I’ve got a gripe with the term engagement. I think it’s misleading. What most marketers are calling engagement is really content consumption. The content may be presented contextually; it may be presented dynamically by industry or role; it may be specific to a prospect’s buying cycle stage. Ultimately you’re serving up content for someone to consume. Personally, when I read an e-book, attend a webinar or watch a video, I don’t consider myself engaged. I’m consuming. For me, engagement requires a back-and-forth between two parties, an authentic conversation that can’t be fully scripted.
There is no better mechanism for engagement than the phone. Many people frown on phone work, but consider this – as a former head of marketing, my contact info was never hard to find. I would get my fair share of cold calls every day. However, those paled in volume to the spam I received. True, I did not answer most calls, and most voicemails were hardly worth listening to. But, and this is important, if calls are relevant, or voicemails are specific to me, your likelihood of success in engaging me is much higher via phone than via email.
The point is, there's a HUGE opportunity for b-to-b marketers to embrace the phone. Most executives get far fewer calls than spam emails. Companies are investing more in content development, thought leadership and inbound marketing programs – and one result is more-informed buyers who are in a better position to have meaningful interactions when they choose to engage. Too many marketers view content development and marketing automation as a one-two punch that makes phone qualification unnecessary. If anything, they make the phone channel more important than ever, and put a premium on lead development teams who have evolved from conversations where reps just follow up or pitch products, to conversations where the prospective buyer is engaged as a natural extension of consuming content. The lead development rep artfully uses that conversation to qualify demand and demonstrate the value of taking the next step into an active evaluation cycle.
Bottom line – the phone is a phenomenal, underutilized tool. If you think that’s not the domain of the marketer, you are guilty of behaviors that reinforce the divide between sales and marketing that makes alignment such a big issue today. Instead, consider the phone a natural downstream extension of your content marketing and inbound marketing initiatives, and think more strategically about how you enable your lead development teams to more effectively engage and qualify prospects via good old-fashioned dialogue.
Jason Hekl is Vice President and Group Director at SiriusDecisions. With an emphasis on developing and executing demand generation strategies to accelerate growth, Jason has sourced, developed and closed millions of dollars in new business throughout his 19-year career. Follow Jason on Twitter @the_hekler.