The race to sign up residential subscribers to high-speed
Internet access is on. With its widely deployed, two-way broadband plant and unique
multimedia content, cable is clearly seen as today's frontrunner.
But over the next months and years, cable operators will
face increased competition from technologies ranging from telephone companies'
digital-subscriber-line offerings to wireless cable and even two-way satellite data
Below, 11 industry executives outline their top 10 tips for
marketing cable modems and high-speed Internet access -- and for making sure that cable
stays in front of this burgeoning category.
Kelly Ruebel, vice president of sales and marketing,
MediaOne Internet Services:
Be where your customers want to buy. A new market
will require new sales channels. Although inbound and outbound telemarketing are great
avenues, they are not enough. By extending into Web-based lead-generation and the retail
market, you'll catch consumers when they are thinking about related products and services.
Retail also offers a great place to show and tell.
Remember: Cable advertising works. Don't forget the
obvious channels to market to. Television advertising and infomercials can bring the
service to life. Use offers and strong calls to action, and the leads will follow. Bill
messaging and inserts are also a tremendous lead-generator and can be targeted
specifically to upgraded homes.
Go outside the family. Although the video base of
customers is a tremendous resource for direct marketing, don't forget those
"high-potential" PC users that don't have cable today. You will need to use
different media and lists to reach them. The rewards are growing your base of customers
and providing an avenue for future cross selling.
Focus on storytelling, not order-taking. Cable modem
service requires a very different type of sell. It's about consulting the user based on
how they use the Internet, versus telling them about the service. We are much more
effective when we sell on customer interests rather than features alone. This also
challenges the sales rep to tell a story of what the Internet could be for the consumer
versus how they use it today.
Have endorsements pay off in a big way. Customers
love the service and they will talk. Don't forget to include testimonials and encourage
word of mouth through customer incentive programs.
Stress that it's not all about speed; it's also
about what consumers are missing. As you move beyond the early adopter, you will need to
showcase what the speed will bring to the user's experience. Describing applications like
video downloads, music and gaming becomes more critical than just listing 1.5 Mbps. Most
users don't even know the Internet offers such exciting multimedia content, given that
they have been restricted with dial-up access. It's a brave and much more entertaining Web
with cable modem service.
Realize it's not for everyone. Although there is a
significant market for Internet services, potential customers first need to own a PC. Use
target marketing to identify the best prospects for cable modem services. Resources such
as Equifax and Microvision are a good place to start to help identify the areas with the
Don't forget that your best prospects are already
online. There is a large audience of people who are frustrated with the speed of dial-up,
not to mention the hassle of having to reconnect every time they want to use the Internet.
Use online advertising and make sure you have a strong promotional Web site that can
Recognize the customer has to see it to believe it.
Demonstrations are critical, since it is difficult for people to imagine how the increased
speed and always-on connection will change the way they use the Internet. Once they see
it, they're sold.
Don't forget: First impressions count. Installers
are the first real impression of the service. They can make or break the customer's
Joe Rooney, vice president of marketing, Cox Communications
Inc., Orange County, Calif.
Use non-traditional sales channels.
When thinking retail, go where the people are. Go
beyond computer "superstores" to coffee shops and car washes.
When demonstrating your product at non-traditional
sites, have brochures on hand so potential customers can learn more and contact you later.
When displaying at computer "superstores,"
use special phones that connect directly to your system's call centers so you can sign
customers up on the spot.
Advertise with banner ads on the Web.
Create a robust Web site that details the advantages
of your high-speed Internet service.
Use friend-get-a-friend referrals.
After you've signed up all the tech-heads,
transition away from just talking about the speed and talk about the type of content the
speed enables the user to access.
Be specific. Show consumers how they can use the
service to buy and track stocks online, as Cox did with our "Put your money where
your mouse is" campaign.
Run back-to-school campaigns that tout the Homework
Helper feature of @Home. The portal makes it easier for students and their parents to get
projects done in a timely manner.
Suzanne McFadden, national director of marketing, Comcast
Focus on consumer needs. Speed is great, but focus
on why they need it.
Work with the media. Share testimonials or product
enhancements with the local press. Offer free service to computer or technology writers,
so they can review the product.
Work closely with your company's cable marketing
team. Consumers can make the connection of why cable Internet is so fast when they
associate it with the size of the cable wire. Wherever cable TV is promoting itself, make
sure you're there as well, specifically in cross-channel advertising.
