Magazine article Marketing

Leading Agencies Still Calling the Shots

Magazine article Marketing

Leading Agencies Still Calling the Shots

Article excerpt

Outbound telemarketing continues to thrive and new technology is about to give the industry a further boost, making cold calling a less thankless task

Outbound telemarketing, calling the client's customers, is where the bureau business really began in the UK. Although it's been overshadowed in the past few years by the rapid expansion of inbound services, this year's tables show that it is still extremely healthy.

Of the leading 15 outbound agencies, 12 of them appeared in this table a year ago. Their combined turnover is up 46% - from 33.4 m to [pounds]12.2m.

Telemarketing Link, the Slough-based offshoot of the ad agency group Euro RSCG, was one of the fastest growers, reporting an 80% increase in turnover. Says managing director Sheila Mechan: "The rapid growth in DRTV and care lines means that customers have to be serviced and that can only be done by direct mail or the telephone."

The key feature about telemarketing's outbound sector is that it is primarily a business-to-business activity. Things might be different in the US, but most bureaus here believe UK consumers are not receptive to unsolicited sales calls interrupting East-enders. Kitchen and double-glazing suppliers clearly disagree, but tend to use in-house teams for what is often a thankless task.

All this could change. A new telephone preference scheme, giving consumers the chance to register if they do not want cold calls, could encourage a growth in outgoing calls. For example, there is an increase in the use by some charities of outbound as well as "welcome" calls to new customers, checking if they are happy with an order and so on.

Meanwhile, business-to-business is where the real action is - making appointments for sales reps, sales calls to customers who don't warrant a personal visit and magazine subscription sales, for example.

When combined with other techniques, this method can be highly successful. The top accolade in last year's Royal Mail/DMA awards went to an American Express campaign to sign up reluctant restaurateurs. Its "double whammy" was a witty, tongue-in-cheek mailing, followed by that all-important telephone call.

But business-to-business calling is not frustration free. Natalie Calvert, a director of the Calcom Associates consultancy, says clients should not accept "abandonment rates" of more than 15% (this refers to calls which they are paying for but which are not answered by the customer).

On the other hand, Helen Mackenzie, managing director of The Business Extension, makes the point that technology can actually make it harder to get through to some customers. "The increasing popularity of voice mail means that telemarketing [TABULAR DATA OMITTED] integrated with direct mail, rather than cold calling, is becoming essential," she says. …

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