Contacts, Customers and Telemarketing

One of the core components of The Small & Medium-Sized Business Toolkit is telemarketing, here’s why…

 

Editor’s note: This is a multiple part series will examine a wide array of marketing and advertising tools available to small and medium-sized businesses. Part one focused on how to begin analyzing the tools for effectiveness and ROI. Part two What’s in Your Marketing Toolkit? , Part 3 Limited Budget Marketing Essentials, Part 4 The Electric Coupon Technology Goes Local This focus of this part delves into the nuances of telemarketing.

There are three priorities for a small/medium-sized business:

  1. Generating transactions right away – there is a need to generate and conserve cash immediately to keep the business afloat
  2. Expanding the number of potential clients who know about the business
  3. Creating a database that will allow the business to remarket and lower the costs of acquisition

Let’s consider telemarketing

What is the very first thing that you think about when you think telemarketing? I know, the dreaded phone call at some inconvenient time with a strange voice that sounds absolutely rote and toneless saying “congratulations Mr. Salup! you have won a 3-day cruise to the destination of your choice in XYZ cruises! would you prefer the Bahamas or Punta Cana?” What follows is always a trap.

But there is another aspect to telemarketing and small businesses that should make you rethink the entire segment.

Recently, I was in the middle of the bidding season for the school photography business in Miami-Dade County for a company that I own, PortraitEFX of Miami. Now, there are 186 elementary schools in the Miami-Dade School District, which also happens to be the fourth in the nation.

The bidding process, while standard, still needs personal interaction, especially with a new company, so the task was simple: get appointments to see the secretary or treasurer (who are usually in charge of the bidding process) and make a presentation, showing them samples of the pictures, the packages and discussing the pricing.

To get appointments I had 3 options:

    1. Do the calls myself. But I know myself, I hate doing calls and I would probably never ever in a thousand years complete 186 calls. So, that was out of the question
    2. Hire an assistant on a contract basis to call everyone
    3. On a sudden inspiration, I thought about a third option: hire a telemarketing company to do outbound calling for me and get me the appointments.

A quickie analysis:

1. Cost of Marcelo doing calls? Infinite. No way.

2. Comparison between hiring a freelancer and a telemarketing company:

Freelance-assistant Latin Business TodayThe Freelance Assistant:

1. You need to place an ad, interview a few of them, go through a hiring process, work with them on the script and supervise the first few calls in person.

2. Typically, he/she will do about 1 call every 10 minutes as they are less experienced.

3. Will spend some time after each call writing the resulting information either in Word or Excel.

The Telemarketing Company

1. Generally much more experienced in making calls, so one can count on them completing 1 call every 6 minutes. The contract was 1 call + at least 3 retries if they do not get the person on the line and are able to make an appointment.

2. Have highly specialized software, which captures information quickly and publishes it to a database. So you get better, faster information.

For both of the options, there are several steps that you must take in order to achieve any success:

    1. You must have clear objectives of what you need to achieve. In my case, what I needed was to make appointments with the person responsible for the photography bid. I did not want the telemarketer to sell, promote – nothing like that, just get me an appointment.
    2. Scripting is key: you have to spend time writing it yourself, practice with the person making the call and be really proactive the first few calls in order to understand any stumbling blocks, anything that is not working as well as those elements that work really well.Scripting is so key that minor changes in the call center script for one of my clients, a loan referral service in Los Angeles, increased the conversion ratio of this new product from 2.6% the first few days to 4% in a week, 5.6% in 3 weeks to 10% right now, 8 weeks after the launch. So we have basically quadrupled the conversion ratio with no incremental media and by scripting alone.
    3. The phone list must be accurate. In my case, the list was easy: the website, DadeSchools.net publishes a complete list of all elementary schools, their address and phone numbers.It would not have been as easy if I had been targeting private schools, churches, dojos, sports leagues or dance academies, which are some of the businesses that PortraitEFX specializes in.
    4. Understand the rest of the information you want to receive so that you can repurpose it with a minimum of fuss. SCC, the company that I used for my telemarketing effort, organized information really well so that I could export all of the results from their web-based reporting system straight into word and keep tabs of whom we had called, results, next steps, etc.Of special interest were the appointments made and SCC made it a point to put all the appointments right in an Outlook calendar.With another call center we are using to launch a loan referral service in Los Angeles, I sent them a very specific and pre-formatted Excel spreadsheet. Now, every morning around 3:00 am I get their report, by 6:00 am I usually have analyzed the data, made recommendations if needed

 

Bottom line: you absolutely need to be proactive when it comes to your own telemarketing operation. There is no such thing as inertia.

So what happened finally? Of the 186 schools, I had appointments with 55 in a period of 6 weeks, or about 30%.