It is human nature to want to solve problems in person. I have been in meetings with clients where the room practically crackles with the energy being expended to solve a challenging problem. That is especially true when the opportunity involves a hi-tech product or service. For hi-tech, discussions move into an even higher realm where there are opportunities for marketing and customer support that have never been tried before because the field is so new. There are opportunities to blaze trails and make reputations.
For many in the sales, marketing and customer support fields, there is no substitute for that face-to-face meeting in which people craft a solution to a difficult problem. Unfortunately, not all sales or customer support can occur in person. For the day-to-day business where an in-person meeting would be impractical, impossible or cost-prohibitive, the telephone and applications that use telephone lines offer an excellent means for reaching your target audience. Here are a few ways to use the telephone to market and support hi-tech products and services:
Phone Detailing: Unlike direct mail, which allows only a one-sided conversation, a telephone conversation is interactive. That's why the phone is ideal for detailing new technology. Teleservices representatives can call a targeted list of prospects to describe the features, specifications and benefits of new technology. A carefully designed script allows the reps to zero in quickly on those features and benefits that are most important to the prospect. Questions can be answered immediately while interest is high. Follow-up can occur at the moment of opportunity. And not only is a telephone call interactive, but it has the additional benefit of being able to break through the clutter in a prospect's mail pile.
Broadcast Fax: An excellent way to let current customers know about new products, upgrades and special promotions is through the use of broadcast fax. Using broadcast fax, hundreds and even thousands of messages can be sent out at night, when long distance costs are at their lowest. Messages are likely to be read early in the morning, before your customers are too busy to return phone calls. For maximum impact, include a toll-free number your customers can call for more information or to place an order. To boost response, include a coupon on the fax for something your customers want — for example, 10 percent off orders received within 10 days. While broadcast fax is an excellent tool, it is important to remember that sending unsolicited faxes is a violation of the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. To avoid violation of the TCPA, be sure you have customers and prospects approval before sending messages of a commercial nature. Often this can be accomplished with a simple check off box on the contract.
e-commerce: With the ability to transfer more data faster over the Internet, online demonstrations are gaining popularity. Demos can be done as a series of graphics, animation or actual video. Hyperlinks within the demo can take visitors to more detailed information on specific features. Ordering and payment can be done securely online. New Click-To-Talk technology gives site visitors the option to chat live with a trained Representative by choosing one of three options: 1) Representatives can answer questions in real time using a drop down chat box; 2) Visitors can type in their phone number on a drop down form and a representative will call them back at the time specified; or 3) Representatives and visitors can talk live over the Internet using the microphone and speakers built into the visitor's computer. Web sites are also ideal for delivering convenient, cost-effective customer support. Use your Web site to answer FAQs and to deliver software patches and upgrades 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Interactive Voice Response: IVR applications allow prospects and customers to call in and obtain information 24 hours a day/seven days a week, allowing excellent, yet cost effective customer service even when live agents are not available. By listening to a brief menu of choices and dialing the number that corresponds to the selection desired, customers can obtain answers to FAQs, as well as leave messages requesting a call back during normal business hours. IVR applications can also be used to as a forum for customers to leave information about bugs in hi-tech systems, allowing your company to correct more problems, faster.
Sandra Herman is director of marketing for Transcom, an international relationship management company based in Carmel, Indiana.