How can clients compare costs in the telemarketing field? Robert Dwek
alerts agencies to some pitfalls
In the good old days, everyone knew their place. Ad agencies were top
dog and told the other agencies what was what.
Telemarketing agencies were the lowest of the low, the quintessence of
all that was unglamorous about marketing. If they had to be used at all,
at least they could be depended upon not to answer back.
How things have changed. The telephone is king in the 90s marketing
jungle, and must be accorded due respect.
It’s best to remember this when you are fuming over the apparent
impossibility of comparing costs among telemarketing bureaux or puzzling
about how to persuade a bureau to hit or exceed targets.
Michael Hope, whose Michael Hope Partnership acts as a bridge between
perplexed clients and besieged bureaux, agrees that comparing costs is a
nightmare: ‘We put out campaign briefs all the time and there’s no
commonality in the responses we get.’
He thinks the Direct Marketing Association should step in to help
clarify the situation, or else one of the larger bureaux should take a
But, in the meantime, the client will simply have to be aware of
differences between the bureaux and should write the brief less in terms
of what they want and more in terms of what that particular bureau can
Hope also suggests that clients discuss their needs with a bureau before
sending a more formal brief. ‘A lot of bureaux prefer it this way,’ he
points out. ‘They may even assist you in writing the brief.’
An alternative would be to go to a middleman such as MHP or the L&R
Group, which should be able to steer you in the right direction.
As for incentives, this need not be a problem since telemarketing is a
fairly transparent technique. The results are there for all to see, but
it is up to the client to make it crystal clear from the outset what
exactly is wanted and how the bureau will be rewarded.
Some bureaux prefer to stick to a standard rate for the job but others
will take a more enterprising approach and strike a deal which gives
them a percentage of the order value.
This approach is particularly effective if the bureau is in a position
to cross-sell or up-sell products on your behalf.
Above all, though, you must treat telemarketing on its own merits,
rather than as just another boring but necessary bit of below the line.
Andy McInally, the sales director at the leading bureau, Brann, believes
many clients have yet to appreciate this fact. ‘The problem,’ he says,
‘is that the marketplace at the moment wants to buy telemarketing in the
same way as it buys print advertising. But it’s not the same thing at
‘Telemarketing is an interactive process with the customer base,
designed to move the customer on to another stage in the sales process,
and this can involve a lot of fairly intangible things - response times,
Incentives must take account of this.’
Facts and figures
Major telemarketing bureaux are: Connections In Business (part of BT),
Brann, Merit Direct, Decisions, Readycall, ICD
Bureaux focusing on fully automated services (ie, computerised voices
rather than live ones) include: Broadsystems, IMS, TIS
Call centres - specific departments set up to deal exclusively with
tele-marketing - are a rapidly growing phenomenon in the UK. Some pounds
75 million was spent on them in 1994. They can be operated by the client
itself or, increasingly, by a bureau on the client’s behalf.
Telemarketing is now reckoned to account for pounds 1 billion worth of
phone calls annually. More than pounds 10 million-worth of these calls
are made each week, an increase of more than 20 per cent a year. The
turnover of the top 40 telemarketing bureaux increased by 69 per cent to
pounds 130 million in 1995.