How to become an infomercial response center

Focus on: How to become an infomercial response center

Hawthorne, Timothy R

Q.–How much revenue is the infomercial industry generating?

A.–Half-hour TV commercials, or infomercials, are generating a billion dollars in sales today. By 1998, infomercials are projected to generate over $10 billion in sales revenue. Infomercials have changed dramatically since their inception in 1984: early infomercials mostly promoted diet and fitness products and kitchen gadgets. Today, infomercials are selling products from nearly every imaginable industry, and more and more Fortune 1000 companies are producing infomercials, including General Motors, Kodak, Chrysler, Bell Atlantic, Braun, Saturn and Time-Life.

Q.–How can my company get involved in this lucrative market?

A.–Expertise is critical for telemarketing service agencies that want to work with infomercials. Spend a Saturday night flipping through the channels, learning what’s selling on infomercials and how the products are presented. Call and see how the sales reps lead you through the order. Target the infomercial vendors, such as ad agencies, direct marketers, producers, directors and fulfillment houses. These will be your key client referrals, as they usually have initial contact with the product advertisers, and they make recommendations on which telemarketing firm to use.

Q.–Do infomercial advertisers have a greater need for inbound or outbound service?

A.–The infomercial industry needs more high-quality integrated inbound/outbound companies to institute more synergistic campaigns. However, most infomercial marketers perceive telemarketing companies as specializing in either inbound or outbound telemarketing services. You can strategically build a strong infomercial business in either of these areas, or both, but be sure to review your strengths and weaknesses before positioning yourself as capable of both inbound and outbound services.

Q.–What do infomercial marketers want most from a telemarketing program ?

A.–A low percentage of inquiry calls is crucial — no more than 20 percent should be the goal. If more than 30 percent of your inbound calls are inquiries, the infomercial needs to be changed. At this point, you should take a proactive role and get involved in changing the program. Some possible solutions include: the price and payment plan need to be better showcased; the address for viewers to send checks needs to be larger on the screen; shipping and handling charges need to be enlarged; the infomercial must explain in more detail exactly what the consumer is getting for his or her money.

It’s also important to provide the lowest possible blockage rates. Although you may not be able to answer every call, be sure to preplan your inbound staffing by using a weekly media report listing of program air dates/times and estimated call volumes.

Be sure to provide the client with prompt, accurate order reports. On the day of the infomercial’s first run, call in the results to the client within 30 minutes of the broadcast. Your order allocation system should be topnotch — no more than three percent of all orders should be unmatched to a specific telecast.

Q.–What are some of the “extras” I can implement into my program to provide excellent service to my infomercial clients ?

A.–You’ll score a lot of points by offering prompt fulfillment coordination. Find out which infomercial fulfillment houses are the best and learn about their information-gathering/processing systems. Who are the key personnel? What do they need from you to eliminate customer service problems?

Q.–What is the best way to handle customer complaints ?

A.–Many of the new infomercial marketers come from the manufacturing/wholesale sector that, until now, rarely spoke directly to consumers. Based on this, it’s best for your client to build its own in-house customer service department dedicated only to customer complaints and concerns. Your operators should be able to immediately patch through calls to this number; or, they should provide an accurate 800-number referral.

Q.–What other techniques can I use to boost infomercial sales?

A.–One way to sell more products is to structure the company’s upsell strategy to sell more than the individual product. Recommend product, price and positioning. Strategies that usually work are: one upsell versus two or more; one-half the product’s original price; “two for the price of one”; “send another to a loved one as a gift for half price.”

Another way to create additional sales is through after-marketing programs. Convert inquiries to sales; re-sell canceled or returned orders; reactivate former customers; convert one-time buyers to continuity programs; upsell and cross-sell. These programs can add 15 to 50 percent to your client’s revenue.

Q.–Should I provide any special training to help my staff offer superior service ?

A.–It’s important to test and retest your telemarketing scripts. If your script isn’t top-notch, you won’t make the sales, regardless of how good the infomercial is.

Test various upsells and multiple payment options. Being aggressive in your scripts can boost sales up to 10 or 20 percent. Also, make sure your personnel are well-trained. Infomercial customers are paying more money for the products they buy, and your sales reps need to know and understand this. Put the product and infomercial on display; give away free samples; walk your operators through the script.

The infomercial market is rapidly growing, and telemarketing service agencies that grow with it will have to be aggressive, knowledgeable and willing to think for the client. Companies that excel in these areas will continue to reap the rewards of infomercial marketing well into the twenty-first century.

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Copyright Technology Marketing Corporation Apr 1994

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