When to use telemarketing
Telemarketing tends to be more effective for lower value products and services with high levels of customer relevance. The phone is not an ideal medium for introducing expensive or complex products or brand new concepts.
Making contact with your prospect
It may sound obvious but the best time to catch consumers at home on weekdays is between 5pm and 9pm. However, your hit rate on Friday evenings is likely to be low given that many people will be starting their weekend at the pub or the cinema.
Saturday between 10am and 3pm tends to be a good time to call, but beware Sundays, as people don't want to be pestered. Obviously, keep a record of people you may have called during previous campaigns and who indicated that, say, 6pm weekdays is a bad time because they are making dinner and supervising homework. Make the mistake of calling them again at what they have already indicated is a bad time and you will seriously blot your copybook.
In the business-to-business arena, clearly it's best to call between 9am and 5pm, generally on weekdays. Times to avoid are 12pm-2pm when executives are at lunch. And remember, with b2b calls there is generally an additional hurdle to clear: the so-called 'gatekeeper' (i.e. receptionist or personal assistant). For greater success, try to get hold of the prospect's name, as opposed to asking for 'the person responsible for...' – it will give your call greater credibility.
To outsource or not to outsource?
For many SMEs, outsourcing telemarketing campaigns will not be an option. It may be that the limited number of calls being made are short of a contact centre's entry level requirements (usually around 1,500 contacts per week, split between no fewer than five agents). Or it may be that outsourcing is deemed too expensive.
But if you do fulfil the entry level requirements it's worth bearing in mind that handing over a telemarketing campaign to a third party can have significant benefits. The contact centre is likely to work with a data partner that will be able to segment your contacts, resulting in higher success rates. It will also have the latest call telephony technology, such as automated call-back, meaning calls can be scheduled for a later date if the initial contact was not convenient for the prospect. Costs weigh in at around £17 per hour.
On the flip side, be aware that if you call volume requirements are small you are unlikely to be allocated dedicated staff, meaning satisfactory product or service knowledge may be lacking.
There are many clear benefits to telemarketing and any company not employing it as a sales and service media would be strongly advised to consider bringing it into the mix.
While often tempting, a gung-ho approach is not the way to go, though, and only those firms that take a sensitive and considered approach will reap rewards.
It's good to talk, but only – repeat only – if the person at the other end of the phone is open to your call.
The Telephone Preference Service: tel: 020 7291 3320, email: email@example.com, www.tpsonline.org.uk
The Direct Marketing Association: tel: 020 72913300 www.dma.org.uk
The Call Centre Association (for information on potential outsourcing partners): tel: 0141 564 9300, www.cca.org.uk
The Information Commissioner (for legal queries): 01625 545700, www.dataprotection.gov.uk/commissioner.htm
The Chartered Institute of Marketing: tel: 01628 427500, www.cmi.co.uk
This article was written by Tessa Kelly, director of compliance at the Direct Marketing Association UK.