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A note to those who outsource marketing.

Recently I’ve received some slighlty odd sales calls which I feel is likely the result of a trend within marketing departments. It seems that a number of Tech’ channel companies and vendors are outsourcing elements of their marketing efforts. The results of this are some very mis-leading conversations.

It’s Bob from from VendorX Networks

On a number of occasions I have been caught out by this practice, and had significant conversations with someone who introduced themselves by their first name, from a vendor or VAR which I am familiar with.

“Hi, it’s Bob from VendorX Networks”.

Now, maybe I don’t know Bob, but if I am comfortable talking to that company – especially if I am otherwise engaged with them, I might have a conversation. Perhaps they’re inviting me to an event which I am interested in, or trying to get me signed up to a Webinar. They might also ask me lots of questions about projects I have ongoing.

Sometimes I get a little warning bell which twigs in the back of my mind – maybe I mention the infamous Brian who works at a related company and perhaps this bounces off Bob without any apparent knowledge. Perhaps I think “hang on – I’m already speaking to someone else from VendorX … why am I being invited to an introductory Webinar…again?

But then again, sometimes not – it’s only when I get an e-mail summary of the conversation and find out that actually, I’ve been talking to someone from a completely different company altogether!

I think this is a VERY dangerous practice, and here’s why.

Eroding Trust

The practice is not out-and-out dishonest but consider for a moment how it makes me feel as a customer when I find out retrospectively that I have been engaging with an unknown party under the false basis that they work for a company do know. This is especially critical when I may be encouraged to divulge at least limited information regarding the infrastructure I maintain and projects I have on the go. There is a real danger that the practice will erode the trust I have with otherwise very well regarded organisations. Whenever anyone new calls I’ll have to grill them and ensure that they DO work for whoever they say they work for – even when I have an established relationship with the company they say they’re calling from.

(Note the emphasis there – as an IT professional, clearly I have a responsibility to be cautious when giving out any information by default- but it’s really not in marketing interests to make customers even less likely to take sales calls!)

So, my advice is simple – Ensure that any 3rd party you outsource your customer engagement activities to has really firm rules of engagement – conversations must start by clearly state that the caller works with a partner company. If you intend them to illicit information, make any data protection arrangements clear to put the customer at ease and ensure they know where they stand and where the data will(not) go.

I should add on the occasions that I have flagged this with the Vendor or VAR, I have had a really positive outcome, so if you have similar concerns then raise them straight away.