The free branding opportunity that got away

Most people miss this low-hanging fruit. Pick it. Now.


What if there was a totally free branding opportunity that reached dozens – if not hundreds – of customers and prospects every day?

Would you take it? 

You have the opportunity now. But you’re probably missing it. 

What could this be? It’s your office voice mail/auto attendant: It blows.

If that's not true, I apologize. But in my experience, that assessment is 99% correct.

When you call a business and don't reach a human being, you're going to get a message from an auto-attendant. If a live human answers the phone all day, then there’s still likely an after-hours message.

Depending on the size of your business, that could be hundreds of calls a day. But it doesn't really matter how many. This message is a free and easy opportunity to promote your brand. 

It’s a first impression of your company.

But not only are most of these opportunities missed, the caller's experience is usually negative.

The dynamics of a dismal message
To begin with, most of these messages are an afterthought foisted on some beleaguered office hand against her will. They're recorded with monotone delivery with all the enthusiasm of a license-bureau employee.

Here's a sample.

“Hello, you've reached the office of Widget World, where we've lost our will to live. Our office hours are 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. If you know the party you are trying to reach, please dial their extension at any time. However, our extension options have changed (back in 1998). Please dial 1 for green widgets, dial 2 for yellow widgets, 3 for pink widgets and 4 to bite down on a cyanide capsule. If you want to talk to anyone about anything else, you're out of luck.”

OK, maybe that’s a little over the top, but I think you get it.

This can also extend down to individual voice mail boxes.

“Hello, this is Roland Smith, and I’ll be out of the office six months ago so I won’t be able to return your call until 5 months ago. And, as you can tell, I don’t pay any attention to my voice mail message whatsoever.”

At one organization I worked for, we were ordered to update our voice mail daily and were told exactly what to say. That little detail gave the perception that we were on the ball (whether we were on top of things is debatable). 

I’ve given you the do-nots. So what should you do? In 13 seconds, here’s the gold standard:


The bottom line:

  • Be friendly.
  • Be cheerful.
  • Be up-to-date.

If no one in your office has the chops to do this, then hire someone. Or ask your nephew, or your mom. 

It may seem like a little thing. But then, are there really any of those?

Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things.
— Bruce Barton