Some­times mar­ket research can reveal real sur­pris­es. The 2017 High Growth Sur­vey was no excep­tion.

Over 1,100 firms with com­bined rev­enues of over $200 bil­lion par­tic­i­pat­ed in Hinge’s sec­ond annu­al study of mar­ket­ing and growth for pro­fes­sion­al ser­vices firms. Par­tic­i­pants were asked about a vari­ety of top­ics includ­ing finan­cial per­for­mance, strat­e­gy, and mar­ket­ing.

Dur­ing our data analy­sis, one find in par­tic­u­lar star­tled us. We found that almost a quar­ter (23.1% to be pre­cise) of high-growth firms report­ed that phone mar­ket­ing had a sig­nif­i­cant impact on their mar­ket­ing. Now, phone mar­ket­ing had nev­er been rat­ed high­ly in our pre­vi­ous sur­veys of high-growth firms, so we were sur­prised to see rise to such promi­nence. We decid­ed to inves­ti­gate fur­ther, and a new pic­ture came into focus.

Outbound phone marketing graph.

What kinds of firms are using phone marketing?

First, we asked, “who’s using phone mar­ket­ing?” Our analy­sis showed that they were most­ly mid-sized firms that offered tech­nol­o­gy ser­vices. We also learned that these firms tend­ed to focus on large prospec­tive clients with­in a par­tic­u­lar indus­try.

A typ­i­cal firm that used phone mar­ket­ing in their mar­ket­ing mix gen­er­at­ed medi­an rev­enue of $20 mil­lion, had 60 full-time employ­ees and 3 full-time mar­ket­ing employ­ees.

We then com­pared this pro­file to firms that don’t use phone mar­ket­ing. The firms that relied on phone mar­ket­ing were 65% more like­ly to pro­vide tech­nol­o­gy ser­vices, 53% more like­ly to use indus­try spe­cial­iza­tion as a dif­fer­en­tia­tor, and 60% more like­ly to tar­get prospects larg­er than $500 mil­lion.

So what’s going on here? Why does a sin­gle seg­ment of the mar­ket use phone mar­ket­ing so dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly?

What made phone marketing successful for these firms?

Clear­ly, for this seg­ment of com­pa­nies phone mar­ket­ing works. But it requires a sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment, too. Of firms that used phone mar­ket­ing, 28% invest­ed sig­nif­i­cant effort (time and mon­ey) in the method — the most of any mar­ket­ing tech­nique we exam­ined.

While we don’t have the data to under­stand exact­ly why phone mar­ket­ing works for these firms, we have a the­o­ry. Based on what we know about these firms (they often spe­cial­ize in an indus­try) and their tar­get audi­ences (large, high-rev­enue busi­ness­es), they are prob­a­bly sell­ing nar­row­ly focused, high-dol­lar-val­ue ser­vices. Even if their fail­ure rate is high (as is typ­i­cal with phone mar­ket­ing), busi­ness devel­op­ment teams at these firms may only need to make a few sales to meet their month­ly quo­tas. And the per­son­al ele­ment intro­duced in phone mar­ket­ing may make the com­plex sale eas­i­er to close. While the invest­ment may be high, so too are the returns.

I’m remind­ed of a quote from Guy Kawasa­ki, a suc­cess­ful mar­keter, author, and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist, who said:

If you have more mon­ey than brains, you should focus on out­bound mar­ket­ing. If you have more brains than mon­ey, you should focus on inbound mar­ket­ing.”

But what if you have both?

Of firms that use phone marketing:

  • 82% also prac­tice email mar­ket­ing
  • 71% also prac­tice social media mar­ket­ing
  • 64% have opti­mized their web­site for search engines
  • 55% use speak­ing engage­ments
  • 50% active­ly blog
  • 47% host down­load­able, edu­ca­tion­al con­tent on their web­site

This data sug­gests firms that use phone mar­ket­ing aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly “cold call­ing.” In fact, these firms are inte­grat­ing a phone con­ver­sa­tion with inbound and thought lead­er­ship mar­ket­ing.

How does an inte­grat­ed phone marketing–thought lead­er­ship pro­gram work?

I have a friend who works at an IT con­sult­ing firm that prac­tices this inte­grat­ed approach. When an online lead fills out a con­tact form and meets cer­tain cri­te­ria to be qual­i­fied (a prac­tice called lead scor­ing), a rep­re­sen­ta­tive is assigned to call them back with­in five min­utes.

This prac­tice does a few things. It shows the prospec­tive client they are val­ued by being respon­sive and show­ing high lev­el of inter­est in their busi­ness. It also has the poten­tial to pre­vent the prospect from con­tact­ing oth­er com­pet­ing firms.

Oth­er firms build their calls around a piece of thought lead­er­ship. They will send a piece of research or edu­ca­tion­al con­tent in advance of their call to warm up the prospect, estab­lish con­text and stim­u­late engage­ment.

This approach builds val­ue into the call — con­tent pro­vides a cat­a­lyst to spark a con­ver­sa­tion and begin build­ing trust.

How might your firm prac­tice this approach?

The secret to this approach is to edu­cate and qual­i­fy leads, warm­ing them up to a phone con­ver­sa­tion. The first step would be to set up the nec­es­sary dig­i­tal infra­struc­ture to attract prospec­tive clients and build engage­ment.

Think of the mar­ket­ing fun­nel bro­ken down into three stages. In the first stage, the goal is to attract prospects. A search-engine friend­ly web­site, social media, and blog are good exam­ples of top-of-the-fun­nel tech­niques that can attract prospects.

Mobile marketing funnel chart.

The next phase of the fun­nel aims to deep­en engage­ment with prospects and turn them into edu­cat­ed and qual­i­fied oppor­tu­ni­ties. Webi­na­rs, speak­ing engage­ments, and down­load­able con­tent are exam­ples of engage­ment-build­ing mar­ket­ing tech­niques.

Inte­grat­ed phone mar­ket­ing strad­dles the line between the mid­dle and bot­tom sec­tions of the fun­nel. At this stage, leads have been qual­i­fied as oppor­tu­ni­ties and are more like­ly to be recep­tive to a phone call. They aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly ready to buy, but they want to learn more. And talk­ing to a prospect direct­ly can be a great way to move them clos­er to a sale.


Phone mar­ket­ing isn’t for every­one. Like many out­bound tech­niques, it demands a great deal of time, mon­ey and patience to suc­ceed. But in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions it just makes sense. If you are sell­ing a high-tick­et-price ser­vice to a nar­row­ly defined audi­ence with ample bud­gets, phone mar­ket­ing may pro­vide the per­son­al inter­ac­tion you need to close a sale — or at least soft­en up a prospect for an immi­nent close.

But the firms that suc­cess­ful­ly embrace phone mar­ket­ing are inte­grat­ing calls with con­tent mar­ket­ing to estab­lish a cli­mate that is more recep­tive to a close. In the­o­ry, warm­ing up the lead pool will cut down on the num­ber of “no’s” you get before the inevitable “yes.”