Your company's database is the life blood of the future.

This Forum will look at the role of the telephone in extending and working your database. Sources of companies were covered in the last Forum but you should also consider incentivising your staff to find companies to add to the database. A monthly competition and a prize such as a meal for two can raise the profile of how important it is to add names and can provide some fun. If all the companies in your market sector are on your database, you have three choices. Either you can develop new products and services to sell to your existing market or you can sell your existing products and services to new markets. In practice, it is common to develop both the product and the market at the same time, but if this becomes to radical the risks are high. In this case you should use market research to determine the size of the potential market prior to making a substantial investment. The third alternative is to milk the base for cash and either invest in a new business, or your early retirement!

Databases can be serviced in a number of ways, but first you have to be clear about the objectives. Clearly, you are interested in finding companies with an immediate need, but marketing can also ensure prospective companies are aware of your products and services prior to their need being recognised. Your marketing is so good that it would never occur to your prospect to call anyone but you!My first direct mail campaign was aimed at Solicitors. After my third mail shot many Solicitors would say to me `Chris - I know your company - you have been writing to me for years!' Three well designed mail shots and the market thought we had been going for years! As part of your overall marketing communications plan your database should be telephoned once or twice a year to confirm the companies details, who is currently responsible for IT, and to find out whether they have an immediate need. But this can be developed further.Because of the personal nature of the telephone, it is an ideal medium for research.

Research can be extensive and include;-

  • Who the directors and decision makers are
  • What the company does
  • What processes are used
  • How many staff are employed
  • The number of sites and turnover
  • What IT systems are installed
  • What is their IT strategy for the future
  • When will the IT strategy be reviewed
  • Are there any current requirements
  • What are the hot spots

No doubt the information required will depend on which market sector you wish to address. You want to know; how big is the market, how big is your share of the market, who the competition are, which companies will be spending money this year, and how many of them will buy from you.

Ideally, much of the information gained should be recorded in a database so you can select who you will send what information to. This enables you to personalise the benefits of your products and services to the needs of the individuals within the Decision Making Unit. Details of the financial benefits of your system can be sent to Financial Directors whilst Managing Directors are more interested in information for controlling direct and indirect costs and increasing sales and profit margins. The IT man might be interested in Open Architecture whilst users are more interested in ease of use.

This is what marketing is about. Not just communicating an offer (telephone canvassing) but finding out about your market, its characteristics, the problems the market is facing, and the markets requirements for the future.

In depth research is rarely carried out more often than annually.

Telephone marketing must be structured. List cleaning can be completed by junior staff but identifying need requires maturity and knowledge. Even if you do not want to use a script it is a good idea to design one as this makes you think all the issues through logically.

Sales staff tend not to like routine telephone work. As soon as a prospect, or two, have been found many sales people will abandon the telephone work. So if you do use sales people, agree the number of calls to be made, when they are to be made, and the duration of the campaign.

Clearly defined telephone marketing campaigns can be contracted out to specialist companies. To ensure a successful outcome, you should prepare a brief which describes your company, the products and services sold and what the objectives of the campaign are. The criteria for the success of the campaign should be defined and agreed with the sub contract company. You should be involved in the campaign on a daily basis, to make sure it stays on track and is successful.

Direct mail can also be used to find immediate need, but it is a better medium for building credibility. A well presented letter, with a reply element, is cheap to produce and can get results. A corporate brochure can be included and this can add further credibility

Rules for Telephone Marketing

  • Have clear objectives
  • Agree all targets with staff
  • Always include a research element
  • Record information in a database
  • Have clear criteria for measuring the success of a campaign.
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