Telemarking is the process of marketing products or services over the telephone. Telemarketing is a traditional tactic performed by software or by individuals in sales and marketing departments. In addition, there are entire telemarketing companies—often called ‘call centers’—devoted to the practice. In today’s digital, smartphone-centric age, texting is another form of telemarketing.

Calling a prospect who has not solicited the contact is referred to as cold calling. Warm calling, on the other hand, describes phone contact after a prospect has previously engaged with a brand, such as stopping by a booth at a tradeshow or event or receiving a piece of direct mail. It is also considered warm calling when a telemarketer places a call as the result of a referral.

As evidenced by the popularity the National Do Not Call Registry, some consumers are averse to stereotypical telemarketing calls—often seen as pushy in tone, unwanted, and generally irrelevant. That is not to say telemarketing does not have a place for some businesses—in fact, the opposite can be said. Used appropriately, telemarketing can be a powerful tool, especially for business-to-business (B2B) companies that need to build relationships, qualify leads, and encourage prospects to advance through the purchasing funnel.

Telemarketing is most successful when used in conjunction with other marketing strategies. For example, having a robust digital marketing strategy is important because it’s far easier to connect with prospects after they’ve been engaged on social media or via a company website, for example, than it is to cold call and read an elevator pitch. In addition, digital marketing and event marketing are often the vehicles through which brands receive the very contact information that builds their telemarketing lists, often serving as better choices than purchasing lists.

More sophisticated telemarketers use Marketing Automation Platforms (MAP) to help identify contacts in their database who have visited their website or landing pages. MAP also scores a prospect’s online behavior which helps telemarketers call on prospects more familiar with the brand resulting in warm calls as opposed to cold calls. MAP scores prospect behavior by assigning a value for every interaction a consumer has with that brand. Example: A brand can assign 5 points for every web page visit, 10 points for signing up for a newsletter, 15 points for downloading a piece of content or watching a video of a product demonstration. Whatever the lead scoring methodology, lead score helps prioritize the call centers telemarketing efforts by focusing on prospects showing the most buying behavior before calling on unknown prospects who have never interacted with the brand.

Telemarketing has proven to be most effective when used in a campaign of multiple touches. As an example, you might create an integrated campaign that consists of two email campaigns, one direct mail campaign followed up with a phone call.

IMA has assembled a list of call centers and service providers that can help you integrate telemarketing into your next campaign.

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