Magazine article Marketing

Laying It on the Line

Magazine article Marketing

Laying It on the Line

Article excerpt

LAYING IT ON THE LINE

The second annual league table of telemarketing agencies in Marketing comes just after the publication of the first major research project on the industry by the British Direct Marketing Association (BDMA). As a result, it is possible to draw comparisons between data and opinions obtained from some of the leading companies with findings based on an anonymous study across a much wider sample.

In total, there are probably about 100 companies in the UK offering telemarketing services. Many are very small. The BDMA persuaded about 55 to take part in its survey. Says Glenn Hurley of Decisions, who was closely involved in the study: "After the top 20, they are pretty small. There are many just servicing a local market - often offering a very fast turnaround, and accepting contracts below the minimum size attractive to the bigger bureaux."

At this end of the market, it remains true that newcomers can still break in without a great deal of capital. However, an interesting feature of our league table this year is the appearance in the top division, metaphorically speaking, of two relatively new companies - Adlink and PBA. Quite different in their approaches to the business, both were launched in 1987 with sufficient backing to make an immediate impact - and to stock up with the kind of computer technology needed to handle complex assignments.

PBA's founder, Paul Beck, came from the credit rating agency Dun and Bradstreet. PBA is primarily an "outbound agency, making calls to business to business contacts. Beck claims not to be interested in selling for clients, but in verifying leads and contacts. True to his Dun and Bradstreet background, he has built a substantial database of business companies. And he prefers payment by results rather than the more usual hourly fee.

In contrast, Adlink deals with "inbound" contracts - handling incoming calls from consumers responding to TV, radio, or press ads. But the operation goes far beyond forwarding brochures - his West London set-up, for instance, can supply clients with regular printouts on the effectiveness of various media, in terms of the enquiries generated.

Handling a high volume of calls from the public requires a lot of lines and operators. There are some contracts, such as mega share issues, which probably can be handled only by an industry giant, the renamed British Telecom Connections in Business. The diversified number two in the league - Programmes - has only just moved into the inbound sector. But at this stage, Programmes has chosen to do this in a relatively small and specialised way.

In our survey last year, BT's telemarketing arm had just lost its managing director Robert Leiderman (who is now back in partnership with his former marketing colleague Simon Roncoroni), and was awaiting total restructuring.

"Essentially what we have done is to put in place between our telemarketing operation and our clients, professional account handling teams with telemarketing, direct marketing, and client skills," says new marketing director Geoff Downer. "We've also extended the tools our account teams can call on, including access to the Yellow Pages database, which is downloaded into our own computers complete with industry classification and postal codes. …

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