Marketing sector guilty of double standards

I was shocked to learn that more than 1,500 companies in the marketing, advertising and PR sector have registered with the Corporate Telephone Preference Service, writes Alexander Simpkin, an outbound telemarketing consultant.

I have often contended over the 20 years I’ve been in this business, that it is a shame many people in the communications industry do not think of themselves as recipients of direct marketing, whatever the channel, as well as instigators.

Those who are able to do so benefit from a more personable approach that pays dividends right from initial strategic planning, through tactical implementation, and also, happily, to the degree of return. After all, isn’t identification a key tenet of the sales and marketing process?

I never thought, however, perhaps over-optimistically, that I’d encounter downright cynicism.

Consequently, I was therefore considerably taken aback when I discovered recently that of those companies registered with the Corporate Telephone Preference Service, a disturbing 4% slice of the first-year registrations through July 2004-2005 have been placed by companies operating in the marketing, PR and advertising sector.

This is equivalent to around 1,750 companies as at the end of September, when the overall company total was 44,093.

So it appears, to some, to be OK to initiate direct contact but not to receive it. This is totally shameless and, were it not for privacy regulations, I would be happy to have those who registered on this basis named, shamed, tarred and feathered.

Perhaps fortunately for them they are not alone. They sit alongside the 69 companies who have registered more than 1,000 numbers and who have declared themselves as coming from the financial services sector, which is the highest direct contact propagator in UK business.

Actually, the CTPS may well die a death anyway. The UK is the only country in the world to my knowledge to have a registration service for business telephone numbers.

Just as protectionism in the EU with reference to agricultural and other subsidies has recently been in the limelight, do we really want to be seen to perpetuate an over-protected commercial environment? Do we really want to inhibit the sense of fun we get out of hunting in the business arena too?

I think not, but the key factor is that the CTPS is unenforceable.

As any good business-to-business telemarketer knows, there are many legitimate ways of getting to your prospects without breaking the rules.

And these are prospects who are quite capable of shielding themselves anyway, through a combination of their own company practices and data protection legislation or, as is fast becoming the case now for department heads, not even having a direct number or an extension logged in at the switchboard.

So, let’s do away with this hypocrisy now, shall we? If you work in a sector that deals with direct contact, whatever the channel, start supporting your sector.

And for our part, let’s get on the telephone only when we’re reasonably sure that we have the right prospect, we have a proposition that will benefit the prospect’s company, and that we can deliver that proposition concisely, intelligently, courteously and, importantly in an era where untold brand damage is being done through offshore placement, intelligibly.

Alexander Simpkin is an IDM Fellow and has worked for clients including Cisco Systems, Harper Collins and Nestle.

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