By Tim Butte, MGI Relationship Director
Membership Engagement Fact: The more two-way communications an organization has, the more engaged members will be. Parents, classroom teachers, and astute associations all know this.
Telemarketing at its very best is a concise yet friendly, professional courtesy call to current or former members, with an immediately recognized rationale (e.g., providing a convenient and quick method to renew a membership) that turns the entire call into a welcomed experience. Combined with emails and direct mail, this live person-to-person contact can also be a great way to overcome the passivity of the other direct marketing media.
Factors that determine the success of a telemarketing campaign:
- Lists. As with all direct marketing, nothing trumps a good list. However, a telemarketer’s list is not always a “good” list. It is often made up of the non-responders to previous communication, and telemarketing is often a final attempt to achieve a positive response with the personal power of the phone call.
- Message. At the top of the call, the identity of the caller and the reason for the call must be set out clearly, concisely, and with respect for the professional respondent’s busy schedule.
- Timing. Other than the daily rhythm of good times to call and times to avoid, there is also a timing rhythm to the year. With some exceptions, best times to call are dependent on whether the organization has an anniversary–based membership (membership renewal date linked to member’s join date) or an annual-based membership (predetermined date when all memberships come due).
- If the organization has an anniversary-based membership with a 3 month grace period, the most effective time to call lapsed members is month 2 of the grace period (also referred to as “month 14”). At this point, your call becomes a friendly reminder/opportunity for a valued member to take care of that languishing renewal before it expires. There is a solid reason for the call, and it is usually welcomed … especially if there have been two, three, or more email or direct mail communication attempts prior to the call.
- For calendar-year based memberships, February, March, and April seem to be the sweet spot where the right list, the right offer, and the right caller at the right time can typically convert on average 25% to 40% of those contacted. (The conversion rate in telemarketing is a reflection of the number of members actually renewed from the total of members contacted.)
- Callers and messaging. The best telemarketers are well-trained consummate professionals. MGI is linked with pre-screened, tried, and tested calling partners who have passed rigorous security standards including PCI compliance. These callers are carefully matched with the organization and the program based on past experience.
Federal Do Not Call lists are typically a non-issue with association membership renewal and reinstatement telemarketing. In addition to most professional societies enjoying a non-profit status (exempt from for-profit and DNC regulations), association telemarketers are additionally exempt because they are dealing with established or prior business relationships.
- Marketers writing telemarketing scripts need to take off their direct marketing glasses and their inclination to add more and more copy to a package. Brevity is key.
- A good script is one that acts as a guide for the telemarketing professional. It provides the 10 seconds of truth that clearly state up front the reason for the call with an attractive offer … “Hello, my name is XXX and I’m calling of behalf of XYZ association. The reason for my call is simply to let you know that your membership has lapsed and to give you this convenient opportunity to take care of that today … and if you renew your membership today, we would like to send you YYY. I can take your credit card information and help you get your member benefits re-instated quickly.”
- Avoid the temptation of a hidden agenda. For example, don’t surprise your renewing member with a request to participate in a 10 minute survey at the end of the call. It will annoy and possibly alienate the responder and even jeopardize what should have been a quick, friendly, convenient way to transact that languishing membership renewal.
One of the greatest challenges in telemarketing over the past few years has been the reduction in contact rates, primarily due to new screening devices, a reduction in land lines, and recently, new regulations concerning the dialer and cell phone contact. To counter these trends, many organizations retain outside calling services that use high-end predictive computer dialing equipment to get maximum contact and list penetration in a much shorter amount of time.
Beyond its powerful capacity for drawing lapsed members back into an organization, telemarketing programs also serve as “subsidized” surveys and member data scrubbing programs. The call can also uncover invaluable feedback on member satisfaction and an update of contact information that reduces bounce-back emails and returned mail.
Tim Butte has worked in association and charitable telemarketing for the past 15 years. Prior to that, he was 20 years in fundraising and membership development. If you are interested in finding out more about adding telemarketing to your marketing mix, please call Tim at 703.706.0397 or email him at TButte@MarketingGeneral.com.