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On Hold Marketing – Make it the Voice of Your Brand

With so many online start-ups and “entrepreneurs” these days, it’s hard to distinguish a viable business from one that may disappear tomorrow (and take your money with them). We all want to feel safe from scammers and pop-up shops. Here’s how on hold marketing can set you apart and get you in the game.

Audio Branding ... Your Brand

It’s simple. People trust real people. When someone calls your business, they expect to talk to a real human. But most callers understand that some hold time is necessary. In fact, it’s a good sign … your business is in demand!

But here’s the catch:

Silence on-hold is quite literally the kiss of death for your business. In the very least, we expect to hear the familiar phone system music everyone loves to hate. If I am holding in silence, I wonder, “How is the rest of the business operated? Did they hang up on me? Do they even care?” These are dangerous waters to wade. If you fall into this category, hurry and save yourself!

…Let’s take it a step further.

What exactly is the voice of your brand and how do you find it? To answer this question, we must answer several other questions.

1. Are you business to consumer (B2C) or business to business (B2B)?

2. What’s your company’s mission statement?

3. What is your customer demographic? Are they mostly male or female? Do they fit into a certain age category?

4. What is your company culture like? Is it hip and modern? Or traditionalist and bureaucratic?

5. What is the nature of what you sell – serious (think healthcare) or light hearted?

Thoughtfully considering these questions will help you to discover your brand’s voice.

Now, let’s apply it to your on hold marketing.

There are 3 components to creating your brand “voice”:

1. The actual voice talent

2. The background music on hold

3. The content of your messaging

Step 1 – The actual “voice” of your brand

A professional voice talent has the power to pull you in, as they are commercially trained in the art of speaking. Depending on the products or services you sell and your company culture, think about not only who should be the voice representing your brand but also how the voice talent should read your content: upbeat, relaxed, professional, conversational, warm and friendly… you get the idea!

I want to begin with a fast-food example – shout out to my favorite fried chicken joint – Raising Cane’s. When I pull up to their drive thru, I’m always amazed at the upbeat yet casual voice talking through the speaker. It makes me feel happy, valued, and glad that I came. It’s more than great customer service – it’s the Raising Cane’s brand and directly reflects their marketing strategy. They have successfully transformed the monotony of ordering at a drive thru into a light-hearted experience. Indeed, other fast-food brands are sure to follow in their footsteps or will lose market share.

As you can see, the tone of voice is rather important. In a recent project, we were working with a popular family of restaurants who have formulated a clear and consistent brand image. Their marketing team’s request: a casual voice that felt friendly and almost unprofessional…. “un-voice-talenty” is what they called it. At first, I felt this was a rather odd request for upscale restaurants. But in the end, they knew the voice of their brand and weren’t willing to compromise it. Eventually we found the perfect match!

It’s important to also consider whether your talent should be male, female, or combine both male and female talent into your on hold marketing scripting. If your business caters to young females (e.g. an online dress shop), an older sounding male voice will not only sound out of place on hold – but will likely threaten the integrity of your brand.

Tip! Most B2B companies can use either an adult male or a female voice with no issues.

But even with B2B, issues may arise. Recently, we began working with a telecommunications company who chose the deepest male voiceover on our website – a voice so deep that I recommend using him sparely and only in certain industries. We produced the message and when they listened to it, I was not surprised to learn they asked for a redo. The strong depth of his voice missed the mark.

Whether you are B2B or B2C, the voice talent representing your brand should be carefully selected and complement the image of your other marketing materials, your website, and social media brand.

Step 2 – Background Music On Hold

Because of the overwhelming variety of choices, people gravitate towards choosing “safe” music on-hold (think Easy Listening) rather than what best relates to their customer base. Similar to the voice artist, music has the ability to draw you in, make you listen, and even affect your mood. Music engages your brain’s memory as well as improves attention – this makes on hold marketing such a powerful tool! You have a captivated audience stimulated by upbeat music and reinforced by words.

Music provides an opportunity to reach your prospects and customers in a positive way and improve their experience with you. I’ll use the online dress shop example again – if you’re playing soft jazz on-hold but you’re selling dresses to teenage girls, you’ve missed an opportunity. A more trendy pop sound would better suit this age group. Go into any Forever 21 and you’ll see what I mean. Retail stores especially use music both to their advantage and in defining who they are. You won’t hear the same music genres in a Forever 21 as you would an Urban Outfitters, even though they cater to similar age groups. Why? Because their styles and vibes are completely different – one trendy and chic, the other trendy and hipster.

In fact, music is such a powerful tool you could almost call it a miracle worker for both in-store experiences and on-hold. According to Entrepreneur online, customers will shop longer and purchase more when exposed to music. This applies to waiting on hold as well – callers will stay on the line longer and be in a better mood when you come back on the line.

An experiment performed by USA Business Telephone Today found that a staggering 52% of people hung up within 1 minute of holding in silence; 13% hung up while listening to music on hold; and only 2% hung up within the minute of listening to both music and information on hold. W-O-W! It seems like a no-brainer when you look at the facts.

How many sales could you save by reducing the number of caller hang ups? Could you increase your revenue by also cross-selling and upselling products while callers wait on-hold? If you’re serious about making sales happen for your business, consider finding answers to these questions.

The bottom line is that people want to hear music on hold. Make the most of their experience and the most of your sales by choosing the right music for your demographic. Check out some of my favorite hold songs or take action and talk to an expert today.

Step 3 – Curating Content for Your Hold Message

Like your background music and voice talent, the content of your message on hold must stay true to your brand and engage the demographic you are selling to.

When a customer walks into your store or visits you online, what is your marketing approach? Is it a hard-sell or a more relaxed environment?

You know your business best, so focus on what works. Think about the point that you want to drive home… what is it about your business that makes you different, that makes you… you…

Is it unbeatable prices? Remarkable quality and craftsmanship? Customer relationships? Take a look at your other marketing materials for the overall message to convey to callers.

While there are many different types of content to include, I’ve outlined below the major themes.

Content Characteristics:

  • Sales Pitch: cross-selling and upselling products & services; what differentiates you from competitor

  • Informational: location, hours of operation

  • About Us: similar content to your “About Us” page on your website

  • Tips: helpful industry tips or interesting facts

  • Promotion: website, social media pages, blog

  • Celebration: years in business, milestone, awards and other achievements

How much content should be delivered in one hold message is determined by business type and average length of time you place callers on hold.

For example, if your average hold time is 20 to 30 seconds, there should be more content than music.

However, if you place callers on hold for an average of 10 minutes or longer even, too much information or sales pitch will have the opposite effect, leading callers to become annoyed and displeased.

Striking the right balance of messaging and music is key to engaging callers in a positive and helpful way.

For more on-hold messaging content ideas, check out my other article 34 Easy Ways for Businesses to Sound Great on Hold.

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