Align Marketing Tactics with Sales Skills

When the Execution of Your Plan Falls Short, It Might Be Time for a New Plan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

In the book-publishing community, it’s no secret that most authors would rather write than promote their work. In this regard, I am like most authors. Yes, some writers are extroverts and love the activities around launching and promoting a book. Most, however, are introverts like me.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Add to this the sage advice to “Do what only you can do, and have others do the rest.”

Outsource Sales and Marketing

That’s why I chose to outsource the sales and marketing of my books.

At various times over the years, I’ve hired a book promotion specialist, a book launch team manager, an online ad agency, a book marketing assistant, a social media manager, and an SEO expert. They comprised my marketing tactics.

None produced a positive return on investment, and many produced no return at all. Yet during this time I shelled out tens of thousands of dollars and sold few books for my investment.

DYI Marketing

That’s when I realized I had two choices: don’t do any book promotion or do it myself. Reluctantly, I decided to do it myself, all the while knowing this would detract from my writing schedule and reduce my output.

I looked at the conventional book promotion strategies of traditional book publishers, all the while suspecting that much of it no longer applied in today’s rapidly changing publishing landscape. I made a list.

I also added what leading indie-published authors were doing. Some of the items seem doable and others turned my stomach; just thinking about them made me nauseous.

Yes, Maybe, and No Marketing Tactics

I divided the items into three categories: yes, maybe, and no. This resulted in a list of marketing tactics I was open to do, a second list of activities I was willing to do if needed, and a final list of tasks I was unwilling to do, the nonnegotiables.

With clarity in place, I set about developing a book marketing strategy that would tap into my “yes list” and avoid my “no list.” I’m currently implementing my new marketing plan, and it’s producing results.


Consider the lessons we can learn from my development of marketing tactics tailored to my personality, ability, and willingness.

Imagine you’re a sales and marketing manager whose strategy hinges on your sales staff making cold calls to move prospects into the sales funnel.

Unfortunately, your team struggles making cold calls and resists doing so, even to the point of engaging in passive-aggressive behavior. Repeated efforts to give them needed training and supportive encouragement have failed. And your threats have gone unheeded.

Two Options

You have two alternatives.

One consideration is to replace your sales team with employees willing to engage in cold calls. The other possibility is to look at your existing team’s strengths and weaknesses to develop a strategy around them. (Maintaining the status quo isn’t an acceptable solution.)

Though a fire-them-all-and-start-over approach may tempt you, I encourage a more enlightened solution of keeping them employed and working with them to tailor a more conducive sales and marketing strategy.

This path is even more important if you struggle to find qualified employees in the first place.

Though I doubt your issue is over making cold calls (does anyone do that anymore?), look for a disconnect between your marketing strategy and your team’s adherence.

If you can correct this misalignment through retraining them or changing your management style, great.

Otherwise, evaluate your team’s strengths and weaknesses to develop a fresh sales and marketing plan, one tailored to what they do best and avoids what they struggle with or do poorly.

I did this for my book sales, and you can do it for your team too.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.


Sales and Marketing

Promote a Product, Service, or Idea to Achieve a Desired Outcome

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Every business or organization has a sales and marketing function. It’s only the details that vary. They may have an existing department, or two, to address this need. Or the sales and marketing functions may fall under the purview of an individual, manager, or department. Regardless of whether it’s structured or ad hoc, every group has a promotional element integral to it.

Some businesses sell a tangible product. It’s something that customers can see and touch. It displays nicely on brochures and in ads. Buyers can hold it in their hands or try it. It’s real.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Other businesses sell a service. A service is intangible. Buyers can’t perceive it with their five senses. They realize benefits only after using the service. To sell service requires painting a picture of what life will be like once they’ve used the service. This is a harder sell because there’s a delay between making the purchase and realizing the desired outcome. Amid this uncertainty, it’s easy for the hesitant buyer to say no.

Some organizations—especially nonprofits—sell ideas. They promote concepts. Often their promotion efforts revolve around asking for donations. They use these contributions to cover overhead, fuel more sales and marketing initiatives, and address the needs of their target audience. They may even use a form of sales and marketing to find and reach out to their clientele, the population they seek to serve.

Beyond businesses and nonprofits, however, individuals must also use these tactics throughout their life. Whether it’s finding a job, promoting a cause, or successfully interacting with family and friends, each interaction has some degree of sales and marketing—even if we don’t call it that.

