Random acts of (tele)marketing

It’s 8.30 am when my mobile rings. The screen shows an alert: “Suspected spam!” I hesitate for a few seconds but answer it:

– Good morning, ma’am.

Immediately this puts me off: the caller doesn’t know my name. “Suspected spam” just changed status to “confirmed spam”. She continues:

– I’m calling from Carphone Warehouse.

In a split second, I revisit my last 10 years of mobile purchases. Nothing! “Wait,” my mental voice says “I bought a phone from Carphone Warehouse back in 2009… Nevermind, it was a different mobile number, so clearly I’m not in their database.”

While I’m having this private chat with my memories, she carries on:

– I’d like to offer you a special discount…

– No, thank you!

I politely decline but then rudely cut the call short. I made up my mind: I’m not even willing to listen to what they have to offer.

How often does the average person buy a new phone, anyway? Maybe every 2 to 3 years? Then what are the odds that by dialing a completely random number, without knowing anything at all about the person you’re calling, that you will get to them at the right time to sell? Does cold calling ever work?

One may think: “It must do, otherwise why on Earth would a company this big even do it?” And it is exactly this type of thinking that makes outdated and ineffective marketing like this endure.

Telemarketing: a numbers game?

Movie scene: The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

“In order not to waste any time, I wasn’t hanging up the phone in between calls. I realized that by not hanging up the phone I gained another 8 minutes a day. I also wasn’t drinking water so I didn’t waste any time in the bathroom.”

It’s been more than two decades since real-life businessman Chris Gardner, interpreted by Will Smith in the 2006 movie “The Pursuit of Happyness”, made a great start to his career by being the best-performing cold caller at his firm. Since then, high-volume telemarketing has become much less effective for many reasons:

  • Habits are changing: Research shows that 68% of millennials prefer text over phone calls. There are many (electronic) ways to engage with companies that are far less intrusive than cold calls and that allow communication to happen at a time and pace that is convenient to customers.
  • Data privacy concerns: The average customer is now more conscious of their data rights and concerned about how their information is being used. We’re also less tolerant when we notice someone abusing it.
  • Spam alert: Phone companies flag calls to your mobile from numbers that have been reported for unsolicited calls and suspected scams, not only affecting the number of people who will answer those calls but also how willing they will be to listen.
  • Expensive to run: Telemarketing is a very resource intensive tactic. Companies that are interested in volume can get much better ROI from other types of marketing, such as digital, which also carry less risk to their reputation.

But is that the death of telemarketing? I don’t think so.

Relationship-based telemarketing

Telemarketing can still be very effective when you ditch the high volume cold calling to a more targeted approach, and use it as part of a broader marketing plan. For example:

  • Follow up with people who showed recent interest in your company (e.g. downloaded a whitepaper, requested product information)
  • Reconnect with customers who haven’t purchased in a while
  • Target a selected group of people who you believe could benefit from your products or services, having done some previous research into them or the companies they represent.
  • Pairing telemarketing with digital and email marketing, to help “warm up” leads with some content before calling them
  • Using tools that allow the lead to pick a time to receive your call

Ensuring you have accurate data to call on is also crucial for the success of your campaign. By engaging with your leads through other tactics you are also validating their data.

Study shows that phone calls can lead to stronger connections than emails and other text-based exchanges. But there’s a big difference between a scheduled phone call and getting called by Julie at Carephone Warehouse as I attempt to get a toddler into his car seat.

I for one have my trusted vendors saved on my phone and rarely dodge their calls. I’m also happy to meet new people when they approach me via email or Linkedin with a good proposal that shows they understand my needs. Show me you can help me and I will make time.

Published by Carolina Marino Sargeant

I’m Carolina Marino Sargeant. I am a British/ Brazilian professional with 15 years’ experience in Marketing and Corporate Communications. I have been at both ends of the spectrum, having worked for very small businesses with no marketing budget and for Fortune 100 tech giants with hundreds of marketing professionals. My website howtogrowmybusiness.co.uk offers marketing ideas and tips for small businesses and self-employed professionals who would like to grow their revenue or income with little to no marketing budget.

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