For at least 10 years, I’ve been hearing that “cold calling is dead” in regards to B2B lead generation. Now let me make something clear – until the day telephones are extinct, cold calling will never be dead.

Cold Calling is Not Dead

Methinks the salesperson (who does not want to cold call) doth protest too much.

See, when something is hard to do and yields relatively little return in exchange for the effort, the easiest thing to do is just proclaim that activity as “dead”. I mean, announce its death to the world from mountaintops (or – Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn discussions, etc.). That’s what we’ve seen happen to Outbound Marketing over the past decade or so.

But I haven’t been so quick and willing to pay my condolences to Outbound as my company continued to generate millions of dollars in new revenue every year directly as a result of cold calling (supported by direct mail and e-mail). Even as such prolific authors as Seth Godin referred to traditional marketing as “interruption marketing” in his tremendously popular book “Permission Marketing”, at emagine we continued to hammer the phones (with great success), even as we incrementally added new tactics as they proved themselves effective.

Never have we denied or resisted the impact of inbound techniques (heck, that’s the business we’re in). Rather, we simply weren’t jumping on the throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater bandwagon with all of the cold calling haters. Until one technique has proven itself to be obsolete, why stop doing it? And until another technique has produced for you, why make a dramatic shift in resources? (because so-called “thought leaders” are preaching it on Twitter and LinkedIn all day?)

Note: be very careful whose opinions online you choose to value. Miraculously, the (social) world has filled up with millions of B2B marketers who know exactly how to generate tons of qualified, sales-ready leads. I mean, if they write about it so articulately and confidently, it must be true, right?

The Watershed

Again, based on nobody’s advice, but rather on our own empirical data and experimentation, we’ve seen a shift over the past couple of years that, to us, represents the most significant watershed in B2B lead generation, sales and marketing in decades. Rather than proclaim boldly and assertively “what works and what doesn’t” (like the very thought leaders I poke fun at above), here I will share some observations and assumptions that are based only on real, tireless effort and experimentation:

  • Manual, arduous prospect research is paramount. You have to know exactly who your decision makers and cheerleaders are within your entire universe of potential customers.
  • What you do with that research will vary and the tactics will always be evolving. Don’t ever expect to coast in B2B sales/marketing. Where cold-calling itself would previously yield impressive results for us, prospects are definitely more impervious to “interruption marketing” tactics than even a year ago. That said, I don’t believe we will ever see a day where cold calling is not at least an integral part of our prospecting efforts.
  • A blended approach is imperative. Today, the blend (from a prospecting perspective) would ideally consist of: research, cold-calling, direct e-mailing, social media engagement*, targeted content sharing.
  • Social Media engagement doesn’t mean just sharing articles. In B2B, it means truly engaging prospects with constructive dialog; listening and responding to what they have to say and enticing them to engage you by producing and communicating via high-value content and perspectives.
  • Targeted Content Sharing: Create content in all formats (e-books, white papers, case studies, analyses, reports, videos, SlideShare … the works.) Have content for each of your target industries and decision maker personas. (even for different phases of the sales cycle). Share this content strategically across all channels: e-mail, social, even direct mail.

In addition to your one-to-one prospecting efforts mentioned above, this should all be combined with a corporate Inbound plan consisting of: SEO, Blogging, PPC/Remarketing, Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing and e-mail Marketing.

I will not attempt to go into an in-depth Inbound strategy in one blog post, but stay tuned for a future update in which I will succinctly outline how each component can be leveraged effectively by a B2B marketer in 2016.

The salient point for today? The shift has officially occurred. If your B2B prospecting or lead-generation strategy is stuck in the 90’s or the early 2000’s, now is the critical time to make change before it’s too late (your competition will not be politely holding off until you’re ready to compete.)