A Telemarketing Primer
by Mechele Shoneman, Repaz Marketing
What is telemarketing?
From outbound appointment setting and account profiling to inbound data capture and customer service help lines, just about any sales activity that requires the use of a phone can be considered telemarketing. While prospecting and customer acquisition are often first to come to mind when discussing the use of call centers, customer satisfaction/retention and various other strategies round out the mix, providing countless opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell existing customers. Regardless of the type of calling effort being leveraged, the basis of all telemarketing thought stems from the desire to cultivate a relationship via personal interaction–interaction that is second only to a face-to-face encounter and an essential part of a robust marketing plan.
• Flexibility to adapt in real-time
• One-to-one relationship marketing in real-time
• Extremely targeted based on user criteria
• Multiple messages easily accommodated
• List/data sourcing
• Crafting compelling messaging
• Managing objections
• Locating talent
When to use:
• Building awareness
• Lead generation/follow-up
• Prequalification of leads
• Data capture/account profiling
• Customer satisfaction/retention/loyalty
How does it work?
As a marketing discipline, telemarketing is the only method that relies on human interaction and is both proactive and reactive in terms of managing response, i.e. a call center representative can adapt in real-time to outmaneuver an objection and/or engage an audience member in a different way based solely on his/her unique requirements. While telemarketing is extremely effective when leveraged for follow-up opportunities resulting from other marketing activities, it can also be very successful on its own–particularly when managing an existing customer base.
Different Varieties of Telemarketing
Telemarketing has many different–but closely related–applications, with a few of the most popular including:
Account Profiling: An effective way to learn more about customers and prospects alike, account profiling techniques enable the telemarketer to assess current and future needs for further marketing activity.
Appointment Setting/Lead Generation: Ranging from inbound activity resulting from prior/ongoing marketing initiatives to outbound follow-up and cold calling efforts, appointment setting/lead generation is considered a fairly common use of telemarketing prowess. Call center representatives either field incoming calls or dialing provided data records will attempt to prequalify leads and secure appointment opportunities for sales staff.
Customer Satisfaction/Retention: If your organization is like most, a substantial portion of your business comes from existing customers–and telemarketing can not only help you determine your customers’ current level of satisfaction and enhance service, but it may also uncover valuable cross-sell and up-sell opportunities within your customer database.
Customer Service/Helpdesk: While passive in nature and initiated by the customer, customer service is a vital component that should not be overlooked. By providing quality service and addressing customer needs in a timely fashion, you can significantly strengthen the customer/vendor relationship.
Promotions, Product/Service Launch, etc.:
Telemarketing is capable of generating awareness for special offers and/or new products/services through any combination of outbound calling efforts. From single to multi-wave programs, telemarketing can touch your customer/prospect database in a personal and effective way that will position your business for additional sales activity down the road.
A brief look at strategy…
Telemarketing offers a host of benefits not found in other closely associated mediums. As discussed, telemarketing enables the call center representative to connect with an audience member on a personal level and adapt the ensuing conversation to the ups and downs of a specific call; most importantly, telemarketing methods free up sales personnel to focus on making sales instead of qualifying them. It is important to note that telemarketing increases in value over time, as, depending on the product/service offered, a single sale may more than cover any costs associated with conducting one or more telemarketing campaigns.
Doing it Yourself vs. Outsourcing
While telemarketing may appear simple enough in theory, the practice is far more complicated than it seems. Even with substantial in-house resources available, telemarketing can be a costly endeavor with discouraging results, i.e. telemarketers are professionals trained to cope with caller objections and accurately capture vital information in a clear, concise, cost-effective manner. Outsourcing requires an investment in time (research, training, and general preparation such as script writing, etc.) and money, but dedicated, experienced call center professionals can remain focused on a program’s objective despite call difficulty and continue to gather information where non-professionals may fail.
Developing appropriate messaging and having a strong phone manner are essential to the success of any telemarketing campaign–but without clean, reliable data to solicit, that success will ultimately be limited. In the end, telemarketing is just another direct response method that requires the right audience more than anything else. While a targeted list is a critical starting point for any campaign, data must be uniformly formatted and processed to achieve the best possible results.
Today’s call centers make conducting telemarketing campaigns easy. When properly equipped, an automated call center relies on customized call screens for superior control of conversation and seamless data capture. Leads can be systematically qualified through a survey approach, with messaging then flawlessly delivered to prepare prospects/customers for follow-up sales contact from an appropriate sales representative.
Doing it Yourself: A few tips…
While a great way to increase sales productivity and reduce costs is to outsource telemarketing activities to a reputable call center, not everyone has the budget or is comfortable with such a concept. If in-house telemarketing seems more appropriate for your business, you should consider the following:
• Effective telemarketing begins with researching and analyzing your existing customers to determine common criteria. Once criteria have been developed, that information can serve as the model for prospect data records. If you plan on canvassing customer records and conducting a customer-oriented campaign, still be sure to standardize your list and how data will be captured.
• Make sure your script is airtight and includes flow scripts that allow your telemarketers to respond to objections, questions, etc.
• Environment is extremely important to telemarketing success. If conducting a campaign in-house, make sure to consider:
o Reliability of equipment
o How will data be captured?
o Who will develop the script?
o Is telemarketing the most cost-effective use of employee(s)?
o Adequate lighting
o Controlled temperature
o Comfort: Sit vs. stand, etc.?
• Think about when you would be most receptive to a call. In general, calls should not be scheduled for busy times of day or during the holidays.
When it comes to telemarketing, always keep in mind that human beings are your resource and that they must be comfortable to perform at optimum levels.
Lifecycles & Measuring Success
Much like any other direct marketing method, the thought process behind telemarketing is simple: to uncover business opportunity–to identify a need and address it in an effective manner. While business objectives and telemarketing’s ability to address such needs may vary, in general, telemarketing is most effective over time. As mentioned earlier, an ongoing investment in telemarketing may seem frivolous until positive results step in and negate upfront expenditures, i.e. depending on the industry, service, product and costs associated with your telemarketing initiative, one or two sales may be all it takes to provide a substantial return on investment.
To measure success in telemarketing, you must once again focus on time. Since all that is generally being gauged is a number of dials (calls placed or incoming) per hour in comparison with a desired objective, a higher hourly call rate coupled with greater success will ultimately yield a successful program. It is important to note that quality should never be sacrificed for quantity, and accelerated calling is not always the answer to achieving a reduced cost per call or higher return on investment. In fact, poorly conducted telemarketing can be damaging to relationships and even alienate existing customers.
Top Ten Telemarketing Do’s and Don’ts
1. Do practice and rehearse scripts
2. Do keep the message simple
3. Do be prepared to adapt as necessary
4. Do repeat valuable information in different ways
5. Do test different messages/styles
6. Do standardize all data prior to calling
7. Do store data in a centralized location
8. Do research to determine which call center(s) specializes in addressing your needs
9. Do consider outsourcing to multiple call centers to benchmark capabilities
10. Do visit call centers to check out technology and staff
1. Don’t stray from the script if at all possible
2. Don’t waste time
3. Don’t include too many details
4. Don’t neglect your customer list and focus solely on prospects
5. Don’t make calls during the summer or around holidays unless there is a specific reason to do so
6. Don’t focus on the size of a call center–instead focus on quality
7. Don’t think you can save money by negotiating hourly call center rates
8. Don’t outsource projects involving complicated/technical products
9. Don’t expect one wave of calling to accomplish all of your objectives
10. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas