800 Number Management For Direct Response Marketing (AKA Toll Free Number Management)

800 Number Management has numerous related titles such as TFN Management, Dialed Name Identification Service Management (D.N.I.S.) and even Toll Free Number Management. For the sake of simplicity, and sanity, this article will use the term 800 Number Management, despite the numerous different references to the actual meaning behind the term.

When it comes to 800 Numbers the primary reason for having one is to sell a product or service or to make it convenient for an existing customer to receive service of a product or service. Hopefully, their purchase originated from you and your company. If you provide exceptional service to your existing customers, one method is to use an 800 Number to provide support services, with a bit of luck more additional products and/or services will be purchased.

The bottom line purpose for having 800 Numbers is to sell more products or services and to maximize the marketing results. However there is always an issue with having a bank of 800 Numbers or running multiple call centers and that problem is the management.

A company accumulates 800 Numbers because the C.M.O. wants to link the company’s marketing campaigns for every product, for every creative, for every offer, etc., to a unique 800 Number. So every variation requires a different and unique 800 Number. Then the C.M.O. wants to see which combination of product, creative, offer, and campaign is driving the most sales. This is called multi-channel marketing. So tracking marketing results via these linkages from marketing across multiple call centers and 800 Numbers to a sale quickly becomes a mind-numbing challenge.

No matter how you look at the problem, it requires smart executives to think more, spend more time and invest more money to get it right! Not to mention productive collaboration between the C.I.O., C.F.O., and C.M.O. Unfortunately, even the largest multi-national and national direct response companies don’t have this process down right.

A few marketing work-flow issues that must first be thought through are:

– Have standards been established for data collection and is there a mechanism to find, isolate and correct data issues as they arise?

– Are the people working in marketing, the call centers and the web group in possession of the commensurate technical knowledge? Do they have the insightful diligence to ask for the right information; in the right format; from their vendors?

– Is there a central repository, unique to marketing, for all historical information and data; from all vendors; across all marketing initiatives?

– Have we established a reporting infrastructure that can link calls (response), orders (sales) and other outcomes (disposition codes) to the specific marketing campaign that drove them?

I have talked to a lot of companies who use individual vanity 800 Numbers for each of their campaigns. The top two problems every company and ad agency have are:

1) They have a manual process of assigning, segregating and linking their 800 Number to an individual campaigns, offers and creative. Why, you maybe wondering? All but a handful of companies have a manual process for aggregating and linking. These manual processes open the door to huge probabilities for data errors.

2) A C.M.O. is forced or inadvertently funnels all their campaigns to one 800 Number, following a branding strategy, thus making it impossible to identify which campaign, offer or creative is the one real driving force behind the response and the sales revenue generation. This is called campaign overlapping and it is not pretty. One company is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in attribution modeling to statisticians in India, when the problem can easily be solved for as little as $500/month.

Summary of the Solution:

The ultimate goal of an 800 Number Management system is to be able to effectively use the 800 Numbers and their associated Dialed Name Identification Service as a mechanism to quickly, easily and cogently link or tie marketing activity directly to sales. Creating such a relationship is critical to measuring return on marketing investment. Having a direct, systematic, and automated link between everything marketing produces and touches with all response channels, such as: retail outlets, telesales and the web-group eliminates every hard-metric a marketing department has. Having an automated marketing work-flow process in place also provides an opportunity to achieve maximum marketing efficiency! Notice I said “opportunity,” the overwhelming majority of companies can’t even fantasize about such a system, let alone imagine implementing one.

The first step, and it is a solid one, would be to implement an 800 Number Management system, most companies don’t have a mechanism that seamlessly manages 800 Numbers, and associated Dialed Name Identification Service. The system must also be able to communicate and track every change, modification (and who initiated such edits,) and this information must be captured accurately and consistently. It must also be able to prompt action such as disseminating request, allocation and usage information. All of the aforementioned functionality is critically important to the success of any direct response marketing organization.

Additional bolt-on modules or having the flexibility to expand functionality in order to accommodate growth is also critical, such growth oriented functionality would be: forecasting, bucketing tracking tags by product, campaign, marketing group, agency, etc.; assignment of appropriate skill sets to specific call center personnel, and staff level balancing. The more sophisticated organizations will want to measure call center productivity over time periods (e.g. week over week) as well as marketing campaign performance at a granular level.

The Benefits of an 800 Number Management system for Telesales:

1) A centralized location to easily manage and track Dialed Name Identification Service across vendors, programs, skill sets and campaigns.

2) An apples to apples comparison of vendors that field calls for the same 800 Numbers and the associated marketing campaign.

3) Ability to bucket 800 Numbers to be used by the marketing organization to ensure seamless assignment and use of 800 Numbers across campaigns.

4) More accurate and timely forecasts based on marketing activities.

5) The ability to split out call volume by day when an unexpected Dialed Name Identification Service receives calls from multiple campaigns.

