By ERIC KESSLER and KATHERINE LEWIS
The cable industry is entering a new chapter in its history. For the most part, the rebuilds are complete; the broadband infrastructure needed to deploy digital video, high-speed Internet access, and local telephony has been situated; innovative applications are being delivered to consumers; and additional services are in the development stages.
The time has finally come for the cable marketer to turn these opportunities into businesses, investment into profit and potential customers into loyal ones. The way to do that is with sophisticated, strategic, creative, consistent — and smart — marketing.
We are proud to bring together some of today's premier marketers, such as Time Warner Cable vice chairman John Billock, Bain & Co. director emeritus Marc Lefar, Fred Reichheld, Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. CEO Josh Sapan, The Coca-Cola Co. chief marketing officer Sergio Zyman and many others, to share proven marketing strategies that get positive business results with attendees of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit.
NEW PRODUCT BENEFITS
Consumers have a variety of ways to spend their money. We'll need to ensure that we can clearly communicate the benefits of the new cable services to the consumer before we can convince them that we have the best product and the best value proposition.
It's the cable marketer's job to define what the technologies mean to the consumer's everyday life, to weed through the clutter of technology, to eliminate the fear and to build the excitement for new products enabled by technology.
At the Summit this year, we're focusing on ways to do this. They include: taking a close look at digital video and broadband and convincing consumers to purchase these new technologies; boosting customer retention, keeping customers loyal and increasing their value to the business; and defining high-definition television for consumers, conveying its benefits and getting purchasers to see cable's integral role in providing HD services.
Media clutter, digital video recorders and on-demand content will be part of the mix as well.
It's a challenge to manage in an era of product proliferation. Our marketing and advertising efforts have to communicate the benefits of each individual product, as well as the benefit of one-stop shopping through the cable operator. We have to get better at targeting and selling the right products to the right segments through the most efficient channels.
We must always be thinking about how the attributes of our products benefit the consumer and communicate that through compelling creative work. We need to define new categories and then convey their benefits.
It's not enough to say that video-on-demand is convenient and entertaining. We need to make sure people know what it is and how it works.
The message is critical, and its focus and clarity are important. The message must make sense to customers and tap into a consumer need. Testing and evaluating creative becomes vital at this point.
We've captured the early adopter. Now we have to make speed, "always-on," "on-demand," choice, and other features meaningful and compelling to the more discerning buyer.
TURNING INVESTMENT INTO PROFIT
As cable operators plan and implement new-service rollouts, our priority is to maximize cash flow per home passed.
We must harvest investments made in the last several years to get the maximum benefit from new products, in terms of both pure revenue and in retention benefits. A few ways to meet the challenges are:
- By using database-marketing techniques such as predictive modeling. For example, we can do a better job in identifying those consumers who are most likely to defect to satellite, and target them through enriched digital-TV offers. Similarly, it makes economic sense to target likely Internet users with high-speed data offers, rather than blanketing the whole subscriber base.
- By identifying the best offers through testing and tracking. For instance: What's the return on a free month of high-speed data? Does a longer-term discount at a lower rate yield a higher overall cash flow per customer?
- By fine-tuning our creative. For example, do cable ads capture the attention of the consumer? Does the creative increase their understanding of the product, and does it increase their intent to purchase?
These questions and more will be addressed in Summit sessions focusing on such topics as database marketing and creative.
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING OF SERVICES
Balance is the nuts and bolts of marketing the products of today, while staying ahead of the curve with respect to the products of tomorrow. We need to regularly monitor product and customer satisfaction, and invest in improving both the product and the service to achieve and maintain the highest satisfaction levels.
However, we must not lose sight of customer demand. We need to fully research products during the development phase to make sure there is adequate demand — and that we can deliver on the promises of the product. In addition, we shouldn't let conventional wisdom deter us from innovation. Who would have thought self-installation of cable modems would be so successful?
Ultimately, cable marketing's success depends on understanding and adapting to the changing environment. The Summit's unique combination of education, information sharing and skill-building will give attendees the power and the creativity to succeed.
We'll invest three days at the Summit, and experience the best marketing education the industry has to offer. Being exposed to new products, getting the latest in customer research, seeing the hottest creative and experiencing the education and networking opportunities will ensure that our time in Boston helps us to "boost our brains, our businesses, and our bottom lines."