In 1967, a PR consultant named Murray Roman launched the first-ever phone-based mass-marketing campaign. The project hired and trained 15,000 housewives to place a total of one million calls per day on behalf of Ford Motors. The campaign’s goal wasn’t to generate sales, but to identify likely automobile buyers (i.e., lead generation). This project gave birth to outbound telemarketing, and right from the outset, it was data-driven to the core.
According to a 1976 Harvard Business Review article, Murray Roman’s campaign collectively reached more than 20 million contacts. Each call followed a carefully-prepared script and lasted under a minute. The campaign generated a total of 340,000 leads (or 1.7% of contacts reached), handing off about 2 leads per day to each of Ford’s 23,000 dealer salespersons, who in turn managed to convert 187,000 of these leads into qualified opportunities (leads planning to buy in 6 months). All in all, the campaign helped Ford sell 40,000 units for a total of $24 million in revenues.
Half a century later, outbound telemarketing remains as data-driven as ever. With its new role in the modern digital marketing toolkit, telemarketing boosts marketers’ performance by delivering leads at scale and producing results in real-time. Given this channel’s current function, the success of today’s telemarketing campaigns, argues Robert Howells of the Global Marketing Associates, hinges on better use of data.
One crucial data-related aspect that needs a major rethink is telemarketing performance metrics. As the channel evolves, so do the yardsticks used to measure performance. Today’s marketers rely on a dizzying array of metrics and indicators to gauge how well each component of their strategy is working, including telemarketing. Modern telemarketing performance metrics help marketers answer five key questions about their campaigns:
- Database Quality – Is your database accurate and relevant?
- Activity and Volume – Are you making the right number of calls?
- Reach Rate – Are you talking to the right people?
- Conversions – Are calls driving the desired action?
- Costs, Revenues, and ROI – Is your campaign making or losing money?
These are the five areas to look at when evaluating telemarketing performance—whether you’re running campaigns in-house or outsourcing to an agency. In this post, we’ll go over some important metrics to keep track of under each performance category and find out how to make informed decisions based on the numbers.
UPDATE: Here’s a neat infographic for a visual overview
If telemarketing had a set of axioms that fundamentally defines how it works, then The old adage “it all starts with the list” would surely be part of it. Data quality impacts every other area of telemarketing—from call volume to conversions to ROI—that having the right list means already winning half the battle. To make sure your (or your agency’s) list always stays up to snuff, keep a close eye on the following metrics:
Overall List Health
To get a feel for the overall quality of a telemarketing database, you need to track the ratio of known errors to the number of records. These errors include missing values, duplicates, invalid contacts, data entry errors, etc.
Another crucial measure of telemarketing data quality is the level of segmentation a list allows. Does your list contain valid industry codes? Does it let you segment into different job titles? Does it create redundant segments? How well do the segments match your target buyer profiles or personas?
List Penetration Rates
Data quality directly affects the number of positive contacts, the number of conversations with decision makers, and the number of conversions your campaign generates. That’s why, when expressed as a percentage of total records, these three ratios offer valuable insights on the accuracy and relevance of your list (these metrics are discussed in more detail later).
New Information Gathered
Telemarketing campaigns also provide great opportunities for businesses to update and enhance their marketing data. That’s why tracking the amount of new information obtained or verified through phone calls gives you some idea on the quality of data you’re working with. How many new records were you able to add? How many fields did you update or verify?
Activity and Volume
Telemarketing still pretty much remains a numbers game. To drive real conversations and conversions, campaigns need to scale call volume and activity. But there’s more to monitoring volume than simply counting and adding up the number of calls made. Effective telemarketing campaigns keep track of:
Calls per Hour
This metric indicates the average rate at which an agent or rep places calls. While high calls-per-hour figures are generally a good sign, the quality of each call matters more than quantity alone. Also, there’s a lot of non-agent factors that impact call-per-hour numbers—such as script complexity, dialer system efficiency, and pre-call/post-call work required—which skews benchmarking. That’s why this metric shouldn’t be taken in isolation.
Average Call length (Average Talk Time)
This is the average amount of time an agent or rep spends on each call. It’s good practice to keep calls under a specific number of minutes, but very low average talk times can indicate poor quality of conversations. To make meaningful comparisons, make sure you take factors like the length of the call script and admin work required.
