Most of our customers are cable companies, telephone companies, utilities, and municipalities, so the word Marketing can sometimes be an enigma, especially for smaller providers. A lot of these companies were the only game in town at one point. That’s not to say they were taking advantage of the situation. Our customers are very community-minded, and provide excellent service at a fair price. But, Marketing is not something that comes naturally to them, since it was not always a requirement for growing their business. This has changed. Consumers have options. Providing excellent service at a fair price can only take you so far. People need to know about it, or they may go to your competitor. In short, you have to get the word out. So, here’s a quick course on what Marketing is, and why it’s important.
First, a good textbook definition:
Marketing is a total system of business activities designed to plan, price, promote, and distribute want-satisfying products and services to present and potential customers.
Let’s break that down and talk about each element of that definition.
A Total System of Business Activities
Marketing consists of multiple activities that are designed to expand the reach and synergy of your promotional efforts. This means starting with research and planning, product management and pricing, advertising and sales, distribution and the like.
It is important to plan your marketing activities. Evaluate your market and think about the best way to reach your prospects. Consider your strengths relative to your competition. What opportunities can you capitalize on? What weaknesses should be minimized? Plan your message, and then make a plan for the best way to spend your marketing dollars with the information you have.
Where you price your product should be based on real factors. It’s tempting to pull a number out of the air. Instead, be sure to look at what your competition is doing. If you’ve done your planning, you’ll know your strengths and weaknesses relative to your competition, which will help in where to price. Do you want to be a low-cost leaders, or the provider known for the best quality and highest speeds. Maybe your speeds are lower, but your service is more stable and your service reps local and friendly. Determine what your customers will value. You also need to take your costs into account. As they say, if you’re selling your service at a loss, you can’t make up for it in volume.
You have to promote your service. Many fail to realize the importance of this step. You don’t want your service to be the best-kept secret in town. Even if you have good word-of-mouth advertising, make sure you get the word out in other ways. That will strengthen the recommendations of others. When you promote, make use of multiple tactics, including print advertising (like the local newspaper), outdoor advertising (billboards), email, and social media. If it makes sense in your market, use radio and TV, too. Some tactics will work better in some areas than others, but in general, you want to mix things up so that your message is reaching the most people with the most number of impressions.
For Broadband providers, distribution can mean your infrastructure for delivering Internet service. But, in marketing, it also means how and where you sell your services. You, of course, have your sales office. Make sure prospects can get information and buy when they call. Don’t forget your Website, and set up an on-line order process if possible. Look at some innovative ways to “distribute” your services. Perhaps, you can sign up some agents to sell for you. For example, a computer store could take orders for you and you can give them a small finders-fee. Local computer consultants and Web designers are other good agents who can sell your service, since they often come in contact with your prospects as they market their own services–especially business customers.
As much as possible, do research to determine what products and services to offer your customers based on what they want. If you build it, they may not come if they don’t want it.
Present and Potential Customers
Marketing can be used to promote new services and reaffirm your value to present customers, as well as to attract new customers. Don’t ignore your current customers. You likely have multiple services that you can sell to them, which will raise your Average Revenue Per User (ARPU).
Finally, it’s not mentioned in the definition, but be sure you measure the results from your marketing efforts. Tracking performance will help you determine where you should spend your future marketing dollars.