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 Lessons From A Month of Fax Blasting - 1/2

 Reprinted with permission from Computer Telephony February 1997

We blasted over 150,000 one-page faxes to encourage our friends to come to Computer Telephony Expo '97. Fax blasting really works. Nice. Blasting into the ether is disconcerting. The first reply is tasty. Many of you responded within minutes. It's testimony somebody out there saw your electrons. Fax blasting is not trivial. Here are some things we learned with our Copia FaxFacts software and Brooktrout boards (see last month for the Big Writeup).

by Harry, Aaron, and Freddie

Faxes fail for two basic reasons:
1) the number is bad; or
2) there is a software/hardware problem.

The first problem is more common than the second. If you have good software (we do, Copia International's (Wheaton, IL -- 800-689-8898) FaxFacts), it should tell you which of these two problems caused the failure.

If you have bad numbers, someone must find out why and correct them. This usually means calling. It means going to your original database to find the voice numbers. That means being able to search your database by fax number. Set up an index so you can.

Fixing bad fax numbers is not trivial. You will need full-time people. If your fax list is big, you will need a mother of an army.

Once you've corrected the fax numbers, you can resend the fax by creating a new blast list or by changing the numbers in the failed fax report. Copia gives you both options, others don't.

The caring and feeding of bad fax number lists is more expensive than the cost of the phone lines to send the faxes. Practice clean data entry. Teach it to your data enterers. How do you get the list of bad numbers? Copia stores detailed information about every call in a database file. Run a query and a report on the file. Bingo, you have your list of bad calls.

If you have hardware/software problems that prevent faxes from going through, you need the tools to diagnose and correct them quickly and easily. The combination of Copia software and Brooktrout hardware in our system provides lots of information about a fax call.

The second big problem with bad fax numbers is a bad phone line. We ran our fax blaster behind a PBX with a T-1 an limited trunks. If you blast during the day, you'll pay more and hit more fast busies. Start at night, when it's cheaper and less busy.

Watch out for dumb stuff. In the beginning we got many failed faxes. Freddie found one of the RJ-11 cables that should carry two phone lines (i.e. four conductors) only had two wires in it.

All silver satin flat ribbon cables look alike. But aren't. Thank you, Freddie.

Good phone lines. Make sure all your phone lines are good. One by boring one. We thought we had bad numbers, but we had a bad line that stopped hundreds of faxes getting through. Luckily, Brooktrout's fax boards come with diagnostic software that allowed us to test lines. Once we tested the lines, we found the bad one. Intermittent stuff is the worst.

Test before blasting. Send four sample faxes before you blast your list of thousands: 1) to yourself; 2) locally; 3) long distance; and 4) internationally. With the first, you see if the fax looks good and something dumb isn't happening -- like the signature line (and nothing else) on the second and blank page.

With the next three you make sure your fax blaster is handling all the possible types of numbers at the top of every fax blast list so they're ready to send as soon as you have your document ready.

Harry is obsessive about fine-honing the look of faxes. He'll spend half an hour fiddling with one page. He thinks faxes are as important as magazine covers. He says, "You get attention in the first two seconds. Or you get circular filed."

Harry believes cover sheets are totally stupid. They just waste trees, paper, staples, and time. If a fax has a name on it, it will get delivered.

You must use pure black and white images/logos/photos, etc. Otherwise your faxes will go out with strange dots in the white space around your logos. No one knows why.

If you try to fax color, all colors fold to black! The first rule here is to proof to fax. Set your windows default printer to the fax driver so that the windows word processor knows that the printer resolution is 200 dots per inch. You can see how color is really coming out.

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