…a conversation with David Green, President and Marketing Consultant at Hold Time Advantage and Sound Marketing Resources.

(From an interview conducted in July 2010 with freelance writer Steve Wilhoff)

Q. You’ve had a pretty diverse career. Why?

“Diverse…that’s partially accurate. Looking back, I’d say that, ultimately, it’s always been about marketing. Take the roller skating centers I was promoting and managing back in the late ‘70’s. There was this powerful draw to the concept of shaping perception. I mean; I was introducing new cultures, cultivating beyond “family recreation” centers. We put sophistication into this and added a new concept of teen dance clubs. Our company was taking the pulse of society. We had very diverse locations, I did the demographics and promotion to open one on Philadelphia’s “Main Line”, and managed one near the Philadelphia Airport, and in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. The same company owned the Roxy in NYC, locations in Staten Island, Queens, and New Hyde Park in New York. I spent a year managing a facility in Norwalk and running sessions in Waterbury Connecticut. All very different. I learned how important it was to know your territory. Discovering that with the right promoting, two businesses, almost identical, offering the same products and services could be perceived so differently…well…that’s still a fascinating study to me.”

Q. So you were wearing silk shirts and bellbottoms to work, right?

(laughs) “Actually, we were really into the 3-piece suit at work. I’ll take the fifth on the rest of it. But I’ll say that my wardrobe is free of most petroleum-based clothing.”

Q. Roller skating and disco music?

“Oh, yeah. Disco, rock, soul, adult contemporary, the genesis of hip-hop…even country. Saturday Night Fever to Michael Jackson; even Urban Cowboy…and don’t ask about mechanical bull riding. You can’t spend time in such diverse settings and not have a keen awareness for what overhead music and marketing segmentation has done…and still does today. The way music, a specific type of music, affects people and their environments…we’ve all lived it. I even partnered back then to develop a successful mobile disc jockey business in the Philadelphia region: Every prom, wedding, barroom and nightclub wanted their own programming, because they’d witnessed the results. Careful programming was the key to success.”

Q. How does any of this relate to on hold messaging?

(laughs) “You’d be amazed how much all of that prepared me for sound marketing with messaging. The power of marrying announcements with music permeated most everything I was doing. All our promotions, concessions and events were supported with audio messaging, and the more we used it, the bigger our grosses. I got together with a DJ business partner to produce pre-recorded music and message programming for sessions that we used very successfully at multiple locations. It was an experiment for us, and it provided that customization and control of delivery was something we could easily manage…and it was extremely effective.”

Q. Is it true that you worked for free as an intern in the 80’s?

“Yes, I did. You have to understand the current climate that existed then. I’d taken night courses in sports marketing and promotions, plus cable TV marketing in Philadelphia. Cable television had just hit Philadelphia. You had casinos popping up in New Jersey. I was invited to events like the opening of Philadelphia Racetrack and the debut of the Eagle’s new production from NFL films. There was this explosion of promotional events, and volunteering was the best way to get experience. It paid off for me. The city of Philadelphia celebrated the July 4th holiday with a concert for 800,000 people on the parkway while it prepared for Live Aid. I helped with the VIP seating and I got a backstage pass for the event. That’s a pretty strong incentive for volunteering.”

Q. Let’s jump ahead a bit. You had a lot of experience working with display advertising and organizing direct mail seminars before you started in on-hold marketing. Why the switch?

“Good question, and I’ll try to give the abridged answer. With direct mail, you load the gun with the best you’ve got, aim and pull the trigger. Now, you’ve done a little homework so you’re targeting a specific market segment, but you’re still shooting at someone who doesn’t really want to get hit. If you get one or two percent ROI, everybody’s hand-shaking and backslapping. Then you start all over again. I’d spend hours every day, making phone call after phone call, being put on hold. When I encountered on hold messaging for the first time the concept just hit me. I’m a captive market while I’m on hold…here is the most targeted audience imaginable and no one’s taking advantage of it. It was time to start marketing for some serious results, so I jumped in.”

