Old School DRTV vs. New School DRTV: Response Channel Logistics

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Let's assume you've got a fantastic product with significant margins and no competitors. In the old school days you produced a DRTV spot, did a small media test, took telemarketing orders and hopefully rolled out. Right?

Well, you can still do this to prove you can make the phone ring, but today you're only half way there. Remember, in the new school DRTV there are numerous channels, instant competition, Web site considered purchasing and tons of data to paralyze the process.

To succeed, you need to be versed in setting up serious marketing operations and integrated logistics. While there are vendors to help, you need to understand the costs and economic inter-relationships, manage the execution and stay on top of the details.

One thing you can be certain of today is that minimizing these issues will break your program.

We call this group of tasks response channel logistics. Along with product offer, commercial creative, production and media buying, it is one of the critical components on which every DRTV platform stands.

Here's what response channel logistics encompasses: inbound phone services, live, IVR, high volume and specialized; offer specific order or lead capture Web site landing pages; conversion models and analytics by channel, creative and offer in terms of benchmarking, optimizing and scaling the campaign and customer service.

It also includes source tracking, reporting, optimization and analytics linking to media buying for phone and Web response by offer, creative, station, network, day and day-part; backend performance reporting for 1-step, 2-step sales in context of the customers life time value and retention; fulfillment, including materials and systems; payment processing and credit management and billing systems; and supply line including product sources, inventory and quality.

One could write a book on each of these, and there are quite a few out there. So obviously the limits of this column only allow for a few high-level comments. All of these facilitate making a sale or simply taking an order in a direct and measurable way.

Even though the Internet is rapidly replacing the phone as the consumer's choice for responding to DRTV. For example, we now see 30 percent to 70 percent of responses on the Web. The wrong choice of a telemarketing vendor will make or break your program. Choose carefully.

Most of the large service bureaus that are good at high volume campaigns do a less than satisfactory job with new, small tests and complicated selling processes. For an effective media test campaign across days, day-parts and stations and networks, you will need trained operators in seats 24/7, and enough of them to handle call-bursts. Calculate the numbers needed. Insist on extensive training; participate in it; and even pay extra if necessary.

Why waste media dollars sending calls to operators who cannot close your sales? Don't be afraid to use multiple vendor/partners. With today's technology you can easily allocate calls to different telemarketers and even route calls to operators with the highest close ratios. Test a boutique facility against a volume facility to understand the difference in conversions.

For some DRTV campaigns, even those taking credit card orders and doing upsells, we've seen automated call handling do better than live operators…and you don't have the training or bursting issues.

Many DRTV responders prefer the Web. URLs are as prevalent in TV commercials as 800 telephone numbers. In addition to convenience, there is no sales rep so it is easier for the consumer to say, "no" to upsells. Your Web site, preferably a micro-site with the same look and feel as your TV offer, must work hard to get a "yes."

Keep tweaking to close more sales. You can even do A/B testing to compare alternative sites by splitting traffic. And make sure you have a solid Web metrics system to provide data for analysis. Also, search volume on your product, company and related keywords will skyrocket with a meaningful DRTV spend.

We've seen 2,000 percent increases in Web and search traffic with modest spending. Based on Nielsen//NetRatings' recent Web ratings research, 43 percent of online searchers use the search box much like an address bar. Your share of this activity when allocated correctly could turn your DRTV campaign from breaking even into a winner.

With two response channels, phone and Internet, you must be able to track DRTV responses of both online and offline responders and relate them back to the media source that generated them. I am surprised how many people either mix DRTV responses into homogenous site visits, or try to allocate Web orders to their TV media plan using pure guesswork.

We have processed millions of DRTV orders or leads online, and correlated them to the specific commercial that caused them with about 95 percent accuracy. Without this kind of accuracy, one cannot effectively combine phone and Web source reports to determine winning and losing stations or creative to optimize media buys.

Finally, without getting into physical fulfillment, payment and customer service logistics, I want to point out a critical requirement for those with a lead generation or two-step sales models. Your DRTV leads need to be planned for the geographic capacity of your sales force.

Television casts a broad net. You must be able to separate quality prospects from window shoppers and train your sales people to recognize the difference. Even if your sales coverage is market-specific or has national peaks and valleys, DRTV can be effective with the proper media planning and lead distribution logistics.

Remember, TV leads must be followed-up up even quicker today with the Web creating instant competition fueled by search engine marketing.

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