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Talking telemarketing

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In a tough economy, there is one plus for audience marketers: Falling vendor prices Audience marketers have been fielding a barrage of calls from telemarketing service companies that have fallen on hard times and are looking to secure commitments from publishers. According to circulators, telemarketing prices have fallen as low as $18 an hour. That is down from prices in the $34-to-$36-an-hour range within the last two years. So what should circulators be expecting (and asking for) from telemarketers? First off: any sure sign that they'll be around in a year. “I suggest the publishing industry be careful how much they squeeze not only their telemarketing vendors but any of their vendors,” said Christine Oldenbrook, director of marketing and e-media at Bobit Business Media. “We want these suppliers to survive, but they won't if the vendors are doing price slashing just to survive another month or two.” Because of this, Ronda Hughes, audience development and show logistics director at Advanstar Communications, said that trust is the No. 1 consideration when dealing with a telemarketing company. “You are not only trusting these vendors with precious dollars from limited budgets but you are also trusting them with your files,” she said. Having such a trusting relationship leads to a true feeling of partnership. It is that solid relationship that should be the goal said Laura Wieringa, circulation manager at Allured Business Media. “Regardless of price, a telemarketing vendor should be the audience developer's partner in effectively (and cost-effectively) requalifying subscribers,” she said. Still, no matter how tight the partnership, there can be plenty of room for negotiation. Hughes noted that audience developers should always be looking for added value from a telemarketing company, such as the ability to send follow-up e-mail, offer voice messaging services or sort and organize files “so you can add on and rotate reader-survey questions,” she said. The most important added value, she said, “is anything a telemarketer can do to help increase my e-mail counts and collect opt-ins to my e-products,” she said. While getting people to start or renew a print subscription is the main telemarketing goal, Hughes said it is also important to get e-mail addresses and push e-newsletters, digital editions and e-alerts to potential subscribers. “Telemarketers should have the capability of instantly sending e-mail confirmations or "thank you for your subscription' e-mails to subscribers,” she said. Along with price, Barry Green, VP-circulation at Hearst Business Media, has a list of things he said circulators consider before signing on the dotted line: validity, list penetration, quality, speed, domestic or offshore, reports, updates, and electronic integration with fulfillment, demographics and e-mail gathering. Kim Clothier, director of audience development at FMA Communications, recently had her company partner with an advertiser to do some telemarketing. The call is being done either as a “new name” or a requalification subscription. “If the subscriber responds to a couple of questions with answers we've identified as his "target' the telemarketer is then asking additional, pointed questions specifically focused on this advertiser's need,” she said. Debbie Winders, VP-circulation at IDG's Enterprise Services Group, said vendors have been willing to lock into really low prices if she agreed to give them more volume. Still, audience developers need to be prepared for the time that prices swing back. Oldenbrook pointed out circulators will be dealing with a few hard questions from publishers if the telemarketing budget suddenly rises 30%. “It's a slippery slope,” she said. Hughes added that when comparing costs between potential vendors, it's important to “make certain that you factor in quality of work, honesty and overall customer service.” It might be worth it to pay more for a vendor that doesn't “blow smoke,” she said. M
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