Good calls for Wine Enthusiast

In July 2004, Elmsford, NY-based wine accessories cataloger The Wine Enthusiast tried something it had never done before: an outbound telemarketing campaign to its 12-month business-to-business file. The program has given the marketer reason to cheer, as it reactivated “at least 25% of those we went after,” says director of marketing Peilin Corbanese.

The cataloger, which hired four part-time staffers for the task, implemented the campaign in midsummer because that’s when its b-to-b buyers — wine retailers and liquor shops — start to place their orders for the fall/holiday rush. The campaign centered on Wine Enthusiast’s wholesale rather than consumer customers because business buyers appreciate more one-on-one attention from reps, says Corbanese, in part because their orders tend to be larger. Moreover, business shoppers are typically more open to receiving calls from telemarketers.

Targeting the top

The outbound telesales reps targeted the top 20% of the file based on company size and dollars spent. After reintroducing Wine Enthusiast to these previous buyers, reps presented special offers, such as an additional 4% off orders placed before the end of October.

Prior to making a call, the rep looked up the customer’s order history so that he could tailor a sales pitch accordingly. For example, if a buyer had previously ordered wine glasses, the telemarketer would offer a similar product, such as less expensive glasses from a different manufacturer that would allow the reseller to make a higher margin.

Wine Enthusiast didn’t look further back than a year for reactivation, says Corbanese “simply because we saw a weakness in our 12-month list, and so we wanted to put an emphasis on the file to strengthen it.” Besides, “I just believe you see a sharper diminishing return when you try contacting older buyers.”

At some point, though, the cataloger may go back and concentrate on reactivating some of the 13-month-plus buyers, because last year’s campaign was a roaring success: “We certainly stemmed the tide of a decreasing 12-month file,” Corbanese points out, “and we saw enough of an increase in demand for that business unit that we wound up hiring a full-time person.”

The full-time outbound telesales rep works solely on b-to-b reactivation year-round. Because she can build on the results achieved from the initial campaign, Wine Enthusiast doesn’t need to hire part-timers. “She can handle it herself this year because she isn’t starting from scratch,” Corbanese explains.

This year’s reactivation campaign, which began in July, will mirror last year’s. By 2006, Wine Enthusiast plans to hire its first direct sales rep, who will focus on reactivation, cold-calling, and prospecting. It would then like to decrease the number of b-to-b catalogs it mails. The company currently mails to its business file (the size of which it will not disclose) every month, except during the summer, when the telemarketing campaign is in full swing.

Despite the success of the b-to-b program, Wine Enthusiast won’t attempt a consumer reactivation campaign, says Corbanese. “Let’s face it, a lot of consumers don’t appreciate calls even from companies they’re doing business with. Calling consumers for anything that is not related to their current order is deeded negative from their perspective.”

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