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September 29, 2014

Marketing by Telco’s: What Needs to Change

by Tom De Baere
cold calling

Interrupted during dinner, by a phone call… should I take it or not?

Buyers are attracted to companies that provide value to them. Why is it then that these same companies keep on applying old school telco marketing tactics as if it where 1983?

Case Study from Major Telco in Belgium (spoiler alert: this is a rant)

A couple of days I received a call from a major telco in Belgium.

It couldn’t be more typical. In the middle of dinner, a phone call. Should I take it, should I not? What the heck, I’ll take it.

A split second after I answered the call I already regretted doing that.

My food is getting cold...

My food is getting cold…

The typical background noise of callcenters revealed that this was another annoying call trying to persuade me to step into their offer. The call always goes something like this (I’ve added my thinking between brackets, as the conversation goes):

  • “Hello sir, my name is Kelly” (oh, no, this is another of those “let’s call them during lunch hour when chances are higher I’m at home)
  • “You used to be a customer” (damn, why do you have to remind my of those dark days)
  • “We now have a better offer.” (seriously? I haven’t seen or heard anything from you lately that even remotely sounded interesting. As a matter of fact, I haven’t heard from you in 12 months)
  • Kelly now rambles a too long and clearly scripted text. (mmm, my food is getting cold)
  • “Would you consider switching?” (how am I going to get rid of this girl?)

Ooops, Kelly didn’t know I was a marketer

Obviously Kelly didn’t know I was a marketer, and clearly felt rather uncomfortable when my question wasn’t part of her script:
  • “Kelly, by any coincidence, are you working on a ‘win-back’ campaign”? “Yes”, she answered.
  • “And are you having any luck?” “Not really”, she said.
  • “Why is that, you think Kelly?” “No clue”, she responded. “People just don’t seem to want to hear us out”.
 So we went on with the drill, and this is the rest of the call:
  • “Now that you know our offer is perfect for your situation, would you consider rejoining us as a customer?” Well, Kelly, things have changed. Today I have a company.”
  • “In that case, sir, I think we won’t be able to help you!” (you poor girl, why didn’t your bosses give you a better training)
What can we learn from this “conversation”?
  • Kelly didn’t really ask me any questions, she only wanted me to step into her offer
  • She had no clue who I was, nor did she have any history information about why I switched to their competitor. She only knew I was a former customer.
  • They didn’t have a follow-up scenario available to continue the conversation about a telecom solution for my company, after she found out I didn’t fit the profile for the win-back campaign.

Old school marketing tactics

Variations to Old-school telco-marketer tactics

Variations to Old-school telco-marketing tactics

I can just see it in front of me.

Some old-school telco-marketer, in some ivory tower in Brussels, decided that calling up every ex-customer would probably get them to win back a few customers.

This is what happens when you have too much money and too little brain.

Obviously this old-school telco-marketer has learned that this tactic isn’t really successful, so he made variants to the same tactics:

  • send direct mailer, then call for the sale
  • first call, then send direct mailer, then call again to ask for the sale
  • call to get info, send personalized but mass mailer, then call again to ask for the sale

Notice a pattern?

What we are seeing here are one shot marketing campaigns. They use a limited set of marketing tactics. Even if they would use a wider set of marketing tactics, adding online (bannering, retargetting, SEA, SEO), it wouldn’t make a difference.

It wouldn’t make a difference because the mindset of the marketer deploying these campaigns is just wrong. Look back to the structure of these type of campaigns.

  • What is missing is a transfer of value towards the buyer, before, during and after each touchpoint.
  • What is missing is a phased communication in brand value that spark interest.
  • What is missing is a build-up of trust between the buyer and the seller.
  • What is missing is a good understanding of the needs of the buyer.
  • The worst of all is that these type of tactics are harming their brand.

New school marketing tactics

I’m not going to switch suppliers out of the blue. That’s what the old school marketer thought he could make me do.

New school marketers know that

  • Today they need to be found because of what they do for customers.
  • They attract me with answers to my personal or business problems, and not with point in time blasts asking for my money.
  • These marketers will talk to me in a personalized manner.
  • They will react to what I am saying to them, and will come back to me with relevant information.

Gradually the will show me that they are worthy of my money. Then, and only then will I be willing to listen.

Telco marketing need to change

old-school marketing versus new-school marketing

old-school telco marketing versus new-school telco marketing

If this telco would have taken the effort to have a conversation with me, they would have had a chance to get to know me.

Based on that knowledge, they could have regularly provided me with value, under the form of insight, and answers to personal or business issues which I can relate to.

They could have done that during the years I have been a customer of theirs.

But they didn’t.

Through a media mix of paid, owned and earned media they could have shown me that the value they bring matches my needs.

But they didn’t.

They just asked my money. And I just don’t see why I should give it to them.


How do you feel about the marketing tactics of telco’s ? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Warm regards,


P.S. thanks for putting up with my little rant…