By John Robinson
Gone are the days of renting space, hanging a shingle, placing an ad in the yellow pages, and watching your business grow. Today there is competition for your target customers from all over the globe. It is a tired cliché, but the world is shrinking! At Answering Service, Inc., we have found marketing our services one of the most challenging areas of our business.
In the past, many of us have relied on ads in the yellow pages to gain new business. Have you noticed that you’re receiving fewer and fewer calls each year–while yellow page costs keep increasing? I’m here to confirm that the “times are a’changing.” We can no longer rely just on the yellow pages; we have to be proactive to attract new customers.
The good news is that we all have more access to information than ever before. And, thanks to ATSI (Association of TeleServices International), we have a Marketing Toolkit that provides great resources to help in our marketing. The ATSI Marketing Toolkit includes the following:
- Playbills, postcards, and new leads direct mailers
- Incentive coupons
- General sales brochures
- Faxable sales brochures
- Bill stuffers to encourage referrals and new sales
- News releases
- Outbound telemarketing sales scripts
- Email cards and other Internet friendly direct sales tools
At Answering Service, Inc., we have experienced a definite increase in sales since implementing our new marketing plan. Our current marketing push is direct mail postcards to two different lists of businesses. The first list contains every member of the regional chamber of commerce. The second list contains every doctor accepted by HAP.
Our sales staff and customer service staff does the mailings. These leads are then followed up with other mailings and phone calls. To track our sales success, we are using ACT software. All of our outgoing contacts are logged into ACT. Our goal is to make eight attempts to contact each prospect before downgrading them to the back of the pile.
Incoming phone calls are being more efficiently tracked now also. We set up separate numbers for each advertisement to track the response rate of each ad. Currently, we have not created a way to track our main local number, and we are considering forwarding that to a toll-free number for tracking
We’ve also gotten our agents involved. When they aren’t as busy as normal, they call customers and prospects to note how the telephone was answered (for example: by a person, by a machine, not answered, and so forth). This information helps us target the appropriate marketing piece.
Generating business from the Internet is a big part of our focus going forward. We have two websites: one that focuses on the live answer side of our business and another that focuses on our automated voicemail service. We are updating each site to match color schemes, styles, and integrating links to each other throughout the context of the sites. The layout and color scheme will be used in our marketing materials. The sales staff uses PowerPoint presentations during sales meetings, and these will align with our web pages more closely in the future.
To get more immediate response from our website visitors, we are implementing a live chat feature. Our sales staff will log into the site, will be notified when a visitor arrives, and can initiate a chat session through a pop-up window. A visitor can also initiate a chat by clicking an invitation link. Our goal is to inform the visitor with enticing content and then initiate a dialog.
To attract more visitors to our websites, we plan to invest in search engine optimization (SEO). Each site will need tweaking, with a close look at relevant content, keyword selection, and a plan to update content on a regular basis. We are working with a local company that we know and trust for both the chat function and the SEO.
In Michigan’s challenging economy, we have to work extra hard to take advantage of every opportunity. We feel good about our revived marketing efforts and tracking using the valuable resources of the ATSI Toolkit. We realize that the days of sitting back and waiting for something to happen is over–we all have to go out and ask for the business!
John Robinson’s call center, Answering Service Inc. is located in Southfield, MI.
[From Connection Magazine – May 2007]