Phone a friend

Lauren and I were sat watching Outnumbered last night when my phone rang.

I say "rang".

The days of creating your own ringtone on a Nokia have long gone.

Nowadays my phone's almost always set to silent.

But as the call came in and the screen illuminated the arm of the sofa next to me, it caught my eye.

I glanced at the clock on the fireplace.

It had just gone 10 to 7.

"Who'd be calling me at this time?" I asked Lauren.

I picked up my phone and saw a number I didn't recognise.

It was a landline number.

I didn't have it saved as a contact.

And my phone didn't do the clever thing it sometimes does where it takes a best guess at who's calling.

Information that comes from the internet, or fairies, I assume.

I still don't know who called, because I didn't answer.

"They'll leave a voicemail if it's important," Lauren suggested.

They didn't. Perhaps it wasn't important.

Here's the thing:

I almost never answer calls from numbers I don't recognise.

I know I'm not alone in that either.

Long gone are the days of landlines that didn't tell us who was ringing.

Regardless of the time of day or night, we'd answer, only to realise we'd been snagged in the trap of a slippery salesman promising they could save us money on our internet, TV or Teletext holidays.

Don't get me wrong, they still catch me out from time to time.

They ring off mobiles now too. Sneaky sausages.

I was in my car last night, parking up around the corner from the barbers to get my hair cut.

As I cut the engine, a familiar face and name popped up on the navigation screen as my car's shrill ringtone pierced the air.

It was my friend, Will.

I answered before the second brrrrringgggg.

Whether you're using telesales, email, direct mail or some other medium as part of your marketing strategy, there's one factor that trumps almost any other when it comes to determining your success:

Relationship.

We'll dodge a hundred calls from unknown numbers, and then answer one from a friend.

We'll delete a hundred emails before even opening them, and then read one from someone we know.

We'll chuck a hundred bits of post in the recycling without tearing into the envelope, and then open one with handwriting we recognise.

I'm a direct marketer through and through. I make no secret of that.

But only an inexperienced marketer would believe that a great offer, clever sales letter, or sneaky tactic could outperform a poor relationship with your audience.

In the words of Thom Smith:

"Build a list. Make friends with it. Ask them to buy."

Nick Fisher