Features

Published on April 14th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Using the Phone to Market Your Business

By Rieva Lesonsky

With more and more customers contacting companies online, it may seem as if your business phone doesn’t matter much anymore. But if you aren’t taking advantage of the many ways your company’s phone can be used as a marketing tool, you’re selling your business short. Your business phone is a crucial element in conveying your brand, promoting your business and convincing prospects to become customers. Try these tips for using your phone to market your business.

Get a toll-free phone number. No one wants to spend money calling a business. If you serve (or want to serve) customers outside your local area code, a toll-free number makes these people more likely to call you. Toll-free numbers also create the impression that your business is professional and successful. Even if you only own one location, for example, a toll-free number can make you look like less like a mom-and-pop business, and more like a larger chain.

Obtaining a toll-free number that spells out a relevant word is less important than it used to be as a marketing tool, but it still helps by making your business phone number (and, by extension, your business) more memorable. Depending on your industry and brand, it can also inject humor and reflect the personality into your business—such as junk removal company 1-800-GOT-JUNK, or a landscaping company with the number 1-800-NO-WEEDS.

Answer professionally. Your phone presence may be the first impression a potential customer has of your business, so make sure everyone who answers your phone knows what type of marketing message you want to convey, and how to convey it. Include this information in your employee handbook—and be specific. For instance, smiling when answering the phone will make employees sound more cheerful. You can create one or a few standard greetings employees should use when answering the phone, including key information such as the company name and their names or departments within the company.

Attention spans are short today and customers are in a hurry, so keep your greetings brief and easy to understand. Lengthy greetings run the risk of employees rushing through them or customers getting impatient. At the same time, convey the “flavor” of your business brand. For example, a landscaping business could answer with, “It’s a beautiful day at Spring Green Landscaping! This is Susan; how may I help you?”

Use on-hold messaging creatively. Don’t let customers sit in silence when they are put on hold, or they may think they’ve been disconnected. Go beyond on-hold music to create on-hold messaging that educates customers about your business, products and services, as well as entertains them. Search online for on-hold messaging, and you’ll find many companies that can script, record and produce custom on-hold messages for your business, interspersed with a wide range of music.

What kinds of information should you include in your on-hold messaging? Here are some ideas:

Tips related to your business: A landscaping service could offer seasonal tips for garden care. For example: “Spring is here, so don’t forget to aerate your lawn—or have Spring Green do it for you!”
Information about new products or services: “Are you trying to save water? Spring Green now offers a full line of water-wise plants, plus xeriscape design services.”

Answers to frequently asked questions: For example, if prospects frequently call you for price quotes, you can offer some general information, such as, “Our weekly lawn-care service starts as low as $79 a month.”
Special offers, sales or events: “Our annual Annuals Extravaganza is here! During the month of April, save 25 percent off all annuals.”

Interesting, funny or surprising facts: “Did you know the world’s biggest dandelion grew 14 feet high? Keep your weeds under control with our weekly service.”

For every bit of information you provide in your hold message, include a call-to-action. “Ask about our…” “Visit springgreen.com/quote to get a price quote in minutes” or “Make an appointment to…”

Don’t overwhelm customers with too much information on hold. Think in terms of quick “sound bites” of information, interspersed with on-hold music. Know the average wait time your customers spend on hold, and record an on-hold message “loop” long enough that customers don’t end up hearing the same thing over and over. Three to six minutes is a standard loop length.

Keep your brand in mind. The music, tone of voice and information used in your on-hold messaging should reinforce your business brand, as well as appeal to your target customers. For instance, a child-care center might record its message with a warm, soothing motherly voice and play children’s music on hold. A personal trainer or fitness club could use an enthusiastic voice and play high-energy music.

By using these tactics, you can transform your business phone from a ho-hum necessity to a marketing powerhouse.

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