Tailor Call Centers for Radio Response

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When Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh read an advertiser's spot, they often tell their listeners, "Call now." Not surprisingly, thousands of daily listeners do call. Responsive callers are a natural byproduct of radio talk show call-ins and contest lines.


Many direct marketers have made direct response radio work, yet success can be enjoyed only by those who know how to properly drive - and handle - radio callers.


Veteran direct response radio marketers and call center managers share a common knowledge: Radio listeners are the most qualified leads who call to order. Radio listeners make daily appointments to hear their favorite talk show hosts, music disc jockeys and radio ministers. When those trusted personalities read copy, there is an inherent, instant credibility attached to the offer, convincing the listener, "If it's good enough for Howard Stern/Rick Dees/Rush Limbaugh/fill-in-your-favorite-host-here, it's good enough for me."


Moreover, people turn to specific formats - news, talk, sports, religious - for trusted information. Spots heard within the context of this information are often received with more credibility than advertisements placed in more lighthearted venues. Finally, consider that the best-written direct response radio ads can still feature the telephone number only two or three times during a 60-second spot. Likewise, the caller never has a "visual impression" of the number. Most likely, listeners will seek the nearest pen and paper, all the while repeating the phone number multiple times to memorize it.


This said, most radio-driven callers not only can be closed but also more successfully upsold. Steve Pittendrigh of The Aftermarket Co. in Phoenix has had clients where offers were seemingly limitless. As long as the upsells and cross-sells have logical flow from the on-air offer, average tickets from $100 to more than $300 per radio caller are quite common. The first step, Pittendrigh said, is to remember that creative motivates the call - and once you understand why a person will be calling, only then can you build an effective inbound script.


Copy is one of the two most crucial elements to creating successful radio callers. The words, "Have your credit card ready to order now," make a big difference in shorter call times and higher close ratios. "The goal of your spot is to make the phone ring - not to be funny, clever or silly," said Mark Lipsky, president of Radio Direct Response, Media, PA. You also cannot communicate 30 benefits in one spot. Instead, create a sense of urgency based on the key benefit of the offer. Of course, give out the phone number enough times (usually at least three) until people remember it.


The key benefit gets the attention, but you still must build confidence in the offer to convert the caller. You do not have visuals, so you must describe the offer in greater detail. Among the most common concerns that Dean Villella, chief information officer and director of inbound communications at MPC Call Centers, New York, has heard from his radio-driven callers are safety, legitimacy, risk factor (notably the option to return and money-back guarantees) and specific components of the product. The more of these you address in your copy, the greater your closing ratio.


When creating help/offer information menus for your agents, make sure you get the product details (ingredients, safety features and unique needs) ahead of time - and listen to your representatives if they say that customers continue to express objections for which you have not accounted.


Both radio marketer and call center management must be on the same page when training for direct response radio customers. Make sure your reps hear the radio spot ahead of time, or at least have the copy nearby. Have the reps examine and use a product sample during training. Carla Curran, president of O'Currance Marketing Communications Services, Salt Lake City, said it makes a big difference in converting radio callers when the rep can offer personal testimonials. She also encourages sales commissions to the agents to build excitement for converting upsells and high-ticket items.


Furthermore, you are buying radio as a targeted medium. The marketer already knows the gender and age demographics of most of its callers ahead of time (stations will be bought specifically to target men 40 and older, women 18 to 49, etc.). It pays to have your initial calls routed to reps to whom the callers are more likely to relate. Older male reps should handle the majority of offers from males older than 30, while young women should take the women 18 to 34 targeted offers.


Do not worry about call lengths. The average successful campaign yields call lengths of only two to four minutes. This includes not just close, but an average of two related upsells and one cross-sell, club-type offer. Remember, the job of the radio personalities is to drive some of your best-qualified customers. However, it is still your job to properly cultivate and secure them.


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