Q. That was 1996, and you went to work with an on-hold company. What made you strike out on your own?

“I invested as a franchisee in a company experiencing rapid growth: I’m talking crazy growth. It began with great customer service and production quality. That’s what really attracted me to them in the first place. When I started, we were able to spend as much time with each client as we wanted. No…let me change that. We could spend as much time with the client as THEY wanted, and they were tickled with our service. Customer satisfaction, retention, and product quality: it was all spot-on. In my opinion, within 4 years, we’d outgrown our ability to maintain that personal approach due to size and financial challenges. We didn’t have the time to really service and respond to the clients and we lost our shine. I missed that. I figured if I switched to a different company, there was every chance that history would repeat itself, and we’re seeing it happen today with other companies. If I wanted to get back to the basics, my only choice was to make sure I had control.”

Did founding Hold Time Advantage give you back what you felt you’d lost?

“It was a hard transition, financially challenging, but the truth is, I’ve never regretted it. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s more rewarding hearing about clients successes with our results and their satisfaction with our relationship than hearing me brag about the company’s tens of thousands of clients. I’m an independent, and that frees me from conforming to some mass-production mentality. I go anywhere the client wants to go creatively without having to back pedal on service because some constricting corporate entity said no. Today, I actually have access to more resources than I did back then. I don’t have to time client conversations to measure efficiency or…well, any of that nonsense. And I’ve earned respect within our industry from people I respect a great deal.”

Q. You’re referring to being elected to the On Hold Messaging Association’s Board of Directors?

(“Yeah, I’ve always considered being elected and serving for the maximum term an honor and a confirmation. The standards are high and yet there’s room for all of the best professionals in our industry. I value the friendships I’ve made through OHMA, as well as the combined world-class resources. I am also proud that Hold Time Advantage/Sound Marketing Resources has earned and maintained the highest honor of an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and the continuing endorsements of some great professional associations.”

Q. You’re often referred to as the ‘On-Hold Doctor’. Want to tell me about that?

(“I still get a kick out of hearing that. It’s flattering…and it’s really accurate, if you look a little deeper. The truth is, doctors practice their trade. No physician has mastered the field of medicine. They’re always learning, always evolving. That’s always been my perspective. I’m still learning new things, discovering new innovations in sound marketing. And there’s one other similarity worth mentioning. Good doctors don’t diagnosis patients before performing thorough examinations. That’s something we’re really big on here. We are not one size fits all, cut and paste, fill-in-the-blank, with prefabricated libraries of scripting. We listen to the client. Get to know them and their business and the nature of their customers. If we don’t first listen, we’re guilty of malpractice. We’re not a factory. Our clients aren’t identified by account numbers or automatically pre-defined by their industries. Simply put…the approach here is customized and personalized.

Q. Okay…so what’s next for you and your industry?

(“That reminds me of the old running gag, ‘I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news’. Consumer experience is still frustrating. You’ve got decreased staffing levels, longer time on hold, self-serve care and a lack of intimacy. They all contribute to caller frustration. So you take music and messaging, you do it with the right finesse and suddenly you’ve created a much more comfortable environment for those customers. From a marketing perspective, advertisers will continue to be challenged. They’ll continue to face more and more choices for delivering their message, trying to increase awareness and ROI while their prospects are bombarded with more and more impressions every day. Technology will continue to remove the personal touch, so points of contact will be more individual, more valued.

Q. And what about Sound Marketing Resources?

(“We will be a strong marketing partner, connecting to great professional resources, while focusing on our customers, and their customers. We are exactly where we need to be to give all of our clients the right marketing mix with our expertise in delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time. We’re already seeing an increase in the call for truly unique and individualized programming, and it will continue to grow among the truly savvy marketers. When it’s all said and done, there’s simply no substitute for relevant content. That’s always been the key to our success. It’s the foundation of our client’s success and their customers’ satisfaction.”

Q. Who does a company contact to inquire about your services?

(“You’re talking to him. That’s the best part, really. It starts with me, not a commissioned sales rep or a telemarketer. We’ll have a real live conversation instead of a sales pitch. I’ll share some pretty compelling information about the benefits of Sound Marketing Resources. And the entire process ends the same way it begins: with me. Not an account rep that can’t make a decision without first making a phone call. The buck stops right here, and that’s just the way I like it. When I tell you that you’re going to like the way you sound, I mean it…and I guarantee it.”

It’s time to say what you have to say… out loud. Contact Sound Marketing Resources today at: 610.404.4644

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