Before Do Not Call laws, life was different in most circulation departments in the United States.

Consumers were familiar with buying things over the phone. Often, goods and services could be purchased at a very reasonable price.

Too many folks complained to legislators, and laws were enacted to protect the privacy of consumers. In 2003, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission passed laws allowing constomers to opt-out of telemarketers by registering on a Do Not Call Registry. Now, only select households receive telemarketed offers.

Whatever remaining consumers who do not appear on Do Not Call directories are all that remain of the once vibrant market.

Newspapers benefited from the low cost of telemarketing conversion. Orders were plentiful and cheap. Anybody with a phone number could be reached. It was a very efficient method of securing new starts.

Those days are over — likely forever. The telephone, however, remains a strong tool. It is one of the least expensive ways to engage human-to-human, for the sake of sales conversion.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

There is a form of inbound marketing that utilises the strength of the telephone, while seemingly ignoring the jurisdiction of Do Not Call rules. It’s called reverse telemarketing. Harnessing the magic of telephone communication, the concept is fed by driving large volume to your call center.

In other words, prospective customers call you.

Local campaigns have driven large numbers of consumers protected by Do Not Call lists. The value of the segment lies in the hope that reaching them via a telephone conversation is better than not reaching them at all.

Now that cold solicitation calls are forbidden to folks on a Do Not Call list, you have access to them once again through the telephone — by enticing them to call you.

Why does it work?

It is a segment, before privacy protections, that your newspaper would routinely reach with aggressive newspaper offers. Without multi-channel pressure, this segment of non-subscribers is in some ways lost.

It is safe to say that, in the past, newspapers might have over-relied on the cold telephone call. This group is reachable over the phone. Creativity and tenacity will help you convert these consumers into customers.

Planning is the key variable to drive success. Reverse telemarketing campaigns rely on three fundamental areas: media plan, call center preparation, and prize. Your first campaign requires greater set-up preparation; subsequent campaigns are less intensive.

The media plan outlines your outbound communication plan. The job of the media plan is to convince the reader, listener, or user to contact your call center. The benefit executed by your media plan is to win a high-value prize.

Successful media plans cross multiple media types. Certainly newspaper run-of-press (ROP) and free-standing insert (FSI) advertising is a good start. However, you can maximise your enterprise value by including 1A flag ads, or even better, a front-page adhesive note.

Remember your free total market products, too. We have used e-mail messaging, radio, and social media, as well. Banner display ads on Web sites provide as cost-effective a medium as possible. Stay away from higher production cost channels like direct mail or outdoor.

Prize planning sets the level of consumer motivation. Our testing showed strength for a single, high-level prize vs. multiple mid- or low-level prizes. Consumers care about what they could win. So, the bigger the prize the better.

We at The Gazette in Janesville, Wisconsin, USA, have been successful with the US$2,000 value level.

It is important to consider a prize that is engaging to a large cross section of your market. While spas and golf might appeal to some, they are not strong enough to draw the masses. Grocery, gasoline, and cash cards work the best.

Preparing your call center converts contestants into customers. Your call center sales plan may accomplish any of the following:

  • Convert non-subscribers to home delivery.

  • Upgrade Sunday or weekend subscribers to a seven-day schedule.

  • Convert home delivery customers to auto-pay.

Your call center should be prepared to attribute call traffic back to your media plan. Consider using multiple unique telephone numbers. This provides management insight into which channels provide the greatest lift. Each channel is credited with actual call volume attribution, conversion attempts vs. successful conversions. This becomes important when planning subsequent campaigns.

The job of the call center attendant is to enter the caller into the drawing. Remember to collect the contact e-mail address. In our market, we notify the winner by e-mail.

The other job is to convince the contestant to try home delivery, or whatever objective is outlined by your sales plan. This is challenging, due to the small window of time provided by the typical contest entry phone conversation. Entry level programmes like Sunday or weekend home delivery provide bigger conversion rates than a seven-day schedule.

Newspapers have wonderful days ahead. Harness the power of Do Not Call to your advantage. Get creative! Building personal points of contact makes reverse telemarketing a powerful conversion tool.