We must be able to successfully promote ourselves (sales and marketing) to land a job. The same applies if we’re advocating for a cause or pitching an idea. And many interactions with family and friends involve a degree of negotiation—from “Pick up your room,” to “I think we should buy this car,” to “Which restaurant do you want to go to?”

If we don’t fairly present our perspective, we lessen the chance of realizing the outcome we want or find acceptable. At the root of this idea of influencing others to achieve a desired outcome is sales and marketing.

That’s why this book is important. Everyone’s involved in sales and marketing to one degree or another. It’s just that most people who don’t carry a sales-and-marketing related title don’t realize this truth. Whatever your position or situation, it’s important to master effective sales and marketing. This book will get you started. It will be up to you to apply these principles.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.


Promoting Customer Churn

Disrespecting Customers Is the Fastest Way to Lose Them

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Though not as frequent as our biennial cell phone migration from one carrier to another, my family and I have all too often found ourselves forced to change entertainment providers due to escalating charges.

These companies have the same mentality as the phone carriers. They offer attractive incentives to gain new business and then jack up the rates, forcing customers to seek low-cost alternatives from their competition.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

For several years we enjoyed bundled internet and television service from one provider. They offered attractive pricing for both services, which we were happy to pay.

Committing to two years with them, they committed to two years of no price increases. After our 24-month contract ended, we continued with them on a month-to-month basis.

Then the price increases began.

Escalating Rates

They first increased their fees on our television package. Every six months or so they raised prices to provide us with the same level of entertainment. Each time my wife would see what she could do to lower our bill.

Sometimes this required another commitment and other times we needed to scale back our options. Even then, the net result was often a price increase. And every time she did this required multiple phone calls and too much wasted time.

Though not as aggressive, they also inched up the rate for internet access. Over time they increased our bill 50 percent. Yet, as the only choice for a stable, high-speed connection, we had to accept it.

This wasn’t the case with entertainment. We had options. At the point when our television package nearly tripled from the original amount, and even after scaling back the number of channels, my wife had enough. She was ready to switch.

Several companies offered more for less. Our new entertainment provider charged 20 percent less than our initial bill from our existing provider. As a bonus, the new provider offered more channels, superior recording options, and better technology.

Their Best Wasn’t Good Enough

Before we switched, however, my wife made a final plea to our existing provider. She begged them for their best deal. They refused to budge. They didn’t seem to care about customer churn.

She even told them what both they and we knew would happen. “Once we cancel, you’ll offer us a great deal to come back. Can’t you just give us that deal now?”

“No. You’re already getting the best deal we can offer to an existing customer.”

She canceled service, and we switched entertainment providers. The side effect was that, without being bundled, our internet access rate went up. Even so, we still saved money. And we loved the service from our new entertainment provider.

The Marketing Onslaught

As expected, our internet service provider began trying to get us to return and buy our entertainment package from them too. Several years later, they’re still trying.

They are most aggressive. Each month they mail us at least two promotions to entice us to return. They also include a one-page ad in each invoice. In addition, they send several emails each month.

Though it shouldn’t be a surprise, the deal they offer has the same rates we had when we first signed up several years before. But we can only get it now because of customer churn.

More recently, they’ve given up offering to bundle internet and entertainment. Now they’re offering to bundle internet and cell phones.

The email frequency has increased, too. It seems like I get something at least once a week. I now no longer even glance at their messages and just delete them. This means that if they send me a truly important email, I’ll never read it.

In addition, each marketing initiative serves as a painful reminder of how poorly they treated me as a customer. Why would I want to buy more services from them and repeat the process?

Marketing Management Success Tip

If customer churn is part of your business, strive to reverse the trend. Empower your staff to keep existing customers instead of trying to win them back once you’ve chased them away.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.


Marketing Options

Know Your Options to Craft an Informed Promotion Strategy

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

We’ve never had more marketing options available to us than we do now. It’s an exciting time to be a marketer. It’s also a confusing time. There are so many options it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

Each channel provides an opportunity to promote yourself, your products, or your services. We’ll divide these into traditional marketing and newer online marketing options.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing options include retail, direct mail, print media, the telephone, broadcast media, and even books.

Retail: Perhaps the oldest marketing option is retail, dating back thousands of years to a farmer or craftsman selling their wares in the town’s marketplace. Physical retail outlets still exist today, though they now face pressure from online retailers.

