Magazine telemarketing has been riding a rollercoaster lately. It fell out of favor for a while with the advent of cheap e-mail only to land back on the top of the circulator’s short list when e-mail didn’t deliver the desired results. Then came a slew of rule changes, including the most recent from the FTC charging that telemarketers must mention opt-out options for consumers, and the BPA’s recording rule. Now with a slump in direct mail, publishers are turning to telemarketing again to deliver targeted results.

“Telemarketing remains a critical component of both our acquisition and renewal efforts. The Web has obviously created a new channel for subscriptions, but it still does not offer the same targeted approach that can be achieved with telemarketing,” says Mark Rosen, audience development director for Advanstar Communications Inc.

Some will argue that telemarketing is more reliable and predictable than e-mail and for the heavy-hitting campaigns, there’s just no better alternative, especially when it comes to requalification and new subscription acquisition efforts. “For our clients, telemarketing is very important because most of them don’t use direct mail any longer,” says Elaine Tyson, president of consultancy at Tyson Associates Inc. “They’re using e-mail and cover tip-ons—neither of which can compare in results to telemarketing or direct mail.”

In fact, direct mail spending in the U.S. fell by 3 percent to $56.7 million last year and is expected to drop another 8 or 9 percent this year, according to the report. “Telemarketing is playing a larger role in both our requal and new name acquisition efforts as the price point for direct mail has continued to rise,” says Julie Nachtigal, vice president of audience development for Cygnus Business Media. “We have found that results have improved and with telemarketing costs stabilizing and even improving, it has become more cost efficient for us.” Cygnus plans to schedule campaigns during non-peak periods to better manage the budget constraints of the downturn, Nachtigal adds.

Still, it’s not the perfect solution for every publisher. One consumer publisher has stayed out of telemarketing for the past few years because of the cost and mixed results with it. That publisher is only using it for lead generation on its conferences, again with mixed results, says a source. “For subscriptions, we’re able to make it work early in the renewal series, but we’re not willing to give up the revenue we’d get by pursuing it ourselves through direct mail. And when it comes to using it at the end of a renewal series for reactivations, the response hasn’t been strong enough to make it worthwhile for both the telemarketing outfits and us.”

Tyson notes that some unaudited publications are cutting back on telemarketing and a few have cut it out altogether. “But, audited publications don’t have a lot of options unless they are willing to see a decline in the publishers statement statistics,” she adds.

Sixty percent or more of controlled circulation magazines’ total circulation files—and even higher for new subscriptions—are telemarketing generated, according to Folio: sister publication Audience Development.

Expanding Roles

New name costs have gone up a bit because it’s tougher to get results with them, according to Margie Stocker, business account executive with Ebsco Teleservices. “People are not there or it’s not the same people. It gets more difficult if you don’t have a contact name and you lose a little credibility and they don’t want to give you the new name,” Stocker says.


Telemarketing Tips
Here are some tips to get the most out of any telemarketing campaign.

- Get the script right: You don’t want your telemarketer to bluntly ask for a potential subscriber’s e-mail address. Rather, have the caller say the address is necessary to confirm an order or requalify for next year, says Ebsco Teleservices Margie Stocker.

- Make sure list companies provide updated call lists: Telemarketers can update lists, but most don’t generate them. With all of the upheaval in the job market, it’s important that those lists are updated with valid contacts.

- Ask your telemarketer to check e-mail addresses of bounced-back e-mails: If your telemarketer is sending e-mails and some are not getting through, often times it boils down to human error. With calls being recorded, telemarketers may go back and check the e-mail addresses again. It’s time-consuming, but it will likely pay off.

- Negotiate rates with your telemarketer: Telemarketing can be pricey, but most firms will negotiate rates and can work with you to trim costs, like cutting back on the length of the script.

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