The Rich Get Richer . . .

GooglelogoJust a few days ago I wrote about the new digital divide. That being the fact that larger and more prosperous places have, or are getting faster broadband while smaller and poorer places are being left behind.

And on the heels of that blog, Google just announced that it has invited talks with 34 new cities to discuss the expansion of its gigabit network. And of course, these are all big places and/or prosperous and growing places including Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe in Arizona, Atlanta and surrounding suburbs in Georgia, San Antonio in Texas, Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte and surrounding suburbs in North Carolina, Nashville in Tennessee, San Jose and other growing areas in northern California, Salt Lake City and Portland.

This is great news for those communities. There is certainly no assurance that any of them are going to get fiber and Google will be looking for the places willing to give the biggest handouts. But one would think that a decent number of the cities on that list will be able to give Google what they want to get a fiber network.

But not on this list, as you would expect are smaller towns and counties or the inner cities in the east that were ignored by Verizon FiOS. For the most part the Google list represents communities that are relatively economically healthy. The cities on the list are the ones that are growing while much of the rest of the country, like the northeast and smaller towns are shrinking.

In this same week the FCC said that they are going to look at eliminating the state barriers that stop municipalities from building fiber networks. There are over twenty states that have either a total ban or severe restrictions on government entities getting into the fiber business.

Let’s face facts. If you are not one of those places that are thriving, like the places on Google’s new list, then the chances are big that nobody is even thinking about building fiber in your neighborhood. You might live close to an independent telephone company or cooperative that is thinking about it. But most of rural America is not on anybody’s radar.

I always tell rural communities to consider two steps. First, you need to look around just to make sure that there is no company nearby who can be enticed to bring you fiber. Because sometimes, with the right incentives there is somebody. But generally there is nobody willing to make such an investment, so the second part of the advice is, if you want fiber you are going to have to step up and build it yourself.

You may need to gather surrounding communities together to get a pile of households large enough to justify a fiber business plan. But your community needs to take the initiative to get fiber or you are going to be left far behind.

Some of the communities Google is targeting were edging towards the wrong side of the new digital divide. I just read this morning that a large portion of Salt Lake City, as an example, still has 3 Mbps DSL for broadband. But they are large enough and thriving enough to have gotten Google’s attention, and good for them. But if you are a rural county seat or a farming community you are not going to get on Google’s or anybody else’s list.

Planning your Marketing Budget

market 1

market 1 (Photo credit: tim caynes)

Today’s guest blog is written by Mindy Jeffries of Stealth Marketing. She will be writing a series of blogs that will appear here occasionally for a while. If you want to contact Mindy you can call her at 314 880-5570. Tell her you saw her here!

It was much easier in the past to plan the marketing budget. But today there are many more choices of how and where to spend your budget.

From a bird’s eye view, let me show you how we do it at Stealth.

First we ask, what is the plan for next 12 months?  We chart or ‘brown paper’ the desired customer gain and then define the tactics needed to achieve that goal.

There are many levers to pull in order to achieve the desired customer acquisition goals. The first one is usually marketing spend.  As you spend more money, more people will hear your story and more will sign up (assuming the story is a good one).

But we marketers are always trying to be efficient.  So our next set of questions look something like:

  • “What kind of offer can I afford?”
  • “What is the best offer available to me?”
  • “How can I package that offer to look better than the competition and to get noticed?”
  • “Where can the offer be seen?”

This is a process that we go through freshly each year.

Next we build tracking methodologies behind each and every tactic.

Planning for Direct Mail

Many marketing tactics are extremely quantifiable, for example – direct mail is extremely easy to track.

While industry standards tell us to expect only a .5% to 1% response from direct mailings– we think an achievable goal is 2%.  This is achievable today, but takes focus, control groups and testing.  We call this, “Deploy, Measure, Adjust, Redeploy.”  It is a constant cycle that works hard to achieve success over time. If you pay attention to what works and doesn’t work your direct mail gradually elevates to good levels of pull.

Planning for Digital

Digital marketing is a great tactic to use in selling telecom products. It’s very targeted. You can deploy different messages to different customers and it’s cost-effective. And just like direct mail it gets more cost effective over time as you “Deploy, Measure, Adjust and Redeploy.”  Fortuitously, you can decide how much you want to spend and then you adjust the plan to fit.  As your efforts prove successful, you can add more money to a campaign. The challenge of digital marketing is finding a trusted advisor who really understands a complicated space that is changing daily.

Also, think of planning and executing tactics within social media. This still takes planning and dollars, but can change your marketing and even your customer service. Customers and potential customers can learn about you before they jump on board with your company.

Planning for Media

Media buying in telecom is another good tactic when and where it is available. But done poorly it can be a waste of budget. I once worked in Salt Lake City and there was a smaller operator in the suburbs. They couldn’t justify the media spend to buy the Salt Lake market, but our two firms together had a substantial piece of the market. They ended joining us as a partner to be able to afford the media buy. Ask yourself if there is a creative solution that makes sense in the media world.

At Stealth, we have algorithms to determine efficiency in the television medium. Don’t overlook your own channels for cross promotion.  How efficient can you tell your story with cross-channel advertising? There are still many ways to produce very good quality spots today.

Planning for Print

Small town papers can be a good medium to tell your story. They generally have loyal and devoted readership and you can creatively tell your story.

Have you ever thought of using movie posters? That’s a way you can put your information into the space in a creative manner. There are traditional and non-traditional places to buy or place movie posters. Also, in your local paper, buy a panel and tell your prospects what is on your service in a unique creative way.

Finally, we look at the budget last year. 

It’s always tempting to jut budget this year on what was spent last year. But you should always look to see if there are reasons to increase or decrease spending? More digital marketing might expand your spend for a few years, but start becoming more efficient over time. What is the competition doing? Are you expanding to new areas?

As you ask the right questions you can begin to plan your marketing spend and can design a marketing plan that fit your budget. But as you achieve success with  marketing you can have more confidence each year to spend more.