The art of telemarketing attracted some unwanted attention last month. Eight Advantage Business Media titles were put on probation by auditor BPA Worldwide when it was discovered that some recorded telemarketing calls by an India-based vendor for controlled-circulation requests did not match the individuals noted in the records.
Advantage's inability to realize its telemarketing problem until a third-party auditor pointed it out underscores how publishers must still pay careful attention to their traditional telemarketing programs and their partners.
Ronda Hughes, audience development director at Advanstar Communications, said that b-to-b publishers are spending a significant portion of their budgets on telemarketing. Because of that, she said, telemarketing should be used more strategically by audience developers. Instead of simply using it as a way to update and receive demographic information, publishers should also take the opportunity to give their customers pertinent information.
“Having the ability to actually speak to your contacts or at least someone at a company of interest shouldn't be wasted,” she said, stressing that publishers should always give those at the other end of a telemarketing call something they will remember, such as a digital edition, e-newsletter or a simple thank-you confirmation with a Web link. “The opportunities here are endless,” she said.
ADS Global, a telemarketer that works with such companies as Advanstar Communications and Questex Media, finds itself sending out such materials for some publishers. “It's still a smaller number that are doing these kinds of things, but they really get how to use telemarketing in a new, creative way,” said Ron McKay, CEO of ADS.
While working in China for a publication that also wanted to distribute magazines, newsletters and other information digitally, ADS was tasked with a difficult mission: Qualify 10,000 names. In response, the telemarketer developed a method of capturing e-mail addresses and sending content while still on calls in order to ensure e-mail addresses worked. “This integration of the phone call with the capture of a reliable digital channel for communicating with subscribers has gradually become a key ingredient in international telemarketing programs in countries like China, India, and Japan covering a wide range of audience development,” McKay said.
Currently, as some magazines disappear or decide to go unaudited, telemarketers are also being forced to think creatively about the services they offer to attract more clients. Gloria Adams, senior VP-audience development and book publishing at PennWell Corp., said she has seen some of the new services. “Lead generation is the biggest one,” she said.
Randy Renner, VP-sales and marketing at Omeda, an integrated database management company, said he has also noticed that clients are using telemarketing more often to cross-promote products like newsletters or different magazines. “Same effort, but two different products,” he said. “More cost-efficient.”
Renner also pointed out that clients are spreading their promotions over several telemarketing companies. He proposed two theories to explain this trend: “First, the larger volumes can't always be handled by a single vendor in a time-critical manner,” he said. “And second, the variance in pricing has forced them to test the waters to see if the less-expensive firms can deliver the same quality of service.”
Hughes suggested publishers use telemarketing calls to research exactly how a particular marketplace likes to receive its content and what it would like to see in that content. Then, separate editions for different slices of the marketplace can be sent out. He also said publishers should set solid opt-in goals on digital products. “Opt-in goals should be just as important as the print-request goals circulators have been losing sleep over for decades,” she said, “and promo dollars need to be allocated accordingly.”
Once those objectives are set, Hughes said, the telemarketing company needs to be one that you can partner with and feel is selling your product, not just reading the same old script over and over again. “Strengthening each part of the product platform will give your publishers a huge competitive advantage,” she said. “E-mail addresses and opt-ins have become a publisher's most valuable and desired asset.”
Renner said that he has seen more clients turning to telemarketing to supplement their efforts on the Web. “Some clients who had never or occasionally used telemarketing are now more dependent upon it to keep their files up to date,” he said. “Certainly, very few clients use direct mail anymore, so telemarketing has become increasingly popular.”