Demo, demo, demo. Once consumers see the service in
action, it's hard not to subscribe. Go where there are consumers--county fairs, computer
stores, libraries and schools.
Take advantage of lead generation. Have the cable
customer service representatives take leads as cable customers call in to them. Offer
commissions to high-traffic retail locations, and have a friend-get-a-friend program.
Use direct sales. Have a dedicated sales force for
lead follow-up, demonstrations and retail events. Place one in the cable call center.
Create a sales Web site. Offer serviceability
checks, FAQs (frequently asked questions) and online ordering.
Close the sale. Arm your sales force with offers
such as a discount on installation or a free month so they can close the sale on the spot.
Offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Focus on retention. Although it may not be a major
concern for most cable Internet marketers, competition is underway. Educate your customers
on the uses of the service and the customer support available.
Join forces with other MSOs. Share your best and
worst practices with your counterparts at other cable companies. Consider a local cable
John Burke, vice president of marketing/advanced markets
and telecom systems, General Instrument Corp.:
Run a national cable/supplier consortium ad campaign
on a major event like the Super Bowl or the World Series to leverage the MSO's ability to
insert commercials on cable systems. Highlight the following benefits: always connected
(no more busy signals, get online instantly, no waiting, no tied-up phone line, no need
for a second phone line) and speed (100 times faster, so surfing has never been this easy,
this powerful, this fast).
Leverage existing users with a referral program.
Offer a month's free service for each referral. That's a $35 cost for each new
subscriber--not bad. Get someone to refer 12 users, and he gets the service free for a
whole year. The operator gets 12 new subscribers! Slogans could include "Friends
don't let friends surf the web slowly," or "Friends don't let friends tie up
their phone lines."
Create free trials for a month. Once a modem gets in
a home and customers use it, they never take it out. The cost is the truck roll and
installation, but once it's in the home, it will never come out.
Advertise on the Web. All these frustrated telco
modem users are doing things on the Web -- connecting, waiting, tying up phone lines,
downloading lengthy files. Advertise on search engines and popular sites like CNN.com and
Run full-page, in-your-face ads in computer
magazines like Wired or PC Magazine.
Send cable bill stuffers -- perhaps a compact disc
demonstrating the differences between telco modems and cable modems.
Demonstrate at universities and high schools. Give
free trials in computer labs, and get the kids (the computer geeks) to demand the service
from their parents.
Hold live demonstrations at mall tours in large
Target people who work at home with national print
ads in business periodicals. Tap into the frustration of connecting and waiting to
download e-mail or send files to fellow workers.
Use point-of-purchase displays at computer retail
stores, with signs reading, "Ask me about instant, no-waiting, no-connecting, really
fast Internet access."
Dean Gilbert, senior vice president and general manager,
Target your audience. Only 30 percent to 35 percent
of the audience is online today. Current online users are first and foremost the best
audience to go after.
Price aggressively. Forward price the service to
make it attractive enough for the current "early majority" consumers, not just
for the very early adopters of new technology
Get the word out early. Be ready to collect leads
and manage expectations. Don't wait until you launch the service to start educating the
market on the benefits of high-speed Internet access. Don't be afraid to build demand for
the service and collect a database of leads -- but you do have to manage expectations.
Get the word out often. You need a lot of frequency
of exposure. There's a lot of clutter in the marketplace today.
Give too much information, not too little. Use
infomercials, direct mail and demonstrations to detail the benefits.
Educate on the benefits of speed, what the faster
pipe will bring to the consumer. Use examples like "instant access to the information
you want when you want it" and "Download large files in 3 seconds rather than 15
minutes." Tell consumers they can listen to music online and play games online at
speeds faster than available anywhere else on the Net.
Leverage the fact that you're a cable company. Make
sure people know the advantages of using Internet over cable, rather than via dial-up from
a telephone company. Stress the physical differences in delivering data over a broadband
pipe versus narrowband.
Demo, demo, demo: Seeing is believing. If they see
it, they love it; if they love it, they buy it; and if they buy it, they keep it.
Motivate people to switch from their current
services. There's a lot of inertia. Give consumers a sense of urgency.
Be persistent, consistent and aggressive in your
marketing efforts. It takes time to build a new category. Remember you're driving for
market share. You need to be leveraging your first-to-market advantage against future
services, such as DSL.
