“Respect is a nebulous term but we all know when marketers aren't giving us enough!” Thanks to James Gardner of One to One Interactive for summing up the rest of the SWOT team sentiments when they provided their responses to this marketing dilemma: Telemarketing: Dialing for dollars is harder than ever. Whether or not you choose to use this controversial marketing tactic, read below for your peers' best advice.

You may also wish to help figure out this issue's marketing dilemma as an established company struggles in a new niche market. Stumped with your own marketing problem? Ask our SWOT Team for help. Join us. We promise you won't be disappointed. When we tap into our collective experience, strength and hope—everyone benefits. And you could win a copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

This Issue's Dilemma

SWOT Category: External Opportunity

Established company struggles to enter a new market

There is nothing sexy about our dilemma. It is just real. We are a furniture company that supplies banquet furniture to high end hotels both nationally and internationally. After being in the business for more than a decade, we have established a good reputation and market share in our niche—hotel banquet furniture.

However, two years ago, we attempted to leverage our quality manufacturing processes and enter a new market niche—outdoor furniture to consumers. Our product is of high quality. Prices are marked neither too high nor too low. There's a lot of potential in this segment, but our attempts to penetrate this retail channel are going slowly.

We suspect it is because of poor product awareness in the market. We cannot seem to leverage our reputation in our primary market niche into this new market. There is a lot of competition in our new niche and we can't seem to find a way to differentiate ourselves. It is like we are a start up company trying to make our way.

Any help from readers is sincerely appreciated. What are the best ways for us to enter this new market? How can we transfer our reputation in our legacy niche into this new niche?

—Shelia B., Director of Marketing

Click here to offer your best advice to Shelia.

Previous Dilemma

SWOT Category: External Opportunity and External Threat

Telemarketing: Dialing for dollars is harder than ever

It's cheaper, quicker, and easier to communicate today than ever before. As a result, both consumers and business people are demanding tighter boundaries to limit access to them. Telemarketing and email marketing receive the most attention, as they are the most pervasive. Do-not-call and spam legislation is being passed in an attempt to shield people from undesired messages. Marketing practices that used to be just annoying are now becoming illegal and less effective.

So, what's a legitimate marketer to do? It is clear that doing the same-ole-same-ole is not working. Telemarketing organizations feel the pinch. Some are trying different tactics to stay in the “outbound” call business. Yet, it is harder to market to someone who fits the marketing profile, may be a legitimate buyer, but is on a do-not-call list.

We think we are not alone with this marketing dilemma. Would you ask your readers how they fit telemarketing and email into this new world? What is working? What's not?

— Scott J., Director of Marketing

Summary of Advice Received

Scott: Posing this dilemma was like engaging in a religious debate. There were many, many strong feelings and opinions about what's the right approach. Just as there is no one right religion, you will probably find the right answer for you in the responses we received. Responses seemed to fall into these buckets:

1. It's the value we create, not the tactic.

2. Use telemarketing, but do it better.

3. “Run away! Run away!” (from Monty Python).

4. Be innovative (or, as a reader suggests, “crazy and expensive”).

1. It's the value we create, not the tactic

A few members of the team reminded us that the tactic is not as important as the value we create for consumers and businesses when marketing. Whether you choose to use telemarketing, email, broadcast or print, recipients will buy only when they trust that the value you provide is applicable to them and your company is stable.

Respect is the key. James Gardner of One to One Interactive suggested this:

(Marketing) becomes an annoyance when it fails to respect the recipient.

Irrelevant. Why do we believe a recipient will have the slightest interest in our message or offer?

Intrusive. Why are we calling during dinner? Why are we intruding unasked into a private email box?

Deceitful. How did we acquire this name and profile information? Who are we calling on behalf of?

Insensitive. Why are we clogging someones email box or wasting their time? Why are we forcing ourselves into the worlds of our consumers?

So what's the right guiding philosophy? Be respectful! In practical terms, research best practices and adhere to both their letter and spirit. Get to really know things like double opt-ins, privacy policies and unsubscribe procedures! Ask for feedback and act upon it!

More pragmatically, don't hitch your wagon to only one horse. Direct response via telemarketing and outbound emails can be extremely powerful...but you also need to be exploring everything from viral and search optimization to trade shows and guerilla (along with dozens more).

No matter what your tactic, it should fit into your overall strategy. Cliff Langston, Director Marketing Services at Sigma-Aldrich, recommends this:

Back away from your current marketing activities (tactics) and look at your business proposition from an integrated marketing strategy perspective. It's not a question of how to use the tactics of email or outbound telemarketing but more a question of how to execute the marketing strategy that you've built around an understanding of your customers needs.

How does your product or service help solve the problems they face daily? What human emotions are linked to these challenges? If you can effectively position your product/service around questions like this, prospects or customers should be more willing to interact with you regardless of the tactic/vehicle you choose.

2. Use telemarketing, but do it better

Our readers told us that if you use telemarketing, learn from the trash that is out there. Don't repeat it. If you choose not to use it, find another way to target new buyers. Whatever you choose, show respect and build relationships.

