Archive for October, 2010

Using good “sense” in your On-Hold Message

I really can’t believe I’m going to do this. I promised myself that amidst the storm of reviews, reposts, and retweets, I wouldn’t succumb to the desire to analyze the marketing value of Old Spice’s now famous “I’m On A Horse” commercial.

Then yesterday, as I was just minding my own business, this really interesting thought popped into my mind. And it was about that ad.

“If he stopped using lady-scented body wash, and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me.”


Go back and read that again.

Watch the video if you have to, I’ll wait.


Did you catch it?

Here is what is what is so amusing to me:

You have no idea what Isaiah Mustafa smells like in that commercial!

I’m kind of surprised that this hasn’t jumped out at me sooner. Old Spice has done an excellent job of triggering one sense (your sense of smell)…without even using scent! They are ONLY using visual and aural senses to sell a smell.

Whoa! That’s some powerful engagement there! And I’ve seen that ad countless times, without realizing that was what was happening! (It also helps that I know what Old Spice body wash smells like!)

Now, what’s the point, and why would I want to make it here?

You don’t have to USE all five senses to fully engage your prospect’s five senses.

Did you know the body needs ‘just’ 100 million sensory receptors to experience the physical universe around you?

By contrast, your mental and emotional universe is so complex, that your brain requires 10,000 Billion synapses to experience the world inside your head! (You don’t have to take my word for it. Learn about the 12 languages of the mind)

We are much more prepared to experience the world of imagination and dream, then we are the physical world.

Words, sounds, images, and more are what transport us into those worlds. And you can use that same transport to take your customer there.

The caller experience that a customer has when phoning your business sets them up for how they are going to experience your product or service. Are you providing a great experience?

Here’s some complaints that business have gotten, that have caused them to talk to us lately:

“The voice just wasn’t warm and fuzzy”

“Your receptionist hung up on me in the middle of my saying goodbye!”

“I hear our receptionist saying: ‘I don’t know…that’s not my job’, rather then “I can find out and get back with you”

How your phone is answered gives people a glimpse inside your company. And just like Isaiah and Old Spice, they don’t have to see with their physical eyes to imagine with their mind’s eye!

Thinking about the possibilities? Think about this.

What does it sound like when you push that little red “Hold” button on your phone? Does your caller get dumped into a black cavern of silence, wandering around looking for daylight, sometimes for long periods of time?

Do they hear the same generic music your competitors have, with constant reminders to “please stay on the line….please! We’re begging you!”?

Or do you transport them to a magical place, where you engaged their senses in a way that was interesting, fun, and still relevant to your business?

Like we did here, for Southern States. They wanted to highlight their chicken feed, and what better way then to…well, I’ll let the chickens speak for themselves:

Chicken Feed from Southern States

You can engage their mind, and draw them into your business, or you can leave them in silence to contemplate the myriad other thoughts they’re faced with each day.

Your choice…what does your phone sound like?

On Hold Message: Key Component of your Brand’s Sound Signature

This TED video from Julian Treasure has a lot to teach about the use of sound in business. Have a watch/listen, and then we’ll discuss a few ideas for how to make the best of this information.

First, you may have noticed some pretty big numbers….a drop of 66% in productivity in open-plan office environments and a sales drop of up to 28% in a retail environment when inappropriate sound is present.

I especially liked his observation that we, “…move away from unpleasant sound and toward comfortable sounds.”

Telephone Sound is one of 8 types of commercial sound that Treasure talks about. If you haven’t thought about the rest of your soundscape, your phone sound signature is a good place to start. A Caller Experience expert can help craft your phone sound to be a reflection of your business goals. You can go from there into more purposeful and directed tactics for every other element of sound in the business.

If you already have a unique soundscape in your advertising, in-store experience, products and services, you’ve made that expert’s job easier, but no less urgent.

Crafting and producing an on-hold message is not good territory for Do It Yourself business marketers. As a business owner, you’re likely to only mention info that’s important to YOU, while failing to take a customer-centric view. You risk falling into instruction mode instead of taking an informative and (if appropriate) entertaining strategy.

Warning signs that you’ve got a bad on-hold message company:

  • They offer “canned” pre-produced, or fill-in-the-blank message.
  • They expect the business owner to write the scripts.
  • They offer little choice in voice talent, music and production.
  • Make no attempt to customize your message to match the sound signature of your business and other marketing efforts

A great on-hold message provider will:

  • Thoroughly uncover the key values of the business
  • Dig deep enough to find the important facts for the message
  • Match up the business with the appropriate voice talent and music
  • Provide turn-key support and quick response for updating messages

I liked Treasure’s first three golden rules of commercial sound:

  1. Make it congruent (with the core values and other sound elements of the business)
  2. Make it appropriate (to the intended listeners)
  3. Make it Valuable (by offering more than a caller expected to hear)

So, what’s holding you back?

If you’re abusing your customers by delivering a bad phone experience, this is one of the easiest marketing touchpoints to fix.

If you’re not sure what kind of experience you’re delivering, get it evaluated.

If you currently offer flat, dead silence, that’s the best place to start.

Dave Young is a marketing/branding consultant who works exclusively with owner-operated businesses like ProsoundUSA to help them grow. He blogs at and teaches at