This metric refers to the time an agent or rep spends on calls versus the time spent between calls. Occupancy rates tell you how productively agents allocate their time. If this number is greater than 1 (or 100%, when expressed as a percentage), then agents are spending more time actually calling than doing things in between calls.
Calls per Record
According to data cited by HubSpot, It takes 18 calls on average to actually reach a B2B buyer. While this may or may not be the case for your industry or target market, most B2B leads today require more than one attempt to contact. That’s why the calls-per-record metric is a crucial number to keep an eye on.
Steli Efti over at the Close.io blog points out that most marketers spend 90% of their efforts just trying to reach decision makers. This means only a small portion of their time actually goes to having conversations with the right prospects. Not surprisingly, one thing that separates top-performing campaigns from the rest is the ability to improve reach metrics, such as:
Positive Contact Ratio
This refers to the percentage of dialed records where agents are able to speak with the target contact. When this metric is low, it indicates agents or reps aren’t reaching enough prospects. Persistently low positive contact ratios can mean there’s an underlying problem with list quality or outreach tactics.
Abandonment rate is the percentage of calls which aren’t picked up by the target contact. This can also include answered calls ended while still being routed to a live agent or rep. Convoso recommends keeping abandonment rates under 5%. Anything beyond this needs a closer look.
Unique Decision Maker Conversations
For campaigns that require multiple touches with a decision maker, focusing solely on the total number of conversations can overstate reach rates. That’s why you also need to look at the number of unique decision maker conversations. This metric gives insight into data quality as well as lets you compare initial contact versus callbacks and follow-ups.
Requests for Information (RFIs)
This metric looks at how many positive contacts asked for materials about the offer or company. Tracking the number of RFIs allows you to drill down further on a campaign’s reach rates. There are two ways to look at this metric: as a gauge of how well agents handle the “send me more info” objection, and as a measure of a prospect’s interest.
Monitoring how many uninterested contacts agents identify also provides valuable insight on several campaign components. A very high number of not interested prospects can mean you’re targeting the wrong audience, but it can also indicate that agents are doing a good job filtering unqualified leads.
Modern marketers now use telemarketing to achieve a wide range of goals. This broadens how we define “conversions”. Telemarketing conversion rate now refers to the percentage of calls that result in a specific action from the prospect. Radius suggests tracking the following outbound conversion metrics:
Lead Conversion Rates
This is the percentage of decision makers reached that qualify as leads. Again, what constitutes as a lead will depend on the campaign goal (schedule a face-to-face meeting, sign up for a free trial, verify some information, etc.).
This is the percentage of telemarketing-generated leads that actually convert into paying customers. Depending on the sales process, conversion into sales can take place right after the lead is handed to sales or at the end of a longer nurture cycle.
Calls per Outcome
This metric tells you how many calls it takes to get a result (conversion). In some ways, it can be thought of as the flipside of lead conversion rates. Calls per outcome measures how efficiently a campaign generates results and you largely want to minimize this metric.
Costs and ROI
Conversions directly impact a campaign’s costs and returns. To get a 360-degree view of telemarketing performance, you also need to look at whether the money you spend on telemarketing is actually producing value.
Cost per Lead and Cost per Opportunity
This is the total costs incurred in the campaign divided by the total telemarketing-generated leads (or opportunities). When done in-house, telemarketing costs can include direct costs (staff, telecom, database, software, etc.) and overhead. But when outsourced to a third-party agency, costs are more streamlined and transparent.
Telemarketing ROI is the revenues attributable to the channel divided by the total telemarketing costs. But because modern telemarketing is just one component in a revenue-generating machine, it can be a bit of a challenge to determine how much of the revenues telemarketing actually contributes. This is usually estimated through attribution models such as first touch, last touch, weighted, time decay, linear, and position-based attribution.
Telemarketing performance metrics help you uncover problem areas and rooms for improvement in your campaign. But keep in mind these numbers are only averages, summaries, and headline figures. They only tell you part of what’s going on. To really get the full story, you have to dig deeper into the components that make up your telemarketing strategy: the list, the script, the audience, the agents, and the calls themselves.
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