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Monday, April 20, 2009

For many companies, data is often an after-thought when planning a telemarketing campaign.

If you think that you can pull out a file that's sat on a PC for a couple of years, dust it down and off we go - think again.

Data is a key element in the success or failure of any telemarketing or telesales campaign. Telemarketing is a high-cost marketing medium, so it's critical that you give yourself the best possible chance by investing in good data.

When it comes to data, the best way to think about it is whether you should "build" or "buy".

"Build" means researching online and creating a bespoke database for specific companies. "Buy" means, well just that - buying (or more accurately renting) data from a list-broker or data provider.

Here's some things to consider:

1) Cost - building bespoke databases costs more than buying your data. However, if it means that you have a highly targeted list then you'll save time (and money) actually contacting the list.

2) Job title - if you need to reach a specific job title or area of responsibility within an organisation, you may not always be able to buy that data. Some data providers will supply contact names at a very granular level within all main functions. However, if you need to reach a very niche job title you may have to research it or try the approach in point 3 below.

3) Buy & Qualify - sometime a good approach is to buy data with an entry point and then use that contact to qualify and find the correct one. This works well where you're hunting for someone with a specific area of responsibility rather than a clearly defined job title. Typically you'd go for a more senior contact within the desired function and get referred to the right person.

4) Trigger Events - if your ideal prospect is best identified by specific circumstances that are happening within their organisation, such as mergers or acquisitions, you can subscribe to lists that will update you every month with new prospects. Other trigger events can include new appointments, people leaving, or new product announcements.

Essentially, the more niche your market the more value you'll get by investing highly targeted lists. If you have a much broader proposition, then it's often more cost-effective to buy more generic data and qualify by phone during the campaign.

Either way, the data you use will have a great impact on the results you get.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 4:58 pm |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Monday, April 13, 2009

I've noticed a few telemarketing companies have started to brand themselves as an "ethical telemarketing company".

As soon as I saw that I just knew that we're in trouble :-)

I mean, how bad has an industry got to get before your main point of differentiation is that you're "ethical".

Maybe I'm old fashioned but I start from the principal that you should be ethical in business full-stop, not just for the purpose of marketing spin.

It's not just telemarketing either. I recently read a report that said many players in the email marketing business have started to position themselves as the "best practice" specialists.

Best practice? Surely applying best practice should be a fundamental principal of any marketing agency?

Of course, what we're seeing here is what happens to any marketing medium that gets abused.

Go on YouTube and search for telemarketing and you'll see hundreds of videos showing recordings of idiot telemarketers being abused by the general public (all good fun). In B2C telemarketing they effectively broke their own market by over-use, to the point that they are now locked out by TPS and "Do Not Call" registers.

Email's going the same way. If the latest advances in anti-SPAM software doesn't kill it then you can bet some legislation is heading our way.

Can you remember when faxes came out? You'd get into the office in the morning and there'd be a mile of fax paper on the floor. That's why we got the FPS.

Direct marketers love cheap a marketing medium.

Getting back to the point about "ethical telemarketing", to me, I think it's just marketing spin.

There are good and bad companies in any industry. Over time, the good ones grow and the bad ones disappear. Telemarketing, as with email marketing, is one of those areas that is in demand and can be set up with very little overhead (just a phone in the case of telemarketing).

There are clear regulations which should be adhered to in different markets (such as the CTPS register in business-to-business) and I would suggest that most (if not all) telemarketing agencies already do that.

Despite all what I've said about abuse of cheap medium, there will still be a place for telemarketing or telesales. It'll be niche, highly targeted, and integrated with a multi-channel approach that links opt-in lists, email and other web services, but there'll still be a need to speak with prospects.

Can you remember "junk mail"? How much mail do you get through the post now? But guess what, there are still plenty of B2B DM agencies pulling good responses with highly targeted and personalised campaigns.

At the end of the day, ethics are more about the people you're dealing with. And the people who are making the calls on behalf of your company.

Personally, in my experience, when someone feels that they need to tell you they're ethical - it usually means that they're not.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 8:08 am |  2 comments  | Links to this post  

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Monday, April 06, 2009

I must admit, I'm not a purist about this one.

For many people "Telemarketing" and "Telesales" are inter-changeable descriptions for the role of sales lead generation and appointment setting.

I suppose, strictly speaking, you could describe them as:

- conducting marketing research, surveys, data-cleaning and generating marketing leads by telephone.

Telesales - actually closing business over the phone.

These are two extremes with telemarketing being the softer end of the spectrum and telesales being the sharper end (we clearly see ourselves at as the latter)

However, I've found that when most people are talking about "telesales" they're thinking about someone who's making calls to either generate leads or set up sales appointments.

Essentially, telemarketing and telesales are both seen as part of the sales process.