Tim Evard, senior vice president of marketing, Road Runner:
Keep it simple. Do not overthink this. In
many ways, it's just cable TV.
Pay attention to the product. Make it and keep it
fast. Make it and keep it easy to understand, easy to use and easy to buy.
Pay attention to the market. Maintain an ongoing
understanding of marketing behavior and attitudes. Know the competition inside and out.
Keep it fun! Give it personality. This is a consumer
product, not brain surgery--and not a telephone service.
Ask for the order, ask for the order, ask for the
Refer to the first tip.
Refer to tip No. 6.
Refer to No. 7.
Refer to No. 8.
Refer to No. 9. (If you go beyond five things,
you're overthinking it.)
Seth Morrison, vice president of marketing, Cable &
Telecommunications: A Marketing Society (CTAM):
Hold events to demonstrate the product. Let people
see it, feel it, interact with it.
Have a retail presence with an ongoing residence at
a mall kiosk or a local Circuit City or RadioShack.
Run an infomercial on your cable system's
local-origination or customer-information channel.
Use market segmentation. You can't afford to mail to
your entire customer base.
Do public affairs marketing. Wire schools and
libraries so kids will go home and say, "Mommy, you've got to buy this!"
Make sure the installation experience goes smoothly,
because it's the first time the consumer experiences the new service. Show up on time.
Understand that people get very nervous having their computers touched. Take time to show
the customer how to use the product.
Leverage satisfied customer experiences with a
"tell-a-friend" program. Referrals are very powerful.
Cable companies should gather email addresses from
all their customers. That becomes a good start for market segmentation.
Cable systems should create compelling web sites.
Include customer service and billing over the web site. Then use the site to offer
customers information on high-speed Internet services. Offer them the ability to order the
Make sure every employee in your company becomes
involved in and understands the product. Even people in accounting, for example, should be
able to speak about the service if their friends ask them about it. Make sure employees
don't feel left out; involve everyone in initial training sessions.
Mike Knudsen, vice president and general manager, network
products division, Toshiba America Information Systems:
Remember what the consumer is buying -- the content
and the high-speed access, not the modem.
Make all your subscribers aware that this great new
service is available from cable.
Place cable-modem kiosks in places like car washes,
so consumers can get a product demonstration in those 10 minutes or so that they're
waiting for their cars.
Bundle other new cable services, like telephone and
video-on-demand, into cable modem marketing offers.
Wait for the DOCSIS standard to be implemented
before kicking off a nationwide retail effort. Until then, distribute modems at retail on
a market-by-market basis. Make sure vendors keep their marketing efforts consistent with
the MSO's ability to deploy the service.
Find a vendor who's a partner in marketing. Look for
manufacturers with a brand presence at both computer stores and traditional
Work with a vendor that doesn't also carry a DSL
modem line, so their marketing efforts don't have to compete with yours.
Make sure to choose modems that are likely to work
the first time, and make sure you have enough product on hand when you need it. You may
have greater-than-expected demand when you advertise.
To the extent that it's possible, encourage
grass-roots support for cable modem service through online chat rooms -- although
controlling the Internet can be like herding cats.
Aim for a single, 30-minute visit to install the
product and make it work. Look for vendors that will help train your installers and
provide round-the-clock telephone support.
Zaki Rakib, CEO, Terayon Communications Systems Inc.:
Put demo kiosks in the malls in your target regions
to show a side-by-side comparison of a cable modem and a dial-up modem accessing the
Internet. The vastly superior performance of the cable modem will be immediately obvious.
Make sure the kiosks provide a way for users to request further information and to capture
Outfit airport executive lounges with cable-modem
access. Airport lounges are increasingly by business travelers as an "office away
from the office" to work, read email, check their stocks, etc. These executives are a
key target audience, due to their senior management roles, high levels of income and
familiarity with computers and the Internet. Again, be sure there is a simple way for the
users to request additional information on the service and cable modems, and that user
information is also obtained.
Use a mobile demo van to take your cable modem demo
on the road to fairs, golf tournaments and other widely attended outdoor activities in
your target regions. As with the mall kiosks, be sure to show a side-by-side comparison
with a dial-up modem to ensure that people truly recognize the superior performance of the
Outfit a school or non-profit organization with
cable modems. It's a good civic-minded thing to do, and it's great publicity. As part of
the deal, make sure the recipient will work with you to jointly publicize the deployment.
