There Is Still A Place For Telemarketing, But It Is Not At The Dinner Table

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Don Schultz, Professor of Integrated Marketing at Northwestern University, has been quoted as saying, "Stop communicating to the masses. The organizations that are in difficulty are those who are caught in mass production and mass communication simply because that is what they are set up to do."

As I sit here answering a third automated telemarketing call in a row, I wish more companies would heed Professor Schultz' advice.

Many executives, consultants, and professionals have exclaimed the virtues of telemarketing programs. They talk about the ability to reach a great number of prospects in a short amount of time. Companies have even found ways to automate the function because the human hand just can't make enough calls or dial fast enough. This automation creates an even greater opportunity to reach more people. Proponents of telemarketing spout figures of profitability for these types of programs even when less than 2% of calls lead to sales.

However, one figure that we haven't seen, and probably never will due to the complexity of gathering the data, is the potential for lost business from upset prospective membrs having their dinner interrupted by an unwanted phone call. People have been deterred from doing business with companies that engage in excessive telemarketing. There have been examples of individuals closing out certain credit cards because they have become tired of receiving call after endless call.

There is still a place for telemarketing in today's marketing plan but it is imperative to make sure the program is conducive with the brand essence of the credit union. It's doubtful that a CU would include in its mission statement the desire to upset members by waking them out of a sound sleep on a Saturday morning. Regardless, this is an occurrence that takes place all too often.

The following are some questions to ponder when embarking on a new telemarketing program or evaluating an existing one:

What are you trying to accomplish with your telemarketing program? Is the program intended to attract new members or penetrate the existing base?

If new business is the objective an automated telemarketing campaign may be warranted. If the program is intended to cross-sell current members you may want to try a different approach. Direct contact with the member with some substantiation of the need for the service would be more welcome than a blind call.

Is there a less obtrusive but effective medium to market the product or service?

While telemarketing can be effective, many well planned and targeted direct-mail campaigns produce similar results with less intrusion. Direct-mail programs can prove to be even more effective if they are followed by a strategically targeted calling plan rather than blind telemarketing.

Is there truly an identified need or are we trying to see how many darts can be thrown at one time?

When a new product or service is introduced, many times companies embark on a blanket telemarketing campaign because that is what has been done before. Truly examine which members will benefit from the product. You may find that the service is a perfect fit for 10% of the membership and questionable for the rest. That is a great situation for an integrated direct marketing plan rather than telemarketing.

Will, or does, the program add or detract from the brand?

Every action and communication a credit union engages in, whether external or internal, either adds or detracts from the brand essence of the organization. Telemarketing is definitely included in that equation. It may be useful to survey the membership and determine how people feel about the communication with your CU. You may be surprised with the results. Then again, if you have ever run back into the house to pick up a ringing phone just to get three seconds of silence followed by a mispronunciation of your name, maybe you won't be surprised with the feedback.

Kenneth C. Bator is president of Bator Training & Consulting. He be reached at P.O. Box 4844, Naperville, IL 60567; or at kbator btcinc.net.

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