What do callers hear when they don't hear you?

What you say — or don't say on your voicemail can have a major impact on your design business in these competitive times, considering how often prospects get your "message" before they get you.

Too bad so many design professionals play the same game when it comes to voicemail. Their "sorry-I-missed-your-call, please-leave-a-message" greeting sounds no different than the voicemail greeting used by their competitors.

Estimates are that Americans spend 3.2 billion hours a year talking to and listening to voicemail. If you don't use yours as a promotional tool, you're missing out on a major marketing opportunity.

Your voicemail enables you to provide information about yourself and your design products and services, along with benefits that you offer your clients. Callers need not listen to all of this, of course; most phone systems enable them to immediately leave their message by hitting the # sign.

But, apparently, many callers do listen to voicemail messages in their entirety. Many of my coaching clients report that their sales increased substantially once they adopted the longer format.

Here's an example of how a design professional, with the help of a "narrator," can use her voicemail message to blow her horn:

Hi, you've reached the office of Dee Ziner, an award-winning, internationally recognized window fashion professional. At any point during this greeting you may exit and leave a message by hitting the # sign on your telephone.

Dee Ziner is a window treatment specialist whose services include selection and installation of high-end draperies, blinds, shades and shutters. She has worked with clients around the world, but she focuses primarily on working with homes and offices in such north shore Chicago suburbs as Kenilworth, Wilmette, Winnetka and Glencoe.

Dee can save you money on your window-covering project by getting the work done more quickly. And she can save you the time of having to shop for window treatments, hire and schedule contractors, and handle other tasks.

She's the area's only window covering professional with 25 years of experience, and who offers such a wide variety of services and products.

We look forward to providing you with more information on how you can benefit from Dee's expertise on covering the windows in your home or office. And we look forward to returning your call.

Some things to consider when you create your voicemail message:

  • Offer options, such as your cellphone number, for those who need to reach you now
  • Provide regular updates ("Today is Thursday, and I'll be in appointments all morning.")
  • Offer callback information, such as a promise to return the call within 12 hours
  • Include mailboxes with information about separate products and services

You can pump up the power of your message by including a million-dollar marketing word: "only."

I tell the story in my seminars of the kitchen and bath professional in central Pennsylvania – we'll call him John Doe — who I offered to promote years ago.

Each time I asked him during our first meeting to differentiate himself from competitors, he'd offer such underwhelming responses as: "Been in business a long time," or "I care about my customers," and "I like what I do."

Nearly an hour into our fruitless dialogue, I noticed his business card on a nearby table, identifying him as a "CKD" (certified kitchen designer).

"John," I asked. "Are there any other CKDs in this area?"

"No," he replied.

"John," I said, "That is what's different about you."

Thereafter, when callers reached his voicemail, they would hear: "Hi, this is John Doe, the only certified kitchen designer in Central Pennsylvania."

A valuable voicemail message not only can add pizzazz to your promotion. It can also boost your bottom line.