Great Business Ideas: Market to Callers on Hold

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Market to Callers on Hold

“We put over 100 customers on hold every day,” said Elie Wade, president of Mortgage Makers in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Wade turned that annoying waiting time into a marketing opportunity by signing up for a service that produces the messages callers hear while on hold.

“We make mortgage loans, so one of the things we put on the message is a list of things you need to bring to a [real estate] closing,” said Wade. “We also provide information about my radio show, and customers always say, ‘Oh, you do a radio show!’ and they don’t mind holding anymore.”

Wade worked with Tulsa-based Impressions on Hold, which has 10,000 clients and seventy franchises in thirty- two states, to set up and maintain her system. “We gave them the information, and they wrote the script. They did everything,” said Wade, adding that a messages-on-hold service is affordable and professional. “I’ve never had negative feedback.”

Impressions on Hold charges about $400 a year for equipment and set-up of an eight-minute tape. That’s in line with other companies like On Hold Advantage, also in Tulsa. On-Hold Inc., in Stoughton, Massachusetts, has been in business since 1983 and boasts a client list of 15,000, including MetLife, the Marriott Corporation, and Century 21. It charges about $600 and $800 for a one-message set-up; the higher price is for digital equipment, which is more reliable than audiocassette. Costs go up when you change your message frequently. On-Hold’s “unlimited message” package costs about $200 a month with a two-year minimum commitment.

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John Bersin, who founded Impressions on Hold in 1991, said too many small business owners buy the wrong kind of advertising for their business. “You want to spend dollars impacting the right prospects,” said Bersin. “We know we’re dealing with a targeted audience because they wouldn’t be on hold otherwise. They’re at the point of purchase.”

Tips for creating good messages on hold:

  • With a captive audience on the line, record a message that will encourage people to do more business with your company.
  • Feature topics that will be interesting to callers such as special offers or discounts you are currently promoting, details of any industry news, and awards won by your company or employees.
  • Change the message every few weeks to keep it fresh.
  • Ask colleagues to recommend the company they use for this service, or you can search online for a company. Be sure to check references and sign the shortest agreement possible.