6) A simple to use interface that allows modifications to historic data, including splits of existing data across Dialed Name Identification Service, the ability to add new information, and deletion of data that may result from overflow that occurs, for example: when a trunk fails at a call center the overflow calls need to be reallocated to in order to provide accurate reporting.

The Benefits of an 800 Number Management system for Marketers:

1) 800 Number / Dialed Name Identification Service Management is one viable option for addressing direct response marketing professionals needs, however only a hand full of companies understand the real needs of marketing.

2) A centralized location to track and assign 800 Numbers to Dialed Name Identification Servic across programs and campaigns.

3) Elimination of unwanted re-use of 800 Numbers across multiple campaigns simultaneously.

4) Historical tracking of 800 Numbers as well as a mechanism to plan future use and assignment of 800 Numbers.

5) Link Campaign results to the campaigns that drove them (Direct Mail, Direct Response – Promo TV, Radio, Circulars.)

6) Systematically manage the assignment of 800 Numbers to campaigns based on business rules of your choosing.

Three Things to Consider Before Hiring That Marketing Person

First, what does the position entail? “Marketing”, after all, means different things in different companies. To some firms the Marketing done entails identifying new markets, driving new product development, fielding market communication campaigns, then directing and motivating the sales force. Clearly, they envision a senior executive who would be very near the top of the organization..

At the other extreme, to other companies a “Marketing” person is someone who turns out ads, catalogs, brochures, flyers and so on and do it in-house. That’s what “Marketing Manager” means to these companies.

For most companies the “marketing person” needed is less than senior executive and more than a graphics designer. If your company is in this middle category then you need to consider these questions:

1. Is the marketing need long term and ongoing? Is there a regular monthly workload and will it continue at least two years? Too many companies hire someone to tackle a “huge” volume of work only to see it completed within a year. Then they have to find more for the new hire to do or let them go. Here are a couple of hints;

A. Plot all past marketing projects. When were they completed? If you don’t see an ongoing, steady output of marketing projects, chances are that you don’t need that marketing person.

B. Don’t hire someone just to save on agency or graphic designer costs. When outsiders aren’t working for you, they don’t cost you a thing. Salaries, on the other hand, are a fixed expense.

2. How will you recognize and avoid B- or C grade marketing? You want marketing that will boost sales and rock the competition but what if the new marketing person’s proposals don’t “wow” you? Do you run with them anyhow and hope for the best? Consider this:

A. “Creativity” isn’t all there is marketing. Successful marketing is always based on an insightful marketing strategy. The marketing manager must have both the education and real-world marketing experience to not only understand the strategy but to contribute to its development.. And those credentials don’t come cheap.

B. Creativity is required to implement the strategy but it must not only be attention-getting but must also reflect well on the product and on the company. Mediocre or “cute” creative can blunt the impact of the strategy. That’s why marketers want to see three or more distinct creative approaches.Will you be able to recruit —and afford—that creative a marketing manager?

C. Even creativity should be judged in a business-like manner. Younger, novice marketing managers may not take criticism, let alone rejection, of their pet ideas well. How to spot them? Go through a candidate’s samples and quiz them on why they chose a particular direction. Look for answers that refer to results not design theories. If they seem defensive, you can look forward to hurt feelings and sulking.

3. What if you hire the wrong candidate? In companies that haven’t a good-sized marketing department, there is no one to take up the slack when the marketing person is out, on vacation, or let go. Moreover, marketing people usually interact with only one or two others who are in a position to judge how well they’re doing. That’s why when that marketing person is let go, the reasons are usually not obvious to their co-workers. This uncertainty can affect employee morale. Hints? There aren’t any. Just don’t hire the wrong person.

At the start I wrote ” the bad news is that there are other reasons why adding to your staff may not be best for your company.” Well, the good news is that you can get the marketing you need without a marketing manager.

I’m not proposing that you simply go back to the ad agencies or designers you relied on before you considered hiring a marketing managers. Apply the same business acumen that you employ in the rest of your operations. While marketing services are far from being a commodity, shopping around for the right one… or ones… is easy in these internet days. And, yes, I did write “ones.” Let me explain.

A lot of companies do the same things they did all along because they thought that there were no choices. They’d hire one ad agency. They’d sign a contract. And, believe it or not, some paid a monthly retainer! Wake up, pal! You’re the Customer! You get to call the shots!

Why not hire the marketing expertise you need when you need it? Need a product launch plan? Hire someone who’s done it over and over again. Pay them then say “adios.”

Need a corporate identity campaign? Hire someone to get you that recognition then recognize that, once the mission is accomplished, you no longer need that someone.

Consider this radical idea in terms of the three questions we covered before.

1. Is the marketing need long term and ongoing? It doesn’t matter. Once you’ve settled on the price you can “employ” an outside consultant or agency for a month or a year. Let them go and re-hire them for the next project. What about the cost? Trust me, it’ll always be far cheaper than paying a salary, benefits, and for endless hours of web-surfing.

