Lead Nurturing: Interview With Dan McDade of PointClear

PointClear runs a different kind of outbound calling service, wherein it focuses on lead nurturing on the assumption that enterprise buyer behavior requires time and multiple touches.  I’ve known Dan McDade, Pointclear’s founder and CEO for a number of years and think that his background in the database marketing and mail order business gives him special insights into the enterprise sales process.

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Transcript

Hugh: Dan, great to take some time with you. It’s nice of you to take some time to talk with us.   I want to ask you a few questions about who you are, and what you do.  Could we start out with a simple one, and that is, tell us about your background?  What have you been up to, where do you come from, and what do you do?

Dan: Thanks, it’s great to see you, too.  Well, the way I like to say it, I’ve spent ten years in the retail business, and ten years in the direct mail marketing catalog business.  And now the about last 20 years in B2B marketing.  So I do have a background, one of my happiest times was getting out of the retail business and into the direct mail catalog business because my feet were sore working in retail all the time. That’s what’s been keeping me busy.  Like I said, for the last 20 years I’ve been involved in B2B marketing, primarily in technology business services and healthcare.

Hugh: Very interesting.  You and I have known each other a number of years.  I know something about what you do, today which we’ll hear more about in a minute, but tell me about some of, in that experience, what were some of the formative experiences for you?  I mean, how did your previous experience inform you to do B2B marketing that you do now?

Dan: Sure, and I’ll give you just a couple examples.  You know back when I turned 16, I got a job at a garden center, and the owner of that garden center said, ”The most important thing for me is that you treat each and every customer as they were your best and only customer of the day.“  They were really insistent upon that, and they built a huge business.  When I transitioned into the direct mail marketing catalog business, I attended a lot of D&A conferences and I remember this guy who was very famous in the list industry.  It was, as I recall, family folks, and they were sort of the Mafia of the list business.  He said that one time he was standing on the street corner and somebody drove by in a Cadillac and said, “Where’s such and such”, a store or something.   He said, “You go down there and make a right turn. It’s two doors down on your right, and the guy flipped him a buck, and said thanks and drove on.  So another guy comes by in a Cadillac and says, “Hey where’s such and such?”  Same thing, and he got another dollar, and he said that’s when he realized that he could sell the same name over and over and over again and make money.

So that was the origin of a list business, as told by the Carl family.  I always thought it was a great story, and  from the stand point of lessons learned, I remember, and this is kind of a funny thing to say, because it was actually after spending six or seven years with another company and then two or three years being the owner of my own company.  The one about the clients… did an analysis and they said, “Do you know that the opportunities that your company creates for us are the least expensive opportunities of any we create.”  Historically, we had always looked at what we did as very high quality, but perhaps a little more expensive than some of the opportunities that they might look at, but in reality with one exception, and that was there Queen Elizabeth II voyages that they used to sell.  Our leads were the least expensive leads that they could acquire and they felt that they were very good quality.  So that was really a learning experience for me to understand where we should be positioning ourselves, and how confident we should be in the value we provide.

Hugh: That’s great, and today you’ve been running Point Clear for a number of years.  Tell us about PointClear. What do you do?

Dan: Well, we’re the prospect development company, and I always say that there’s a lot of mediocrity in the so-called telemarketing and lead generation business today, but we kind of take the high-end position.  Handling everything from response management, to lead generation, and qualification as well, as well as lead nurturing.  Really, there are things that we do that are a little bit different.  One is a much more strategic approach to planning.  People say that our program plans are really second to none.  In fact, many of them use them as internal training documents.  The second is the level of our staff.  It’s amazing, we just had a company meeting yesterday, and the average tenure of one of our prospect development associates is 4.7 years, which is really unheard of.  The average age is 42, all with four year college degrees.  So we have a very, very senior staff and a very experienced staff.

Then the processes which are multi-touch, multi-media, multi-cycle processes.  It’s not about kind of a silver tongued devil making a one call close or…   In an interview that I was just doing a few minutes ago, we’re not about calling up and saying, “Hey, can we schedule 30 minutes for you to offer a solution.  It’s really more uncovering need.  You might look at it as a combination of solution selling, spin selling, even some Miller-Hanna and blue sheeting that we do.  Some of these things are timeless, some of these things still work.  We basically use this again, what we call multi-touch, multi-media, multi-cycle processes to help clients multiply their results.

Hugh: That’s really interesting.  In fact, that segues into my next and second to last question.  How have you seen the lead generation and kind of lead nurturing business change over the last ten years?   What are some of the shifts you’ve seen?

Dan: Well, it’s interesting.  We’ve actual published a statistic, and the statistic is the lead rate, over the last 12 years now, actually in comparison to the GDP, and what we find is that the very short-term lead rate hasn’t changed an awful lot.  The long-term lead rate does seem to fluctuate with the economy, but one of the things that we find is that while on one hand there are all these tools, and all this information available.  Both to the buyer and as well as to sellers, and there’s certainly, you know some great tools.  For example, marketing automation that are available to help automate the process of staying in touch with prospects and even clients.  The downside is you don’t want to treat these like black boxes, and I think that one of the big changes is you find people in marketing that kind of beat down, if you will, and sort of tired of the beatings that occur because it’s been very difficult to identify an ROI or a Romney [SP] coming out of marketing investment.  So they go after what I call, kind of snake oil solutions and kind of take the easy way out.  One of the changes is, is there’s so much dependence now on technology that I think kind of people have gotten out of the way of the process and I think that’s a big mistake.  At the same time, we’re huge technology users.  We have marketing automation, we use CRM, we have all the tools that are available, but it’s just a matter of using them intelligently and in balance as opposed to going too far in the wrong direction.

Hugh: That makes sense, and I guess my last question for you is how have things stayed the same?  You’ve kind of alluded to it. Talk to us a little bit more about that?

Dan: Well, I think remember that people still buy from people.  There still is a sales process and one of the things that I think companies do and, of course, there are companies that will say, 70% of the buying process is done before a sales rep needs to get involved, because people are looking at websites.  The problem that I find is, is that if you find yourself responding to RFP’s, as an example.  If you find yourself only reaching out to executives, when they, what I call hit the right bumpers and scored enough points, you might find yourself late in the evaluation.  There’s nothing like getting yourself positioned in front of the right contacts at the right companies at the right time, and staying in front of them over a period of time.  So that you’re short listed into the evaluation as opposed to simply being column fodder at the end of an evaluation.

So what I find is that people haven’t changed that much.  They’re busy, they get a lot of emails, there’s a frantic pace.  It’s very difficult these days to crack through and get through the clutter, but in the end, business executives, particularly senior executives, are very responsive to an intelligent approach where they think that they are going to learn something, and maybe find out how you’ve done something 50, or 60 times, or 100 times that they’re only trying to do once, and how can you help them.   So I think that, that part of it is extremely important to remember.

Hugh: Yes, that’s interesting. That makes a lot of sense.  Well, Dan, I wanted to just take a few minutes with you to kind of introduce you to my audience, and I appreciate you taking the time with us.  Thanks so much.

Dan: Well, thank you. It’s been great to talk with you again. So good to see you again.  Hope we do it again soon.

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