A lifetime ago when I was a marketing manager at TNT, our courier service call centre was used for all the DRTV advertisements. Partly because we were the only call centre in town and partly because we did the fulfillment of the sales.

Every time an ad ran on TV, the phones would ring off the hook for about 23 minutes and then the long tail of latecomers would call over the next 24 hours.

How many would you like to order sir?

How many would you like to order sir?

One of the tricks we used was to answer the phone by saying “thanks for calling, all our lines are busy, what’s your name and number and we’ll call you right back“. The punters immediately spilled their details, which were written down on a piece of paper by the telephonist. These notes were then put onto a conveyor and sent to a team of specialist outbound salespeople.

These salespeople then rang the unsuspecting punters. They started the call with an apology; “sorry we couldn’t take your call” followed by an immediate upsell; “the (product name) is very popular, most people are buying them in lots of (insert quantity)“. One poor sod was convinced to buy 16 Asian Woks as Christmas presents for his family in one call.

Years later I was struck with the flu and decided in my weak state to spend a day watching television – particularly the DR ads, just to see what was happening on the box. An ad for a collectors edition box set of Classical Music CDs was offered. Mother’s Day was around the corner, what a great idea for a gift. So I rang the 1800 number and waited with my guard up. After all, I know the tricks.

A lady answered with “all our lines are busy, please give me your name and number and we’ll call you right back“. And without hesitating, I did.

So I sat on my lounge, Vicks Vapour Rub in one hand, phone in the other, preparing myself for the upsell. It didn’t take long for the phone to ring. “Sorry we couldn’t take your call, the CDs are very popular and we have a special offer if you decide to buy the 2-pack. Are you buying for yourself or a gift for someone else?”

So I bought 2 CD sets – one for mum and one for me.

Special price to you for 2 sets...

Special price to you for 2 sets…

Fast forward to last month. An insert fell from the Saturday newspaper. It was an English shirtmaker launching in Australia with a special offer. I put it aside, but my bride thought it was junk mail and threw it in the recycle bin.

A few weeks later the same insert appeared again – a sure sign it worked the first time. So I read it and went to the website to order, given the introductory offer was a quarter the price of the shirt I’d bought the week previously. While ordering I received an upsell. Order a fifth shirt and it will be cheaper. It was – and all five shirts automatically reduced in price on my shopping cart. Very convincing.

I ordered from the UK on Saturday afternoon with the (as advised) expectation of 7 to 10 days delivery. The following Tuesday morning, a courier appeared at my door. You guessed it – my shirts had arrived 3 days after ordering. Under promise and over deliver. There was even a return address label with instructions in case I wanted to return them. Outstanding service.

In a few days the email arrived asking for my opinions on the service. This week I received an email with offers including free delivery and the day following the email, a 68 page colour catalogue appeared in my mail box.

A tactile catalogue with offers

A tactile catalogue with offers

There is nothing unusual about this business. It’s old-fashioned direct marketing using a combination of media channels. Smart marketers like Cellarmasters Wines and Amazon have been using these old tricks for years in the mail, on the phone and on their websites. It’s not a digital skill, it’s a marketing skill.

But in today’s buzzword-driven digital world we don’t want to appear old-fashioned. So should we be calling it ‘engagement marketing’, or ‘integrated marketing’, or ‘multi-channel marketing’ or ‘content marketing’ or that new chestnut “inbound marketing’?

The fact is, it’s really just commonsense – no buzzword needed. It’s old tricks applied with new technology. Good service, that uses simple data to drive the sale.

Have to go now – the free delivery offer closes soon and there’s a great price on the 3-pack polo shirts if I order now…