That's 2 calls in 2 days, both from a company called Marketo. They used call centers to reach me during my business day, the first time inviting me to a webinar and the second time -- if I understood the caller correctly -- to invite me to some sort of event that was not a webinar.
Before I get further, let me mention the point of this blog post: to bring up the questions we ought to consider when we choose how to market. I don't have any hard data about whether we should cold call in this way, so I won't be answering the title question, but invite your opinion on it. Instead, I want to point out that this is a different approach to cold calling. And it falls in a fuzzy grey area of whether we should or shouldn't.
So these days we're surrounded by advertisements, and everyone's trying to break through the noise. And sometimes, as we all well know, businesses cross the line between shining their messages at us and actually interfering with our lives.
When we're driving down the road, we all know we'll see ads. In some ways, these interfere with our lives -- billboards have replaced trees, the screams of ads might drown out own our thoughts. But in a sense, we have tacitly agreed to have these ads here by choosing to live, perhaps, in or around a city and drive on paved roads, etc. We've chosen this as society, and those who want to avoid it might need to live in farm country.
We're also hit with ads across media like TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and yes ... even social media. In these cases, we've agreed to accept these ads in exchange for benefits that are free or subsidized because of advertisers. So we might not love the ads, but they're worth our while. (And in the digital age, we can often "upgrade" something to remove this subsidy.)
But as far as I can tell, there's no social agreement that by buying a phone, we've given permission for others to call and sell us things. Now if the phone were given to us for free, in exchange for receiving one sales call a week, then we'd be agreeing to it and getting a benefit for it. Or if we were given discounted phone service for the same sort of thing, then this sort of calling would be legit -- especially if we were able to opt into topics of interest for those calls. (You can call me about books and digital products, but not about underwear and socks.)
This is basically what Amazon has done with their subsidized Kindles. Pay more for a Kindle without ads, or pay less for one with ads. (Though these ads are far less intrusive than a phone call that takes your time. Not to mention that cold calls have opened the door to scammers that have cost so many people so much.)
The point here is that, on some level, we at least agree to ads in most cases, and in some cases we even invite them. (Like when you sign up for someone's mailing list.) And it seems to me that, the more we can get someone to INVITE our communications, the more effectively we can carry on a conversation with them and ultimately grow our business.
In a similar way, the more we can give through our communications, the more we can engage and become a community with our audience, the more likely we are to break through the noise when it comes time to talk about our products and services. And so we don't need to resort to cold calling at least for this following.
In short, cold calls are out (they were never "in"), and invitation is in (it has always been "in").
But what happens when someone cold calls you to invite you to something? To give you something? This is what Marketo did twice in two days. Both times I was unhappy about having my work flow disturbed by a phone call for something I wasn't interested in. Both times I declined the invitation. But in both cases, I was being offered something for free, and they never asked if they could just pitch their product to me. I know that would have happened during the events, but hopefully in an educational way, in a way that showed me what I could accomplish ... and by the way (they would tell me), Marketo would be a great way to accomplish it.
To be honest, I'll feel more resistant to any exposure to Marketo in the future because of this interruption. But I can't help but feel that this is a far better approach to cold calling than a traditional sales pitch. And I'm curious what kind of results companies are having with this.
I still feel that there are other ways Marketo could reach me when I am most receptive. Ads that target keywords can invite me to a free webinar on a digital marketing topic any time I'm looking for keywords related to its topic. They could run video ads to hit me when I'm watching YouTube -- another place I've tacitly agreed to see short ads (that I can usually skip) to receive the benefits of YouTube. They could market to me on LinkedIn since I have terms related to "digital marketing" in my profile. They could be very targeted about reaching me in way that asked no time from me. Could Marketo get better results in this way? Could they keep from making me disappointed in their brand?
I'm genuinely against brands that cold call me. I will never hire you or buy from you if you cold call me. But I'm less against you if you "cold invite" me. And that's why I'm just annoyed with Marketo.
What do you think? Are you open to cold invitations? Have you tried them in your business and have they worked well for you? Have you had any negative reactions to it that hurt your business?