Permission Is Key to Telemarketing Future

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PALM BEACH, FL -- The future of telemarketing belongs to those who embrace the principles of permission marketing, teleservices veteran Jon Hamilton said yesterday at the annual DMA Teleservices Conference here at The Breakers Hotel.

An exemption in the national no-call law allows marketers to call consumers who have given them express permission to call, even if they are on the no-call list. Convincing consumers to give express permission will be the key challenge for telemarketers in the future, said Hamilton, who is now CEO of Authtel Permission Solutions.

Consumer anger that led to the launch of the no-call list was sparked by a sense that they have lost control of the telephones because of excessive volumes of telemarketing, he said. Practicing permission marketing gives them back that control.

However, telemarketers must be careful to avoid the pitfalls encountered by e-mail marketers in permission marketing, Hamilton said. One thing e-mail marketers did wrong was get blanket e-mail permission from consumers -- who likely didn't understand the terms of the permission agreement -- then sold those lists for marketing purposes beyond what consumers anticipated.

Making permission marketing work in telemarketing also means giving consumers something of value in exchange for the right to call, he said. Full disclosure of the purpose and nature of the telemarketing calls to which the consumer agrees is essential, and telemarketers must take care to abide by promises they make.

"A lot of telemarketing today, there's no value proposition," Hamilton said. "It's a lot of words to try to talk somebody into buying something."

While telemarketers can't call consumers on the no-call list for permission, they can send them mail. One example put forth by Hamilton was that of an automotive insurance firm sending customers a CD with road map software. The first time a user uses the software, they are asked if they it would OK to call them. However, the consumer would be able to specify how many calls they permit and at what times they would allow the calls to be placed.

The consumer gets to keep the CD regardless of whether they give permission to call. The offer gives the consumer a free gift and a value proposition in that they are promised an opportunity to save on their car insurance if they agree to the call, Hamilton said.

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