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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Demoralizing marketing

It was 4:50 p.m., near the end of the business day. I can either answer my business line (888-432-3555 ext 224) in the office, or it forwards to my home office. I don't have a cordless phone for the business line at home; simply put, if it is after hours and I'm with my family, it can ring into voice mail, and I'll return the calls the next day.

But it was 4:50 and it seemed right to take the call. So I ran upstairs, catching the line breathlessly just before it cut into voice mail .... and immediately, I knew it was a telemarketer when the caller, rather brilliantly, asked if I was "Mr. or Mrs. Buckshon".

Other than the obvious fact that I cannot possibly be Mrs. Buckshon, my wife is not Mrs. Buckshon either -- she uses her maiden name. (This also creates incongruities when I answer the home line and someone says: "Hello, Mr. ***" and I know exactly that this is a call I have absolutely no interest in receiving.)

As is my style, I interrupted the telemarketer before he could go into his script, and said "I know you have a job to do and am not directing this at you personally, but please ensure my name is off your list and you never call me again." I really want to be courteous to all people with thankless jobs, but I wasn't too happy to speak with the telemarketer who couldn't sort out my gender after I ran up the stairs, panting, to take his call.

Maybe this type of marketing works, some of the time. Get enough low-paid people to make enough scripted dumb calls, and some people will buy. But it seems to me to be life-draining and wasteful approach to business. Surely we, as consumers, can make informed decisions about when and how to handle our calls -- and I'm sure this explains the political success in implementing 'do not call lists' and other controls.

I'm not so set against telemarketing in the business-to-business context -- we do some of it ourselves -- provided the telephone calls are properly directed, individualized, and not scripted, and ideally go to organizations of sufficient scale and organization that there is either voice mail or administrative gatekeepers to assess and screen the relevance of the calls.

(Of course, if you read the business-to-business sales literature, one of the biggest problems and complaints salespeople have is call screening, and unanswered voice mail. My response would be that if your proposition is compelling, well thought, and relevant, you can almost always get through to the person you wish to reach, eventually. But if you are just calling names on cold lists, you are getting what you deserve.)
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I discovered this rather interesting site when I googled to find "the dumbest business ideas". (Why I chose that topic is something of a mystery to me, but I had just reached the site when that telemarketer phoned, so maybe I was looking for trouble.) Anyways, here is some good marketing -- though I'm not sure yet where it will take us:

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