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It used to be that phone reps ran through a publisher’s script, getting customers to answer a few basic questions. Today, that’s getting more complicated, not only as publishers use telemarketing to pitch their own products beyond print subscriptions but also as they conduct lead generation for advertisers as part of subscription and renewal drives.
That requires the rep to often take on more of a consultative approach to calls. It also means publishers need to be very careful with scripts that extend the rep’s time on each call, which can drive up costs significantly.
Telemarketing is Advanstar’s largest AD promotional expense and the publisher needs to “make every connection count,” according to audience development director Ronda Hughes. “Gone are the days of just getting someone to renew their subscription and verify their demographic information,” she adds. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to reach an actual person (voicemail is more prevalent because of screening calls thanks to caller I.D.), and/or getting through the gate keeper (receptionist at large corporations). So, when the agent actually reaches an assistant or the intended person, you better have a script prepared to make that connection count.”
Scripts as Lead-Gen Tool
Complicating matters is the potentially lucrative business of using telemarketing efforts as a way of asking advertiser questions for lead-gen or other marketing information.
“It’s hard to tailor the whole calling around what the client needs,” says Jim Cowart, audience development director at Penton Media. “It’s best to stick to ‘yes,’ and ‘no’ questions. If you ask if they want to receive your range of products, and then go into ‘do you also wish to receive X, Y, Z products,’ the call becomes too lengthy and unproductive. By three minutes in, the person wants to get off the call.”
Limit open-ended responses. “If the scripts could not be altered on the publishing side for all the demographic questions and you added on another five or six questions that were for a research project, the amount of conversion would likely suffer so dramatically that you’d still have to do another calling effort afterward,” says Cowart.
“You almost want to guide the responses. If there are three choices, five choices, 10 choices, give it to them. If they fit one of those choices, they will say so, or select none of the above.”
Tailor the questions to get the customer interested in the client’s product. “You may want to tailor softball questions to get them interested,” says Cowart. “We recently did something with a cable company in which customers were asked if they were interested in getting free cable service for three months. If you have advertisers willing to offer service or products for free, that might generate a lot of consumer interest. The cost doesn’t go up any, you’re just asking one additional question.”
However, that could change if the rep realizes they’re doing the leg work for a separate lead generation program. Publishers should push for a cost-per-complete agreement, says Cowart. “There might be some pushback if they know you’re going to making $50 per lead. “There could be more resistance on their part in participating in a cost-per complete but that’s how we’ve established what we need. If you’re doing 20,000 completes with them, it might make sense to do $3 per name. If you only do 50 per month, for it to be beneficial to them, it might be $5 or $6 per lead. It can’t be $20 an hour where you only get one complete per hour.”
Five Tips To Better Scripts and Response
Telemarketing is Advanstar’s largest audience development expense and the publisher is committed to making it work. Here, audience development director Ronda Hughes offers five tips to improve the telemarketing process.
1. Review your telemarketing scripts. Move to a shorter script by collecting additional demos less frequently and/or append data when you can.
2. Have your telemarketing vendor send verification or thank you e-mails cross promoting your e-products, shows, etc.
3. Change the focus of your acquisition calling. Renting a telemarketing list is cheaper than renting a onetime use e-mail list. Rent the telemarketing list and use it to promote only your e-products, whitepapers, digital editions, or e-newsletters. Once you collect that opt-in e-mail it’s is yours to keep and becomes a prospect for your print editions or show registrations.
4. Customize your telemarketing dispositions to align more with your market. Again, making the connection count doesn’t just mean getting the order or e-mail. Making a connection count can also mean cleaning your database or finding out more about that particular market. “No longer work there”, “receive other publications in the market”, “position no longer exists”, “clinic, practice, or office downsized”, etc. It’s amazing the information a telemarketer hears.
5. To help with telemarketing costs, add an advertiser paid survey question AFTER you have gotten your response, of course.
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