Infomercial Telemarketing: 14 Keys To Success
General Motors, Kodak, Chrysler, Bell Atlantic. Braun, Radio Shack and even Ross Perot are hot on TV infomercial marketing. These half-hour TV commercials are a billion-dollar industry now. But by 1998, expect 10 times that in sales revenue.

Telemarketing Magazine: April 1993
Timothy R. Hawthorne

Infomercial Telemarketing: 14 Keys To Success

General Motors, Kodak, Chrysler, Bell Atlantic. Braun, Radio Shack and even Ross Perot are hot on TV infomercial marketing. These half-hour TV commercials are a billion-dollar industry now. But by 1998, expect 10 times that in sales revenue.

The reason? Infomercials motivate viewers to pick up their phones. After nine years of hawking mostly diet and kitchen gadgets, major advertisers are finally understanding the power of 30 minutes to describe, demonstrate and extol the benefits of their products.

The Window Of Opportunity Is Wide Open
Telemarketers are getting the message, too. Billions of dollars are at stake. Fortunes will be made, new telemarketing corporate giants will be created, hut only if they understand the keys to success.

Right now, there are perhaps only a half-dozen major players in both inbound and outbound infomercial telemarketing. They've learned their service lessons the hard way - through years of trial and error.

Telemarketers new to infomercials will he hard pressed to compete with these leaders - unless they understand the basics.

1. Become The Expert - Too many telemarketers take a passive position with their clients - expecting clients to tell them what to do. Instead, the telemarketing staff of service representatives must be experts in infomercials, making shrewd recommendations based on experience. And if you, as a telemarketing firm, don't have the expertise, you need to buy it.

2. Target The Infomercial Vendors - Infomercial ad agencies, direct marketers, producers, directors and fulfillment houses are your key client referrals. They are typically the first to interface with the product advertiser. They usually recommend a telemarketing company to their clients - who listen very carefully.

Many of these vendors are seasoned pros. They know infomercials and they know quality telemarketing. If you want to get on their good side to obtain client referrals, you'd better demonstrate high-quality service and knowledge.

3. Inbound Or Outbound? - Infomercial marketers perceive inbound and outbound telemarketing services as the specialty of separate companies. You can strategically build a strong infomercial business in either of these areas, or both, But he careful if you're saying you're a "player" in both inbound and outbound right out of the gate.

The fact is, the infomercial industry truly needs more high-quality and integrated inbound/outbound companies to institute more synergistic campaigns. But few telemarketing companies have demonstrated to infomercial marketers that they can do both well. Review your strengths and weaknesses; and determine growth strategy.

4. Learn What Works - Spend a Saturday and Saturday night "surfing" your cable channels. Get to know what's selling on infomercials, who's selling it and how the offer/800 numbers are presented. Ninety percent of the shows you'll see are money-makers - they're using techniques that are success formulas. Order a few products. See how the telemarketers lead you through the order.

What do clients want most? Here's their "hit" list. Focus on these and you will be a hero.

5. Low Percentage Of Inquiry Calls - If your inquiry calls are 20 percent or less, you're golden. If they are 30 percent or more, it's your client's commercial that's the problem. But you still get a failing grade. You should have seen the commercials problem and told the client to change it. Be proactive! Some possible solutions include: the price and payment plan needs to he better showcased; the address for viewers to send checks needs to be on the screen longer; the charge for shipping and handling needs to be graphically enlarged; the commercial needs to explain in more detail exactly what product the viewer is getting for his or her money.

6. Low "Blockage" Rates - Don't try to hide them. Let your client know you can't make money answering every call. Still, preplan your inbound staffing by getting a weekly media report listing of program air dates/times and estimated call volumes. Any infomercial media buying agency worth its salt should he giving you a report like this anyway.

7. Prompt/Accurate Order Reports - On the day of an infomercial's first run (usually a Friday night or Saturday morning), have a service representative call in the results to the client within 30 minutes of the broadcast. Sure, one telecast doesn't mean much to you, but your client has been waiting 6 to 18 months for these initial results,. Then make sure your order allocation system is top notch. Three percent or less should be "unmatched" to a specific telecast.

8. Prompt Fulfillment Coordination - Yes, setting up an infomercial campaign can be a grind, and only one out of eight will run beyond test! But get the bugs out of your system now - big growth is definitely continuing.

Find out which infomercial fulfillment houses are the best and learn about their information-gathering/processing systems. Who are their key personnel? What do they need from you to eliminate customer service problems?

9. Competent Handling Of Complaints - The bigger the company, the less tolerant it is of customer complaints. Many of the new infomercial marketers come from the manufacturing/wholesale sector that until now, rarely spoke directly to consumers. Now they're dealing directly with customers - and it's scary.

Recommend that the client build its own in-house customer service department dedicated to the infomercial customers only - with immediate patch-through from your operators, if possible, or an accurate 800-number referral.

Don't botch this. One major "mishandle" and you could lose the business.

10. High Upsell Percentage - Help your client structure the company's upsell strategy. You've seen what works. Use that experience! Recommend product, price and positioning. If you grab 25 percent or more on your upsell, clients will love you.

Here's typically what works: One upsell versus two or more; one half the original product's price; "two for the price of one"; "send another to a loved one as a gift for half price."

11. Test And Retest Scripts - Changing an infomercial offer on TV is expensive; changing your inbound script isn't. Test various upsells, multiple payments/bill-me options, etc. Being aggressive here can add 10 to 20 percent to your client's bottom line - and yours, too.

12. Know Your Client's Infomercial - Be the expert. Recommend these basics: three internal "calls-to-action"; 800 number up on the screen a minimum of 45 seconds each time; don't "disguise" or "bury" the price - leave it on the screen a minimum of 30 seconds; no 800 number on the screen until the price has been mentioned; the send-check address on the screen a minimum of 20 seconds during each call-to-action; the voice-over announcer should state the 800 number and address two times each during each call-to-action; specify "Sorry, no C.O.D.s"; have a "call now" motivating premium on the screen; the advertiser's name/address and full shipping and handling amount must be on the screen during each call-to-action.

13. Recommend Aftermarketing Programs - Convert inquiries to sales; resell canceled or returned orders; reactivate old 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. Learn to master these techniques and you will keep your client for years.

14. Train Your Personnel - Infomercial customers are different. For one, they're paying more money (average $59) than short-form (60- to 120-second direct response) commercial customers. Your telephone reps need to know this. Put your client's product and infomercial on display. Give away free product samples. Walk your operators through the script.

So often, telemarketers are the unsung heroes of direct marketing - infomercials included. But much of that is due to the "order-taking service bureau" mentality still displayed by many telemarketing firms. There's plenty of room for creativity and consulting in the new infomercial marketplace. Companies that excel in thinking for their clients will he the backbone of the future infomercial industry.