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Last updated May 13, 2015

It’s no secret that telemarketers are the people we all love to hate. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re selling a product, conducting a survey or trying to generate donations for a worthy cause, most people instantly go on the defence when they realise it’s a telemarketer on the line. For some it’s the simple frustration of having their evening interrupted, but for others it is the perception of ‘money-hungry con-men’ that’s doing all the damage.

Regardless of the reasoning, I don’t know anyone who genuinely enjoys receiving calls from telemarketers. In fact, even telemarketing companies acknowledge that most people are less-than-excited to receive their call. So with all the negative connotations, and at time controversial publicity, is telemarketing still a valid and effective way to raise funds? According to the organisations that use it – the answer is a resounding YES. That’s why you continue to get their call!

Of course, like any fundraising method, you need to make the most of the opportunity and take into account what works and what doesn’t. If you want your telemarketing campaign to be truly successful, you need to consider these key factors:

1. The current profile of your organisation
As a general rule, the more well known your organisation is, the more successful your telemarketing campaign will be. So before you leap into a telemarketing campaign, spend some time raising the profile of your organisation in the community. Make use of your local media, and develop a marketing strategy that ensures people feel familiar with your brand when they hear it.

Like it or not, repetition builds reputation, so the more you put your name out there, the more credible you appear.

2. Who is making the call
Whether the person decides to make a donation or not, the person you choose to make the call will leave a lasting impression of your organisation. You need to make sure the impression is a good one.

Good telemarketers are polite and professional, while having the ability to be persistent and overcome objections without pressure. They have a voice that is easy to listen to, and a ‘can-do’ attitude that comes across as friendly and enthusiastic – not pushy. They also need to know what they’re talking about – so make sure whoever is making your calls has plenty of background information about your organisation. All that might sound easy, but telemarketing, especially to a cold list, takes considerable skill.

3. What you are saying
The most successful telemarketing campaigns follow a pre-written script, which callers follow as closely as possible. Of course the idea is to sound as natural as possible, so it’s important that the script is written in a way that sounds conversational and friendly. No one enjoys listening to a monotone monologue.

Script writing is a real art, so if you are thinking about a telemarketing campaign for the first time, look for a telemarketing company that is willing to help you with your script preparation. While you should ultimately have the final say, it makes sense to get their advice about what works and what doesn’t. After all, they are the experts.

Some telemarketing companies will work with you to develop two scripts which you can test against each other, and gauge which gets the better results. Tweaking, changing and improving can happen throughout the campaign.

4. Who you are calling
Without a doubt, some people are more likely to give to your cause than others, so it is important that you try to identify who these people might be. How old are they? What are their interests and hobbies? Where do they live? What is their income? And so on.

Telemarketing companies can help you access phone lists which match all sorts of varying criteria. Some of these lists are free, while others you need to purchase. If you want your telemarketing campaign to be truly successful, then you need to make sure you have a phone list that is up-to-date and relevant to your cause. A shotgun approach can turn into a very expensive exercise.

5. Who you are working with
While it is possible to undertake a telemarketing campaign on your own, it makes sense to work with people who really know what they are doing. Yes, there is a cost involved with hiring a professional telemarketing company, but it is likely that working with a professional will also improve your results.

A good telemarketing company will work WITH you to develop a campaign, so when choosing a telemarketing company, don’t take any short cuts. Look for one with a proven history and reputation for working with charities, and avoid companies who make grand promises about what can be achieved. Like any sort of fundraising, no telemarketing campaign is fail-proof, so anyone who promises the world should be approached with caution.

Avoid working with any telemarketing company that is paid on commission. Not only does this contravene the Code of Ethics for Professional Fundraisers, it puts pressure on the telemarketer to ‘make a sale’. This in turn puts pressure on your potential donor, and it leaves a bad impression of your organisation all around.

Telemarketing is not right for every organisation, but for some it still offers worthwhile rewards. If you’re going to give it a go, make sure you do your homework, work with a reputable company, and test and measure results as you go along. Before you start, decide what will constitute a successful campaign, so you know whether it’s been worth it at the end.

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