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Active Demand Gen vs. Appointment Setting

aka “How to go from Vegas to Los Angeles by the longest possible route.”

This week, let’s dive in and take a look at another culprit muddying the water and leaving failure in its wake by masquerading as Demand Generation but only delivering the “Generation”, not the “Demand”. I’m talking about outsourced Appointment Setting. You probably have one in your neighborhood or in your office building. He’s easy to spot in his SL500 with the vanity plate “DuMND”. Let’s take a closer look at this group of vendors and determine if you need what they are offering.

Description of an Appointment Setting Campaign:


  • Single tiered / Broad approach that allows vendor to quickly/easily reach contracted deliverable.

Campaign Target:

  • Wide / Any market segment that might be receptive to the product/service.

Campaign Result:

  • The contracted number of hours, leads or appointments paid for.

Defined as delivering a Business “Commodity”

  • Merriam Webster: “good or service whose wide availability leads to smaller profit margins and diminishes the importance of factors other than price.”

There are many appointment setting providers to choose from

If you ever get an urge to watch paint dry, instead try an equally stimulating exercise. Put the term “Appointment Setting” into your browser and hit search. Then, go through each vendor’s website and try to find something that differentiates them from the 100s of competitors that provide the exact same product. Get comfortable because it could take days of analysis to go through the dozens of pages of results only to come to the sad conclusion that all “Appointment Setting” companies are created equal.

Appointment setting can provide value… sometimes

The reality is that making 200 cold calls a day to set appointments is an agonizing, mind numbing exercise that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Sales teams need appointments with qualified prospects and we’ve already determined that Passive Demand Gen won’t get the number of opportunities that a sales organization needs. Unfortunately, sales reps are highly skilled and highly paid. They’re closers and they are good at building value and closing sales. Those skills don’t help when making cold calls so having sales reps set their own appointments is a waste of time and a waste of talent. The flip side is that putting a sales rep in an appointment with a poorly vetted prospect from a questionable target market is also a waste of time and a waste of talent. Trick question… What do you get when you outsource a campaign to an “Appointment Setting” provider? The answer is in the name… you get “Appointments”.

Vendors that provide outsourced Appointment Setting come in 2 flavors:

  • Pay for Performance providers:
    • Charge a set amount for each appointment with a campaign objective of reaching a certain number of appointments and the
  • Hourly providers:
    • You pay a set amount / month and vendor guarantees delivery of a certain number of hours of calling. The hoped-for result of the hours of calling is scheduled appointments.

Disappointing results

Regardless, whether you are buying a quantity of appointments or a quantity of hours spent setting appointments, the result will always be appointments. These pricing models typically result in nearly the same cost per appointment and the same questionable quality. Whenever the objective is to hit a number (total appts, hours of calling, total leads… et al), the underlying current is always pushing for quantity, not quality.

Description of an Active Demand Generation Campaign


  • Multi-tiered / Highly customized to provide best result.

Campaign Target:

  • Narrow / Identified as providing the most value to the client.

Campaign Result:

  • Solves a specific challenge or accomplishes a specific business objective.

Defined as delivering a Business “Solution”

  • Merriam Webster: “something … used or done to deal with and end a problem: something that solves a problem”

Active Demand Generation (ADG) is specialized and difficult to perfect

If you repeat the earlier exercise but change your search string to “Active Demand Generation”, you will notice a far different result. While ADG delivers exponentially more value and actually provides a “solution” not a “commodity”, when approached incorrectly, the results will suffer, and production costs will spike. It’s not uncommon for Appointment Setting vendors to rake in 50% net profit by sticking with the status quo. ADG, while providing a better product for a client, could endanger big profits and that’s why the market will continue to see a very short list of Active Demand Generation vendors.

Active Demand Generation provides significant value… always

As stated before, sales teams need a steady flow of quality opportunities. The failure of Passive Demand Gen to deliver necessary quality is actually equaled by outsourced Appointments Setting’s failure to deliver quality. Active Demand Generation successfully delivers the quantity of opportunities needed while still meeting the level of quality expected. Obsessive focus on perfect delivery over multiple tiers insures that no delivered opportunity was built on a foundation of cut corners or lax quality control. Even better, ADG when perfected can even be brought in-house. An ADG consultant can work directly with any company or organization to cost effectively build out the precise approach, the infrastructure to deliver consistent results and even the training needed for the callers and the sales team on how to effectively extract the significant value present in every opportunity.

So now what?

It's ironic that we are nearly halfway through Q1 and many US companies are on track to miss their fiscal growth/earning objectives in 1 or more areas. Passive Demand Gen is like walking on a treadmill while carrying a sign advertising your product/service. To drive growth in 2018, the plan is to walk 1000 miles instead of the 750 miles you walked in 2017. Unfortunately, walking on a Passive DG treadmill will cost you 500 gallons of sweat and $1M in marketing spend but have no meaningful effect on hitting your fiscal year growth targets. Outsourced Appointment setting is like planning to walk from Las Vegas to Los Angeles by going through Mexico City, Seattle and Honolulu in that order. You’ll get there eventually but with a lot of wasted effort.

Active Demand Generation has the shortest, most reliable and most cost-effective path to success. Only ADG can drive significant growth across the board while staying within preset marketing budgets. The other options are to stay on the treadmill for another 4 months with a Passive approach or to build up a significant amount of frequent flyer miles with untargeted Appointment Setting vendors. Either way, don’t be surprised when your competition is an early adopter of Active Demand Generation and they start picking up significant market share while you’re chilling out with Don Ho in Hawaii…