Not too many people enjoy hearing from telemarketers, particularly when sitting down to dinner after a long day. One group, however, does have a certain fondness for those on the other end of the phone and that is audience developers.
As email response rates decrease due to oversaturation, information gathered by telemarketers continues strong. “If we don't regulate telemarketing out of existence, it will always be a valid force to use in subscription renewals,” said Jeffrey Kee- ten, circulation manager at High Plains Journal, an agricultural publication. “Telemarketing is about 20% of our renewal business, and I would hate to have to go out and replace it.”
Christine Oldenbrook, VP-audience development and publisher at United Business Media's Journal of Commerce, doesn't see telemarketing going away but instead being used differently. “I see us asking for additional services like pre- and post-call emails; more surveys; and immediate follow-up customer service calls when someone signs up for a trial,” she said.
High Plains Journal uses telemarketing almost exclusively for subscription offers, Keeten said, with occasional advertiser surveys on whether a subscriber saw their ad in the Journal and their reaction.
The Journal of Commerce, on the other hand—which has a paid membership—uses telemarketing mostly for renewals, trial/credit accounts and new-member sourcing, said Oldenbrook.
Emelda Barea, VP-circulation and distribution at Jobson Healthcare Information, also sees telemarketing as a still-strong source of renewals, but points to the need for creativity in order to reach customers. Effective strategies should include scheduling callbacks for unavailable call recipients as well as calling on weekends to reach a particular audience. “We use about four or five telemarketers at the same time for our campaigns. The turnaround time is quick, and you can easily see and calculate progress.”
At Bobit Business Media, the focus on telemarketing “has shifted from a "last resort' view [of] just looking for the least expensive cost-per-complete toward really enhancing audience data,” said Tony Napo-leone, senior audience marketing manager. “We look for partners that are constantly striving to improve the products they offer, and we proactively encourage cross-promotions and other enhanced features and services.”
BPA Worldwide also jumped on the teledata bandwagon in 2008 by requiring all its audited publications to record outgoing telemarketing, said Richard Murphy, senior VP-auditing at BPA. While there were some initial concerns that subscribers didn't want to be recorded, he noted it hasn't been an issue so far.
“The telemarketing recording request has met all objectives,” Murphy said. “We've increased the quality of the calls, the requests and the audit. Media buyers, so impressed with the move, advised they no longer needed to see telemarketing broken out separately from written and electronic requests.”
Kim Clothier, director of audience development at FMA Communications, said that telemarketing use has gone up for her and other circulators as response rates have gone down in other categories, including email. She said that while there have always been “shady” telemarketing companies, even the good ones have benefited from the recording rule by helping them identify “quality gaps” that needed to be fixed.
High Plains Journal's Keeten agreed that the recording rule is a great asset in protecting all parties involved. “When we get orders from our telemarketing firm and later get a complaint from a customer [claiming] they didn't order a subscription, it's reassuring that we can go back to the tapes,” he said. (The culprit is usually the complainer's spouse, who may have ordered the magazine without telling his or her partner.)