'Bait and Switch' Is a Winner for Cincy Bell

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Telephone providers don't usually trumpet bait-and-switch practices, but Cincinnati Bell played up that theme in a recent direct mail campaign that has increased its market share significantly in the long-distance and data solutions market.

The bait-and-switch theme was intended to show recipients that Cincinnati Bell would be unabashedly aggressive in its effort to get them to try their products and services.

"The goal was to develop a campaign that would show prospects that Cincinnati Bell was unashamed of the ends they would go to," said Rick Segal, chairman/CEO of HSR B2B, the ad agency handling the campaign for Cincinnati Bell. "It was clearly received with the sense of tongue and cheek that we intended it to be received with."

The campaign, which mailed from November through January, has generated a response rate of more than 10 percent.

It targeted 200 executives at Fortune 500 firms, 500 executives at emerging midsize businesses and 30,000 owners of mom-and-pop businesses.

Cincinnati Bell's goal was to increase its share of the local long-distance market and to establish a presence in the high-speed Internet connection market, which it entered in November.

"We are currently evaluating the quantitative and qualitative effect of the campaign," said Michelle Schulte, director of communications at Cincinnati Bell. "The campaign has generated a number of them at this point. In certain areas we have exceeded our objectives, and in others we just met them."

All mail pieces contained an informational pamphlet outlining the history of Cincinnati Bell's work in the area, details on its new bandwidth services, and information about other new products and services. It decided to keep all the information the same, since it was trying to accomplish the same goal in each demographic.

Those interested in more information were directed to the company's Web site or a toll-free number. Segal said the toll-free number has been used more often than the Web site.

While the text remained the same, the items with which it was shipped differed for each group. The Fortune 500 targets received a wooden box containing a Richard Wheatley tackle box with Delamere and Hopkins fly-fishing tackle inside. The 500 midsize targets received a white cardboard box with gummy worms inside a glass jar that read, "Bait, get up to 50 percent off long distance for business." The 30,000 small businesses received informational brochures.

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