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Partnering for Success

1 May, 2009 By: Bridget McCrea Response

How to find agency partners that will make your campaign shine.


On the Phone


As the chairman of full-service DRTV agency Hawthorne Direct in Fairfield, Iowa, (and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board), Tim Hawthorne is often on the receiving end of marketers' rigorous upfront selection processes. And like Yallen, he also helps marketers pick up the pieces of campaigns that are failing due to a poor choice of agency. While spot or infomercial production and media buying are often given the most attention during the planning stages, it's the back end that can make or break a campaign.

Take telemarketing, for example. Imagine, says Hawthorne, that the moment you have been waiting for has finally arrived: your show hits the airwaves and the phone starts ringing. "People everywhere are clamoring for your product," Hawthorne says, "and the calls are coming in day and night from all over the country. Then reality hits when you find out that all of the calls that came in between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. were answered by voice mail. Even worse, some were dropped because your inbound call center didn't have enough staff to handle the calls. At that point, customers are upset and the campaign momentum is lost."

He also points out that the real strength of a highly qualified telemarketing company lies in its ability to take large volumes of calls, quickly and effectively. "New technology places telemarketing at a pivotal point that determines the degree of success the marketer achieves."

Working hand-in-hand with those call centers are the fulfillment companies that assemble kits, ship products, manage inventory and perform customer service functions relating to the handling of all order status inquiries. They also take care of UPS tracers, product information, reorders and the sale of additional product. Much like other support aspects, fulfillment is often put on the back burner until the rest of the campaign is in place.


Early Decisions


Early in the game, Hawthorne says that a seamless customer service program needs to be established to ensure that the fulfillment company will process your orders, send them to your customers and, in most cases, provide your customer service. Hawthorne says marketers should select a fulfillment house that:

  • 1. Ensures essential quick delivery of printed material or product
  • 2. Has proven DR experience and industry expertise
  • 3. Possesses excellent systems technology and cutting-edge reporting capabilities
  • 4. Has proven customer service and scripting abilities
  • 5. Uses a warehouse in a convenient location and with adequate space, temperature control, security provisions, receiving capabilities and inventory management processes


Those marketers that don't put ample time into choosing the right telemarketing, fulfillment, payment processing and other back-end service providers can quickly find their campaigns underwater. If the process of finding and vetting agencies in order to locate several that can handle specific aspects of your campaign sounds daunting, consider the fact that many of today's DRTV firms are vertically integrated. Meaning, they offer a complete range of services, whether they handle the tasks in-house or through their own reputable business partners.

"You need an agency that can come up with a complete, integrated marketing plan, including DR, retail, Internet and international, for your product," says Sandra White, director of Internet marketing and DRTV at Northern Response Intl. Ltd., in Toronto.

"Look for companies that have a team, a strategy and a focus that make sense to you, and steer clear of those that focus on how great they are as a company," says White. "Let them pitch for your business, and make them come to the table to tell you exactly how they're going to make money for you."

Such agencies should always have legitimate experience in the DRTV space and be able to prove it. "It's amazing how many people take credit for successful projects, even if they just handled the production lighting and had nothing to do with the crafting of the infomercial," warns Hawthorne, who also points out that DRTV hits often have "multiple versions," not all of which have enjoyed the same level of success. "Be absolutely clear on whom you are working with, and what their credentials are," he says.

Be leery of potential partners who are quick to discredit the accomplishments of other players in the industry, says Hawthorne. "Your work needs to stand for itself, and if you have to knock the accomplishments of others, there are added issues that need to be examined," he says. "We work in an industry filled with incredibly talented companies, but unfortunately there are others in the space that sometimes give the good guys a bad name."

Lastly, remember that DRTV is a sub-specialty of advertising much like in any profession. You wouldn't go to a general practitioner for brain surgery, says Hawthorne, so why would you hand your DRTV campaign over to an agency that handles traditional advertising?

"To maximize success, marketers need the deep knowledge that only years of DRTV experience can bring to the table," says Hawthorne. "You may find out that 20-something-year-old creative directors have exciting ideas, but you don't want to put your product's life in their hands."

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