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Old School and New School Working Together: Telemarketing and the Web

Although telemarketing sales have gotten more sophisticated over the years, it is clearly an "old school" form of marketing compared to the fast-developing techniques of Internet marketing. Not that theres anything wrong with old school--it can still have its place in the marketing mix. Most promising, though, might be the idea of bringing telemarketing and Internet marketing together. Old school and new school can work in tandem, making each one more effective.

Internet retailers have long tracked the browsing histories of site visitors in order to customize their shopping experiences. More recently, retailers like the Gap and Victorias Secret have started using their vast off-line databases to add further detail to what they know about their online customers. As a prime information-gathering tool, telemarketing calls can help add to those customer databases and make Internet marketing more effective. At the same time, information gleaned from customers Internet habits can make telemarketing calls more timely and effective--and even help telemarketing work within increasingly restrictive regulations.

Internet Marketing with an Assist from Telemarketing

Internet marketers try to glean some hints about customer preferences by using computer "cookies" to track browsing history. A customer who has bought perfume three times from a site in the past may be directed to specials on fragrances and cosmetics. Another customer who spent the morning researching camping equipment may be steered toward a sites sporting goods page.

This is can be effective, but it only goes so far. Browsing behavior is not necessarily buying behavior. Also, more sophisticated computer users may avoid accumulating cookies that track their online habits. However, if a user can simply be identified, an offline database can add a great deal of additional information. For example, demographic information can be added to the mix--age, gender, and even assumptions about income based on zip codes, credit applications, or survey responses. This can be used to more precisely customize the visitors shopping experience.

Where telemarketing comes in is that every telemarketing call should be an information-gathering opportunity. Even when there is an immediate sales objective for the telemarketing call, the opportunity to update and add to a customer database should not be overlooked. This detailed information can be stored and referenced automatically the next time the customer visits the website.

Telemarketing Can Be Aided By the Internet

This process can also work the other way around. If a web site visitor can be properly identified, then telemarketing calls can be made more timely and helpful depending on what that visitor seems to be researching. Often people use the Internet for preliminary research, but then plan make purchases in person. A timely call based on browsing behavior could help answer questions theyve developed and steer the customer to the right location to make their purchase. Notifying a web site visitor of an upcoming sale in an area of interest could be the catalyst that turns browsing into buying.

If this all sounds intrusive, consider that it means telemarketing calls are more likely to be relevant to the customers interest, rather than bothering more people by casting a wide net. Plus, consumers have defenses against both computer "cookies" and telemarketing calls. On the other hand, web site registration can be used to opt in to a more customer-oriented shopping experience.


The New York Times

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