The goal in retail is simple. Get the prospect into your store and make the sale. Other forms of marketing feed the retail channel to draw people to the store, be it physical or online.

Direct mail: For as long as we’ve had the opportunity to send content to others via mail, we’ve been able to use it for marketing. In its most basic form, direct mail can blanket a geographic area.

More sophisticated direct mail efforts target people by demographic or socio-economic data. And specific mail communication can go to existing customers and prospects.

Print media: The marketing channel of print media includes magazines and newspapers. Though neither has the reach and impact they once had as a marketing tool, we shouldn’t overlook them. This is especially true with magazines, where niche productions that target specific subcategories have replaced general-purpose publications.

For any industry or interest group, there’s assuredly a publication that addresses them. Though most of these are online, some still print and mail their content. Many consumers value and read a tangible product they can hold in their hands and doesn’t force them to go online to access content through their computer or portable device.

Brochures and sales literature: Unlike print media, which goes to an entire subscriber base, brochures and sales literature allow for specific targeting on a direct, one-to-one basis.

Telephone: The phone is another marketing opportunity. Due to rampant misuse in the past, laws now limit how marketers can use the telephone. But it’s still a workable marketing channel.

Marketing by telephone, sometimes called telemarketing, exists in two forms. Inbound telemarketing is when people call you. Outbound telemarketing is where you call customers and prospects.

We further divide outbound telemarketing into calling businesses (business-to-business or B2B marketing) and calling consumers (business-to-consumer or B2C marketing). Both face legal restrictions, especially B2C, that marketers must carefully adhere to or face significant fines.

Businesses can handle both inbound and outbound telephone calls in-house, or they can outsource the work to a call center—called a teleservice company—that specializes in telephone communication.

Though businesses can outsource telephone calls to a company in another country, called offshoring, most outsourcing occurs within the same country. This effectively negates cultural differences and language barriers.

Broadcast media: Next comes broadcast media, such as radio and television. Both options have seen significant changes in the last couple of decades, yet they still are a workable marketing tool to place advertising messages that will blanket an entire audience.

Trade shows: Over the years I’ve been to many trade shows, sometimes as an exhibitor and other times as an attendee. Trade shows provide a wonderful opportunity for in-person networking, as well as to learn more and gain valuable industry insights.

When you go to a trade show—either as an exhibitor or as an attendee—go with a plan and work your plan. Make the most of every minute. Don’t skip sessions or leave early. Stay throughout the entire event and linger if there’s a chance for meaningful interaction with customers or prospects.

Books: You may be surprised to see books on this list of marketing opportunities. This is the most recent development and has two primary applications.

The first use of books as a means of marketing is for a consultant. They publish a book about their area of expertise to position themselves as a subject-matter expert. The book becomes a marketing vehicle and can serve as a most effective business card when given to a prospect.

The other use of books is by CEOs and other high-profile leaders of corporations and nonprofits. Though this can also be of the subject-matter-expert variety, these books more often take the form of a biography or autobiography. By promoting the CEO or leader, the book subtly—and most effectively—highlights the company or organization.

Other traditional marketing: Many other forms of traditional marketing exist. These include networking, referrals, billboards and signs, spotlights and loudspeakers, door-to-door selling, making cold calls, passing out flyers, and so forth.

When use wrongly, the buying public views these as a nuisance, which creates a negative marketing outcome. Yet when used appropriately and smartly, they can produce positive results.

Online Marketing

A newer form of marketing exists online. In general, the impact of online marketing is easier to measure, with the results quantifiable. As such, online marketing is attractive to many.

Here are some forms of online marketing:

Websites: Having an online presence is essential for any business or organization. The ideal solution is a website. When done correctly, you own and control your website. No one (aside from a totalitarian regime) can limit the number of customers and prospects who visit your website.

Use your website to tell others about your organization and its offerings. In addition to company and product information, a website can have an online store or be an entry point into your sales funnel. From your website, collect email addresses for follow-up and ethical email marketing campaigns.

You can tap other forms of traditional and online marketing to drive traffic to your website.

Content marketing: Content marketing is an indirect form of promotion that gives valuable content to your audience. The goal is producing usable information, not selling. By supplying resources that address the needs of prospects, you indirectly promote your organization as a subject-matter expert. This positively predisposes the people who read your content into later doing business with you.

