Thursday, August 30, 2012

During Lead Generation, Don't Use Data To Discriminate!

Now what does the title mean by discriminate? Hot-button topics like racial and sexual discrimination seem a far cry from either lead generation or CRM software. But if you read this article from O'Reilly Radar, the use of big data in CRM could bring these civil rights issues a lot closer to home than you think:

If I collect information on the music you listen to, you might assume I will use that data in order to suggest new songs, or share it with your friends. But instead, I could use it to guess at your racial background. And then I could use that data to deny you a loan.”

You will also find a few paragraphs warning against using data to personlize. While you don't have to agree that it leads to discrimination, it's still a possibility. The lesson you must learn here is that your data shouldn't be used to discriminate. This goes not just for your CRM software but also for your own lead generation services and tools.

In B2C, it's so easy to generalize but in B2B, generalizing comes at a higher price when done in excess. Just because you've obtained the necessary tools to guess at a company's entire profile doesn't mean you should assume and decide whether or not they should meet your sales team. You must never, ever be too quick to assume.

At the very least, hear it right out of their mouths before doing a major action just based on the assumption. Your CRM software leads should be at their highest value before sending them over to sales and that requires more than that data profile you've assembled without direct interaction. The two more things to obtain this value are:

  • High level of interest – They need to be interested in your offer. Your marketers should first get their interest (be it through advertising, telemarketing, website marketing etc). Wait for a positive response and then build upon that response. Ask questions that they are willing to answer and tread carefully when you're starting to sound nosy.
  • High level of trust – Speaking of which, the only way you can avoid sounding too nosy is if you've gained enough trust. If you've gathered information on their business prior to contact, then it should be used to benefit them and not be a cause for disappointment, inconvenience, worse, suspicion.

You need to use what you've learned to find out the whole truth instead of just discriminating based on data. Businesses can be a lot harder to generalize because there are more factors that could determine their need that not even big data technology can automatically acquire. That data should only be the beginning and not the end-all of your entire qualification process.

Now if you're going to insist on using that data, at least compare it to the information you obtained from directly engaging with them. Does it confirm or deny it? For example, you've learned a particular industry is bad to target. All of a sudden you get a call from a business working in this industry, do you automatically disqualify them? No, you shouldn't. It's better to talk to them first. They could be an exception to the rule or the data itself is not as informative as you think. Learn to weight both to determine all the facts. Pure data should never be used to discriminate!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Risks Of Qualifying ERP Leads In The Midst Of An Upgrade

If you're in the middle of implementing new features, be careful if you're doing it around the same time you're qualifying ERP leads. It's not even enough that your prospects should be made aware. It's the fact that these new upgrades could still have flaws.

Of course, like any other software product, you'd have R&D do some form of beta testing in order to assure prospects who are skeptical of these new and major modifications to the systems that you seek to provide them with. After all, addressing causes for skepticism is part and parcel to maintaining their interest which in turn makes them easier to qualify as ERP leads.

However, this little piece of news from NPR should show you that there's still room for flaws that you aren't aware of.

The report is about the Federal Aviation Administration's latest move to upgrade from its current radar-based location system:

The cornerstone of this new system is automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast or ADS-B. Basically, planes will be equipped with GPS and will constantly send out little radio broadcasts announcing to the world who they are and where they are. (NextGen is being phased in over the next eight years. By 2020, planes will be required to use ADS-B to enter the more crowded areas of U.S. airspace.)

And recently, ADS-B has caught the attention of hackers.”

See that last sentence? What if you just found out something along the lines of what hackers discovered below?

It turns out that ADS-B signals look a lot like little bits of computer code. But unlike traffic on the Internet, these signals are unencrypted and unauthenticated. And for computer security geeks like Haines, these are huge red flags. He soon realized he could spoof these signals and create fake "ghost planes" in the sky.”

If you've managed to qualify a large number of prospects, they might not like it if news like this got out. It would be extremely disappointing after all the effort you went to finding out how to contact them, offer to solve their problems, and have them qualified. However, it's obviously unethical for you to keep these mistakes from being known.

Instead, your lead generator should help in the damage control. Here is what you can do:

  • Target IT experts within your prospect's company – If a prospect is skeptical, don't just stick to convincing them over the phone. Ask them to thoroughly explain their doubts and who has been informing them regarding possible flaws. They could contribute to the discussion with your sales representative. Just as a software security junkie discovered these flaws, maybe they could point out something your own R&D failed to notice.
  • Send an apologetic message – It sounds typical but a little bit of humility can go a long way. The only danger here is if you wait too long to do it. If someone has proven a serious flaw in your new ERP upgrade, send out a message as soon as possible with an additional assurance that you'll deal with the issue just as quickly.
  • Keep in touch even after the upgrade – Flaws can also pop up right after the upgrade. This can be dangerous for vendors of cloud-based ERP. Use as many communication channels as you can for customer support.

Sometimes there are just some flaws that surface only after the software testing period. Companies who you have qualified as sales leads may not take kindly to hearing this bad news. Despite that, be prepared to do damage control when upgrading while generating qualified leads.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What Amazon Does With Email, You Can Try With Telemarketing Services

Both email and telemarketing services are heavily used in B2B marketing. In the end, pitting one against the other isn't nearly as effective as combining both. Conversations through email that are taking too long now find themselves speeding up as that conversation is switched over to a live conversation over the phone. Cold calling need no longer be random and unwarranted if your company successfully sends an email requesting permission.

Those of you in the business of CRM software might be interested in reading this Fortune article about Amazon's classic but still effective recommendation system. Around the end however, it touches on the subject of email marketing and what you find can actually have similar applications for software telemarketing services.

Amazon also doles out recommendations to users via email. Whereas the web site recommendation process is more automated, there remains to this day a large manual component. According to one employee, the company provides some staffers with numerous software tools to target customers based on purchasing and browsing behavior. But the actual targeting is done by the employees and not by machine. If an employee is tasked with promoting a movie to purchase like say, Captain America, they may think up similar film titles and make sure customers who have viewed other comic book action films receive an email encouraging them to check out Captain America in the future.”

But what email conversations and cold calling have in common is that even marketing with them separately demands manual action, not automatic. And just as Amazon has provided tools to help email marketers target, so should you give the same tech support to your telemarketing team. Then again, as a CRM vendor, you've probably already got the tools themselves covered. It's only a matter of understanding how telemarketers can also draw insight from them in the same way email marketers do.

What you should remember is that the channel of communication is the only difference. This difference does not matter with regards to using information about a customer's behavior. For example, it could help determine the preferences of a decision maker:

  • Software Preferences – Obviously, you will always need to know exactly what a decision maker wants out of a CRM system. They also want to know what to tell their salespeople and understand the benefits of such a system.
  • Communication Preferences – Now even before knowing their software preferences, you'd want to know how to best communicate before approaching them directly through the phone. You might realize that a prospect would rather be approached first through social media and reserve phone conversations only after more trust has been established.
  • Appointment Preferences – If they finally decide to meet with your company, they still have different preferences for them as well. These preferences can carry on when meeting them again for other reasons (like during implementation). Some would want to remain on the phone but for a longer time and at a set schedule. Others would like to have a webinar.

What Amazon's email marketers do is simply research the preferences of their customers and send messages in according to what they've learned. How can you not apply the same thing with telemarketing? It's all simply about tailoring the message. Even if you don't use either one as back up for the other, know that the medium doesn't matter compared to the message.