Automation Business Resources Competition Customer relationships Direct Mail Direct Marketing Email marketing Improvement Internet marketing Marketing Positioning Small Business systems Technology Telemarketing

Why they don’t take your calls and don’t read your mail

The enlightened leader
Creative Commons License photo credit: seeveeaar

Do your customers and prospects let your calls go to voice mail?

Do they open your emails? If they were, you’d know (or should).

Think about why *you* let calls go to voice mail and why you ignore certain emails.

While you might be busy and decide to let calls go to voice mail, more often than not, when the caller id appears – you can’t think of a reason to bother taking the call.

Is relevance the reason?

Get relevant

Lets discuss a few examples.

I get my internet from a local cable provider. While they offer telephone and cable service, we don’t use those services. About twice a week, the “(cable vendor) Robocall department” (as the number is named on my phone) calls me to ask what TV, phone and internet service I use.

Every time they call, they ask the same question. They want to know what service I use for internet / TV / phone. Funny thing is, they’re calling to get information they already know. The caller never has any idea that I am already their customer.

It doesn’t have to be that way, even with an outside telemarketing firm. While I’d be unlikely to use one, that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective.

Most modern telemarketing firms are well beyond the stone age “dialing for dollars” mode of the past. They’re capable of taking a list you provide to them and filtering out existing customers from their call list. They are also capable – automatically, if you use a good one – of changing the script used by the caller so that they don’t seem totally uninformed.

If instead of “who do you use?” they asked something like “I see you use our internet, but not our cable…” and started the conversation there – that would at least be in context. Someone experienced enough to run a huge cable firm’s marketing and sales department should know this.

On the other hand, if you’re a small business owner, this makes perfect sense, but you might never have considered its impact.

If you send email or make cold (or even warm) calls, are the conversations pertinent to those customers? If they were, you might get a better response.


I have a 401K plan. The vendor regularly emails me… sell me their 401K plan.

These emails are personalized – they know I have multiple accounts with them. Yet they send emails that talk as if they have no clue about our business relationship.

These things make your company (and you) look inept, or at the least, like the left hand has no idea what the right’s doing. It tells me your systems and the people running them are just going through the motions, wasting money that impacts other people’s livelihoods and perhaps driving up your prices.

Doing things this way:

  • Starts the conversation in the wrong direction. You have just seconds to get enough attention to get peoples’ attention. Don’t waste it by talking out of context.
  • Makes you look like you have no idea who I am. Not in the “Do you know who I am?” way, but the “Do you know / care that I’m already your customer?” way.
  • Leaves money on the table. Instead of trying to sell me the thing that clients like me buy after buying the last thing I bought from you, you’re trying to resell the thing I already have.
  • Wastes the opportunity to discuss something customers care about – the thing they already bought. IE: Rather than discussing how to get the most out of my 401K, they’re trying to sell one.

Your marketing systems should know your paying customers and engage them in THEIR context with you – not as total strangers.


Recently a 79 year old national magazine announced they will become digital-only as of January 2013. This couldn’t have been a rash decision, given the contracts in place for printing and distribution, much less the internal changes/considerations necessary to make a change like this.

Yet a subscriber tells me she just got a renewal offer in the mail – and it didn’t say a word about the fact that it wouldn’t be in print.

When you communicate with your customers, be in context.  If 10% more people responded positively, what’s that worth?

Automation Marketing Media Politics Small Business Technology Telemarketing

Not ALL marketing is local. Nor is it personal.

So far today, my home phone has rang 13 times. THIRTEEN TIMES. My office is at home. It’s 2:20pm on Wednesday.

EVERY SINGLE CALL has been from the same political party, on behalf of that party, or from one of its candidates.

EVERY SINGLE CALL has either been made from an automated call bank that transfers calls to Botswana (or whatever) or they have been an automated pre-recorded call. 

NOT ONE CALL has been a personal call from a real person who asked if they could take a moment to find out if I plan to vote (I do), ask me to discuss or change my vote, or whatever. Not that it would change my decision, but that is irrelevant. 

13 interruptions. OK, 14 including the few minutes to write this post. Even if I don’t answer, its an interruption. 

Do you REALLY believe that an automated phone call from someone that you’ve never met would change their vote?

Every one of your candidates just lost my vote. I don’t care if the other candidate is the worst SOB on the face of the earth. And the candidates I know and see regularly – I’m going to tell them how they lost my vote, face to face, as a thank you to you and your party. I’ll see one of them tonight. I bet he’ll be THRILLED. 

Is that the kind of impact you want your marketing message to have? 

Don’t act like a political party. Don’t create marketing based on the “lessons” they’ve been teaching the last few months. Don’t misuse technology simply because you can. Dan Kennedy has a catchphase: “Be a welcome guest, not an annoying pest.” Words to market by, much less to run for office by:)

If you read this blog regularly, you should know better. I said it anyway, just in case.  

PS: Don’t even bother answering the phone.

Marketing Sales Small Business Strategy

Are most cold callers lazy? Absolutely.

While I really don’t have anything against cold calling from a pure marketing perspective, more often than not, it’s a really poor use of time and people. This is especially true when it is done by the lazy.

More often than not, it is done in a carpet bombing fashion, where everyone in the phone book (or everyone on a particular exchange) is called. That’s lazy. Really lazy.

If people used it wisely according to prospect demographics and psychographics, I’d mind it a lot less and it’ll waste a lot fewer hours – much less being far more effective.


Because if I’m the right prospect for that cold call, I might actually be interested. Assuming, of course, that you didn’t interrupt me at the worst possible time. If I do happen to pick up the phone (rare), once in a while I might actually be interested – especially if you put even a little bit of effort into market research before you made the call.

There is more to this than just choosing the right group of people to call. There’s that whole permission marketing thing that Seth Godin talks about. In other words, the Do Not Call list. Twice in the last 3 days, the same vendor has called two of my numbers that are on the Do-Not-Call list.

I understand that registering to use the Do-Not-Call list is expensive for a business that wants to make telemarketing calls. However, it isn’t as expensive as dealing with the FTC when they slap you around for violating the Do-Not-Call law.

Another problem with cold calling is that you haven’t done *anything* to begin to create a relationship when you make that call. Many people detest telemarketing calls, so you risk ticking off that person with your first overt act to contact them.

Some people swear by cold calling, and make no bones about it, in some markets it is very effective. But you won’t catch me doing it. I think it’s idiotic when done poorly. Maybe I just don’t appreciate the lack of effort most businesses put into finding the right people to call.

Cold calling done poorly is harder than selling a comb to a bald guy. If you’re going to do it, at least be smart about it.

I think you can do better.