I had a conversation this morning with the rest of the Jack in the box team about the amount of annoying phonecalls we receive selling us all kinds of stuff. As a business, we receive at least 5 of these phonecalls a day, and it drives us all mad. I was recently surprised to hear a local company I did actually recognise using the medium, but no matter how fantastic the offer, I just couldn’t accept it.

I realised that no matter what fantastic deal is sold to me, I just cannot accept the credibility of the company, nor the offer, who tries to sell it to me over the phone. Years and years of receiving useless and annoying phonecalls has conditioned me to react automatically by saying I’m not interested, or just hang up. The only offer I’d be prepared to listen to is if I could verify (within a few seconds) that it actually was John calling from Telstra, not John from ‘Phones r us’ trying to tell me that Telstra charges me too much (and to tell me I’m an idiot for not seeing what a great deal he’s offering me). That said, I’d have to be in the right state of mind with no other more important things to do, which is rare.

But we feel very differently about other online or social media. For example, an ad on Facebook is, when you think about it, a similar intrusion in our personal lives, yet it hasn’t reached the same ‘annoyance’ level. Email is another example that for some reason does not feel as intrusive. SMS is borderline – there are still many people who prefer to be left alone, but others who love it. Online advertising is the same – it can be annoying and distracting, but also very powerful in other contexts.

Marketers out there will tell me the shift has been about privacy laws and providing permission. Companies ring you because they can without your permission (unless you’re on the ‘Do Not Call Register’). People cannot email or SMS you without your permission. Facebook and online are different and open to everyone, but both are becoming much more relevant to the user, thanks to complex data collection systems and behavioural targeting. Therefore, the annoyance factor decreases as relevancy increases (in fact, I think this is just about Google’s mission statement).

So my point is, ‘telemarketing’ can only work today when you have permission (i.e are a current customer or member of a database), or when relevance to the user is high. Essentially all businesses does this to some degree – ‘just calling to touch base to see if you need anything else’, or ‘just calling to see if you need to place another order’. If you’re planning on using it for anything else, I’d give up now.