation driven by the heavily regulated nature of the industry. But with data growth becoming a challenge and increasing pressure to bring down operational costs, Big Data is beginning to shape financial services too.”
Notice how the slideshow goes on to describe the rising demands and how it says that Big Data is supposed to meet these demands. If your financial service firm has already understood, then it’s likely you already have (or at least just begun) to incorporate Big Data for your functions.
The question is: Does your client know?
Not just your current clients either, but also the potential ones you’re qualifying and pursuing as financial leads. Going back to the slideshow, there’s a chance that they might understand one or two slides. However, what about the rest?
What you’ll see is the risk posed by Big Data and one of the things it’s supposed to manage: large, and large amounts of information. The problem is that same volume could overload the minds of your prospects and give them an unnecessary headache.
Prior to qualifying your sale leads, your marketing agents should go to the prospects first and ask just what is it that they want to know. Financial services cover a wide array of business functions but the top-most concern for an individual prospect might be a selected few. If not a selected few, they could still rank them all in terms of priority. If you’re going to involve Big Data, you need to prepare for the following questions:
- How does this help? – This is one of the most popular questions posed for Big Data gurus. You don’t have to be at that level but it helps to at least have marketing inform sales that the relevance of Big Data is an issue for the prospect.
- What helps where? – The slide show demonstrates how Big Data assists in the processes of several functions. But as stated before, these functions can have varying priorities for each, individual prospect. Demonstrate how Big Data aligns to these priorities.
Whether the qualification was done via social media engagement or B2B telemarketing, qualified sales leads should be for the purpose of helping sales teams prepare. Your use of Big Data in your own services may not always ring well with your prospect. That doesn’t mean you should reconsider it but it should mean that you must avoid the dangers of data overload.
August 1st, 2012
In case you’re still not familiar with the term, upskilling is commonly defined in business as the practice of training one’s in-house workforce to have additional skills. For accounting, this can be an advantage during times when job requirements do not match the skills of the general population. Another advantage could be expanding the range of specializations of your accounting services by increasing the skills of your current employees. On the other hand, doing so should also be complimented by adding variety to the way you generate accounting leads.
For example, if you’ve only been using telemarketing so far then you can either try and upskill if it’s in-house or outsource to a company that is already in the midst of upskilling their call center agents. And yes, they’re out there. Besides, the costs of training could be high and it could still take time just for your own accounting personnel to learn the new skills. You wouldn’t want the cost of your services to skyrocket as a result because your raised up the costs of your own accounting leads.
Now with regards to upskilling itself, here are a few things that marketing can teach you:
- Make sure the basics are covered – Be careful about just upskilling anybody. Start first with those whose current skill set can match the new ones you’d like to add. It’s only common sense that if you’re going to add variety to the accounting skills of your work force, that work force needs to know accounting basics.
- Pick skills that give you an edge – Be aware of current events as well as the current state of your target market. Use market research to help you predict new demands for a certain type of accounting service. After that, you’ll now know which kind of skills you’ll need to invest in.
- Keep an eye on costs – Naturally, you have to make sure that upskilling doesn’t eat too much out of your finances that they’ll raise costs. A rise in cost might not work to your advantage if a lower one was supposed to be your main selling point.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is that you don’t necessarily have to market these new skills. Despite how you’ve predicted a rise in demand for certain accounting services, not all businesses have any real need for them. Don’t present them with too many options that aren’t relevant to their more immediate needs.
Now with that said, it’s now time to see how you (or an outsourced provider) can upskill your current telemarketing service. It can arguably be a lot simpler compared to upskilling your accountants because it’s just about integrating additional forms of marketing:
- Email marketing – Some telemarketing firms are already integrating the use of email so that it can offer support to telemarketing efforts. For example, emails can be used to request permission to call instead of calling directly first.
- Social media – The telemarketing industry has also begun to use social media to a certain degree. The online engagement can be considered as a form of qualification before taking it into the next phase of actually talking with the prospect on the phone.
- Websites – Managing websites and optimizing their content can attract more calls but it takes additional IT-marketing skills to completely succeed.
As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life so upskilling to increase the variety of both your services and B2B lead generation can be a good idea. Outsource though if you want to play it safe.
July 18th, 2012
Risks are inevitable in business. However, one can’t deny the endearing effect of a success story that came out of something that only had a small chance at it. In fact, the Harvard Business Review defines this as the long-shot bias.
