Lead Generation and Audience Development

Even in the digital age of publishing many b-to-b and some small consumer publishers rely on telemarketing to build subscriptions. They admit that using this type of promotion can be expensive compared to others such as e-mail, but they say it can also yield better results.

Vance Publishing uses telemarketing extensively to build subscriptions, working with outside vendors for its three divisions—agriculture, woodworking, and salon. For controlled circulation, telemarketing alone usually nets a 60 percent-70 percent return on requalifications, says Donna Hansen, audience development director. “The results we get are the best,” she says. About 90 percent of Vance’s circulation is controlled.

Vance has one telemarketing vendor to cover the lion’s share of subscriptions and a second for the remainder. “We are always testing and trying out different vendors,” Hansen says. “I get tons of calls from telemarketers, and periodically we just pick someone to see what the price is and if we can do something better.”

Vendor specialization, price, and results are important criteria for Vance. “We also don’t want them to overcall and irritate subscribers,” Hansen says. The timing of calls is another consideration for Vance’s paid Modern Salon subscribers. “For these, we look for a telemarketing vendor that will call on Saturdays—which is hard to find—because we know that’s when someone will be in the salon,” she says.

Vance’s telemarketers must provide daily reports for comparison of number of calls made versus returns, especially for new names. “New calls average about 25 percent returns, but the cost of new calls are about 1.5 to 2 times higher than requals,” Hansen says. Vance requires vendors to work with its fulfillment house to update lists, a service that must be included in the overall cost. Vendors also must keep accurate records.

BPA, which in recent years has required member firms to record calls, strongly recommends that members send in their scripts for review “to make sure that questions aren’t leading in any way,” says Peter Black, senior vice president of business development. He says BPA’s turnaround for script review is about two days. BPA also offers guidelines and whitepapers for telemarketing.

New Rules and Trouble Spots

While most telemarketers, including publishers that do telemarketing in-house, use the do-not-call registry list correctly, there are some trouble spots, says Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association. Some small companies still fumble on regulations regarding pre-recorded calls, also called “robocalls,” which became effective September 2009, he says. “It used to be that you could call customers with robocalls to get them to subscribe, but now the only way you could use this is if you get their express permission.”

That might entail, for example, the subscriber checking a box or signing a line on the subscription card indicating permission to receive an automated call.

Another snafu that many are still not aware of is calling a cell phone, even with a live operator, Cerasale says. This is a 1991 regulation but, because a significant number of households today use only cell service, it trips up some telemarketers, he adds.

One solution is providing a line on subscription forms for a phone number, explaining that it will be used to contact customers about subscriptions. If a subscriber enters a cell number, “this can be viewed as express permission,” Cerasale says. “But the language has to be there, right next to where I put the phone number, and it has to be simple and clear.”

By Esther D'Amico
FOLIO Magazine