From the August 1999 issue of Startups

The only thing more annoying than being put on hold is the Musak or call-waiting beep you have to endure while you're holding. In fact, being put on hold is so annoying that 72 percent of callers (read: prospective clients) hang up--and shop the competition instead.

The good news is, callers stay online two times longer when on-hold programs are used, and that's where Holding Patterns (http://www.holdingpatterns.com) comes in. This programming company helps businesses of all sizes create on-hold programming, from program development and message updates to equipment installation and product support.

In general, these programs provide the perfect opportunity for you to brag to your customers about all your products and services, and about what gives your company a competitive edge, as well as where you're located and your hours of operation. These tailor-made programs run the gamut, according to Lou Maresca, vice president and general manager of Holding Patterns. "They can be casual, conservative or crazy," he says, "and you can have your message delivered by a straight-laced 60 Minutes type announcer or a wacky voice impersonator, depending on your type of business."

"The telephone is your first and best form of advertising because you've got a captive audience," Maresca adds. "Yet most people don't want to listen to silence or, worse, your favorite rock station. The advantage of an on-hold program is the opportunity to present the style and personality of your company." And even if your business receives just 30 calls a day, that would add up to nearly 10,000 contacts per year--10,000 opportunities to deliver your company's message.

Holding Patterns creates all customers' programming at their on-site studios. The monthly cost, anywhere from $39 to more than $200, depends on the sophistication of your production--the type of announcer and kind of music you've chosen, and whether you're using single or multiple voice-overs.

For more information, call Holding Patterns' demo hotline at (888) 701-7355.

Julia Miller is a Los Angeles business writer specializing in sales and marketing.