07776 103 785 john@makesportfun.com

I’ve realised something recently, and I’m a little ashamed to think that it hadn’t occurred to me before. There’s a communications device which has enormous power to get more poeple active. In a recent campaign we ran it led to 70% of people we communicated with attending a new activity class.

And what is this ingenious device you might ask.

Is it Facebook – the darling of the marketing world. No, it is not.

Is it Twitter – the up and coming social media phenomenom? No, it is not Twitter.

Is it something even cleverer and newer than Facebook or Twitter? Is it FourSquare? Is it Ning? Is it new? Is it shiny? No, it’s not FourSqure, it’s not Ning.

It is the magical speaking tube known as . . . the telephone.

The telephone? Really? Yes indeed. But surely, you might say, this is old-fashioned. This is not innovative enough. To that I say “Innovative, schminnovative” (yes, I sometimes have the sense of humour of an 8-year-old). The telephone really works – and that’s what I care about.

In a recent project in Durham they found that the bulk of their GP referral programme participants were dropping out. So they implemented a phone-programme to keep those people active, to keep them going to the classes. They called people up, to check how they were doing, whether they were happy with their classes. And damn it, they were nice to them! This has led to a measurable, significant increase in the number of people sticking with their programme.

In America there’s an amazing company called Zappos. You probably haven’t heard of them yet, but you will, trust me. Zappos started out as an online shoe store in 1999, in July 2009 they were bought by Amazon for $1.2 billion. One of the key reasons for this outstanding success is the extreme levels they go to in customer service – the bulk of which is done over the phone. All their staff, whether they work in customer service, finance or HR have to start by doing 2 weeks in the customer service department, on the phone, talking to customers. The CEO – Tony Hsieh – was once in a hotel with some of Zappos’ suppliers and they couldn’t manage to find anywhere to order pizza. Tony joked that they should call the Zappos customer service team. The supplier took up the challenge, made the call, and 2 minutes later he had the number of a local late-night pizza restaurant who would deliver.

So why is the phone so powerful. According to some research, only 7% of what we communicate is the words we say, 38% is how we say it and 55% is body language. So, obviously, talking to someone in person is ideal, but it’s not always practical. Over the phone is much more convenient, while still allowing you that extra 38% than writing does. That friendly, supporting tone of voice can have more of an impact in getting people active than any amount of information. If you work with people directly then you know this from the work you already do, so just put that to use in your marketing.

So next time you’re planning some activity marketing don’t forget to include the phone.