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Canvassing, phones and time zones

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Wednesday June 13, 2007 )

VoIP (Voice Over IP) has made interstate and overseas calling so cheap, unlike a few years back I don’t even bat an eyelid when needing to call colleagues in the USA.

The economy of overseas and long distance calls has been a boon for ecommerce and online business, but some companies need to learn that not everyone on the planet exists in their time zone – it’s something that should they should bear in mind before picking up the phone to dial a prospective partner or customer or partner.

3am in the morning and my cell phone rings. My heart starts to hammer as a phone call at that time of night is never good news and usually means someone’s in trouble or is looking for it :). Who could it be? Has there been a server meltdown? Perhaps Taming the Beast.net has been hacked? Maybe Jericho has been axed for good with no hope for return? The mind races – a thousand dreadful scenarios.

“Mr Bloch?”

“Who’s this??”

“Hi Mr. Bloch, I’m Anne Idiot from Thoughtless Inc. in the USA. You registered your interest in our Useless Software range last week and I just thought I’d follow up with you..”

“Do you know I’m in Australia”

“Yes”

“Do you know what time it is over here??”

“I have no idea”

..clunk…

Unbelievable.

Needless to say, I’ve never dealt with Thoughtless, Inc. (not their real name) since that call. What was even more surprising is Thoughtless Inc. is a leading online company.

Unfortunately this sort of situation is not an isolated incident – it’s happened to me quite a few times over the years and as a result, nowadays I only post my USA voicemail number on TTB.

Capturing information from your site visitors before they can download white papers and other freebies is a great idea; but be careful with what you do that information. Calling people via phone as an icebreaker for canvassing purposes is not a great way to make friends and influence people in my opinion, particularly small business owners who tend to either be asleep or very busy.

This is where email is wonderful – you can send a follow up any time of the day or night and not have to worry if you’re catching people at an inopportune moment. Sure, maybe you’ll need to email them 5 or 6 times, but it’s better that than pissing them off from the first contact via phone. Use the email to try and set up a phone meeting or at least gain permission to make a call.

Before making that call, *check* the time in your target’s state or country. A couple of great tools for doing planning out meetings with people in different zones are TimeAndDate.com and Microsoft Time Zone, a freeware application that runs in your system tray.

The other point to consider when adding a phone number field to a form – is it really necessary? The more information you ask for; particularly when it’s in relation to non-essential communication, the more likely the person won’t complete the form or give you false details anyway. At the very least, make it an optional field.

.. and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing in the future – I have no problems with providing a vendor my real email address, but from this point forward, the number I’ll use for gaining access to reports and whitepapers will be 1234567890.

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