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A questionable telemarketing scheme that works

Did you ever wonder why you get so many hang ups on your phone? Bet you didn’t know that there’s a service – and probably many – that can be set to hang up if somebody answers or leave a message if they don’t.

The motivation is simple, the telemarketer gets to leave you a recorded message. They don’t have to staff phone banks, and the whole process is totally automated – and incredibly inexpensive.

To me, it’s a judgment call whether or not you consider this technique ethical. Hangups are clearly annoying and disruptive. Sometimes people would call the originating number back to try to connect with the person who dropped the call (these people got essentially the same message we would have left on their voice mail). If they weren’t at their phone, there was no interruption. But I often thought that if people knew we were hanging up on purpose, they would be pretty upset with us.

Against my better judgment, I was coerced by my employer to use it. To my surprise, it really worked, and the reason also sheds some light on why good marketing works and lousy marketing annoys. In our case, we left messages for financial insurance agents and financial planners. Our selling proposition was simple: we’re giving a webinar today, and we’d like you to attend. The webinar will teach you how to use the Internet to market your services, and it’s free.

That’s not a bad pitch, because we were offering something of value for 30 minutes of your time. And it got through the clutter; I don’t think there’s any industry where workers are so bombarded with sales pitches as these people were. I got probably 100 promotional emails every day, and like financial professionals I largely ignored them.

Bottom line: we got an 8% response rate on the voice mail messages – these were people who called us or went to our website to sign up for the webinar. Email blasts, which we did as well, generally had about .1% response rate. And the other thing these voice mail/registrations did was ensure that we had screened candidates. Every step you make a prospect go through filters out more people who aren’t interested and leaves a more qualified candidate.

If you’re thinking of doing this, the service is called But get some legal advice before you start – I’m not at all sure that we weren’t breaking laws in some states.

CallFire is really a very interesting site, because you can also set up a virtual call center quite easily. This allows you to have telemarketers (or it could be technical support or sales) in any location; people can work from home or remote offices anywhere in the country. The system dials out and connects to a prospect and then connects a live person to your telemarketer. The sales person doesn’t have to call out – there’s only one call, and it’s placed from CallFire to your telemarketer.

This service is pretty economical, and it’s easy enough for almost anybody to set up. All you have to do is find some telemarkers, which I did by advertising on Craig’s List in various locations. No need to move things to the Philippines or invest in roomfulls of people. It’s potentially a great resource for a small company working on a limited budget.

Posted in Marketing.

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2 Responses

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  1. Jim Byrnes says

    Wally: If you liked CallWire as a marketing tool, I urge you to check out our client Ifbyphone (, which offers much, much more than voice-broadcast calls. For instance, Ifbyphone developed a unique app that helps marketers wring far more data from Google Analytics. — jim

    • walt says

      This is a very interesting comment. I thought about whether or not to post it, because it’s obviously just a pitch for somebody else’s service, and it doesn’t add anything at all to the post.

      In the end, I decided to make an example of this comment – things smart marketers should never do. This is from just a cursory look:

      1. If you’re going to post something, make it useful to the readers of this or any other blog. If Jim had said what his client offers and how that could help, he would have fulfilled this requirement.

      2. Get the name of the product in the blog article correct. It’s not CallWire, it’s CallFire.

      3. Get the name of the blogger right. If this poster had read some of my material, he’d have seen that I don’t use the name Wally – that’s just the blog name.

      4. Don’t just post to promote yourself or your product. It turns people off.

      5. If you’re a marketing agency, get your own house in order first. Jim is from – “marketing communications for THIS century.” The title of their home page is “Index.” There are no active links on the page other than an email address:

      I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. IfByPhone may actually be an interesting service, but I’m not inclined to find out.