For those who use choose to use telemarketing, your peer advice is divided into these categories:

• Build relationships

• Leverage partnerships

Build relationships

Everyone agreed that the basic “one-call close” was something from the old days. One of the readers who wanted to remain anonymous warned that the old ways of telemarketing were “a little like people who advertise by painting their message on barns worrying about the urbanization of America.”

Forget the “slam dunk.”  Focus on the prospect's needs. As P. Tarafdar from Space Online says:

Telemarketing (or email marketing) needs to communicate an understanding of the prospect's needs and ask for an opportunity to benefit them.

“Plan your call,” says Chris Herbert, Marketing and Client Development Manager, UNIS LUMIN. The only way to “dial for dollars” successfully is to be patient, understanding, and knowledgeable:

Developing a relationship over the phone takes time, persistence, and empathy. Knowledge of the prospects, industry, company and current business climate helps set a common agenda for a conversation. When speaking with the prospect, ask good questions and seek advice on how best to communicate with him/her and how often.

Leverage partnerships

Partnerships address the problem of how reach out to those who do not know you by using your channel partners. Take advantage of their strong relationships with their customers. Tom Barnes, Founder of Mediathink had this approach:

My advice is to partner with a client or vendor that has a relationship that you can leverage. If your proposition has value, leveraging that partnership will help grow both businesses.

3. ‘Run away! Run away!'

There was a camp that said there is no way to use telemarketing effectively. They believe it is beyond redemption and should be avoided at all costs. Run—don't walk—away.

These responses were divided into these groups:

  • Use referrals from customers.
  • Use a permission-based approach.
  • Rant (primal therapy).

Use referrals from customers

Stop contacting people you don't know. Ask your customers to do it for you. Use their relationships with people you would like to do business with. Seth Godin calls it viral marketing.

Buddy F., Staff Writer at Bill Phillips Media, says this:

The best solution is a credible third-party referral to the cold prospect. The referral should be from someone the prospect knows and/or does business with. There are several means of obtaining the referral so long as the caller can truthfully claim prior contact with the referring third party whether person or company.

From the Netherlands, Kasper W. Huizinga, President of PROambt, recommends this:

Ask your customers to be your sales force! If they're happy with your products they will. Train your staff to recognize hidden leads in complaints (and as a matter of fact, hidden compliments). 95% of our customers have a role as a salesperson for our company.

Use a permission-based approach

In just a few short years, this best practice has spread from the Internet and infused much of our marketing thinking. Obtain permission to market to your prospects.

Of course, there is the chicken-or-egg phenomenon: how do you get permission from someone you don't know in the first place? Stu Matlow, Principal at Faraday, Matlow, Yost suggests a way to encourage someone to grant you permission:

For REAL opt-in emailing you need to offer something of real value to the prospect. It could be product-related or truly promotional. Unless your proposition is a strong impulse purchase, direct marketing should be part of a well-integrated marketing mix.

Rant

Yes, our team consists of human beings. Over 20% of them used their response to vent their personal frustration about telemarketers and spam. It seems their responses were cathartic releases. We are glad to be of service and don't charge a dime for providing this type of primal therapy.

By the way, none of these respondents wanted to be identified. We understand. Don't worry—this can be an anonymous program, if you choose. Here is a sampling of those responses:

Let me first state: I am not a telemarketernever have beennever used telemarketing in my own marketing of various companies and frankly never liked them.

That being saidI nonetheless have been on the receiving side of these kinds of calls. I don't know of many people who like them other than some lonely people who look for some contact from the outside world.

Or this one—simple and to the point:

Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.

4. Be innovative (or, as a reader suggests, ‘crazy and expensive')

This final suggestion came from Sachin Deshpande, Marketing Manager, HiTech Network Inc, complete with its warning label:

Innovate (Warning: read at own risk!)

1. (Expensive) Look at new techniques like Bluetooth/ 802.11 where messages can be broadcast to not only mobile phones but also refrigerators and microwaves.

2. (Crazy) Offer FREE unlimited/very large email space to people where they can receive any number of ads and go through them at their own leisure. Collect money from corporations who email/advertise like a TV or radio spot. That way you will not block precious email inboxes with spam and will be non-invasive.

3. (expensive and crazy) Introduce a phone that has a separate ad mailbox similar to voice mail where telemarketers can leave a callback number in a queue (not the whole message but more like a hyperlink) which people can call when they feel like and which marketers can treat as a inbound call!!

Remember where you read it first!

The Small Print

We did our best to provide a thorough overview of your thoughtful responses. So many of you responded, it was almost impossible to choose which ones to print. Therefore, if you would like the complete text of all responses for your own analysis, please click here.

Thanks again for your perspectives, your insight and your collective wisdom. We're confident that this SWOT Team effort can solve almost any marketing problem!

Sign up for free to read the full article. Enter your email address to keep reading ...


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

Tamara is a writer at InternetVIZ and is available for freelance work.