Pick 'n' mix? Firms' marketing and incentivisation
David Pickup considers marketers’ use of product samples to recruit firms as corporate clients
The telephone rings. The receptionist gives a name I do not recognise. Apparently they “know me personally” and “it’s important”. They tell the receptionist I was expecting their call – and they use my first name. They are put through and say, “How are you today?” – and my heart sinks as I recognise someone trying to sell me something I do not want, need, nor probably could afford. It must a thankless, hard job to be a salesperson, trying to sound chipper all the time and positive about something not many people want. Years ago they would call door to door. Now at least they can work at home.
Often, “How are you?” is followed by, “Did you receive our gift?” I’m used to getting sample products, such as pens, bearing my firm’s name. After a while, you build up a stock of different such stationery. I think I once got a firm-emblazoned sample of those triangle corners you get for pleadings. I only had one – and, if I used, I would have had to ask the court to send it back at the end of the case!
Gimmicks and gizmos
I still occasionally receive free coffee mugs, but this year there were no calendars from charities with pictures of cute animals or boats. No one looks at a calendar anymore. Recently I was sent a round plastic gadget which I was assured was a charger for a mobile phone. It looks like a coaster and may be one. If have no idea how to use it or what to do with it. How do you charge it to start with?
I now occasionally get sweets, to catch my attention, followed a few days later by a telephone call from a jaunty salesman asking if I enjoyed the sweets. I did not. It is not that I didn’t appreciate the offer, but I’m no more willing to eat something sent to me in the post than open an email attachment from a prince who has a fortune to distribute and he has chosen me out all the millions out there. They are obviously not hopeful of their investment, as they send very cheap sweets or just one chocolate. What is the good of one chocolate?
The luck of the draw?
The latest thing received was a lottery ticket. No – I am not joking It was followed by a chatty person who asked about the ticket and joked obviously I hadn’t won a fortune as I was still at work. Having never bought a lottery ticket in my life and had no idea how to use it or claim it. Did the marketing firm fill in numbers on the form, I wonder? If I did win a fortune, courtesy of the marketing company, whose money would it be? Would they have a legal claim on it? I suppose, to be fair, he did not say it was the lottery. It could have been any lottery. I might have missed the chance to win a teddy bear at a village fête somewhere. I think, I would have liked that more, to be honest.
A few days after St Valentine’s Day, I was given a couple of chocolates and a pen from a local solicitor advertising their family law department. Nothing says romance better than a competitively priced divorce! Perhaps, for Easter, I’ll put a small chocolate egg in each DX box in town – and no doubt get a complaint about bribing the courts.
Word of mouth
The truth is I am reasonably happy with my printing, telephones and photocopier, although our relationship is a bit strained at times. I do not want or need marketing – because my firm is not that sort of firm. I have recently had to review our procedure on feedback forms. We send loads and only get 4 per cent back. Perhaps I ought to send a sweet or chocolate out with final letter and feedback form? Now there’s an idea...
David Pickup is senior partner of Pickup & Scott, and head of the mental health department: pickupandscott.co.uk