Betting your brand on outbound

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Telemarketing is a numbers game, literally and figuratively. You need real, live phone numbers to keep your outbound call centre running. You also need enough of them to deliver the targeted level of sales based on a call-to-conversion ratio.

Gamblers are familiar with the same model. The more bets you place, the more likely you are to get a win. At the same time, there is always the hope of the one big gamble that pays off. As you get behind, however, it becomes tempting to chase your losses and stake ever more to get back to breakeven.

You can get into a lot of trouble very quickly with both betting and outbound telemarketing following that line of thinking. I was talking to two leading brands at last week’s 1-2-1 Data Summit who bemoaned the problems that call centres were causing their data management functions.

One head of data from a major energy provider had just heard that a product sales team had added 15 seats to its outbound operation. That translates into an immediate need for over 2,000 live numbers for them to call, day-in-day out.

It might not sound a lot, but the marketer made the point that permission to call rates on the customer database simply did not permit this extension of activity. Going to the commercial market was unlikely to be much help either. There are currently 15.6 million people registered with the Telephone Preference Service to stop unsolicited calls. The number is rising and unlikely to fall back.

The other marketer from a leading insurance brand was all too familiar with the problem. His company applies propensity scores to customer records that define how likely a customer is to purchase specific products. Behind that scoring is an intention to reduce wastage and avoid annoying customers with offers they are not interested in.

What was happening within his business was a demand to have access to records with scores below the determined threshold as part of a sales push. Forget the models, give us the numbers, was the cry.

As sales teams get closer to the end of a period and their targets start to look out of reach, their hunger for ever higher volumes of numbers grows. Sales often has a louder voice than data at board level and can win executive backing for a loosening of the rules as a result.

Betting with your brand in order to hit a short-term sales goal is risky. You might make the numbers, or you might just be pushing up the opt-out rate. As a result, the game will get even harder to win during the following quarter.

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