Branch Scripting Leads to Successful Up-Selling

Our goal in direct response TV marketing has changed in the last few years as media costs have risen. The early days of high-call volume and low cost-per-order rates have faded; the struggle to make programs work has become our major focus.

We use new incentives, test different prices, different payment plans and create different features, among other strategies. But we rarely spend enough time on our inbound call flow, performance testing or maximizing conversions.

A lesson we learned by developing marketing programs in foreign countries, as many companies have done, is that all customers want the same thing–but need different incentives. One of the most exciting inbound telemarketing script techniques we use is “branching.”

Branch scripting is a system of predictive paths for specific responses to inbound prompts. In other words, the offers we present to a customer are determined by their responses; it's a simple way to offer a customer something they are interested in.

This methodology is important to DRTV marketers, since the conversions can increase dramatically while the kinds of up-sells will become more positive to the customer. These techniques have revolutionized the up-sell programs for many domestic and international companies from a variety of industries.

Necessity of Up-selling

Up-sells have become a necessity in the DRTV industry. They increase the allowable rates for media, increase profitability and may make it possible for a DRTV marketer to remain on the air.

The sad truth is that many up-sell opportunities are wasted because telemarketers are not scripted to ask callers the right questions. Some marketers up-sell without regard to logic; others up-sell without thinking of the customer's mindset at the time of the purchase. In many cases, marketers simply offer too many up-sells. To create a continuous flow from the call-to-action segment in a DRTV spot or infomercial all the way to an effective up-sell, it's important to spend time on scripts and to determine the best flow of the customer interaction.

Perils of Linear Thinking

There are many cases in the DRTV world when a marketer falls victim to “linear thinking,” that is, using an inflexible, straight path in an up-sell without changing to meet a caller's needs.

The combined conversion rate is low for this type of up-sell, averaging between 30 percent and 40 percent, while our experience has demonstrated the rate should be twice that percentage.

The following is a comparison between a linear script and a branched script, demonstrating how the latter may be more effective in up-selling.

Linear Script

*Take order for TV product.

* Up-sell No. 1: Offer the caller a multiple product discount

* Up-sell No. 2: Offer the caller a car-cleaning kit

* Up-sell No. 3: Offer the caller a home-cleaning system

The problem with the script above is that it does not allow much feedback from the caller to indicate how he intends to use the products that are being ordered.

A client called us to help determine why their up-sell rates for a successful front-end offer were so low. The primary offer was for a fitness product, with three basic up-sells. The first up-sell was an attachment for the unit; the second up-sell was a nutritional weight-loss product; while the third up-sell was a vitamin energy-based product for fitness.

The reason for the low performance was simple. We were wasting our time with the up-sell for the weight-loss product to a fitness customer. This offer produces responses of “no” from the customer when we follow a linear thought process. We found that if we qualify the customer by asking him about his goals associated with the fitness product, we can flow to the offer that fits his needs, reducing “no” responses and increasing “yes” responses. Here is an example of a branched script.

Branched Script

* Take order for TV product.

* Up-sell No. 1: Offer the caller an accessory.

* Up-sell No. 2: Ask caller: “Are you buying this as part of your fitness program or to lose weight?” The answer to this question determines which up-sell is next. If the answer is “lose weight,” then up-sell a weight-loss product. If the answer is “fitness,” up-sell a fitness product.

* Up-sell No. 3: Energy product.

The step of asking the caller about his or her fitness goals is important in understanding what kinds of products make the best up-sells. It's wasteful to offer a weight-loss product to a fitness customer, and vice versa. This branched scripting method improves up-sell conversion rates as much as 300 percent.

We have used the same branched script technique for inbound up-sell programs for a variety of marketing efforts in several different industries.

Fitness: Ask callers who order the fitness products whether they are doing so to lose weight or as part of a fitness program.

Auto products: Ask callers how many cars they have and change the offer according to the number of cars.

Weight-loss: Understand the weight-loss goal and offer an up-sell that fits the caller's needs.

Skin care: Ask callers if they are heavy or light users.

Motivation: Ask callers which area of their life they are most interested in improving.

There are many examples that allow you to develop new and exciting script flows that truly make the customer's calling experience a positive one. We allow the flow to guide the call to offers that make sense to the caller while giving the words of the script “conversion power.”

Branches for the Down-Sell

It's important to develop a flow of interactive scripting that takes the customer to the point of saying “yes.” If a “deluxe offer” is the up-sell, it's possible to down-sell from a “no” response with just a regular package.

Down-selling can be used to offer a product or service at a lower price and a lower risk to the customer, and that increases up-sell conversions every time. Branch scripting allows a marketer to find the best pathway to present an offer that meets the customer's needs.

The buying experience is an emotional response to the creation of a need or the delivery of a solution. The up-sell flow needs to match a potential customer's emotional need or response and maximize the opportunity to make offers to the customer at the least cost per order available. That is the basis of advance interactive marketing and may demonstrate dramatic increases in sales, profits and customer satisfaction.

Jeff Glickman is president of Worldclass Marketing, a teleservices consulting firm in New York.

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