The best place for content marketing is your own website in the form of a professional blog. You can also arrange to post on other sites or even on social media (though I don’t advocate social for this application).

Content marketing also has its place in niche print publications. We’ll cover this in more detail in the “Part 4: Marketing Tactics” section.

Social media:Though some advocate using social media for an online presence, doing so is risky. A social media platform limits its users’ messaging to the very audience who wants to hear from them. The solution to reach this audience is paid advertising.

While social media has its place, consider it as the spokes of a marketing wheel, with your website being its hub.

Social media advertising: As we mentioned, most social media platforms limit your ability to reach your audience. The solution is to advertise on those platforms. These ads can be in the form of text, graphics, or videos.

Currently, the leading social media advertising platforms are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Other options include Reddit, Snapchat, Nextdoor, and Quora.

To find out more about advertising on social media, just search for the platform’s name along with the word advertising. But don’t try to advertise on every platform that offers the option.

Pick the ones where your target audience is, establish a presence there, and understand how the platform works. Then explore advertising on it. Once you’ve mastered that platform, then consider a second one.

Online advertising: Online advertising exists in two forms.

The most common online marketing option is going to ad platforms, such as running Google ads or Microsoft ads.

The second option is placing custom banner ads on curated websites whose traffic demographics align with your target market. Because this is a one-to-one placement effort, this is a time-consuming consideration, yet for the right site it is most cost-effective.

Email marketing: Sending marketing messages by email can be a cost-effective way to reach your prospects and upsell your customers, providing you do it correctly and legally.

Never buy an email list or scrape contact information from the internet. Aside from existing customers, only contact prospects who want to hear from you and have given their permission for you to contact them through email.

When emailing, don’t send the same message to everyone. Segment your list based on their interest level, their status as a customer or prospect, and where they fit in your sales funnel. Make sure every message moves them forward on the customer journey or toward buying from you.

Don’t email too often. And do give readers the option to self-select what messages they want to receive and when.


Consider this list of marketing channels when developing your strategy and designing a well-rounded promotional plan. We’ll expand on some of these options in upcoming chapters.

Marketing Management Success Tip

All these promotion opportunities offer a wide array of marketing channels for you to consider in getting the word out about your company and offerings. Select them with care and use them responsibly to achieve the best results.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

Healthcare Call Centers

Coordinate with Marketing

The Call Center Should Be the First to Know, Not the Last

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Too many call center agents learn about the launch of their healthcare organization’s product, incentive, or promotion from callers, not management. I hope your operation is different, but I fear you, too, have found yourself in this unenviable situation.

The results are dismayed callers shaking their heads in frustrated disbelief, flustered agents fumbling through the calls while irritation bubbles inside, and a peeved call center manager scrambling to piece together the details, while simultaneously trying to educate staff on how to respond.

Marketing doesn’t intend to leave the call center out of the loop, yet it happens. And each time it occurs, a wall of distrust and animosity builds in the call center toward marketing.

And marketing—not knowing they dropped the ball—is angry at the unprepared call center for bungling their carefully constructed marketing initiative.

The solution is to coordinate with marketing.

Establish an Interdepartmental Connection

Though you may be upset with marketing for their latest oversight, don’t take a confrontational approach. Instead adopt a cooperative mindset to seek your mutual benefit. Discuss ways to develop a standard communication channel.

One option might be a fixed, recurring meeting between marketing manager and call center manager, where the two sit down for marketing to talk about their projects. In doing so, the areas needing coordination will surface.

Another thought is for marketing to assign a call center liaison, who has the responsibility to look at every marketing project for possible call center application, be it direct or ancillary. Then communicate needed details to the call center.

Also invite marketing to tour your call center—preferably sitting with an agent to better understand the scope of their work. They will leave with a greater respect for the complexities of the call center, replacing a simple view of the job as “just talking on the phone—anyone can do that” with a more realistic appreciation.

Items to Consider

Sometimes your call center will be able to handle the work generated by a marketing campaign with no problem. Other times will require training. This could be on the new elements of the initiative or how to access an unfamiliar app or navigate a database.

You may also need to adjust your call center schedule on launch day and thereafter. This could require overtime, scaling back on nonessential tasks for a few days, or even hiring more staff.

If you need to hire staff for a marketing campaign but lack the needed time to fully train them, teach them only the skills needed for the marketing project, letting existing staff handle other communications. Then, once the campaign is over, consider completing their training for all other call types and communication needs.

