Telemarketing: Ride the Wave

By Bronson Trebbi

If a long weekend of R & R in the Bahamas could teach you anything, it would be to appreciate the value of “right time, right place.” As a tourist on the tropical island of tourism, you are brutally subjected to the ringing barrage of redundant product offerings. The Bahamian peddlers clearly subscribe to the law of large numbers. With their subtle tenacity cloaked in that warm island charm they call out: “Hey mon! Howsa bouta jet ski ride? An aftanoon booze cruise? You needa some beads?” No thanks, we respond. Not now. But on and on they persist, continuing down the beach addressing the masses, one prospect at a time.

Eventually they stumble upon that giddy honeymoon couple who, after a bit of coaxing, becomes tantalized by the notion of cruising the open sea on his ‘n’ her jet skis. To seal the deal, it is packaged as an island special, a “noooleewed rate” of $50 each. Alas, the right product at the right time. After a few moments to reflect over a cold one, the peddler “rambles” on down the beach and the quest continues.

Simply put, we were witnessing a numbers game at it’s finest. It is the free enterprise system of matching a targeted offer with a targeted group. Go to the grocery store and count how many promotions cloud your vision down each aisle. In that setting, we retrieve the products that we set out for, along with a few spontaneous purchases for which the need had been created, while discarding any coupons that did not fit the target agenda. It’s the same in any purchase environment across the entire free world.

Now for a game of Taboo; Telemarketing! There, it’s out, telemarketing. But it’s not just telemarketing as its own animal, it’s simply another vehicle of marketing. In today’s marketplace, it’s just another game of matching. Consumers bemoan receiving calls on a phone line that they pay every month for. However, consumers merely pay for the right to use the phone line, not ownership of the phone line. This is the same concept as your local radio signals or TV airwaves. It’s the same concept as direct mail and advertisements on billboards. Might I suggest that we can actually deal with telemarketing in the same fashion: view the offer, judge the offer, make a purchase decision, and move on. If not, then I would suggest that we stay consistent in our treatment of all forms of marketing. If while driving, you see an obnoxious “shock jock” billboard that does not appeal to you, then perhaps you might park your car on the side of the road, get out and scream at the top of your lungs until you feel that your stance has been justified.

The point here is that each marketing promotion, regardless of the vehicle, may enter your life at any given time. If it appeals to you, great, you should act on it accordingly. Conversely, if it has no merit, simply discard it. Before we spend too much energy on life’s annoyances, let’s lighten up a bit. We live in a free enterprise system that favors the one willing to do what it takes to reach a target market. There are endless real world scenarios in which telemarketing, a game of matching, makes a positive impact on everyday lives. A recent telemarketing call with a well-presented offer resulted in a music lover capitalizing on an excellent music club promotion of 12 CD’s for only $12.99 with no further obligation to buy. A dozen CD’s is a nice addition to any collection. Right place, right time, right offer, right buyer. It’s marketing, folks, and that very offer appealed to over two million customers last year alone.

Starting to lighten up yet? Well, let’s look at what our banks are up to in this world of matching. Though none of us want to admit it, we’ve all had those occasions when bills start to mount and a little extra cash could help make it through some tough months. Along comes a telemarketing call from a banking institution with a pre-qualified, home-equity loan offer. In this scenario, you might find it worthwhile to submit your criteria and find out which loan options are available to you. That call fit the need of that situation, at that particular time.

Last year our firm assisted a financial client to successfully book $15 million in loans each month through telemarketing leads, saving each individual customer thousands of dollars in heavy interest payments. Talk about win-win! That is not to say that everybody on a call list will fit that need. Absolutely not. Again, it’s simply a numbers game.

Not altogether different than the game conducted on the Bahamian beaches. It is unfortunate that today’s telemarketing representatives are often victimized by the misguided emotional responses of angry consumers. In a sense, it seems that the blame for untimely interruptions has been mindlessly directed toward the actual individuals who are making the calls. Forget about the banks, the department stores, the publications who are conducting these calls. The reality is that when you purchase products or choose to do business with a particular company, you are exposed to further solicitation. The blame lies in the nature of free enterprise which naturally dictates cross-selling and up-selling to customers in good standing who serve as viable candidates. If we can begin to accurately associate with the sources of today’s telemarketing, perhaps we can also relinquish some of the ill feelings we have towards phone representatives as a species. Keep in mind who it is that our industry employs; single moms, elderly people, students, and anybody looking to supplement their income. They are people in your community. More importantly, though, they are human beings. People is their business yet it’s people that poison their enthusiasm on the job. Lighten up a little bit. Listen to the pitch and test their product knowledge. Hey, you never know, you might find that occasional fit.

Beyond the selling environment, we must certainly bring to light the tremendous philanthropic application in our industry. Major phoning campaigns are conducted every year to benefit non-profit organizations, which enables them to help millions of people in need. Last year our firm helped to raise nearly $4 million for a major non-profit organization to boost their laboratory research and community outreach. And yes, all spurred by telemarketing!

Organizations of all kinds are going to great lengths and investing thousands, even millions of dollars toward conducting business via telephone. By the time a product “goes to market” and is implemented in a telemarketing campaign, it has been developed through numerous means of historical data and ongoing market research. The nature of demographics suggests that every offer has an optimal target market and viability within that segment. As each day passes, we all may or may not fit into a given segment. The telemarketer’s role is to sort that out. Perhaps this is a case of hate the message, but don’t hate the messenger. If as consumers, we can simply retain the important mail, and discard the “junk mail,” we have done our role in promoting free enterprise. So to the industry I say, carry on and continue to hone your techniques and present yourself professionally. To all of us as the voice on the other end, let’s lighten up. Who knows mon, you too might one day find yourself perched on a jet ski in the Caribbean.

Bronson Trebbi is vice president of client services for RDI Marketing Services, a Cincinnati based industry leader since 1978. For more information, call RDI at 513-984-5927.

[From Connection Magazine – May 2001]

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