The lifeblood of most small- to medium-size businesses is the sales lead. You can throw all sorts of high-tech solutions at gathering, tracking and pursuing leads, but the essential tool is a throwback technology — the telephone. And it can be a major time suck for your sales staff.
But few companies could survive without the phone. Sales people generate leads and close business over the phone. They grow accounts and support customers over the phone. It's the backbone of the entire organization.
Automating this process is the holy grail of sales organizations. The automation technologies growing in popularity are voice-based marketing automation (VBMA) systems that live in the clouds. They enable businesses to manage, measure and automate sales and support calls.
VBMA—What it does
"Voice-based marketing automation makes it easy for businesses to cost-effectively deploy a virtual call center for sales and support teams," according to Ifbyphone, a VBMA vendor that has just released a definitive guide to voice-based marketing automations.
VBMA can improve marketing return on investment, advocates say. Using voice-based marketing automation, you can track inbound calls back to their marketing source. You can map phone leads to the specific ads, campaigns, keyword searches, referring websites or any other marketing source.
By reinvesting only in marketing that generates leads and revenue, you can grow your business without increasing your spending.
VBMA also makes it easy to filter and support calls automatically using an interactive voice response (IVR) function.
For sales, IVR can qualify callers upfront and determine if they are ready to engage with a sales representative. For the support function, IVR allows customers have access to an auto-attendant 24/7 that can answer basic questions and enable self-service.
VBMA makes it easy for businesses to cost-effectively deploy a virtual call center for sales and support teams. There's no hardware to buy, no software to install, and no implementation or maintenance team to hire. Its flexibility allows your agents to work from home or an office location while still operating seamlessly as one team and its flexibility can accommodate extra agents during peak seasons.
The best customer service isn't reactive; it reaches out to customers. VBMA enables you to deliver automated phone messages (voice broadcast to confirm appointments or deliveries, process payments, conduct satisfaction surveys and more. It's also an effective way to relay vital information, such as changes to a customer's account or travel itinerary.
Because a VBMA system wraps all these complementary technologies into a single platform, it is better able to connect and align marketing, sales and support and enhance their ability to collaborate.
There are a number of trends that are helping accelerate VBMA's popularity. Marketers now focus on growing revenue. Gone are the days when marketing could focus on building brand equity. Today's CEOs aren't concerned with building brand; they care about revenue. They want marketers to demonstrate how campaigns will generate business, not brand awareness.
Phone leads are also growing in importance, Ifbyphone says. But not all leads are created equal. While white paper downloads and webinar registrations are excellent vehicles for generating leads, those prospects are often just beginning their research. Inbound phone leads are different. Someone who calls you is usually further along in the buying process.
The rising use of smartphones has changed the way businesses market and advertise. Because smartphone users would rather call a business that fill out a Web form, mobile marketing strategies are focusing on how to generate, track and manage inbound calls. One of the key benefits of VBMA is that a single platform connects and aligns marketing, sales and support and enhances their ability to collaborate.
Voice-based marketing automation systems can provide a wide range of functionality:
- Call tracking and reporting
- Hosted IVR, voice broadcasting
- Advanced call routing
- Virtual call centers, custom call forwarding
- Agent panels and manager dashboards
- Web form call triggering
- SMS messaging
- Salesford.com and CRM integration
- Zendesk and help desk integration
- API integration
Unlike on-premise solutions that are sold as software licenses or per-user "seats," VBMA solutions are delivered via the cloud and sold as a recurring subscription. Most subscriptions are monthly and can be canceled at any time; they can start as low as $49.95 a month and scale up based on call volume.
The main factors determining subscription costs is the functionality you require, phone numbers and usage minutes, extras and customer support.
Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.Follow us @BNDarticles, Facebook or Google +. This story was originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.