Last Updated: November 14, 2020

Consider this routine offer you receive over the phone: a favorite retail chain will give you a 10% discount during your next visit if you promise to tell a friend about its new store.

Behind that gift is a carefully thought-out marketing strategy, designed to spread goodwill about the company’s brand, convince you to shop at the store, and help the company gain a new customer.

Marketing professionals who specialize in call center marketing continually discuss how to retain customer relationships and forge new ones. Call center marketing puts companies more directly in front of their customers than other forms of marketing, such as postcards and e-mail newsletters, taking advantage of contact and in-the-moment conversations with consumers (See also Direct Marketing)

Call Centers: The Key to Better Marketing

In a report based on interviews with more than 1,700 chief marketing officers, IBM suggested CMOs could improve their performance by walking through their customers’ shoes.

“When you experience your brand as a customer, think about what can further differentiate it from the competition,” the company wrote.

The report further suggested that executives make a point of visiting their call centers and talking with some of their representatives. These executives may also want to occasionally listen in on calls or even call themselves, by pretending to be a customer. These exercises are a way for CMOs to hear firsthand what customers want and what they hear from the company. They can use this knowledge to design more pertinent marketing campaigns and give helpful direction to the people who will be making the phone calls.

After all, call centers “are the front line of our business and interact with customers every day,” according to a Harvard Business Review article by an executive at American Express, which is widely known for superior customer service and a strong brand that is bolstered by its marketing efforts.

The work wouldn’t be possible without technology. Since the 1990s, in the midst of advances in enterprise software, companies have realized the power of marketing through call centers, which were first used solely to deal with customer inquiries and complaints. While call centers still take such calls, the interactions are now designed to get and keep business.

Companies use customer relationship management tools to keep track of calls they have made and received, as well as information about their customers’ buying patterns and background information. They can use this data to provide customized prompts, which are designed by call center marketing professionals. For example, a flower company will suggest a customer sign up for e-mail reminders for a wedding anniversary.

Perhaps more importantly, such software helps marketing teams build lists of prospects to use for cold-calling and, ideally, selling. Businesses that are diligent about maintaining and updating their lists (which includes deleting phone numbers of people who don’t wish to be called) are likely to experience successful call center marketing campaigns.

Who employs call center marketing?

All Fortune 500 companies use at least one call center. Many companies have their own internal call centers, while others hire outside agencies to do the work for them.

Call center marketing gives businesses opportunities to maintain their existing customer relationships, as well as chances to sell additional products customers may not have considered. For example, catalog companies use call centers to process returned items, and publishers use them to try and sell subscribers on other services, such as a paid event. (See also Catalog Marketing)

Any company looking to utilize a direct response marketing plan should include call center marketing. Common call center industries include:

  • Health care
  • Retail
  • Insurance
  • Telecommunications
  • Financial services
  • Publishers
  • Pharmaceutical

Response by media

Type of Direct ContactList of current or former customersList of potential customers
Direct mail3.4%1.28%
Oversized mail3.95%1.44%
Display ad*.04%
Paid search*.22%

What kinds of customers are effectively marketed to through call center marketing?

Companies contact both consumers and companies to increase interest in their products and services. They rely on lists of contacts their call centers have gathered through e-mail registrations, magazine subscriptions, catalog signups, contests, and the like. The people on these lists have usually expressed some level of interest in the company. However, marketers will also cold-call potential clients who may not have heard of the company or its products, allowing marketers to reach out and find new customers. (See also Outbound Marketing)

The Most Effective Marketing Tool

Marketers are more likely to get responses to their campaigns that are done through phone calls. In a 2012 survey by the Direct Marketing Association, marketers reported an average response rate of 12.95% by customers on their internal lists. This is much higher than the proportion of customers who respond to other types of marketing tools, such as catalogs and postcards.

It is important for these marketers to analyze and sort the data into groups. For example, if a company wants to know about the buying habits of females between the ages of 18 and 35, a marketer will include only people that fit in that category on their list. For businesses, a marketer might group together all people who have the authority to purchase items at their company. These people are usually executives, such as a chief information officer who is in charge of all software purchases.

How is call center marketing developed and employed?

Call center marketing is a factor in nearly every marketing campaign. Companies will plan their responses when customers call them about an advertised deal, for example. They also need a strategy for how they want their call centers to react to the customers who don’t respond. Will they call them by phone or try chatting with customers over the Internet? How much time should go by before they follow up?

