Tips for Customer Acquisition in Cable

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Cable systems today are vastly different from the simple, 40-channel video providers of yesteryear. Digital tiers, multiplexed premium services, near video-on-demand, high-speed cable modems, fiber-optic delivery systems, on-screen interactive program guides and cable telephony paint a whole new picture for today's discriminating consumer.

With so many products and services debuting in the rapidly changing world of broadband cable technology, creating a thorough marketing plan incorporating teleservices is crucial to the growth and success of a cable operating system's business.

Here are 10 tips for customer acquisition for cable TV marketers.

Preplan well in advance. Marketing goals and objectives should be established well in advance of the start of the fiscal year. Plans should state target audiences, costs, projected results and elements used.

Marketing plans should always include input and buy-in from both customer and technical service departments since these groups will be critical to the execution of your plan. There also should be flexibility to modify your strategy at any time.

Test offers and audiences before a major rollout. Small tests through telemarketing or direct mail provide a cost-efficient and effective tool for measuring response to an untested element, offer or target.

Results may lead to modification of the original proposal, save valuable resources and add credibility to your full campaign.

Determine the customers' needs. Don't just create and offer some new product if there is no demand. Use market research to determine customers' needs before launching expensive products, services and marketing efforts. Find out what your customers want and what price they are willing to pay. Target your marketing efforts accordingly.

For example, determine what demographic groups are likely to have Pentium computers before proposing high-speed data upgrades, then focus your marketing efforts on that population. Bill inserts, outbound and inbound telemarketing, customer service and field personnel are valuable resources to garner customer information.

Coordinate with your installations/delivery systems. All the best marketing efforts fail if you can't deliver the goods on a timely basis. Advertising on television or direct mail may result in a spike of demand for your product; thus, the fulfillment departments, and customer and technical service, must be included in the planning of these campaigns. It is essential to add staff to handle the influx of new business and deliver customers' new purchases in a reasonable time.

Teleservices tests may also be used to more accurately project and plan campaign response before full launch of the marketing campaign.

Keep the offer simple, short and concise. Prospective customers must understand exactly what you're offering; therefore, keep your offers simple. Bundled services should be presented in a manner that is easy to explain. Complex proposals can kill response rates. Often a test campaign will determine that a limited, simple giveaway will achieve a more positive response than a complex one with many conditions.

Use a multilayered approach. Don't hang your hat on just one tactic. Try to approach customers from multiple angles. Cable TV marketing should be multifaceted and may include newspapers, radio, direct mail and teleservices to reach a larger audience and increase your potential revenue stream. Remember that one type of media reinforces another and lends increased credibility, reach and frequency to your marketing message.

Direct mail and teleservices have a synergistic effect. People may respond to direct mail efforts by being asked to call a toll-free number where there is inbound telemarketing support. Or outbound teleservices may be used to more narrowly target a direct mailing. Similarly, mass media such as newspapers, radio and television may be routed to a toll-free number inbound staff to quickly and efficiently handle responses and add to a database for follow-up with outbound teleservices.

Investigate competitors' offers. Base your offers to match/beat them. Play up your competitive advantages. To succeed in a competitive environment, companies must have a competitive advantage. You must surpass your rivals in some fashion, such as money-back guarantees, more television channels, better prices or excellent customer service. A low price is only one aspect of a customer's decision.

Use your customer/technical service personnel as sales machines. Every customer contact should be a sales opportunity. Companies should ensure that their customer and technical service staff members are trained to sell the product and are rewarded for doing so. Also, these agents should have an incentive to save current customers. It is less expensive to save a current customer than to acquire a new one.

Use your customers as sales machines - friend to friend. Referrals are the best form of sales. They are easy and cheap. For example, send out bill inserts to all customers offering to give them a free month of HBO or some other reward in exchange for the names of their friends who may connect to cable.

Do more/offer more than you say you will. Exceed customers' expectations. This can be as simple as accomplishing a complex task in two business days instead of the quoted three. Always be honest with your customers. If there are difficulties in meeting their requests, tell them exactly why upfront. This approach will help increase morale and boost customer retention rates.

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