Don't Miss the Inbound Opportunity

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NEW YORK - Because rising media costs have made it more difficult for DRTV marketers to efficiently generate sales leads, inbound telemarketing has become an essential component of an effective DRTV campaign. Unfortunately, this essential component is too often neglected.


That was one of several points emphasized at the DRTV Lead Generation Summit on Nov. 3, as direct marketers, agencies and telemarketers met here to discuss DRTV's role in selling everything from packaged goods to auto insurance.


"You have to make sure that you're getting the most from your telemarketing," said Ellen Ryan, senior vice president and director of the telemarketing management group at Wunderman Cato Johnson, New York. "If a telemarketing sales rep is misinformed or ill-prepared to handle a customer call, it can destroy the equity of a brand."


She was one of several panelists who emphasized the importance of maximizing the opportunity of having a potential customer on the phone. She cited last year's marketing launch of Xerox Corp.'s line of digital copiers, which included a DRTV campaign to generate leads for Xerox's sales force. Inbound telemarketing was crucial in determining whether a sales lead was "hot," which meant immediate attention from a sales rep, or "cold," which meant a longer follow-up period.


Xerox decided to include a DRTV component in its marketing mix because it wanted to build a database of purchase-decisionmakers. Those decisionmakers were difficult to define, though, because the new digital copiers could be upgraded to connect to computer networks, which meant that a company's management information systems department could also be included in the purchase decision. Airing a DRTV spot that included an offer for a free demonstration video was one way to cast a wide net for potential buyers.


"We classified the leads as 'hot' or 'cold' and made sure that the hot leads were fulfilled within 24 hours," said Carl Fremont, senior vice president and director of media services at Wunderman Cato Johnson. "The cold leads were also sent a free video, followed by an outbound call 10 to 15 days later."


Although he declined to disclose specific results of the campaign, he said that awareness for the product was 30 percent above projected and that the cost per lead rate was lower than expected. About five percent of its sales leads were generated by outbound telemarketing support.


Both Ryan and Fremont emphasized a "closed-loop" sales effort, which included a step to follow up with the sales force and understand what kind of feedback it was receiving from potential leads. That information was considered important in making refinements to the Xerox campaign.


"Follow-up should not be an afterthought, but too often it is," Ryan said. "It's important to have proactive sales support."


[subhed] Hone the Message


The advantage of direct marketing over other marketing methods has always been its ability to track response and eliminate inefficiencies, which may include burdensome telemarketing costs. One telemarketing representative recommended that a DRTV spot be very definite in purpose to avoid unwanted calls from people who are not in a targeted market.


"I want to erase 'cost per lead' as a benchmark," said George W. Smith, senior vice president of West Teleservices Corp., headquartered in Omaha, NE. "It's much more meaningful to look at 'cost per converted lead'." As a hypothetical example, he said it meant nothing if Xerox spent $1,000 to air a sport on MTV Music Television and generated 1,000 calls, none of which led to an actual sale.


He said it was important not only to hone the marketing message, but to persistently track each DRTV spot airing to see which ones performed best. To do that, he recommended marketers tag each spot with a separate toll-free number - a practice that is recognized by DRTV purists who measure success with the unforgiving "cost per order" benchmark, but ignored by brand managers who measure success with fuzzier market awareness studies conducted after a campaign.


"Every media exposure is a separate business," Smith said. "If you don't trace each spot, how do you know which ones are working for you?"


As far as ensuring the message of a DRTV spot is focused, Sandy Stern, executive creative director at A. Eicoff & Co., Chicago, addressed that issue in a separate panel discussion on DRTV healthcare marketing. She showed several DRTV spots for healthcare products, including one for Eicoff client Liberty Medical, which markets products for diabetics. Its spot clearly identifies the target audience in the first 10 seconds: diabetic, eligible for Medicare, more than 65 years old.


"It's very important to be clear about the subject matter," Stern said. "Emphasize what the product is actually going to do and who can benefit from it."


That point was echoed by Bill McCabe, managing director of Eicoff DirectHealth: "Anybody can make the phone ring if you show the 800 number enough or say the word 'free' enough. What's more important is to make your target audience prepared and ready to order. You have to keep costs down to make this business work, and one cost is telemarketing."
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