Outsourcing or In-House

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A few years back, DM News International carried this extraordinary quote: "Where you may want to use a service bureau is in the making of programs. They already have a pool of talent and are a way you can get good results. And you don't have to pollute your offices with a telemarketing department." Pollute! I can't recall a stronger verb applied to a legitimate business practice.

The person who said this, a European publisher, has it all wrong. The adage about "a place for everything" holds true when considering whether to establish and conduct phone-based marketing in-house or to outsource the function. Here is how to make a wise, defensible and operationally sound and profitable business-to-business choice:

These business factors call for an in-house strategy:

· Full account management. Even if someone else could "manage" your accounts, you would not want them to.

· Combined marketing-sales contact teams. Team members have to wear the same uniform.

· Customers who expect in-depth content knowledge and business process skills. The effort, energy and investment you make in educating your marketers should return value to your customers and to you, not to rented callers.

· Reps who need the business prerogatives and authority to plan and execute the next step in marketing or selling.

· You need multi-call and/or inbound-outbound continuity with the same rep. It is harder to get dedicated reps when they do not work for you.

· Frequent conference calls among marketing, sales, prospects and customers.

· Complex, rapid changes in your marketplace and your product/service offerings.

Consider outsourcing when these factors are at play:

· General or universal messages and campaigns.

· Consistent, easily learned communications over time and among accounts.

· List validation.

· Leads pre-qualification with limited criteria.

· Sudden volume of inbound response or outbound notifications, as for product recalls.

· Events promotion and registration.

· Order acceptance.

If you outsource, ensure that:

· The service bureau does not staff-to-forecast; rather, they forecast-to-staff. If the former, their "stable" of callers and the callers' quality will fluctuate widely. Also, their management will spend more time recruiting and interviewing than attending to your project. Forecast-to-staff generally yields a more dependable group of permanent callers, meaning a greater likelihood of continuity and success for your campaigns.

· They have not more than 30 percent temporary callers. You need to know who is calling on your behalf at all times and that they are trained and competent to do so.

· Their focus matches your need: stand-alone campaigns or sustained opportunity development.

· Their labor market, education and turnover rates will support the right types and levels of calls to the kind of people you need to reach. For example, do not accept recent high school graduates to contact your C-level prospects.

· They can prove their experience calling prospects and customers whose profiles match those in your market sector. They have audio recordings of real calls and will let you listen to them.

· They apply valid BTB practices and metrics, not business to consumer. There is a huge difference.

· Their technology is compatible with yours.

· You can monitor calls from anywhere on the planet.

· Their customers' customers say good things about the calls they received.

If you do it in-house:

· Establish and run the unit at parity with other elements of the marketing and sales mix, including field sales.

· Ensure the phone team is "woven in" to your customer acquisition and retention strategy, not preliminary or separate from it.

· Grant first-class citizenship and participation in all relevant marketing and sales events.

· Conduct phone marketing by account groups or opportunity segments rather than by geography.

· Run it not as a cost center, but as a profit center!


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