Recently, I revisited a contract with an appointment setting firm as a lead generation activity. Not that I had ever had resounding success with these type of programs in the past, but it is kind of a pure lead-gen activity and sometimes that is called for. It’s also seductively turnkey. Without much real work you can get one of these firms up and running and starting to produce leads in a couple weeks. At least that’s the promise.
But is that seduction justified? Is it really that easy? Sign up with one of these firms and leads and appointments magically appear. Let’s take a look at the potential shortfalls of these programs.
- Who provides the list? The calling campaigns these firms do need a list to fuel them. These firms tend to get very basic (read “cheap”) lists and call around for the titles they seek. Since they focus on calling efficiently, they bridge the gap themselves. But this approach makes for lousy targeting and gives the client little in the way of real targeting tools. The real problem here is that by the time you realize the list is bad, you’ve already called into it for weeks.
- Goals not 100% aligned. The client wants leads that go down the funnel quickly and turn into sales. The appointment setting firms wants to set up appointments with the correct type of person from the target accounts. These are not the same goals and it’s actually hard at the end of the day to make them the same. Despite great attempts to avoid it, leads that are off-target will come in and will erode the program’s effectiveness.
- Focus is on the appointment, not the interest. As these campaigns roll out, sometimes they get behind. After management catches on, additional pressure (always) and resources (sometimes) are added to the game. That pressure forces the phone reps to push even harder for the appointment, leading to less-than qualified or uninterested prospects,
- Some firms use incentives Some appointment setting firms offer a fairly large incentive for the prospect to get on the phone. It seems logical that a prospect that is getting an iPad mini for taking the appointment is almost analogous to the folks that sit through long vacation time-share presentations for a questionable quality gift afterwards. These folks will take the call and sit politely through the pitch and may even admit to the caller “I just wanted the Big Bertha they offered for taking this call. Sorry.”
- A certain type of person responds. Obviously, someone who answers their phone. Not everybody does. Already it’s a biased group. If they answer their phone they may get a number of sales calls and not differentiate yours from others. Who agrees to an appointment if they don’t want the product? Many folks who likely didn’t understand what they were getting into or are easily persuaded.
It’s also a fact that many firms find great value in these lead generation programs and some clients work into 7 figures with appointment setting firms. These are the ones that worked out the bugs, improved the process until it worked. That takes a while. Those firms persevered through the start-up issues and eventually developed what they needed at a good-enough price. Moral of the story; it’s harder than it looks to do it right.
Have you used outside appointment setting firms for lead generation? What has worked or not for you?
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Good article Eric and, despite running a Telemarketing business (that does an awful lot of appointment making) I have to say that these aren’t uncommon issues. I’m not going to turn this into a pitch of my business but just to say there’s several practices there that we wouldn’t adopt.
The challenge with pitching for any new business is that effectively we’re selling promises. If you offer expectations that are too realistic that often means you won’t win the business in the first place. Go the other way and you’ll win the business but not keep the customer. My feelings are the majority of companies in our industry go for the latter, hence many of the issues you’ve mentioned here.