Last month, I talked about a few of my biggest pet peeves — things like hand dryers in public restrooms and people who overuse exclamation points in their writing. This morning, another one smacked me right between the eyes, and this one has to do with marketing — which is why I’m sharing it here.

Telemarketing and “Junk” Phone Calls

I don’t think I’m the only person who would list telemarketing phone calls (or junk calls, as I fondly refer to them) among my biggest pet peeves. They aren’t really a pet peeve as much as they are an annoyance. Unfortunately, I get a pretty fair number of them on my business phone line.

I can usually tell by the caller ID if it’s a junk call, in which case I just don’t answer. But sometimes the caller ID is vague — and I’ve even ignored legitimate business calls because I thought they were junk calls. So when in doubt, I pick it up.

On every one of these junk calls, without exception, there is a three to five second delay before the caller says something. And then, the first thing he or she usually says is, “Hello?”

Now that’s a great way to start a sales call, isn’t it? First, there’s the immediate tell-tale sign that it’s a junk call — the three- to five-second delay. Next, the salesperson (I use that term very loosely) says in a bewildered voice, “Hello?”, essentially asking if there’s anybody on the other end of the line.

Sometimes I have a little fun with them. When they say, “Hello?”, I say “Hello?” right back, in the same bewildered tone. Then they say it again, and I say it again, before they finally seem to realize they actually have a live person on the line. Then comes the clincher — the next thing they usually say is, “How are you?”

Seriously, think about this for a second: Can you possibly imagine a more ineffective way to market a business? I don’t know anything about the technology of telemarketing phone systems, but it seems to me that somebody would figure out a way avoid that delay as soon as a prospect picks up the phone.

It also seems to me that any company investing serious money into a telemarketing sales program would train its salespeople to use a more effective opening line than, “How are you?” Research tells us that telemarketers have something like three to five seconds (or less) to get prospects’ attention before they hang up.

So why are most of them wasting 10 to 15 seconds or more with “Hello?” and “How are you?” And they only get this far with me because I’m messing with them!

When Common Sense Isn’t So … Common

You’re probably not be in the telemarketing or telesales business, but my point in telling this story is to illustrate how little it seems that common sense often prevails when it comes to marketing. These are often large, multi-million dollar companies that are investing tens of thousands of dollars (or more) in these amateurish telemarketing programs.

As a freelance commercial writer, I try to apply common-sense observations like these to marketing copywriting. For starters, I always ask myself: If I were in the prospect’s shoes, what would grab my attention? What would push my buttons? What would keep me reading the next line, paragraph and page? Conversely, what would cause me to immediately toss the marketing piece in the trash can, hit the delete button or close the browser window?

For example:

  • How would I navigate a website? What information would I expect to see on the home page, what tabs would be logical, and how easy is it to find what I need?
  • What kind of brochure headline would really grab my attention and cause me to open it up right away rather than toss it into my “read later” (but probably never) pile. Ditto email subject lines.
  • What kind of lead is going to capture readers and pull them into an article, rather than just skim it and move on to the next thing on their reading list?

Radio Station WIIFM

I once heard a speaker say that “marketing communication is all about radio station WIIFM: What’s In It For Me?” This sounds kinda corny, but it’s true. You’ve got to think BENEFITS when writing any kind of marketing copy.

Of course, this isn’t rocket science. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a marketer or communicator of some kind and you might be thinking “Duh.” But think about some of the marketing communications you receive from supposed “marketing experts” and how woefully short they fall from passing the simple WIIFM test.

So keep your marketing communications simple, clear and benefit-oriented. And the next time you get a telemarketing call, listen carefully for some things not to do with your communications!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. John Masterson ( Mas-ter-son)

    You know it’s a telemarketer calling when :
    1. They butcher the pronunciation of your last name so much that you have to go back and make sure you’ve been spelling it correctly for the last 50 years.
    2. They call after 8pm or right at dinner time and ask ” is this a bad time to call”?
    3. Someone calls asking for support or a donation and you ask them ” how much of your contribution goes towards administrative fees” and they are speechless.
    4. They state ” we are in the area and would like to schedule a free estimate for x service” . I reply “Now if I needed that service don’t you think I would be calling you instead”.
    5. You tell them “NO” or “Not Interested” and they continue to ramble hoping that an epiphany will take place as they continue to blah blah blah their brains out.
    6. They call and you tell them it’s “not good time to talk “and they ask “when’s the best time to reach you again “and you tell them “never” and then they call you back the next day.

    1. don

      I love it, John! Kinda like “You know you’re a redneck when…”

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