“One of the most pervasive of these is a phenomenon called the favourite long-shot bias, first observed by the American Psychologist Richard Griffith in 1949. Since then, numerous studies have found evidence of the bias at racetracks and other sports betting markets all around the world. Indeed, it is probably the most discussed empirical regularity in sports gambling markets, and the literature documenting it now runs to well over a hundred scientific papers.”
Regardless, excesses of this bias are a deadly reality. Just look at the case of Facebook’s IPO. Even though many of its supporters more or less worship the ground that Mark Zuckerberg treads, the disasters surrounding Facebook in the stock market have done more than prove his company’s vulnerability.
Speaking of which, that is just one example of what happens when you have an unhealthy love of risks. Here is a simpler example from the same HBR blog:
“This oversensitivity to small changes in likelihood at both ends of the probability spectrum gives rise to an interesting phenomenon in gambling on horse racing; punters tend to value long shots more than they should, given how rarely they win, while valuing favorites too little given how often they win. The result is that punters make bigger losses over the long run when they bet on long-shots than they do when betting on favorites (they still make losses when betting on favorites because the racetrack takes a percentage of each bet, but the losses are smaller). ”
Given the recent popularity of risk-taking and how more and more people are discouraging reserved positions, one can conclude that there is a small ‘epidemic’ of the long-shot bias. Unfortunately, as shown above, this bias isn’t all that healthy (hence, the ‘epidemic’ label). Now this has both good news and bad news:
- Bad News – It means that more business owners out there are making reckless mistakes all for the sake of their love of the long-shot. What’s worse, such frequency could lead to more mismanagement unless expert steps are taken to put it under control.
- Good News – It’s good news for financial planners who specialize in risk management. Those of you who are looking for financial leads now have an identifiable market. This makes it easier for you to plan out lead generation campaigns and set appointments.
At this point, this doesn’t mean that risks should never be taken. As a matter of fact, there are some cases where taking risks are pretty much a necessity (take career decisions for instance). On the other hand, that might as well be comparing apples to oranges. Though on the bright side, financial planners like yourselves now have a time to shine with a clearly defined source of B2B leads. With this prevalent attitude towards risk, you need to be there to offer aid before an evident long-shot bias starts doing some serious damage. It’s the one edge that you can have over the rest of your competitors!
July 5th, 2012
No doubt that the recent Supreme Court decision on the controversial health care reform is sparking a lot of buzz within the insurance community. A particular topic of heated debate is how it now mandates businesses to provide insurance for all it’s employees. This quote from CNNMoney adds a few more details:
“The ruling also means that companies with 50 or more full-time employees must start providing health insurance for all workers by 2014 or face stiff penalties.”
At first glance, it would at least give you a more detailed picture of what kind of businesses to target if you’re a company that provides B2B insurance. In other words, this could mean an easier time generating B2B leads. Be careful though, not all businesses are thrilled with these recent turn of events.
Regardless, they have to comply. The problem with that sort of attitude is that it could lead to careless decision making. You see, whether it’s an entire business organization or just an individual, rushing somebody never ends well. Once you have the government itself doing that rushing, it can only get worse.
Forcing companies to start sifting through providers might only mean that they’ll just pick the first one they see and be done with it. They won’t try and learn all the details (which is a seriously dangerous thing to do, given the complexity of insurance).
No matter what, it is critical to let your prospect companies know what it is that they’ll be spending their money on. You never know if some of the details might or might not be within the best interests in their business. Before you object, that’s better than having them sign a deal with you only to have the complaints coming in because they didn’t know whether you could cover this or that.
Business leads aren’t just about giving you information about a prospect and what it can tell you to help you get your sale. It’s about sharing information with the prospect as well. That includes information about how your business works, what kind of insurance you provide, what your coverage is, your conditions etc, etc.
Furthermore, maybe the reason why these businesses aren’t so eager to meet with you is because you’re not being accommodating enough. Maybe there are things that you can do to help better your control over the information you provide without necessarily overwhelming your prospect. Simply put, don’t opt for the easy way out. You’ll be no different from the companies who don’t learn well enough about their insurance providers because they just didn’t want the government breathing down on their necks.
To summarize, you shouldn’t always count on government mandates to get prospects moving in your direction. It might do more harm than good. For all you know, it might even direct them to your competitors first before you! Again, it leads to reckless decision making and a short-sighted ‘let’s get this over with’ attitude. It’s bad enough that these people are being forced so you should be as accommodating and not look like you’re just jumping at these ‘opportunities’ pointed your way courtesy of the federal government.