Targeting Prospects with Online Databases: Telemarketing and Business List Building

Article excerpt

Business has a love-hate relationship with telemarketing. On one hand, selling products via the telephone is extremely cost-effective. A personal sales visit, according to The Conference Board, can cost $200-300, while a telemarketing call is more in the $9-11 range. These economics alone make telemarketing worth doing.

However, there are public relations implications to consider. The majority of consumers find telemarketing calls "annoying," according to a Schlenker Research Service's survey titled "The Current Use and Growth of Telemarketing Intelligence." Furthermore, businesses themselves prefer not to be on the receiving end of telemarketing calls, even if they are active telemarketers themselves.

There are several areas of telemarketing where business and non-business online databases can be of assistance. One is simply gathering background information. Information from general business databases can be invaluable for structuring the campaign, writing scripts, and warning of potential pitfalls.

DESCRIPTORS FOR "TELEMARKETING"

Databases which use indexing have chosen different terms to describe telemarketing. Business Periodicals Index uses telemarketing. But ABI/INFORM uses telephone selling as does the Computer Database. The INFOBK file on Mead Data Central requires searchers to combine the terms telephones with marketing and merchandising or with market research or with promotions-marketing techniques.

There is a 1987 SIC code for telemarketing, but it is one of those nasty "not elsewhere classified" ones, in this case "Business Services NEC," code 7389. Predicasts uses several product codes to describe telemarketing. There is 73197 (Telemarketing Services), 73995 (Business Telephone Services), 48115 (Specialized Telecommunications), and 9914911 (Telemarketing). There is also an event code 24, designated as Marketing Procedures.

FREE-TEXT SEARCHING

Unfortunately, even using index terms and codes, relevant articles can be missed because they are not used as consistently as they could be. Thus, a free-text search is not a bad idea. Unindexed databases also require free-text search techniques. The best strategy I've come up with is:

telemarket? or telephone(2n)selling or teleselling

That strategy is in DIALOG search logic. It would need to be translated for WILSONLINE, Dow Jones News/Retrieval, BRS, Mead Data Central, NewsNet, Data-Star, and so on. Furthermore, it will lead to false drops concerning the selling of telephones themselves rather than using telephones in the selling process.

How much will you find online? Using the above strategy, and remembering that hit counts are not the same as relevant articles and that some databases go back further in time than others, here are some sample numbers:

ABI/INFORM 1,179

Management Contents 571

Trade & Industry Index 699

PTS PROMT 1,263

Business Periodicals Index 374

NEXIS;CURRNT 393

Dow Jones News/Retrieval

Wall Street journal 81

Dow Jones News 101

Magazine ASAP 316

Trade & Industry ASAP 1,380

Computer ASAP 169

Business Dateline 642

Harvard Business Review 9

McGraw Hill Publications Online 47

Keep in mind, too, that information about telemarketing is not confined to magazine and newspaper articles. Entire books have been written on the subject. These are found in the LC/MARC database. Here both the descriptors, telemarketing and telephone selling, are used. Some of the books are written by telemarketing consultants. One example is Phone Power by George Walther. The book leads a persistent searcher (in more than just the online sense of the word) to Walther's Seattle office where audiotapes and consultation help is offered.

LIST BUILDING

Once the basics of telemarketing are covered, list building can be considered. …