Voice marketing defended

Eric Holmen says Voice marketing is not your father’s telemarketing. It’s a well articulated pushback to my earlier rant on Phone Spam (and those of other bloggers).

Eric puts up a case for voice marketing pointing out how tightly regulated it is, how easy to opt out, how it’s for customers only. How it saves time compared to real staff calling (in the jargon, voice marketing is about automated, prerecorded messages being dropped on your telephone).

He rightly pours scorn on the many half-baked attempts at “relationship marketing” that wither in the face of WalMart’s highly disciplined, cost-based strategy.

Then you realize it. Your CRM communications plan is simply noise among noise. The marketing department has turned it into a

5 thoughts on “Voice marketing defended

  1. johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy)

    Is ‘voice marketing’ or ‘voice branding’ the real issue?

    For brands that have a distinct personality, they seem to abandon that personality when you call their toll-free customer line. Instead of hearing the unique brand voice the company has carefully crafted, you are subjected to hearing a milquetoast, monotone, and slow-cadenced voice which sounds nothing like the brand you have come to know and appreciate.

    Before brands engage in voice marketing spam, I think they should first perfect their brand’s voice on their automated phone system. And who knows … if they make their voice brand engaging enough, maybe we will not consider their telephone outreach efforts to be spam.

    You can stream the ‘voice brand’ of companies like Starbucks, Adidas, Silicon Graphics, Whirlpool, American Express, and Viacom by going here:


  2. Johnnie Moore

    Hmm. I’m don’t think perfecting their voice is what I want them to worry about. I’m actually quite wary of the idea of conceptualising a single unique voice for a group of people. I prefer the variations you get from talking to individuals. As per blogging.

  3. chelsea

    Fascinating couple of posts. And the link to company IVRs (voice machines) is priceless!

    I have to disagree with Eric, even though I admire his contrarian thinking. When Bill Clinton “phoned me” on election day to remind me to vote, I hung up on him. I can’t imagine any company I’d want to talk to more than Clinton. And even he got the brush off. Getting a fake person is WORSE than getting a real person, even when the real person is a lowly telemarketer. At least then I feel bad for them.

    Reminds me of something we once did at my previous employer:

    “From Man to Ape – CRM Run Amok”


  4. Eric Holmen

    Excellent responses. It’s indeed a controversial medium, I can’t argue with that, and when we bring in the emotional/intuitive points to the argument, there is no winning. Heck – I don’t want to get an intrusive phone call, either.

    Johnnie’s point that the CEO felt compelled to communicate and therefore deliver computerized messages from an actor is very accurate (and humorous). The point is not that the calls are computerized, but rather that they are delivered. The question is this: is it better to have the best attempt of a communication, or no communication at all? My answer is simple – so long as customers don’t run away from your communication, then it is better to make the attempt.

    I’d like to think that the analogy could be made between voice marketing and Hallmark greeting cards. I’m not sure it holds up, simply because of the abusive tactics employeed by a previous generation of telemarketing bastards.

    But to carry the analogy through: there must have been a time when we “adopted” greeting cards as a substitute for original, personal thought. For example, with a visit to the card store, I can purchase and deliver dozens of greeting cards without a single instance of original, personal effort or anything more than the signing of my name. This must have been an appalling development to my grandparent’s generation that wrote individual letters on plain or personal stationery.

    So is the issue a matter of ‘true’ personalization, or is voice marketing a matter of intrusion? In either case, the results remain. Consumers accept appropriate messages from appropiate parties in the appropriate context.

    [By the way – as a California resident – I received the recorded calls from Arnold Schwarzenegger almost nightly during the week prior to his election, and I think it is fair to say that this is abusive and not a best practice in terms of responsible CRM. Interestingly, politicians happened to exclude themselves from the laws that corporations are required to oblige. The comparison of politicians and Bill Clinton may be true, but the context is false.]

    I appreciate the open dialog and I encourage skeptics to take five minutes to check it out. We have some interesting resources at https://www.smartreply.com. You may be missing an important medium if you simply throw your hands into the air. It must mean something that the Peppers and Rogers Group took it seriously enough to document it.

    Also – it’s interesting to note that not only did the Peppers & Rogers Group review voice marketing, they now implement such campaigns with us monthly as reminders for their webinars. It’s all about context and relevance.



  5. Johnnie Moore

    Thanks Eric. How nice to hear someone in your line of work talking about “telemarketing bastards”.

    “Context and relevance.”: That would be a useful rule of thumb. It’s context that tends to get stripped out in debates like this – and thanks for illustrating some.


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