Interestingly, Wikipedia currently describes Telemarketing as follows:

Telemarketing (known as telesales in the UK and Ireland) is a method of direct marketing in which a salesperson solicits to prospective customers to buy products or services, either over the phone or through a subsequent face to face or Web conferencing appointment scheduled during the call.

I thought the "known as telesales in the UK and Ireland" was interesting.

Certainly, I know a number of US based "telemarketers" who would always consider themselves salespeople, so maybe Wikipedia's got that one right.

Either way, whether it's telemarketing or telesales, it's always about the same thing - opening doors and closing deals.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 6:54 pm |  1 comments  | Links to this post  

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Script or no script? That is one question that I think divides opinions about telemarketing.

If you've read my blog before then it'll be no surprise that I come down firmly on the "No Script" side (see my post "Stop reading & start listening!" as an example).

But there's still a lot of people out there who will tell you that to be successful with telemarketing you need a "killer script". Just google "telemarketing script" and you'll find plenty of people hawking that holy grail.

There are a number of sales trainers that I agree with on almost every aspect of cold calling and prospecting but when it comes down to scripts I just don't buy it.

The thing is, I've never met a seasoned telemarketing professional who actually uses a script.

If you're working with telemarketers in a traditional call-centre (where they've been dragged off the street, sat down in front of a phone and told to start dialling) then a script is probably necessary. For anyone new to telemarketing in fact, it's probably a good starting point as it gives you an idea of the structure of a call. But that's all it should be, a starting point.

Because, if you've ever received a call from someone reading a telemarketing script - I don't need to tell you why they just don't work.

The reality is that anyone who's been prospecting/telemarketing for any length of time (and all our people have at least 10 years cold-calling experience) will tell you that they don't use a script.

However, that doesn't mean that they don't know what they're going to say.

All telemarketing pros start each call with a plan of what they want to get out of it. They've done their homework before they pick up the phone so they understand exactly what they're calling about.

At Maine Associates, we work through a client briefing process so that our people can understand your business, learn the key messaging and positioning and prepare themselves for the campaign.

They'll typically have notes tagged to their monitor or stuck on the wall in front of them; they'll create a cheat-sheet with key points and messages on it. All this preparation means that when they actually speak with a prospect they know exactly what they want to say.

This frees them up to focus on the real job in hand, which is their call plan.

A telemarketing call is just a conversation. And if you know what you want out of the conversation (your call plan) then you don't need to read a script.

You can boil down any telemarketing call to just three steps: get their attention, tell them why you're calling and then ask them for what you want.

I've read many telemarketing scripts and they really do boil down to these basic steps. Sure, they'll be padded with lots of conditional branching, etc but they all follow a similar format. Most telemarketing companies that prepare a script just pull out a boiler-plate and drop in the company name and a copy of "what they do" pulled from a the client's website.

The other thing about each call being a conversation is that there will be a number of questions back and forth. Questions are essentially about qualification; the telemarketer's asking questions to qualify the prospect and the prospect is asking questions to understand if it's of interest.

Which is why you need to really know your stuff, rather than just read it off a script. No amount of branches in a script with cover every twist and turn of a live conversation.

And here's something that every seasoned telemarketer will tell you. After a while (which could be after a few hours or a few days) gradually a "pitch" evolves.

Now, to be clear, a pitch is not a script.

A pitch is basically an approach, an angle, that the telemarketer has found works for them. Two telemarketers could have a completely different pitch and still get results. That's because a pitch is something that comes from within.

When you know your subject matter, know what you want to get out of the call, and have spoken with a number of prospects, a pitch just starts to come together. You begin to notice the words that hit home and start to find a way around the common objections.

All good telemarketing professionals instinctively know when they've got their pitch.

Now, of course, the script brigade will you you that you write down your pitch and then you've got a script to hand over to someone else. But, for me, that's missing the point (plus I still don't think it would work).

Probably one of the main reasons I don't like scripts is that they take away a persons natural talent. It de-humanises the process (both for the telemarketer and their prospect)

I've found that the reason people insist on telemarketers reading their scripts is because they just don't trust them.

In my experience, marketers are the most guilty of this; they usually think that they can write the script best as they know how to write copy. Guess what, a telemarketing call isn't a prospect listening to someone reading sales copy at them.

Telemarketing is all about people.

Teach your people about your business, your value proposition and what qualifies as a lead and then let them get on with it.

By all means, monitor the results early on to speed up learning and help refine the pitch (we have regular conference calls during the first few weeks of any campaign) but, if you're working with experienced telemarketing professionals, trust that they know what they're doing and will develop their own way of making it work.

In the end, you only use a script if you (or your telemarketing company) don't trust the people making the calls.

And if you don't trust them, do you really want them calling your potential clients or customers?

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Posted by: David Regler @ 6:33 pm |  2 comments  | Links to this post  

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