Secret Marketer: With so many communication options to choose from, why bother with a voicemail?

The one core skill of all marketers is to be a great communicator. It is what we do.

In my business, people look to me to turn a page of acronyms and technical claptrap into something that someone might read and, God forbid, take some action on as a result.

I was therefore intrigued to come across an article in the Financial Times (‘You have one message – it’s over’) stating that both JPMorgan and Coca-Cola had scrapped voicemail as, quite simply, their employees were not using it any more.

I find this quite amazing. In this day and age, the ability to communicate with colleagues at a time that works for you is critical. One of the beauties of emails and SMS texts is that you can send your message and wait to see what comes back. So what is different about the humble voicemail? Why are people not leaving messages? We work in ever more virtual worlds, such that shouting across the office is ever less likely, so the phone is essential.

I guess part of this is the multitude of options open to us to communicate. We can, albeit rarely, speak to people face to face; we can telephone (usually mobile to mobile, as no one remembers people’s numbers these days); we can SMS text; we can Skype; we can email; we can ‘instant message’ each other; or we can use a whole multitude of social media sites, both internal to our business and external. With so much choice, why bother with a voicemail? How many times have we phoned someone and, on finding they were not there, hung up rather than leave a message and then resorted to emailing them?

As employers, this is an interesting development. As marketers, it has a bearing too.

Never has a PPI salesmen left me a voice message to call them back – in fact, few telemarketing agencies have the ability to take inbound calls. The better ones re-diarise to call back, in the knowledge that no customer would ever return their call.

The phone does continue to have an important role in marketing campaigns: it has that level of disruption we all crave (few recipients can avoid a ringing phone, especially if it has an embarrassing ringtone). But I guess when that tool becomes passive – when it becomes a voicemail – it loses its edge.

OK, on second thoughts, I have changed my mind. Voicemail is dead. Now, where did I put the fax machine? And where is my pager?

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