2. How will you recognize and avoid B- or C grade marketing? Simple. If you don’t like what they bring you, you don’t pay. You send them “back to the drawing board.” No more worrying about hurting someone’s feelings. No more putting up with missed deadlines. You’re the Customer not the Boss. And everyone in sales knows that customers are more demanding than any boss.

3. What if you hire the wrong candidate? Fire a consultant or an agency and not one of your people will care. Best of all, you can hire a replacement before the original is out the door. In fact, you can have more than one agency or marketing mercenary working for you at the same time. The secret? You don’t give anyone your account. You give them a project.

So before you fill that Marketing Manager position, ask yourself ” Why not hire a “temp” first?”

Richard Koranda has driven creative strategies for American Express, Bank of America, CitiCard, Visa, Dreyfus, and Diners Club. His work earned over 60 industry awards for response and creativity. He was also responsible for the highly successful repositioning of Visa “Visa. Its everywhere you want to be”, which led to the brand dominating the bankcard market.

Previously, he headed up UMarketing LLC as Executive Creative Director serving a broad range of clients including Blue Cross, AMA, KaVo Dental America, Blockbuster Music, MicroTek, and Diners Club International, Chase, US Bank, BMO Harris Bank.

5 Keys To Direct Mail Success

I am going back to some good old fashioned marketing… Namely direct mail and I suggest you should too. In recent years with the rise of the internet, email, and social media many small business owners have turned their back on direct mail which has been a proven marketing methodology for a hundred plus years.

So while all of your competitors are busy sending their tenth Twitter update for the day letting all their friends know they are about to walk the dog, or they are busy inviting all of their Facebook friends to their Fan Page, there is a huge opportunity to BE DIFFERENT!

One of the most challenging things in marketing your business today is gaining and holding the ATTENTION of your target market. The key is to differentiate yourself from the rest. In order to do this it makes sense to gain visibility amongst your target market through different channels than your competitors.

That’s the reason I am making a major shift back to Direct Mail and I am recommending it to my coaching and consulting clients. (Note: I do believe there is some value in online marketing such as Facebook etc… however it is very easy to get lost amongst the many).

Direct Mail has a proven track record of success. Unlike email marketing it has close to 95% open rate. Email open rates continue to plumit as more and more people suffer from Inbox overwhelm.

Now here is the exciting news of the day… where once there was a lot of Small Business owners using Direct Mail… today there are hardly any! Large corporates still use Direct Mail but at the Small to Micro end of the business spectrum there are very few people effectively using Direct Mail.

This spells OPPORTUNITY to me. An opportunity to reach your target market in a way that your competitors are not even attempting to do.

Lets look at 5 keys to making Direct Mail work for you:

1. Quality List – This is where a lot of Direct Mail campaigns fall down. You must have a quality list of your target market. My preference is to build my own list. Now I do this online with the FREE CD giveaway that we offer. This helps capture their postal address so we can then use this for Direct Mail campaigns. So focus first on developing the right strategies to build your own quality mailing list of your target market.

2. Attention Grabber – You have about 30 seconds to grab their ATTENTION when they open your direct mail letter. So the key here is to use powerful compelling headlines focused on them. There are also other devices you can use to attach to the letter to get their attention such as attaching a $2 coin in the top right hand side with the headline… ‘Why Am I Sending You $2?’. This is a curiosity builder which draws them into the letter.

You want to give careful consideration to the headline and opening paragraph of your letter. Is it focused totally on the reader and their particular desires, wants and needs? If it is not the letter goes straight in the bin.

3. Irresistible Offer – Your sales letter then must have some sort of offer that is Irresistible combined with a call to action. What I mean by this is you should offer them what is known as a FRONT END low dollar value product. This reduces the risk of responding and lowers the barrier to entry for them becoming a client. Make it a totally irresistible offer and tell them specifically how to take up your offer. You want to build into your offer scarcity and urgency to prompt them to act.

4. Sequenced Mailing – One of the little known keys to improving the overall success of your Direct Mail campaign is to use a sequenced campaign. This means you send to the same list a sequence of three letters spaced appx. 3 weeks apart. The first letter outlines your offer, the second letter is sent as a reminder that the deadline for the offer is coming and we haven’t heard from you. The third letter is a final notice letter. Note that letters two and three must reference the previous letters. Using a sequenced mailing campaign like this can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your campaign as opposed to a one off try it and hope for the best approach.

5. Tracking & Measuring – Finally you need to track and measure the results of your Direct Mail campaigns. How well have they worked? What was the response rate? What happens when you send the same letter with a different headline.

In all marketing it is the tracking & measuring of results and then fine tuning your approach that makes the greatest leaps forward toward success.

One of the reasons that I think Direct Mail is so important to put into your marketing mix is that if you combine it with your online marketing what happens over time is your target market start to hear your name all over the place. They may not remember exactly where they keep hearing about you but they know that you keep popping up in lots of different locations. This familiarity makes you highly attractive to your target market.

In a world where most small business owners have lost the art of effective Direct Mail campaigns I highly recommend it to reach your target market in a way that your competitors will probably not even think of.