Since its inception, the Do Not Call Registry has had a profound impact on the telemarketing industry, just as it has on individual organizations relying on outbound telemarketing in their marketing strategy. The challenge now facing these businesses is to find creative ways to still make telemarketing work.

Consumers wanting protection from unwanted intrusions warmly welcomed the registry in July 2003. However, with the registry's inception came the argument from businesses that not all calls were unwanted and that many consumers were willing to spend a few minutes on the phone listening to a pitch.

Despite objections from organizations relying on telemarketing, the Do-Not-Call Registry moved forward. The list, maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), now contains more than 60 million registered telephone numbers. Businesses involved with any form of telemarketing now face serious obstacles that will only grow larger as more telephone numbers are registered and the FTC cracks down on violators.

Marketers are forced to abide by the FTC's rules and are challenged to find innovative ways to get their messages out to interested consumers.

As clever marketers are discovering, there are ways to generate large lists of telephone numbers for their telemarketing teams to call on. Rather than having lists of random and unqualified targets, there's something better: a narrowly targeted and legitimately pre-qualified prospect base.

The secret lies in online marketing

Through the Internet, marketers are able to identify "hand-raisers." These are people who have identified themselves as interested in hearing about specific products and services offered by your company. These people become qualified "leads" or "prospects."

Outbound telemarketing used to be the primary method for identifying hand-raisers. Now the Internet can help with this process—and might even be a more effective at it.

A survey released in May 2005 by marketing research and management consulting firm The Artemis Group in conjunction with KnowledgeStorm discovered that 80% of leads generated through the Internet expressed positive attitudes when contacted via phone by the vendor. About 20% of those leads were neutral in their feelings about being called, and almost none were unhappy about being contacted.

Timing appears to be an issue as well. The number of people who reported being happy when called the same day jumped to 88%.

The positive feelings are generated with the elimination of the intrusive type of cold call. When the person requests to be contacted, it becomes a warm call, or one person responding to the request for more information by another person.

Have your telemarketing calls in the past been met with such a high success rate? The Internet is the only medium that can generate such a highly qualified and instantaneous prospect list for telemarketing.

How does it work?

Asking permission on the Internet began as a courtesy granted by marketers to consumers, but later became necessary due to federal regulations. Nevertheless, Internet marketers are accustomed to collecting permission from their targets.

The most common way of doing this is to require users to click a box signifying their permission to receive future emails before any correspondence is ever sent—the "opt-in" approach.

A similar approach can be used to gain permission to add somebody to your telemarketing list.

Try running email marketing campaigns or other advertising pieces that direct users to a landing page on which they can fill out a form if they'd like to request further information about your product or service. You'll want to use copy such as this:

Please fill out the form below so that we may call you to tell you more about our offering.

or this:

Complete this form and our representative will call you back at a time convenient for you.

Be sure to use clear language indicating the user will be contacted by phone rather than by some other means. It is important that the user understands this. It may make sense for you to consider a double opt-in approach that forces the users to respond to an email stating that they agree to accept the phone call. Whatever the method, be sure to retain proof of their permission so as to avoid any trouble with the FTC.

It is best to have your telemarketing reps call as soon as possible to avoid having leads become stale. Also, make sure they state, up front, the reason for the call and how they got the consumer's name and phone number so as to avoid being perceived as a cold call. An example might be, "You recently filled out a form on our Web site asking us to call you with details about our exciting new product."

There are media options

While this strategy might sound appealing to you, you may not know the best way to create the volume of leads you need to create a telemarketing list.

You will first need to identify publishers or media networks that accept placements on a CPA, or cost-per-acquisition, basis. You will want to run your ad campaign with these sites so that you only pay for the actual leads generated and not for impressions of your ad that nets you nothing. This also enables you to ensure that your metrics stay on track for profitability.

Second, decide how much you're willing to spend to generate each lead. One way to purchase inexpensive media that can convert to qualified leads is to use "co-registration," or "co-reg," opportunities. These placements occur within the registration flow of a particular Web property.

For example, for a person to register as a user of an IT-oriented news site, he or she would have to fill out several fields in a form regarding requested information. Before clicking to submit the information, there would be some copy asking whether he or she would be interested in receiving some information from a leading computer manufacturer. When the user indicates interest, the computer company will have just secured a qualified prospect.

Media professionals who believe that such leads are of lesser quality than those generated by costlier methods have criticized co-reg advertisements in the past. Nevertheless, this very inexpensive method generates enough pre-qualified, warm leads that your telemarketing reps would be able to convert a good number of them.

If you choose to work with an agency to help with your media placements, take caution to select one that specializes in CPA marketing. It is important that the agency have a large number of contacts willing to take CPA advertising, or your will not have much success with the placement of your campaign.

What's next?

The verbiage describing what businesses may and may not do with regard to the Do Not Call Registry states that a company may call a consumer who has given express written permission to call, even if the consumer's number is on the Registry. Using the Internet to gather high-quality leads enables you to continue your telemarketing efforts while following the rules of the Do-Not-Call Registry and the FTC.

Because the Registry is relatively young, the rules set by the FTC continue to evolve. There are still many questions yet to be answered: for example, How long does the permission you've collected last? How many times and how often are you allowed to call someone who has given permission? Can you cross-sell? Up-sell? Call back to follow up?

As the telemarketing industry continues to adjust to these new regulations, the best advice is to proceed cautiously and always act courteously toward your customers.

Despite obstacles, telemarketing can still be a viable marketing strategy in today's economy. Creative thinking will help make it work successfully.

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Paul Epstein is the CEO of High Voltage Interactive. Reach him at