Field & Telemarketing
In the year ending 2001, field marketing expenditure in the UK increased 39 per cent to £487m, while telemarketing grew by 21 per cent to £2.9 billion over the same period (source: Direct Marketing Association). In tough economic times that are seeing above-the-line advertising budgets slashed, many below-the-line counterparts are enjoying the opposite effect as budgets are diverted to build brand awareness in a more accountable way. It is a welcome boost for field marketing and telemarketing, traditionally viewed as the poor relations, but is it working? And will it last?
Of course, if you want to reach hundreds of thousands of people in one fell swoop, neither field or telemarketing fits the bill. But there is more to building brand awareness than saturating your audience with as much information as possible in a short period of time.
“There is a huge market out there – as yet untapped – for companies to build brand loyalty through one-on-one customer service,” says Maggie Evans, managing director of iSky, outsourced customer care specialists. “Many companies pay lip service to customer service but in the UK we have barely scratched the surface.”
iSky, whose clients include Honda and Porsche, recently carried out a “customer satisfaction management” programme for one of its automotive clients, using telemarketing to contact people who had just purchased one of their cars or had a service. “The call reinforced their brand of choice and sought to understand the customer’s motivation,” adds Evans.
The results were outstanding with information about what makes a customer buy or walk away utilised by various departments, from sales and marketing to the dealers themselves, as Evan explains: “The company gets to know exactly what motivates a customer and the customer appreciates them for taking the time to listen.”
Kay Maisey, of strategic relationship management specialists HSM, agrees: “While above-the-line media communicates brand values and position en masse, it is the direct media that manage the first-hand experience of a brand. The telemarketer’s role is one of brand ambassador, bringing the brand to life and, in doing so, engendering customer loyalty.”
But while telemarketing has become more sophisticated over the years it still struggles to shake off the stigma attached to intrusive, cold calling.
The Telephone Preference Service, run by the DMA since 1999, was introduced to counteract this problem, by allowing the public to opt out of direct marketing calls, but has it worked?
Anthony Hinchliffe, MD of ANT Marketing, believes it has. “It’s highly effective and a most welcome method of excluding people from databases who do not wish to be contacted. It has cut down annoyance calls while ensuring telemarketers don’t waste time with unproductive lists.”
But with 2.28 million names already registered and a further 15,000 people registering every week, surely it could also severely limit telemarketers’ reach? Well, yes and no.
“It improves people’s perception of the integrity of telemarketing and shows we’re protecting privacy,” says Maisey and Evans adds: “There’s no point in phoning people who don’t want to hear.”
And many don’t want to hear largely because of the incidence of telemarketing done badly. “There are a small minority who spoil it for others,” said Evans. “If telemarketing is done with a genuine reason, perhaps with a relationship already established, and people are incentivised to help – for example, asking how the company can improve the customer’s experience of the brand – it can be very effective. One golden rule is to listen to what is being said.”
Maisey has concrete statistics to support this philosophy. “HGV contract hire firm Fraikin recognised that above-the-line’s limitations were not best suited to building brand awareness and directed its marketing spend to targeted outbound telemarketing activity. The knock-on effect was a 100-fold increase in inbound enquiries.”
Telemarketing also proved a saviour for the Financial Services Agency when negative publicity about endowment policies blew up and the public went into panic. The FSA worked with iSky to proactively contact people, answer questions and clarify the situation. “People actually said thank you – we turned a potentially disastrous situation into a positive one,” said Evans.
As telemarketing changes and companies recognise it as a more accountable, measurable medium of growing brand awareness, are the lines also blurring between its traditional territory of financial services and double glazing, and field marketing’s usual domain of typically retail, or household, products?
“Yes, financial services led the way with telemarketing, largely due to call centres, but as the method becomes more sophisticated, more companies are embracing it with different objectives in mind,” said Evans.
Alison McDougal of integrated marketing agency, Tiger Red takes a different tack.
“Financial services has always gone outside of the normal selling environment and field marketing is a much broader market than simply product sampling. Our clients are pretty open-minded and we just look at what approach will best meet the objectives.”
So how does field marketing compare to telemarketing in providing a cost-effective means of raising brand awareness?
“Field marketing has a place in any product-led campaign, where assessing people’s reactions can be as important as getting the product into people’s hands and/or consciousness,” says Helen Crabbe, business development manager at sales promotion and marketing consultancy Dynamix.
“In terms of overall budget it can be argued that field marketing is less budget hungry and can be more up close and personal with good feedback [than above-the-line advertising].”
However field marketing, like telemarketing, still suffers from a perception that it is the poor relation to other marketing methods, yet for the right company it can prove both effective and measurable.
For example, according to field marketing specialists, HeadCount, Nesquik spends more than three quarters of its annual marketing budget (approximately £8m) on in-store activity and sampling.
“One of the reasons that few companies adopt Nesquik’s approach is that they have always treated the discipline as a Cinderella medium,” says Headcount’s MD Mike Garnham. “However, field marketing has enormous power.”
Garnham cites the initial success of the kids’ drink Sunny Delight as an example. “A database of CTNs and convenience stores with a heavy footfall of children was established. Sunny Delight was sold into these outlets. Without any above- or below-the-line support the brand took off purely because it was available to the target audience.”
Where telemarketing is often very effective in following up a sale, field marketing can prove successful in initiating one. And while a-t-l marketing campaigns can fuel desire, there is a lot to be said for placing the product directly in someone’s hands or engaging the target audience in a two-way dialogue and responding to feedback.
A broader spectrum of companies are discovering this weapon but, as the economy picks up and advertising coffers are fattened once more, will below-the-line methods such as telemarketing and field marketing slip down the pecking order once again? Perhaps not.
“I don’t think field marketing can ever replace above-the-line but if financial pressures have meant a move to more integrated campaigns where agencies have to think beyond the usual level of customer interaction, it’s a good result,” says Crabbe.
Maisey is even more positive. “By the time marketing budgets return, telemarketing will have proved its worth by being an effective, measurable and controllable channel to market. The more astute companies will continue to use telemarketing not just to increase the bottom line but also to glean customer insight, which will then inform other marketing activity.”