Vendor Gets Calls In For Net Telemarketing


Next time you get one of those disembodied voices on the phone, the marketing call could be coming from Starz Encore Group.

The premium network has successfully used recorded telemarketing alongside direct mail to improve the performance of its last promotional campaign with DirecTV Inc. Starz executives used the services of Soundbite Communications — a Burlington, Mass., telemessaging firm — to supplement the direct mailers sent to consumers to raise awareness of the direct broadcast satellite provider's free Starz! preview.

"The purpose was to notify people [the preview] was there. Most people just happen upon it," said Starz Encore senior vice president of affiliate marketing Miles McNamee.

The Soundbite marketing message calls homes on a list provided by the video provider, whether they're cable or DBS subscribers. The messages can be personalized with a known regional spokesman or other voices.

Starz Encore executives noted that Soundbite uses "follow the sun" technology, which allows a message to delivered in the same time frame, such as primetime, in each zone.

The network executives were impressed by the data they received from the campaign. The Soundbite technology logged the number of calls received by a live person versus those recorded on an answering machine. It also quantified the number of persons who listened to the entire message.

Peter Rogers, senior director of direct marketing for Starz, said the data showed that the majority of live receivers listened to the entire telemessage.

The executives believe receivers stayed on the line because the message was not a sales call, but a notification of free service.

Soundbite was formed in 2000 by former executives of Direct Hit, an Internet search engine. Other products the firm offers to the cable industry include pay-per-view marketing and outbound calling to impending non-pay disconnects.

The company offers a variety of options to its customers, including simple messages, live surveys accepting responses by voice or keypad entry or offers to connect listeners to a call center during the message.

Starz considered the technology cost effective, noting direct-mail pieces cost on average 20 cents, with no way of measuring whether they were read. The telemessages average between 6 and 7 cents and customers can measure the response.

McNamee said the last DirecTV campaign resulted in 200,000 upgrades, but could say the portion of that performance that was attributable to the use of telemessaging.

"It's just an extra, more effective tool," he said.