Minutes from my home, in a very popular part of town, I’ve watched a new office building go up as I pass when driving our kids to and from school each day. Now, after months of construction, the building is ready and available for tenants. The sign went up long before the building was finished, and yet today, months after it’s been finished, it sits empty.
Keep in mind that Austin is booming, companies are leasing space like crazy, and all the neighboring buildings are full.
So what’s the problem? And what does this have to do with marketing art?
Several weeks ago when looking for space for a new studio to shoot art instruction films for Streamline Art Video, I decided this would be a great building to lease part of the space. So I decided to call. But driving by the building, I couldn’t read the phone number. My vision isn’t perfect, but it’s not that bad. So I had to drive into the lot, get close, and copy down the number. That’s mistake number one. Designers tend to go for beauty over practicality. Make sure you understand the distance when someone is viewing your ads, website, etc. For instance, on the phone most websites look bad, but they look good on a computer screen. Problem is that 80 percent of all Internet use is on the phone.
The Phone Call
My call went like this…
“XYZ Properties, can I help you?”
“Yes, I’m interested in the building on 123 Street. Can you tell me something about it?”
Ring … Ring … Ring … Ring… “Hi, this is Bob from XYZ Properties. Please leave a message.”
“Bob, my name is Eric and I’m interested in renting your building at 123 Street. Please phone me — I am ready to move in as quickly as possible.”
Bob never called. Not an hour later. Not a day later. Not a month or now, even two months later.
Oh, I may have missed his call. It’s possible it’s in my phone somewhere. But I looked and I didn’t see it there, nor did I see any additional missed calls.
Now perhaps Bob has a deal and has the whole place rented and decided there is no reason to call. Yet there it sits, two months later, with no cars outside and the “Now Leasing” sign still up.
If Bob does have it rented, a call to me is still important because … you should always return calls. Even if you think there is no reason to. What if I wanted to hire the company to manage my real estate? What if they had a space in another building that was perfect for me? What if I wanted to buy their company? What if I wanted to reach Bob to offer him a job? Sometimes the message left is a smokescreen for the real reason behind a call.
The second reason it’s important to return calls? Now his company has a bad reputation in my eyes.
The even bigger issue, and what I suspect is the truth, is that Bob is lazy. Maybe he never heard my message. Maybe he forgot to call. Or maybe he just hasn’t gotten around to it.
In the sales business, we call people like me a “hot lead.” I was interested at that moment. Fact is, I found another building and have since moved in. I’m no longer a hot lead.
How does this apply to art?
Let’s say someone sends you a note, or calls you, and you don’t know why they got in touch. They want to get a birthday painting for their spouse, but they don’t say that because they don’t want to be sold. But 24 hours pass, and you haven’t called back yet because you are busy. Or maybe you left a message and they didn’t call back, and you didn’t try again.
Finally, when you do reach them, you find out the birthday-gift need was that day, last-minute. And you not only lost a sale, you lost a customer for life.
Now you may be thinking, “I don’t want to be too aggressive,” “I don’t want to appear desperate or needy,” or just, “They will call back.” But what if they lost your number? What if they’ve got busy and have been tied up, and forgot to call you back?
When someone calls you, they are giving you permission to reach them, even if you have to call more than once. Your message might simply be, “Your call is important. I want to make sure I follow up with you.” But at least call once.
The key is to call back as quickly as humanly possible. Make them feel important. If you don’t reach them, call a couple more times at least. If you can find them on LinkedIn or Facebook, send them a message.
You never know what is on someone’s mind. Always follow up as fast as possible.
We are living in an e-mail and texting culture, and there is a generation of people who don’t use phones to call, but only text. If this is the case, the text and e-mail information should be on the sign. (Always provide multiple options to reach you on EVERYTHING you do.)
My guess is that Bob is lazy and the building will sit empty till Bob’s boss find someone else to fill it.
PS: I’m doing a weekly blog called Sunday Coffee, where I talk about art, life and just stuff that interests me. You can subscribe or read it at www.coffeewitheric.com.