The Waiting Is the Hardest Part: Improving Your On-Hold Messaging

Your digital marketing efforts are starting to pay off, and the phone calls are coming in at a high rate. The problem: prospective leads are hanging up before you get the chance to speak with them. Why, you ask? The answer could be much simpler than you realize.

As someone who contacts Google AdWords customer service on a regular basis, I’ve grown familiar with the standard routineI dial in; I’m welcomed and informed about whom I’ve reached (“Hi! Welcome to Google AdWords”); I’m asked to choose between English and Spanish communications; and then I’m prompted to enter our company’s 10-digit customer ID number. Once I’ve done so, I’m placed on hold while I await contact with one of Google’s helpful representatives. 

Now, in many instances, this is where my boring little anecdote would end, but Google AdWords’ on-hold music does something to me that no other company’s has so far: it makes me tap my toes. It puts a faint smile on my face. It makes me gently nod my head and subtly shift my hips in my chair. It makes me want to dance! (And I mostly work from home, so occasionally, I do cut a serious rug while I wait for an introduction to my new friend from Google.) 

AdWords’ on-hold music, incredibly, makes me excited to be on hold. It builds anticipation for the upcoming conversation rather than lulling me to sleep, or, even worse, actively turning me off from interacting further with that company. 

Most businesses, especially small businesses (and among those, perhaps law firms most of all), could stand to take a lesson from Google. Too many of them fail to take the time to create or curate meaningful on-hold messaging, pleasing on-hold music, or both. 

Whether you want to get your customers in the mood to have a productive and informative discussion by providing them with useful information about your firm or lower their defenses by sharing some enjoyable music with them, you should be taking your on-hold communications very seriously. (And ideally, you should be doing both — alternating periods of light, pleasing music and well-written, engaging messaging.) 

Still not convinced that what your prospective clients hear while on hold matters? Let’s examine some of the stats around on-hold communications, dropped calls, and phone sales. 

On-Hold Communications Statistics

Studies show that 70% of business callers end up placed on hold for some amount of time, so it’s not exactly a shock to most prospective clients when they can’t connect with their intended party immediately. Overall, they understand that calls are answered in the order a business receives them, and they’re likewise willing to accept a brief wait if it means getting in touch with a real person and having their pressing questions answered to their satisfaction.  

However, when the only thing on the other end of the line is dead air, callers become confused, annoyed, desperate, or some combination of the three, and they tend to hang up. In fact, 60% of callers end the call immediately when they realize there’s no on-hold music or messaging. Worse yet, 30% of those callers won’t bother calling back — why would they? There’s nothing on the other end to give them any hope that their call will ever be answered. 

Conversely, studies have shown that the right on-hold messaging and music can induce callers to spend as much as three additional minutes waiting to speak with their party, and it can also make them more inclined to purchase a product or service once they do connect with a person. 

According to Maximarketing, in fact, 16–20% of callers make purchases based on their on-hold experience, which means that roughly one-fifth of your phone traffic could potentially be persuaded to work with your firm through simple and direct prerecorded messaging or even the right choice of song.  

Now that we’ve discussed the why of on-hold communications, we should start talking about how to institute best practices to keep potential clients interested while they’re on hold. 

Best Practices for Successful On-Hold Communications

If you want your potential clients to know that you value their phone calls, you must do more than just say so on a 30-second loop. You need to show them they matter in everything you do — from community outreach to the pursuit of justice in the courtroom — and that includes your choice of on-hold music and messaging.  

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to sit down in a recording studio with Paul McCartney to create a Grammy-Award winning jingle (although we’d love to hear it if you do), but there are a few best practices you can follow to craft the perfect on-hold communications that deliver results for your firm, regardless of size, practice area, location, or marketing budget. 

  • Establish Your Goals Early On

    As with any other marketing tactic, there’s really no point in making the effort to improve your on-hold messaging if you don’t establish a plan with clear goals from the beginning. Obviously, the primary goal should be to keep as many callers as possible from exiting the call before reaching their intended party, but what does “as many as possible” look like for your business? You need to set a concrete and achievable goal — is it 90% of all callers? 80%? What about dropped calls and wrong numbers? Are these even being tracked? If they’re not, you’re going to have a hard time evaluating your data. Set attainable goals and update them accordingly based on the empirical data you collect.

