Knowledge Library

Another Direct Response Television Primer

Direct Marketing

(Or How 1 Learned To Love The Remote Control)

by Robert Kulka, Time Life Time Life Books

It seems that almost everyone is interested in using direct response television (DRTV) at one time or other. That interest ranges from marketers who want to know how to use television to sell their products and services, to those who are using TV and want to know how to use it better.

In this feature I will focus on DRTV after you have decided on a product to support and have a creative strategy to follow in producing your commercial. I will address questions you should ask in how to use the medium and what to expect, and how to get ready for the possible trends of the future. The key is to get smarter in using television and to make sure every dollar spent is going to have value.

Now that you have a product that you believe has appeal to a broad enough target segment you are ready to take it to TV. Think about this first: does your product have a back-up market, should the demand be smaller than expected (can you distribute the product outside of the U.S. for instance?) and does it have the potential for future distribution through retail outlets? Should you follow a creative execution that will be generic enough to use in international markets with only minor or low cost-changes? You want to think about these elements before you sink a great deal of money into producing a commercial.

Are you really ready to get on TV? Is your telemarketing and fulfilment all set? Who are buying your media and how much will it cost? Should you do more than one kind of test (creative execution, offer, premium, upsell or credit card only)? Do you have someone you trust to help you through all of these questions and to design your test for you? Are you sure this can be done in 60 seconds, or do you need two minutes or even 30 minutes to sell the product?
Once you answer all these questions, how will you read your data, determine profitability and measure your results? How quickly can you respond to the results you see shutting off your media or turning it on?

Okay, so you decide you want to cry this TV thing. What is your future? Will you be able to take advantage of this beast, or is it the beast that will devour you? Well, there are no definitive answers because rule number one in DRTV is that there are no rules. So here are some of the possible scenarios and things to keep in mind as you dive into TV Audiences are getting more fragmented. Let the pros tell you that there will be a great deal more opportunity in the future as more cable systems expand and more networks are born. The TV universe is more or less on a specific growth curve called population. Whether there are 60 channels or 500 channels, the number of eyeballs watching is the same.

Costs for DRTV can only go so low, which means that small audience, targeted networks will have higher relative costs. Besides, will viewers be watching 500 channels? Probably not. Most likely the TV audience will have one channel that can be programmed by the viewer for its preference at the moment movies, sports, shopping, science and home shows. And those choices may be available through the cable provider, a telco, a satellite provider, on a television, a computer or a system that is used for all video signals whether commercial broadcast or interactive communications. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. This isn't going to be a major issue for many years yet. The thing to remember is that fragmentation is occurring, and it gets more difficult to reach consumers through TV in the old ways.

So, if your product is not a broad-appeal product that can make your fortune in spot markets using local TV stations, then you had better be able to use cable networks to target your specific audience. And while you are at it, you should be able to structure your offer to support higher rates to be able to use specific programs, networks and time periods. That also means that our TV should be measured in terms of what it does for leverage in all your other marketing channels. Ate you marketing through mail or retail, and can you use your TV to help these distribution avenues? If so, then you better give the TV value beyond what it produces in orders on its own. Giving yourself a few more dollars toward each order will help you to stay on TV longer by combating the increase in competition and rates.

Use your telemarketer to its best advantage. It is a member of your team and the first contact with your customer. Make sure that when you get someone to call, you don't lose him or her. It is going to cost a lot to get someone to pick up the phone. Once he or she does, make sure your script is clear and that questions or concerns are addressed simply for the customer. Can you convert your customer to credit card? Can you provide an upsell or cross sell thereby increasing the value of the customer? Is your telemarketer representing you in a professional, courteous and friendly manner? How is your customer service? Don't alienate your customer.

Yes, there is still a great deal of potential in TV, but you have to be smarter, better, more flexible and prepared to learn to keep pace with the future of the medium. What you learn today may not pay off in the short term, but it will certainly help in the preparation for the future of TV and marketing to customers through this remarkable vehicle. Learn to love it and fear it and it will continue to make you rich if you're lucky.

Robert Kulka is Director of Broadcast Media at Time Life Books, located in Alexandria Virginia.

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