Have compelling cable modem demos at local
computer/electronics retailers. These retailers typically attract computer-savvy early
adopters eager to try the latest technologies. Also, there local retailers will have
valuable information on the purchasing habits of the customers in the area.
Partner with PC manufacturers. Operators and cable
modem vendors should partner with computer makers to promote cable modems and broadband
access. Leading PC manufacturers market new products to their loyal customers via proven
methods, such as direct-mail campaigns, user-friendly websites and retail outlets.
Partnering with these savvy marketers will help broaden the appeal of cable modems and
enable operators and vendors to target a key audience.
Use contests to raise visibility. Sponsor a contest
promotion to offer one-year free service to a residential subscriber and a small business
user. Promote the contest widely.
Don't forget the basics: Direct mail, print, TV,
radio advertising, telemarketing. Operators have an installed base of subscribers to
target and the addresses and phone numbers of these subscribers -- use this information to
precisely target your marketing efforts to your primary audience.
Produce quality education pieces. Videos, CD-ROMs
and other more costly items that explain the benefits of cable modems should be available
for existing subscribers and other pre-qualified customer leads who have specifically
asked to receive additional information. The return-on-investment with this group is worth
Run a cyber-campaign. Operators and vendors should
have banner ads on widely-accessed sites. Operators and vendors' own sites should clearly
explain the benefits of cable modem service, where the service is available and how to
sign up for the service. Be sure the site can capture information on everyone checking it
-Lenny Higgins, senior vice president of telephone and
high-speed data, Bresnan Communications Inc.:
Showcase the product at local events to give
consumers the opportunity to test-drive it. Go where the crowds are, rather than
organizing your own events. In rural markets, try state and county fairs. Computer shows,
home shows and other well-attended large events are also good venues.
Sponsor a kiosk at local malls during peak periods,
particularly around the holidays.
Start early -- really early -- to create excitement
and demand in the marketplace. Use press releases, articles and other public relations and
promotional activities to build a pre-launch waiting list.
Market most heavily when people are most likely to
buy, especially during the computer buying seasons. Before and after Christmas and
back-to-school are top promotional windows.
Use targeted direct mail that stresses the product
benefits for consumers, not just the speed.
Build awareness and recognition through in-your-face
marketing. For example, an ad on the back of the remittance envelope can help drive phone
calls. Billboards with simple, clear messages are great, too.
Capitalize on the buzz and word-of-mouth. Try
friend-tell-a-friend promotions and consider affinity group pricing -- discounts for
churches, teachers and other organizations.
Selectively reduce the install price. A high
installation cost is a barrier to entry.
Join forces and partner with programmers for
promotions such as Web Cam give-aways.
Do all of the above, and more -- there's no silver
Gary Granger, director of marketing, Motorola Multimedia
Group, Motorola Inc.
Promote the fact that with cable, service is readily
available in your customers' backyards.
Hold local events with demos.
Take advantage of affinity marketing. No one sells a
cable modem better than a cable modem user.
Use bundles in your promotional offerings.
Increase awareness through greater media coverage.
Offer discounts and rebates.
Brad Sparks, manager of digital business development,
Thomson Consumer Electronics:
Look for a vendor with a history of after-sales
Look for a vendor with trusted product brands. A
pervasive brand such as RCA can help legitimize new technologies, and provide a comfort
level to consumers.
Look for a vendor with strong retail distribution.
Coordinate discussions between cable operators and
retailers. Come up with consistent business models for retailing cable modem services so
that consumers don't become confused by seeing different offers for subscribers of
different MSOs. A cable broadband forum would be an excellent place to start.
Make sure the retail offer is simple for the retail
sales staff, as well as the consumer, so that computer and consumer electronics retailers
don't back away from the category altogether.
Look to vendors for help in training the retail
sales force on cable modem technology and marketing.
Bring representatives from the MSO to the retail
Coordinate local advertising campaigns between local
retailers and cable systems.
Use side-by-side demonstrations to get the biggest
"wow" factor. Call up the same page on telco and cable modems. Go from general
use examples such as checking stock prices, to downloading pictures, streaming video and
movie previews. Remember that if consumers don't see a side-by-side demo, they might
forget just how slow their dial-up service is.
In demonstrations, highlight the speed and the
convenience of "always on." Transform the www from the "worldwide
wait" to the "worldwide wow."