  •  Aim for Just Left of Center

    Remember the experience with Google AdWords I mentioned above? Their on-hold music wasn’t anything mind-blowing or even original. They simply borrowed the bass line and drum beat from “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, eliminated the vocals, and placed a little synthesizer over the top. Whenever I listen to that music, though, I feel a bit of weight lifted from me, and I can focus on the questions I want to ask and how I want my phone conference to go. Often, there’s nothing wrong with a little muzak if the source tunes are familiar and inspire a bit of nostalgia or sentiment in your audience.

    Remember, you are conveying the voice, tone, and tenor of a law firm, not a used car lot, so be sure to keep your firm’s on-hold communications memorable but professional. Avoid gimmicks, non-sequiturs, and loud, aggressive, or off-kilter music. Be creative within reason, and stick to your branding guidelines at every turn.

  • Focus on the Call to Action 

    On-hold time is the perfect time to focus on driving your potential clients toward a desired action. Unlike other forms of advertising, you have your clients’ full, undivided attention while on hold (within reason — if you come off too aggressively, they’ll take the opposite approach and simply hang up), which means that now is the time to leverage that attention using strategies like the following.

    • Does your firm sponsor a college scholarship? If so, now could be the perfect time to let your audience know and encourage them to submit entries.  
    • Are you going to be participating in community events that you’d like your callers to attend? Fill them in on the details and invite them to join you. 
    • Do you offer free consultations and/or work on a contingent fee basis? Explain how your firm does everything possible to make your clients’ legal experience as simple and stress-free as possible. 

Whatever you’re hoping to achieve in those precious seconds while you have your callers’ full attentionmake sure to track your results from the beginning and compare the analytics from month to month so you can spot areas for improvement and ramp up your efforts over time.  

  • Align Your Content According to Mood

While you want to work solidly within your brand guidelines, you should be tweaking your on-hold communications at regular intervals depending on what sort of messaging you want to convey. Also, if your firm handles several different practice areas, you might consider altering your menu options based on the needs of your potential clients (i.e., “Press 1 to speak with an attorney about estate planning, wills, and trusts; Press 2 to speak about tax services and representation”). 

In addition, your music and messaging should take on a tone that’s appropriate for the respective practice area. For instance, a firm specializing in wrongful death lawsuits probably shouldn’t have “Tequila” playing on loop, interspersed with enthusiastic messaging. Instead, keep the tone respectfully serious (but not too somber) and include messaging that builds trust while expressing your sympathies. A little common sense will go a long way in determining the right balance to strike. 

  • Point Callers to Additional Marketing Opportunities

Regardless of how carefully you plan your on-hold communications, there will always be callers who bounce from the call for reasons beyond your control. Perhaps their favorite aunt just buzzed in on the other line, or they lost service when walking into that one odd room we all seem to have in our homes. 
To account for these inevitable hiccups, you should be sure to remind callers of your website address and social media properties early in the call. That way, they can visit these resources if they end the call but are interested in additional information while they wait for the opportunity to call back. Even if they aren’t disconnected and the call goes well, directing callers to your website or social presence gives them a few resources they can use to conduct their due diligence and feel more confident that they’re choosing the right attorney for their unique legal circumstance. 

Your Call Is Important to Us (For Real!)

Looking to make the right call for your law firm? Contact LaFleur Marketing today by dialing (888) 222-1512 or by completing the brief form on this webpage. We work with firms of all shapes and sizes throughout the United States to deliver effective and efficient marketing tactics, including paid search, social media, automation, branding, content marketing, and, of course, curating and creation of on-hold communications.  

We believe in developing marketing plans that emphasize the positive characteristics of your law firm in a holistic fashion, ensuring that all phases of the strategy we develop work together in tandem. On-hold communications give us the opportunity to bring multiple marketing initiatives together in a single package, while also focusing on an area that is often overlooked by law firms and marketing agencies alike: lead follow-up and nurturing. 

So please get in touch with us today. Whether you’ve got an established online presence or you’re a small firm that doesn’t even have a website yet, LaFleur can help you expand your reach and get the most out of your digital marketing budget. 

Related Articles 


Bertola, D. (2015, April 28). Most Americans dissatisfied when calling businesses. Buffalo Business First. Retrieved from 

Durante, J. (2013). 5 best practices for refreshing message on hold content. Holdcom. Retrieved from  

Greenfield, R. (2014, April 28). Finally, hold music that doesn’t suck. Fast Company. Retrieved from 

Karr, D. (2015, February 12). Did you know that “On Hold Marketing” existed? MarTech. Retrieved from