Have you ever attended a webinar? They can be a great educational tool. I participated in a webinar last week and when I registered, I gave my email address and my phone number, which is standard procedure. (Sponsoring a webinar can be a good lead generation activity for businesses.) It’s important to note that my business phone is also my cell phone. I do not give that number out to just anyone.
Fast forward to yesterday. I was eating lunch when my phone rang. Glancing at the number, I saw that it was local and the area that popped up just happened to be where one of my clients lives. Also, it just happened that I was expecting to hear from that client. So of course, I answered the call.
It was not my client, as you have probably already guessed. It was a marketing call from the software company who had sponsored the webinar. The fellow on the phone was nice enough, professional, and after a brief conversation (that included me asking him where his office was located) I told him to call me in a couple of months for a demo. He said that he would follow up with an email, which he did immediately. When I responded to his email, I asked him why his number showed up as a local number since he was located across the country. I mentioned that I have a client in the area that showed up on my phone and that I thought that was who was calling. His response was honest: “It’s a local presence dialer we use. For that exact reason. You’re more likely to pick up the phone from your local area.”
More likely to pick up the phone, yes. More likely to do business with your company? Probably not.
I did a little research and found out that there are companies who sell local numbers to businesses to help them, “establish a local presence.” One company calls it a “virtual presence.” What that really means is that they make it look like the business is local when they’re not. In my book, that’s misrepresentation.
It’s legal. The business using a local caller ID number simply has to make sure the displayed name is accurate (of course, there was no displayed name in my case), the displayed phone number must be answered during normal business hours (I called back and it was) and the consumer can make a Do Not Call request if desired. Unless there is evidence of malicious intent to defraud the consumer, sending different caller ID phone numbers for a specific geographic region is allowed.
I guess what really bothers me is that my call wasn’t purely unsolicited. I understand the genre of telemarketers selling widgets, etc. who use local numbers so that people will answer their phone calls. Let’s face it, the telemarketing industry doesn’t have the best reputation. However, I readily surrendered my phone number and email address when I registered for the webinar. I fully expected to be contacted in some way. A more direct way. Truth is, I felt duped. Tricked. Yes, they got me to answer my phone, but at what cost?
Here’s the karma thing. Today, I received a phone call from a number that showed up as from “IL, USA.” I answered it and guess who it was? It was a company who had sponsored another webinar that I had attended. I figured that I’d do a little research and ask the caller if he was familiar with local caller ID numbers and if so, ask why they didn’t use them. He didn’t know what I was talking about. After I shared my experience, he agreed that it didn’t sound like a good business practice. I’m not going to name the first company, but here’s a big shout out for Cision. Thank you for your transparency. I hope I can afford to do business with you some day! 😉
Digital marketing and technology advances have brought marketing into another realm. The media we use for messaging have changed dramatically and continue to evolve with new channels and platforms. However, the downside is that digital tools and technology can also provide “smoke and mirrors” for people and brands to hide behind. Think about it; social media profiles provide the perfect opportunity for a person or company to portray themselves as someone/something they’re not. “Transparency” is a buzzword used often in social media circles…I’d like to see businesses remain transparent on every level. Even over the phone.