The customer who opts in is the one you really want in the first place.
Posted Oct 18, 2004
The goal of CRM has been to use information to create a one-to-one relationship with each customer. Marketers' efforts to reach this goal have led to dramatic improvements in the way companies deal with their customers and prospects.
Despite these improvements, however, the best that the marketing world has been able to achieve is one-to-some. The targeting of consumers, while far ahead of past efforts, is still imprecise and wasteful at best; at worst it is annoying to the consumer and leads to alienation and consumer backlash.
This situation is very evident over the past two years in the world of telemarketing. Companies ignored consumers' wishes and ultimately it took an act of Congress to return to consumers control of their telephones. So, now we have a list of more than 62 million phone numbers of people who have declared their wish not to be called by marketers.
In the name of privacy consumers are demanding that something be done about the dozens of emails and direct mail letters they receive daily. And legislators are listening to them.
The federal rule does, however, contain a couple of important exemptions. The first is the Existing Business Relationship (EBR) exemption that permits telephone contact with customers with whom you have had a financial transaction within the past 18 months or prospects that have inquired within the past three months. Important? Yes--but still limiting.
The second exception, and the one on which we will focus, is the permission-to-call exemption.
Opting back into telemarketing
Since the laws allow companies to ask people on the Do Not Call list for permission to call (although not via telemarketing), it is likely that this will become a preferred and sophisticated way to keep leads active.
The problem is getting customers to agree to be called. But for companies with good products and good reputations, with the proper approach it seems likely that many consumers will be willing to accept calls, as long as the calls are on terms defined by the consumer.
The foundation for success of a permission system lies in the marketer's ability to give the customer a good reason to agree, i.e., save money on auto insurance, continue a membership in a book club, consolidate local and long-distance onto a single and cheaper bill, etc. For most reputable marketers it should be easy to develop a strong value proposition.
In 2003, the world of telemarketing changed forever. The way we did business by telephone, right or wrong, will never be the same, whether we like it or not. But it does not have to be the end of the road. Rather, it points to the future for other media like email and text messaging. Finding ways to obtain consumer consent for telemarketing is critical to using the newer media as they develop.
Once this happens consumer marketers will finally be dealing with customers in a true one-to-one way.
About the Author
Jon Hamilton is CEO of Authtel, a Kennett Square, PA, company specializing in permission-based telemarketing. He can be reached at (888) 849-5207 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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