Also have a candid discussion with marketing about launch dates, addressing contingencies should a mail piece drop early or if delivery delays occur.

The Outcome When You Coordinate with Marketing

The result of following these recommendations is your call center and marketing working together for your organization’s common good and your callers’ welfare.

And it all starts when you coordinate with marketing.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Healthcare Call Center Essentials, available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D., is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Get his book, Sticky Customer Service.

Telephone Answering Service

What Does Your Website Do for You?

Make the Most of Your Online Presence to Better Serve Customers and Grow Your Business

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Does your telephone answering service have a website? I hope so. What does your website do for your business? Over the years, I’ve seen a wide range of TAS websites, from severely lacking to impressively professional.

They fall into some common categories. Consider which category yours fits into. Then determine if it’s the right one.

A Placeholder

Some websites are nothing more than a placeholder. It may say “coming soon” or have generic text that gives no specific information.

I suspect this is from companies that registered the domain name to use for email purposes. Or maybe it’s businesses that registered the name but never got around to setting up the site.

Either way, be aware that prospects and others looking to learn about your business will stumble upon it. The message a placeholder website sends is not a good one. You’d be better off if it didn’t exist.

An Online Brochure

Moving beyond a do-nothing placeholder website is turning it into an online brochure. Effectively this means taking what once would have been in printed marketing materials and putting them online.

Typically this begins as a one-page website. There’s nothing wrong with this. At a basic level, an online brochure provides visitors with some information about your operation. It’s a great start.

An Information Center

Building upon a website as an online brochure, add other content that prospects will find helpful. This means adding more pages. In addition to your marketing information, you’ll want a homepage, an about us page, and a contact page.

You may also want a blog to post news and content marketing pieces, but don’t jump into starting a blog without first thinking it through and making sure you or someone on your team has the commitment to produce content on a regular basis.

A Marketing Tool

You can expand your website beyond an information center and turn it into a marketing tool. You can add pages that cover services offered, specialties or industries served, testimonials or reviews, pricing, and a sign-up form.

Which ones you include will vary with your marketing strategy, so don’t think you need to pursue every suggestion. Just add what makes sense for your situation.

A Client Support Resource

Until now we covered website options from the perspective of a prospect. It should also have a section for clients. Provide client-specific information to help them get the most out of their experience with your answering service.

You can also include a client portal to allow them to access messages, submit a customer service request, and make on-call or employee directory changes. You can also allow them to pay their bill online.

Most or all these options should require a customer login, thereby blocking prospects from accessing this information or trolls intent on causing mischief.

Your Online Hub for All Interaction

The best websites are both a marketing tool and a customer support resource. It becomes your online hub for communication with both prospects and clients.

If your website is currently at this level, well done! But that doesn’t mean you’re finished. Look for ways to make it simpler to navigate and more user-friendly.

A website is never done and requires ongoing tweaking. The goal is that each change makes it better and more effective.

Learn more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s book, How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his books How to Start a Telephone Answering Service and Sticky Customer Service.


Email Insanity

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Several years ago, I ordered an inversion table online. Part of the ordering process was to give them my email address.

Once they had my email address, they did the logical thing and began sending me email messages. One or two of them were offers for complementary health devices and exercise equipment, but most were for inversion tables. 

In case you are wondering what an inversion table is, it is essentially a device that allows you to hang upside down. That might cause you to wonder why anyone would want two.  It sure makes me wonder. 

Maybe I’m missing something.  Perhaps my enjoyment would be doubled if I had two.  Could it be that other purchasers of inversion tables turn around a buy a second one a couple of weeks later? I think not.

Apparently, their marketing department wasn’t thinking either. Why else would they insist on trying to sell me something I had already bought from them?

Likely they reasoned that it costs next to nothing to send an email to me—no matter how nonsensical. After all, I might decide that I need two: one for the basement and a second one for the living room.  Yeah, right!

Their logic is shortsighted, however, because it will cost them something—my business. You see, in exasperation for their thoughtless barrage of messages, I opted out.

Now, because of an ill-conceived email strategy, they have forever lost the opportunity to sell me something else.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.


Stop Selling and Start Serving

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Once when I needed to order some ink cartridges for my printer—the kind I can only buy directly from the vendor. There was a problem with the website, so I picked up the phone to place my order.

I told the agent I wanted to order two black ink cartridges.

