“It’s 1981; you’re glued to your outdated office cubicle. The smell of old paper lingers in the air and your daily intake of UV derives from the dull illumination of flickering LED lights above you. Gripping onto your cold, over-brewed coffee, with the last of your caffeinated energy left, you reach out to your trusty sales tool: the telephone.”
In the modern business environment, we’re told to believe the arguably relieving truth: cold calling is dead. To some, (okay let’s be honest… most) this is beyond relieving. Besides, in the day and age of the internet and social media, why should we even consider the daunting task of calling a stranger as a sales or marketing tool?
In the same sense that emails are largely influenced by paper letters however, perhaps we should be influenced by (or at the least consider) the roots of cold calling while utilising modern business communication methods.
By understanding the driving principles behind the outdated art of cold calling, their timeless strengths can be adopted into interactions with consumers online. By drawing inspiration from cold call principles and making a few communication changes on digital and social platforms, we can positively contribute towards marketing objectives.
Cold Calling Crash Cause:
Cold calling is widely viewed as a pushy, pointless and persuasive nuisance of a sales tool; this does not have to be the case. While it is truthful that if the traditional communication tool is not treated sensibly, respectfully and appropriately, it can be perceived by the phone receiver as the former. On the other hand, if cold calling is approached appropriately, the traditional communication tool exists as a professional, genuine way to connect with strangers or potential customers.
Cold calling by definition is the process of calling or contacting a stranger or potential customer in another manner without warning with the view of a sale. Telemarketing on the other hand, involves a two-way stream of communication, where calls enquiries can be made by already existing customers. What differentiates the two? Whether the stranger or customer on the other end of the line reasonably expects the call.
This difference can also be defined using marketing terminologies: ‘push’ or ‘pull’ marketing. Push marketing strategies are used to create consumer demand, and work by the marketer ‘pushing the message out to the target audience’ (REF 7); on the other hand, pull marketing strategies entice the consumer to contact or enquire within business themselves.
Cold calls are a form of push marketing, due to the marketing communicating fully controlled messages to a stranger. By cold calling a stranger, or potential customer, you’re in control of what’s communicated; you’re in control of the call’s success. On that note, what’s the foundation of a successful cold call?
The Key Principles of a Cold Call:
While the components of an effective cold are very much described as a blank canvas, a number of key principles tend to recur:
Not directly selling –
The goal of a cold call is not to sell at all. At first sight, it may appear bizarre that ‘not directly selling’ is a prominent principle of cold calling. The professional purpose of a cold call is to open genuine dialogue, make a good first impression and ultimately introduce to the consumer the thought to take action. It is imperative that there is no pushiness or outright ‘telling’ of your product or service’s advanced features.
It’s all about the consumer and their problems –
Another fundamental principle of cold calling is recognising and solving an individual’s problem before offering a solution; this process should never be reversed. Communication should be customer-centric and never product or service-centric. You must be seen as a helper through the eyes of a potential customer and not a pitcher. By deeply understanding the problems that other line is facing before picking up the phone, they can relate to you freely and are more likely to hear the solutions you can offer.
Being a genuine (human) voice over the phone/line –
A final principle of cold calling is blindly simple, yet ignored by many businesspersons: genuinely treat the other end of the line as a human, and not a business transaction. A way to achieve this is by building rapport, or ‘incorporating a common interest‘ into the conversation. If the outcome of a cold call is that trust is formed between the business and potential consumer, it is a success; trust is essential to building lasting relationships with customers, and real relationships turn into more sales.
To the benefit of businesses today, the principles above span beyond phone calls and can apply to any form of traditional and digital communication. Interpreting the principles of cold calling allows for valuable insights to be learned, and modern digital marketing applications to be applied.
Modern Adaptation & Application of Cold Call Principles:
Modernise the Process –
Words expressed via a phone line are the mere surface of a deeper embedded message and in the realm of marketing, and these messages are not limited to being expressed using a single line of communication. What does this translate to in our digital spaces? That cold call principles are communication principles, and can be utilised whether you’re sending a casual Facebook message, or writing words in the sky.
In other words, no matter the platform of communication – whether it be traditional or digital – direct interaction with a consumer is optimised when principles of genuineness, consumer-centricity and helpfulness (and not sales-drive) are embedded into the communicator.
Recognise your product/brand, and your audience –
Be sure to recognise whether it’s appropriate to communicate with potential consumers in a cold call manner. Firstly, what value proposition does your brand or product offer to consumers? Sending an unsolicited direct message via social media may be more appropriate when selling ethical, handmade clothing products compared (emotional value) to discounted kitchen utensils (economic value).
Further, how established is your brand? Push marketing, including cold call communication, may be more viable for an upcoming business with little brand awareness, compared to a fortune 500 company. If your product or brand is unknown, it may be more valuable to instill an emotional connection with potential customers via a cold email or social media message rather than investing into a extensive pull marketing campaign.
Lastly, it should be noted that communication should be strategically implemented depending on your target audience and their characteristics: demographics, geography and tendency and use of digital/social media communication channels. If you are an independent travel agency and you want to connect with your target audience of 50+ year retirees, it’s obvious that Snapchat would not be your communication method of choice; only 2% of social media users between the age of 50-64 years use the platform, compared to 60% of those aged 18-29.
Minimise the spam
In a similar manner to picking up the phone to cold call a potential customer, use digital or social media communication tools in a manner that are genuine, trustworthy and professional, and not sales-driven, or pushy. Companies often find more success in striving beyond customer satisfaction at a price-based level, and allowing the consumer to connect with their brands at an emotional level.
In a digital environment saturated with advertising and promotional materials, you must break through the clutter. Approximately 67% of Australian consumers ignore sponsored ads on social media from unknown business; 52% provide that they more likely to trust a brand that communicates in a positive was on social media. These figures not only suggest that other channels of communication are vital, they scream it at the top of their lungs.
Revolutionise the possibilities
Finally, and perhaps most inspiringly, digital and social marketing tools hand us the possibility to take cold call principles, and blow them out of the water; the clouds are the limit online (pun potentially intended). Communication is no longer as it was in 1981; customers are surprised by and expect creative communication. A few marketing campaigns bound to spark creative communication include those by OB Tampons and Melanoma Patients Australia:
- OB Tampons ‘I’m Sorry’ Music Videos:
- After a distribution issue preventing tampons from being sold, OB Tampons send music videos offering individually named apologies to a loyal user base… of 65,010 customers.
- ‘Melonoma Likes Me’ http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2015/melanoma-likes-me/ Instagram Comments:
- Melanoma Patients Australia commented on millions of Instagram users’ posts of them at sunny beaches, using a ‘unique algorithm found and responded to popular hashtags and geo-located images’
What can we take from these two creative communication examples? That we can utilise cold call communication principles in unconventional digital and social media channels. Effective communication no longer needs to be direct over a phone line. No matter the scale (1 to 1,000,000 recipients) or communication channel (email or social media algorithm), businesses can better achieve their marketing and broader business goals through effective communication.