Companies rely on market research to find these and other answers. They consider what methods have worked for them in the past as well as what has worked for their competitors. Marketing professionals will also pour over their lists of customer prospects to see if any should be deleted or added for a particular campaign.

Finally, companies create scripts for their call centers to follow when it comes time to talk to customers and prospects. They input various questions in their software programs based on the different demographics of their customer lists. These questions will later pop up on a call center representative’s screen, depending on who is on the other line. This way, a male customer won’t be asked if he has seen a retailer’s newest dress line.

What types of careers work with call center marketing?

Marketing Assistants

What do they do?

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Assistant
    Median pay: $52,728
    Top earners: $70,074
  • Marketing Managers
    Median pay: $112,800
    Top earners: $166,400
  • Chief Marketing Officers
    Median pay: $205,583
    Top earners: $317,058

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Marketing assistants are usually the ones who are writing the scripts call centers will follow. They will be directed on what to write by a marketing manager. They often act as a liaison between various departments to make sure the marketing departments’ goals and priorities are in line with others, particularly the sales team. Part of their job may be to train or provide information to call centers as a particular campaign is carried out.

Education and Skills

These marketing professionals usually have at least two years of experience in an advertising or marketing agency, often in a sales role. Marketing assistants will generally have a bachelor’s degree in marketing or something similar.

Marketing Managers

What do they do?

Marketing managers oversee their company’s entire marketing strategy. Using their knowledge and experience in marketing, they run programs that will create interest in the company’s products and services. A call center may be just one part of the company they supervise. Sometimes holding an executive role, marketing managers keep tabs on the center’s performance and may tweak the messages marketers convey to customers and prospects.

What are managers' priorities?

In order, these are the most pressing issues for managers who oversee call centers, according to the 2012 U.S. Contact Center Decision-Makers’ Guide, a study of call center managers and directors conducted by the American Teleservices Association.

  1. Improving customer satisfaction
  2. Increasing revenues
  3. Achieving set metrics
  4. Decreasing costs
  5. Improving first-call resolution rates
  6. Improving staff morale
  7. Growing or maintaining staff numbers
  8. Reducing staff attrition rates
Education and Skills

Marketing managers tend to have five years of experience working at a lower level in advertising, sales, marketing, or promotions. They have usually spent time working at a call center at some point. While some have a master’s degree, all marketing managers have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Chief Marketing Officers

What do they do?

As top-level executives who usually report to the CEO, chief marketing officers oversee all marketing communications and sales functions at their company, including call center marketing. CMOs are concerned with market trends, shifts in technology, and the company’s objectives, including sales goals and marketing budgets. They will not get involved in the details but need to be assured that that messaging used by the call center is consistent with other marketing messaging that the company uses. These executives will get more involved if the response rates to a call center marketing campaign have been poor.

Education and Skills

CMOs have at least 15 years of experience in the field of marketing and at least a bachelor’s degree. They also likely have a master’s degree in business administration. They may have held a sales role in the past or held a prominent position in marketing.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

Professionals who understand the basic principles of marketing are better equipped to succeed in call center marketing campaigns. They must have a comprehensive understanding of the concepts of business strategies and how to close sales. Call center marketers need to study what other companies have done successfully in their marketing campaigns, and realize what has worked and what hasn’t worked to grab a customer’s interest.

A marketing degree program helps potential marketers understand customers and their behaviors and tendencies. Call center marketers have to anticipate, as best they can, how a customer will react to the suggestions their call centers make. Customers will respond differently to prods by a company, depending on their age, their gender, and where they live. Their openness to a pitch will vary depending on the season; consumers are more willing to make purchases in December, for example, but will be tightfisted with their money after New Year’s.

Call center marketing professionals must be fully aware of their industry’s latest regulations. The rules for contacting consumers frequently change, and best practices for marketing strategies fluctuate. Marketing schools are up to date on the latest trends and rules. The National Do Not Call Registry, for example, dramatically changed how call center marketers perform their jobs; they are not allowed to call phone numbers on that list unless their company has a relationship with them.

Software programs are a critical component for managing data and contact information. Potential marketers must have a fundamental knowledge of these programs in order to customize experiences for customers and sales teams. Because technology is always changing, it is essential for call center marketing professionals to be comfortable with a computer and willing to learn new software programs.

Last but not least, marketing schools include courses on communication. Professionals need to master the art of communication; the materials they put together are essentially the voice of their companies. They need to continually get their message across clearly whether they are talking or writing.