Old School Communication Methods Still Rule! (Sometimes)

I’m not talking about Morse code, smoke signals, semaphore flags or even Aldis Lamps (look it up). These were already extinct by the time I was a kid and first saw the comedy sketch referencing all of them (30 Chuck E. Cheese arcade tokens to whoever posts a comment identifying what I’m talking about).

But many pundits long ago declared the demise of e-mail and voice-only telephony in favor of more new-fangled channels.

While I’m a big believer in social media and video conferencing, I also believe in the adage, “different tools for different jobs.”

For the task of forging real business relationships, picking up the phone and dialing is still the best way to go if you can’t meet face-to-face. So says entrepreneur-turned-Silicon-Valley-VC Mark Suster in a widely-read piece on the web site of Fast Company magazine last week. 

It’s not Suster’s eight tips for business phone conversations that are remarkable – most are good common sense, like be prepared, open with banter, don’t be a windbag, only ask for one favor rather than four, etc. What’s remarkable is that there’s nobody more likely to eschew, nay, actively seek the overthrow of, established technologies like the telephone, than a Silicon Valley venture capitalist such as Suster. Who’s been funding all of those Twitter-clones and Vine wannabes, after all?

smoke signal prefer blondes.JPG

Like Fast Company, Wired is a magazine with a bit of a reputation for celebrating the future (and condemning today’s technology to the trashheap). Yet, Wired reported on Monday that in the area of online selling, “Email is Crushing Twitter, Facebook.” 

Citing a study by marketing research firm Custora, Wired reports that in the past 4 years, online retailers have quadrupled the rate of buying customers acquired through e-mail to 7%. E-mail actually ranks a strong third in effectiveness for driving sales, behind user unassisted (organic) searches in Google, and cost-per-click (CPC) ads. 

Sales generated through Facebook have stayed flat, while “Twitter barely registers at all,” wrote Wired. Customers who arrived via e-mail were 11% more valuable to retailers than average, while those who arrived via Twitter were 23% less valuable than average in the first two years after the first click.

“Despite the avalanche of spam we all get, it’s easy to see how the staying power and greater potential for personalization of a medium without a 140-character limit gives email distinct advantages” over social media, wrote Wired.

Does that mean businesses should take away that they can safely ignore social media, video collaboration and other cutting-edge forms of Unified Communications? Not at all. The best strategy going forward is a multi-channel one, that allows you to wield the right tool at the right time, rather than stick with an outdated one during the wrong time. 

That’s true in business communications, that’s true in marketing and sales, that’s true in customer serviceNoted analysts such as Sheila McGee-Smith argue that companies deploying multiple channels in the right way (using Interactive Voice Response systems for repetitive, low-value transactions, and using others such as e-mail, video and telephone when it’s a complicated, revenue-producing transaction or a valuable customer) will save money and MAKE more money in the long-run. 

Of course, be strategic about what channels it makes sense for your company to support. No need to go bananas and support telegraph machines and Aldis Lamps…

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