B-to-b publishers are going to market with more products than ever—including their own and those of their clients. The advantage they offer, of course, is a narrow, targeted audience. The challenge they face is to avoid tapping out that audience, or allowing their marketing messages to get lost or misdirected in a sea of direct mail and email.
For this reason, many publishers are leaning more heavily on telemarketing. Once seen as mostly a cost center, this service is now helping to drive new revenue, especially in lead generation.
At Haymarket Media, clients pay an average of $50 to $100 per lead, depending on complexity, according to Tracey Harilal, a circulation marketing manager at the company who works with its Direct Marketing News and Medical Marketing and Media brands. In many cases, specific questions are tacked on to the end of a requalification script. In other, more targeted cases, where an advertiser wants to reach a senior-level executive or a very specific job title, designated lead-generation calls are conducted.
While some Haymarket brands—such as SC Magazine—have been running custom lead generation campaigns for a while now, Harilal says her brands just started doing so in August 2011. Since then, she’s seen a significant upswing in advertiser interest; revenue from these campaigns has jumped almost 50 percent in the first four months of 2012, compared to 2011.
Email or Phone?
At Vance Publishing, director of audience development Donna Hansen says telemarketing efforts have been focused on gaining email addresses. “In an ideal world, you’d have an email address for everybody and you’d not have to pay for telemarketing or direct mail,” she says. On the other hand, she adds, telemarketing’s return is much higher—at about 60 to 70 percent, versus 10 percent through email or about 5 percent or less through direct mail.
“With budgets being cut back, you have to put your dollars where you know you’re going to make the numbers,” Hansen says.
According to Peter Westerman, chief audience officer at Summit Business Media, the common perception of cost savings through email may be off. “I’d almost challenge the assertion that, in b-to-b, email is cheaper,” Westerman says. “Certainly on a direct cost basis, a call center is going to be more expensive. But over time, when looking at the fully loaded cost center of email, with managing lists and deliverability, in a narrow b-to-b market, you’ll find those costs start to get buried and hidden.” Especially for clients demanding more targeted, highly qualified leads, he says, phone is much more effective than email.
For Harilal, telemarketing makes up 60 to 80 percent of her overall budget—but the return rates, and her need to meet a 100 percent one-year direct request for the BPA audit, make it essential. For lead generation, the return is at about 80 to 85 percent, versus roughly 10 percent in other channels combined. For subscriptions, the return is about 75 percent, with telemarketing accounting for 50 or more percent of all requalifications.
Westerman, who not long ago joined Summit from Ziff Davis Enterprise, says he is currently working to ramp up Summit’s telemarketing approach, to be more in line with how the service was used at Ziff. There, in addition to lead generation, calls were used in conjunction with email for live and digital event recruitment, registration and reminders.
Cross-promotion of products and events across the company’s brands is another key use he’d like to carry over. “The Summit brand is not as well known as individual brands we go to market with,” says Westerman. “When we cross-promote, one thing we want to communicate is that [the audience] might be solicited by a sister brand, and why.”
Data gathering is a rich opportunity for a variety of reasons, especially in a company like Summit that has data as well as media products. “In addition to a transaction, we have the opportunity to ask two or three research-style questions that we might be paid by a client to ask, or for research we’re doing on our own behalf,” says Westerman. “I think the granularity of the information you can collect on the phone tends to be higher than when people are registering for something like a content syndication on the Web.”
These questions—beyond basic demographics such as company size, job title, industry, etc.—are also used for list hygiene and database management. Telemarketers can capture more nuanced information about matters like buying schedules, buying power and budget availability to find out how qualified a person is, and who else at the company might be worth calling.
Making it Work
Haymarket recently hired a dedicated staff person to oversee lead generation campaigns. This person monitors the daily activity of campaigns—an absolute necessity—and formats data for the daily or weekly reports that need to be sent to clients.
For many publishers, these types of campaigns have led to tighter coordination between sales and circulation. Complementing this are software applications—APIs— that tie a vendor’s system to the publisher’s, automatically uploading and distributing data from calls instantly, without the need to manually update an Excel spreadsheet.