Phone-Based E-Mail Capture: The Next Wave?

Thinking about the relationship between the telephone and email, the old Girl Scout song comes to mind: “Make new friends, but keep the old./One is silver and the other gold.”

Here’s why. Yes, email is increasingly the preferred mode of business communication. Heck, our phones at work barely ring any more.

Yet when it comes to actually getting email addresses (and permission to use them), many email marketers return to the old, tried-and-true way of communicating with their clients and prospects. You got it — they call on the phone.

Basics of Phone-Based E-Mail Address Capture

The premise behind phone-based capture is pretty simple:

  1. Call the customer to request or confirm his email address and ask for permission to send email.

  2. Give the customer a reason or incentive to provide the email address and permission.
  3. Log or record the phone call as evidence permission was obtained.
  4. Ensure accurate capture by putting solid verification processes in place.

Results can be pretty outstanding. Phone-based data capture experts achieve as high as 90 percent success rates. Other permission-based capture methods, such as direct mail, usually yield rates of less than 1 percent.

Dun & Bradstreet Scores

Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) needed to increase business-to-business (B2B) customer email coverage but found using its inside sales staff was not the most effective, accurate, or fastest method for phone-based email capture. More important, the process diverted sales from higher-value activities. So, it outsourced the project to Proactive Business Solutions.

Proactive’s team phoned D&B’s customer database. The incentive was a complimentary D&B marketing white paper, offered by email. D&B was able to obtain the customer contact’s email address 88.37 percent of the time when a live contact was reached.

D&B calculated the cost per customer contact (including cost of the phone capture) was 63.4 percent less than direct mail. Its estimated cost per customer contact was reduced from $1.25 to $0.46 in the first year, based on the assumption each contact will be mailed 12 times during that year, and 20 percent of the email addresses will have to be updated in that same period.

Don’t Try This at Home!

As Joanna can attest from her own phone capture experiences, do not attempt this with an in-house staffer with regular responsibilities. Any sort of telemarketing project only works if you dedicate time and resources to it exclusively. There’s a fairly large commitment in dollars and management bandwidth to do it right in-house.

Proactive’s Scott Geisinger explains the focused time, data capture expertise, and dialing and voice logging infrastructure required to do phone capture properly and inexpensively are considerable. An effort to capture email addresses as part of a normal in- or outbound customer interaction is usually ineffective because a large portion of the customer database is not touched. It’s terribly slow, and many salespeople fear requesting an email address could create an obstacle to the sale.

“Just Send a Brochure” Excuse Now Obsolete

Once, to quickly end a telemarketing call, a prospect could get away with, “Just send me a brochure.” Three weeks later, that brochure would finally arrive by mail, resulting in a total sales process disconnect.

Marketers now turn that tired excuse into an email capture tool. You can ask the prospect, “May I send you a PDF of our brochure?” If the answer is yes, you’ve captured her email address. That PDF provides immediate sales information with visuals and brand logos. It offers more credibility than a conversation with an anonymous phone rep can.

Adrian Miller, a sales training expert, takes it a step further. Miller encourages the prospect to open the PDF while still on the phone, so you can go through the brochure together. She has found this particularly effective for B2B catalog companies, where the salesperson can “shop” with a prospect to encourage immediate sales.

E-Mail and Telephone Sales Integration Obstacles

Both Miller and her colleague Jane Tabachnick, an e-marketing consultant, concur one of the biggest obstacles to integrated email and phone campaigns is that traditional schism between marketing and sales.

Marketing email campaigns are typically designed to contact large portions of the database. Sales creates one-off emails to the core customer portion of their base. The result is “strategic gridlock,” says Tabachnick. Creative marketers must acknowledge and work around the problem. At a minimum, salespeople should be notified when marketing emails are sent, so they can capitalize on the customer contact.

Got ideas, techniques, or case studies that show how to integrate email and the telephone? Send them to Karen — we’re particularly interested in what high-tech B2B companies are doing.

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