This is the invitation on the contact form on The Broken Family Band website. That box waiting to be filled with an email address is like the big red button you know you shouldn’t touch. You really want to see what happens.

According to the website, the band played their last show in 2009. At least they bothered to manage my expectations. I can guess the response won’t be immediate.

In contrast I will never know why the physio didn’t respond. Was it an extended Jubilee break? Had she fallen down a ravine? Or simply gone out of business? I may never find out. Like many businesses her website will probably live on long after she’s hung up her exercise band.  And increasingly cyberspace is littered with invitations to ‘contact me’ destined for no reply.

While I work with content the intent is usually to change behaviour – to promote some form of action, usually to get in touch. Yet this bit seems to get lost, time and again. Here’s how to avoid making the same mistake:

  • Start at the end. Before you begin decide how you want to be contacted. And remember people resist jumping from print to digital and vice versa. Switching channels means losing potential leads. If you email, expect an email back. Enclose a pre-paid response slip when sending a direct mail letter.
  • Make it easy, and give options but not too many. If you want to be taken seriously you have to have an email and phone number. Whether you want to be contacted in other ways, such as social media, depends on having the resources to manage these accounts.
  • Prepare a response. Selling online? The big advantage is that you are open 24 hours a day. But your biggest customer in Tonga may wish to place an order at midnight when you’re in bed. Set up an automatic response when you get a sale and follow up in person as soon as possible. A ‘thanks for your order, we’re on the case’ email is better than deathly silence.
  • Allocate responsibility. Give an individual the task of handling the response and reporting on the status. Give a team that task and there’ll be unanswered messages stacking up in an email account.
  • Set a date for ending it all. Set a deadline for shutting down your response mechanism even if that date is several years into the future. Review at least annually and decide if you still need your enquiries@millenniumcelebrations email address. It’s good housekeeping and avoids damaging your reputation.