The Death of Voicemail in Law Firm Marketing

law firm marketing, business developmentAsk anybody in business who is age 30 or younger: which will you answer first:

  1. A voice mail?
  2. A text message?

The answer, my fellow silverbacks, is No. 2.  I couldn't believe it when I read it in the New York Times, because I'll answer my phone and check voice mail before anything else.  If someone went to the trouble of actually wanting to speak with me, I'll respond to them first.  I'm also insulted when someone e-mails me to call them.  Pick up the phone yourself, dammit.

Oh, how I learned from the Young Grasshopper, just how ancient my voice mail ways were. I was playing golf with my son Ted, struggling to keep up with someone 30 years my junior. Ted's a real businessman: he's an actuary for Fidelity Investments.  He has all the communications tools of the 21st century office.  He is part of an up-and-coming generation that accounts for 1/3 of the population.

So I asked him which came first: voice mail or text message.  "Text," he shot back instantly. Recalling that he sees me as a frailer, older version of himself, I asked: "why?"

Because with voice mail, you have to take these steps:

  1. Call the voice mail number
  2. To hear prompts in English, press 1
  3. If you have a mailbox on the system, press #.
  4. Then you have to dial your 10-digit phone number
  5. Next enter your password.
  6. Long pause.
  7. Press 1 to hear your messages.

For a generation that has a cell phone as their primary phone, this way waaaay too much trouble.  To send a text message, he simply selects "Messaging," clicks "New," enters the first few letters of the person's name (the cell phone completes it) and types the message with his thumbs.  Much easier.

"I let my voice mails pile up for three days or so, and check them all at once," Ted said. "This way I save on my cell phone minutes too."  This explained why he rarely responded to my voice mails on his cell phone, his office phone or his landlady's answering machine.  He also ignored my voice mail harangues about not calling me back.

So I left him a voice mail on his office number that he was late on a car payment and the bank had mailed me a nastygram.  I waited a while, and then texted him.  My cell phone began ringing immediately. It was Ted with an explanation.

The marketing point, my antediluvian colleagues, is that things have changed on us again. In a year when a presidential candidate announces his running mate via text message, we must learn from the Young Grasshoppers.

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Amy Campbell - September 9, 2008 8:37 AM

Great story Larry that illuminates your point well. However, I do feel that e-mail vs. text vs. whatever is really defined by the client. It is important to know what their preferred communication styles are -- and adapt to them no matter what your own preference may be. But, point made, text is the first choice for a growing number of contacts.

Cindy Speaker - September 11, 2008 2:26 PM

Ha ha. I have a few Young Grasshoppers in my family too. Time, time, time! Anything to save a minute!

Joe Biden - September 12, 2008 12:23 PM

Preferring text is no excuse for ignoring phone mails.

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