Live from MeritDirect Co-op: Web plus phone equals sales

(Direct Newsline) Direct marketers who use their Websites in concert with their telemarketing efforts make more money, said Neil Sexton, founder of Sexton’s Market in Trinidad, CO. Sexton discussed how to combine the two channels in a session at MeritDirect’s Business Mailers Co-op and E-mail Marketing conference in Stamford, CT on Thursday.

In the past, marketers would mail catalogs when customers called to request them–and then crossed their fingers that the customers would order. Now, with the Web, catalogers can get action immediately, Sexton said.

“We can say to someone on the telephone, ‘I can mail out a catalog, but what product are you calling about?'” Sexton said. “We can ask, ‘Do you have access to the Web?'” Then, the sales rep can direct that customer to the exact product they are calling about and talk the customer through the ordering process. No more waiting for the catalog to reach the customer and hope they order. With fewer catalogs mailing, the marketer saves on postage, printing and fulfillment costs.

And there are other benefits. “By training your customers to use the Web with phone staff coaching them on the site, maybe you don’t have to mail to certain segments,” Sexton said.

The telephone-Web combination is a dynamic way to cross-sell and upsell, too. Phone reps can lead inbound callers to a place on the Website where new products are featured that have not yet been printed in the catalog.

Sexton, who spent 10 years as senior vice president of direct marketing for Successories catalog, said that at Successories, “we had great success at building the average order by adding new products to order.” There he proved the truism that “if you try to sell a new product that’s 25% of the value of what you’re selling them already, you’ll have 75% success.”

Design a special area of the site for “members only,” he suggested, with specials for best customers only. Then, when an inbound or outbound rep is talking to a customer, he can take them to “some secret place. It makes them feel great to be in the members-only area of the site,” Sexton said.

The combo makes preselling possible, as well. With the magic of graphic Web design, marketers can depict products on the site that have not yet been developed and develop them according to customer interest. “It’s a lot less expensive to depict a product not built yet on the Web than to devote hard inches to it in the catalog,” Sexton said.

The Web-phone coupling can also qualify specialized mailings. A company can create an inexpensive mail piece focused on customer interests instead of sending out the big catalog.

And the combo can build and clean the database. When the rep is on the telephone with the customer, he can ask the customer to update his profile or answer other customer-service questions. “If you’ve already got them on the phone and if they called you, ask them to fill out a form,” Sexton advised.

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