Don’t discredit the phone’s power despite social media

Several media outlets, including The New York Times, Wired and NBC’s Digital Life blog have reported that the telephone call is dying as a form of interpersonal consumer communication. However, from a marketer’s standpoint, the phone continues to be a valuable tool for turning prospects into customers and solving customer service-related problems. What may take multiple exchanges via email, text message or Twitter can be resolved in minutes through voice-based interpersonal communications.

No one is denying that text and social media are impacting the way our society communicates, but the jury is still out on their effectiveness as sales and marketing tools. While marketers debate the verdict, they continue to conclude that whether the goal is consumer engagement or lead generation, the end result of those efforts should be increased sales.

Putting all of your eggs, or marketing dollars, into the online basket, opens you up to the fickle nature of the Internet. A few months ago, Google changed its search algorithm, which immediately affected 12% of search results. Sites whose rankings rose to the top found that their traffic and revenue grew, but the adjustment had a negative effect on those that fell in the rankings, effectively shutting off their marketing pipelines instantaneously.

Marketers who fail to construct a balanced, multi-platform approach that places as high a priority on voice and offline engagement as it does on social and digital platforms, will miss out on valuable opportunities to facilitate authentic customer relationships. Customer-facing telephone numbers are becoming a single, mobile entry point to deliver multimedia content through various mobile messaging technologies. Some platforms that include ads and coupons are extensions of the phone’s link to digital tools and demonstrate how switching from communicating on the Web to the phone can be immediate and seamless.

Systems that prompt users to opt-in to receive content can enable marketers to collect CRM data. Such information helps marketers track when people are calling a number, from where, and the type of offers they accepted or rejected. They allow brands to build a mobile database of highly receptive customers and prospects.

Social networks might be all the rage, but a recent survey from interactive agency Razorfish found that despite the average person spending one out of every eight minutes online on Facebook, they do not use the site when they want to connect with a company. Overwhelmingly, consumers were inclined to go to company websites or talk to a company representative directly on the phone.

From the July 01, 2011 Issue of Direct Marketing News