'Cold Calling is Dead' and more Digital Marketing Insights from the Theory + Practice Marketing Conference

'Cold Calling is Dead' and more Digital Marketing Insights from the Theory + Practice Marketing Conference

“Voice” will be the third wave of the age of digital disruption, while cold calling as a go-to-market sales strategy is dead.

Those insights courtesy of WillowTree Inc. CEO Tobias Dengel came during the seventh annual Theory + Practice in Marketing conference. The conference, hosted by the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and co-chaired by Darden Professors Tom Steenburgh, Raj Venkatesan and Kimberly Whitler, convened academics and practitioners in the field of marketing for three days in May in order to more closely connect academic marketing research with the practice of marketing and substantive business problems.

It was highlighted by more than a dozen presentations of academic research as well as keynotes and panels featuring executives from CarMax, Capital One, Coca-Cola, Compare.com, Google, WillowTree and more.

Trends in Digital Marketing

“Every company is being disrupted by digital” in today’s business environment, Dengel said during his address. The key is understanding what to do next.

To that end, Dengel said many business pundits have observed somewhat of a pause in digital disruption, following initial waves from the emergence of the Internet and then mobile technology. However, Dengel said app developer WillowTree sees a third wave coming.

“We would argue that we’re on the cusp of the next big wave. It’s about to happen right now, and it’s not [augmented reality] and it’s not [virtual reality] and it’s not 3-D television,” Dengel said. “It’s voice.”

Dengel explained that quicker, more efficient communication underscored the first two waves of disruption. Voice technologies and devices can empower the next big leap forward.

Web and mobile technologies rely on keyboards and keypads today. The average person only types at 40 or 50 words per minute, but speaks 130 to 150 words per minute and can read at twice the rate they speak. The human mind can interpret the equivalent of 5,000 words per minute through an effective graphic, Dengel said.

Dengel foresees a “multimodal” world where consumers interact with devices all around us by voice and get visual responses in the form of text and graphic information. While Amazon’s Echo, Google Home and Apple’s recent iPhone upgrade providing automatic transcriptions of voice mails are early entries in the market, Dengel said there are many barriers to cross before tech companies can offer the quality user experience necessary to unleash the voice revolution.

The ability to offer consumers the most convenient, frictionless purchasing experience continues to separate winners from losers in the digital marketing space, Dengel said.

Offering the case of Domino’s Pizza, Dengel said it is no coincidence that Domino’s stock has outperformed almost the entire stock market over the past five years. The company’s stock has more than quadrupled in that period, in which Dengel said Domino’s “invested heavily in being a convenience company instead of a pizza company.”

Today, a consumer can order a Domino’s pizza online not just on the company’s website, but on platforms consumers commonly use like Facebook Messenger. Domino’s uses location services to choose the correct store to deliver the pizza, and consumers can track the status of their order online.

Lastly, Dengel turned to go-to-market sales strategies for emerging companies like WillowTree. His most emphatic insight: “Cold calling is dead.”

While sales cold calls were an effective tool for business-to-business startups for 30 years, Dengel said no one picks up a phone anymore. WillowTree’s challenge was to get prospective customers to contact them.

They accomplished that feat through digital marketing, specifically four tactics:

  • Showcasing a high-quality portfolio of previous work on their website
  • Highlighting awards received
  • Creating a journey map of how potential customers would make a decision to hire an app developer, then marketing to key points along that journey
  • Establishing WillowTree and its executives as industry thought leaders

Ascend's Take:

Consumers want efficient interactions at all stages of the customer journey. Digital marketing tools like voice, social media, and location services are powerful instruments in today's convenience driven market. Strategies that combine these tools with relevant, informative content can increase success.


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