Not surprisingly, she suggested I buy a package that included two color cartridges as well. “No thank you, just black.”

Upon discovering the age of my printer, she tried to sell me a new printer. “No thank you—I just need ink.”

When I acknowledged that I own several computers from her company, she asked if they were working okay and did I… “No, I just want to buy ink.”

Then she offered me a special price on anti-virus software for only…, “No, I only want ink!”

Next, she inquired if I was interested in a maintenance plan to… “NO, just ink!”

Perhaps she was supposed to try to upsell me five times or maybe she was on commission. I don’t know. What I do know is when the call took twice as long as it needed to, I became irritated, and the likelihood of me buying another printer from them is highly unlikely.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.


The Side Effects of Discounts

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I recently shared my experience with my office supply chain’s enticing coupon offers. The result was a short-term increase in my buying habits, followed by a prolonged lull.

In like manner, years ago, my Internet hosting company embarked on a similar strategy. Their approach was offering discounts. Depending on the offer, it would be 10 to 30 percent off for a specific product purchase or for a certain level of spending. Each discount offer was time-sensitive, lasting from a few days to a couple of weeks.

They had sent me 10 such offers for four weeks; that averages one discount about every three days. Whenever I needed to buy something from them, I know there was a discount that would apply.  I simply picked the best, most applicable one, and saved money—on every purchase.

Not only had their incessant discount offers trained me to expect to not pay their standard prices, they had also lost money, as I would had made every purchase anyway.

While I was enjoying the savings, I was left wondering, “What were they thinking?”

Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

Call Center

The Failure of New Customer Discounts

Companies Focus on New Customer Acquisition and Then Encourage Customers to Leave in Two Years

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

My family just completed our biennial cell phone switch. We’ve been doing this like clockwork for two decades. We pick the company that offers the best price and switch to that one. Two years later our rates jump, and no amount of pleading results in a package we can accept. So we switch carriers.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Of course, the same thing happens with our internet service provider and our cable TV/satellite provider. They also entice us with low introductory rates and then methodically jack up our bill every chance they get. We’re on a two-year cycle with them too.

Loyalty Goes Both Ways

I’d prefer to find a vendor I can stick with and not change every two years. All they need to do to earn my loyalty is to offer fair prices. But they don’t. They give sweet deals to new customers as they gouge their current ones. They apparently value new business more than existing business.

Don’t they know it costs several times more to gain new customers than to simply keep the ones they have? They should, but their actions don’t show it.

They prove their disloyalty to me with their unfair pricing. This causes me to be disloyal to them, and I have no regret about leaving them for a better deal. They’ve trained me to act this way.

The Burden on Customer Service Staff

Each time we switch a provider, we make multiple calls and even visits to each potential vendor, gathering information and looking for potential shortfalls in their service package. Of course, we foolishly start with our existing provider, but they’re not interested in keeping our business—at least not yet.

As we proceed, we take time with our existing provider and then all their competitors, including the one we eventually select. Our existing provider spends time with us to lose our business. Our new provider spends a couple of hours to close the deal and transfer our account. That’s a huge investment of time to obtain an account they won’t keep. In addition, all the other providers waste time with a prospect they won’t land.

The Impact on Customers

As customers, we spend a lot of time analyzing our options. Then we expend more time switching providers. But the biggest investment of our time is programming and learning our new technology, be it our phones, video entertainment, or internet access. Maybe someday I will gladly accept my bill doubling to avoid the agony of switching. Or maybe not.

Churning Customers Is a Futile Business Model

If companies worked harder to keep the customers they have, there wouldn’t be so much pressure to gain new ones. They wouldn’t have to offer their new-customer incentives, which are likely at or below cost. They wouldn’t have to spend as much money on marketing. And their sales and customer service people could avoid a lot a of needless effort that produces no results.

Too Late to Make a Difference

Most of the time, once we switch providers, our former provider then makes a last-ditch effort to “win back” our business. But they’re too late. We’ve just gone through the agony of considering our options and doing a thorough spreadsheet analysis. We’ve gone through the pain of switching.

We have shiny new equipment, which looks promising—once we learn how to use it. And now they think they can keep our business? No way. The only way we’ll do business with them is in two, four, or six years as we go through another cycle of selecting a new provider.

Though these service providers will persist in their insane cycle of customer acquisition and churn, your company doesn’t have to. Make sure you don’t follow their foolish example.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.