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Latest Issue: Nov/Dec 2018

Comms, calls and consent

In 1999, Seth Godin wrote a book titled Permission Marketing. In it, he argued that marketing messages are more successful if a buyer has agreed to receive the message. It’s an approach to selling goods and services in which a prospect explicitly agrees in advance to receive marketing information — sounds pretty GDPR, right? Here Graham Smith, author of Telemarketing Kills Kittens explains the role of telemarketing, data and consent.

Godin’s book, Permission Marketing was an alternative to the traditional ‘interruption’ marketing — where advertisements, which are often irrelevant, get in the way of our daily lives. In a world of information overload, most people welcome this idea.

Permission marketing has higher engagement levels and lower unsubscribes, therefore producing more cost-effective campaigns.

So, what is the best way to get consent? I once worked on a campaign for a leading software company where the objective was to obtain consent. We tried three different channels; telemarketing, direct mail and email, all of which resulted in difference response rates. E-mail came in at the bottom with a two per cent response rate, closely followed by direct mail at just three per cent. Telemarketing surpassed both significantly, with a response rate of 15 per cent.

I believe telemarketing is more successful because it is more persuasive and capable of highlighting the benefits of consent on an individual basis. What persuades one person to give marketing permission will be different from the next or previous person.

It is also far better at objection handling. We live in a world of marketing overload. There will always be objections to receiving more messages. In one 45-minute journey, the average London commuter is exposed to more than 130 adverts, featuring more than 80 different products. In an entire day, we’re likely to see anything from 600 to 3,500 marketing messages.

But a good telemarketer can overcome objections to receiving messages. The buyer’s preference could be to receive messages about specific products or services, rather than your entire product range. This can only be discovered during a conversation after the full benefits of your offering have been explained.

A new data law, the General Data Protection Regulation, has increased the focus on marketing consent — more on that later. It has also introduced ‘legitimate interest’ as a lawful basis for contacting prospective customers.

Making the call more relevant

It’s unlikely you will get consent for marketing messages if your message is irrelevant. Relevance is often overlooked in campaigns, primarily because it can be time-consuming. But because relevance can improve response by as much as 800 per cent, it is worth the added effort.

Figure 1 shows the results of a campaign for business services. There were three types of data used. The first was ‘unmatched data’. This means the companies contacted were in the right geographic area, but no attempt was made to filter them by sector and size.

The second group was matched data, where the companies were filtered based on the demographics of existing customers. Those that matched existing customer profiles were included and the rest excluded. Even this simple filter improves response by 500 per cent.

The really big improvement comes when you use data from a group that have indicated a need for your product or service. In this campaign, it was data from a relevant industry Association, but it could equally be a list of people that have downloaded content from your website or attended your webinars. This group achieved an improvement of 800 per cent.

A penalty for using bad data

Bad data cuts ROI by almost 30 per cent. It’s logical that bad data will affect the response to any direct marketing campaign. But to understand the effect we need to measure the impact, and nobody has done that… until now.

I analysed 53,400 calls across 42 campaigns to get a view on the influence of bad data. I started by defining ‘bad data’. My definition was an excluded call, i.e. the telemarketer could not make contact because of a wrong number or made contact and established the company did not meet the target criteria. Perhaps the company was in the wrong industry or was the wrong size.

The next stage was to define what constituted a good telemarketing call. I decided that a good call was one that had a ‘positive outcome’ — e.g. an appointment or a sale.

As you can see from Figure 2, when bad data increases from 10 per cent to 75 per cent, the positive outcome drops by 28.57 per cent.

So, what is the source of this bad data? Some of it is from lists rented from third-parties, but much of it is in your own CRM. I’ve conducted research that shows 48 per cent of companies never cleanse their data, and a further 10 per cent only do it annually. Given that 15 per cent of the data in the average CRM is out of date within 12 months, there would seem to be a lot of bad data out there.

Also, telemarketers are not given the time to correct inaccurate data during or after the call. They are being pressured to make the next call, and their supervisor may not see the value, or be rewarded, for data cleansing.

For data to remain accurate and therefore truly valuable, it needs to be continuously called, cleansed and refreshed. My advice is to have a dedicated data cleansing team, one data cleanser for every two salespeople.

In addition, B2B data gleaned from telemarketing is more accurate and revealing because you can dig deeper. A returned mailshot may not tell you the companies new address, and a bounced email may not reveal the name of the buyer’s replacement or tell you the buyer’s new employer.

The new data laws could be a problem, but not for B2B Telemarketers

At the time of writing, much is being made of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but little is being written about the ePrivacy Regulation. This is mainly because the new law is still in draft form. I believe it will not be finalised and enforced until 2020.

GDPR governs your ability to process data, meaning obtaining, holding, altering, retrieving or erasing data. The ePrivacy law governs how you contact buyers using electronic marketing, so it does not include sales letters sent in the post.

However, it seems the new ePrivacy law may maintain the status quo regarding telemarketing in the UK. While most electronic B2B marketing will require permission before you send a message and opt-in, telemarketers could continue to contact buyers unless they have said no and opt-out.

There are two ways buyers can opt-out; by asking you not to call them, or by adding their phone number to the TPS or CTPS register. These are the UK’s ‘do not call’ lists, and it is illegal to call any of the approximately 20 million numbers on the registers unless you have permission.

Also, the GDPR only refers to personal data, for example mobile phone number or a direct line at work. Switchboard telephone numbers are not personal. Therefore, you can store them in your database together with demographic data about the company including number of employees and sector.

So even in the worst-case scenario, you can still call the switchboard number stored in your CRM and ask to speak to the person responsible for IT hardware, recruitment, health & safety or whatever product you sell. You can also ask for a job title or have a LinkedIn profile handy with a buyer’s name.

Diagram 10 gives a snapshot of the process you will need to undertake to use direct marketing for existing and prospective customers. Most organisations will be able to rely on three ways to process marketing data; contract, legitimate interest or consent.

For existing customers, you should be able to use contract. For prospective customers, you may need to rely on legitimate interest in many cases. While legitimate interest may give you a legal basis for processing, consent is by far the best route from a marketing perspective. Permission marketing should always be your goal.

by Graham Smith, author, Telemarketing Kills Kittens