Yeah, I’ll get back to you on that one…

To the surprise of practically no one, a new Australian study has found that the most common response to enquiries sent via a company’s ‘Contact Us’ page on their website is… thundering silence.

The company conducting the study, contact centre company Strike Force Sales, sent email enquiries to 460 companies, and 59% of them never replied. Those that did reply took an average of nearly two days to reply. As Strike Force Sales MD Chris Moriarty said, “No wonder I reach for the phone! Who wants to wait that long?”

Only 15% responded by phone, and they took nearly 3 days to do so. No industry sector fared very well; e.g., only 38% of retailers replied to enquiries.

Moriarty writes, “I still remember the three-ring rule… a business has to answer the phone within three rings in case the person phoning in decides to hang up and try another supplier. That was back in the 1970s when business moved at a much slower pace than today. If a prospective client is trying to get in touch with your business, what are the chances they are prepared to wait 1 day, 17 hours and 59 minutes for you to respond? What are the chances they are going to persist if you don’t respond at all… not ever?”

Amen to that, brother! Why bother providing your email address if you’re not prepared to provide the service that goes with it? What I’d really like to know is why on earth companies keep doing this? Those that are quick to respond are certainly reaping the rewards. It beggars belief what makes companies do this (or rather, not do this)…

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Some ideas on measuring social network impact

Everyone is talking about the value of online social networks for business, but how on earth do you measure how well it’s working? Gary Stein has just written a terrific piece for the Clickz Network outlining three ways you can, as he describes it, measure the value of friends. Those ways are:

Volume: Perceived Value of Your Page – the number of friends generated and the rate at which they have joined up. As Stein writes, “Part of the value that each friend gives you is not only the actual connection, but — because the connection is made public (that is, the number of friends you’ve made is put right on your page for all to see) — that connection also communicates to other visitors. It’s the difference of walking by an empty café versus walking by a café with a line out the door.”

Conversion: Take up of Your Offers – The key thing, Stein writes, is to keep track of how well your unique content or offers is taken up. “Have a very clear single call to action on the page and make sure it is communicated via e-mails, alerts, or RSS feeds.”

Advocates: The Best of the Best Friends – 10% of your traffic will only visit once or twice, while your top 10% will come back constantly. “The key task is to be able to isolate this top group and have a plan for bringing them more closely into a relationship. A big part of the reason you’ll be on a social network is to have your messages passed along by others. The top 10 percent are probably your best chance of catalyzing that spread.”

Stein predicts that next wave of analytics will be centred around social networks, with measurement tools similar to those produced by the search engines. In the meantime, companies could do much worse than following Stein’s advice and work on maximising activities that boost those three measures.

Nobody said it was going to be easy – or cheap

David More’s AusHealthIT blog is always a good source of news and comment. Yesterday he wrote about the efforts of a hospital in the US state of Minnesota to introduce electronic medical records (EMRs). Over a four-year period the hospital spent US$250 million and involved 300 staff to implement the project across 11 hospitals and 70 clinics. To operate the electronic system in 2008 they are spending US$17.4 million, including 173 staff. All I can say is yikes!

As David writes, “The five main lessons he provided were:

Lesson 1: Implement enterprise governance—quickly

Lesson 2: Pay for physician leadership

Lesson 3: Avoid design by committee

Lesson 4: Set realistic expectations

Lesson 5: Prepare for ruffled feathers

These seem to me to be lessons all bureaucrats and implementers in Hospital projects in Australia should take very much to heart

The scale of the organisation make for quite sobering reading!”

If that’s what it takes to get it right, no wonder electronic solutions are slow off the mark in Australia.

Health tops email for Boomer Web use

The 2008 Boomers Online Media & Social Networking Study by J Walter Thompson and Third Age has found that seeking health and wellness information tops the list of Web-based activities reflecting the most interest, at a whopping 97 percent. Email comes second at 96 percent. As someone who just had his first ECG yesterday (Lipitor, here I come), I know that this figure is partly age-driven, but it shows how important the Web is to healthcare. Here’s the top ten list:

Going ape over viral marketing

It’s often the most seemingly random ideas that work when it comes to viral marketing. A recent example is Cadbury Chocolate’s ‘Cup and a half of joy’ campaign, fuelled by a video of a gorilla banging on the drums in time to Phil Collins classic “In the Air Tonight”. This has been sent by millions all over the world, and has now inspired a host of YouTube mash-ups, with the gorilla belting out the drum beat to songs such as ACDC’s “Highway to Hell” (which reminds me of one of my favourite bands, the Hayseed Dixies, who cut an album of bluegrass versions of ACDC classics – but that’s another story…). It’s even been co-opted by other companies, with Wonderbra using a figure-enhanced model on the drums and using the line “Two cups full of joy”. As Internet marketing blogger B.L. Ochman points out (thanks to her newsletter for bringing this campaign to my attention), one important reason why this works so well as a viral marketing campaign is that it is not an overt product pitch. 

The complaint of creatives about the Internet is that it doesn’t allow for the creativity you can achieve on television. Here’s a prime example of how that’s just not true. Now if I could just come up with ideas like the Cadbury Gorilla. Maybe I could get my dog to sing Ode to Joy?

I’d buy a copy of that

Shades of Minority Report: Esquire magazine in the US is planning on printing 100,000 copies of its October 2008 edition with a front cover made of electronic paper. E-Commerce Times reports that, “E Ink, an electronic paper developer, has taken the technology it used in devices such as the Amazon Kindle and Sony eReader to develop a version of the technology for use on the Esquire cover.

“The resulting cover, hitting newsstands in September, will feature words and images that scroll across the flexible electronic page. In addition, the inside cover will offer readers their first e-paper advertisement, with automaker Ford pitching its new Flex vehicle in a double-page ad.”

An E Ink spokesperson said that it will be many years before the price of e-paper is even close to that of paper made from trees, but that in the future, one sheet of electronic paper could contain the contents of not just one magazine, but several.

Interactive advertising share to double over four years

Internet advertising continues on its strong upswing as the global economy stalls, according to a new report by Group M. Interactive media’s share of worldwide advertising expenditures is expected to hit 15% in 2009, almost double from four years ago, and will remain the main source of growth as ad spending in traditional media continues to decline.

Ad spending in interactive media – Internet, mobile and gaming – reached 11% in 2007, driven mainly by gains recorded in the US and Western Europe, as well as by the increased use and availability of improved handsets, inexpensive laptops, faster broadband, and extensive Wi-Fi connections.

The survey covers 35 countries and shows digital advertising’s share of total ad investment rising from 8 percent in 2005 to 15 percent in 2009.

Among other key findings of the report:

  • Almost 45% of interactive ad spending is for display ads, a figure that is expected to fall slightly. Paid search advertising accounted for 38% and is expected to grow
  • Google commanded a median 86% share of 2007 search inquiries in the survey’s sample of 35 countries
  • The mean online shopping spend per user in 2007 was estimated at $471, and the only country to break the $1,000 mark was Denmark
  • There is also strong positive correlation between the amount of broadband a country has and the internet’s share of advertising investment
  • Demographics alone will sustain growth in internet use among consumers for at least another generation, and possibly two, as those under 25 years old carry their habits into middle age and beyond
  • The amount of time consumers spend online is increasing from a mean of 27 minutes daily in 2005 to a projected 46 minutes next year
  • The increased time was generally not a result of consumers’ spending less time with TV, radio and print, but rather carving out more time to spend online each year, or possibly multitasking