GTE Airphone DM Effort Pays Off

GTE Airfone is reporting success with its integrated summer marketing effort created by relationship marketing shop Townsend Agency, Rosemont, IL.

“We needed to establish stronger relationships with existing customers and encourage new users to use Airfone more often,” said Greg O'Neill, director of consumer marketing for GTE Airfone, Oakbrook, IL. “But until now, we didn't have a way to contact our customers directly and build brand loyalty. With the new direct marketing campaign, we're solving a fundamental marketing problem.”

The campaign, which began in late June and will continue through the fall, targets existing members of Airfone's Home&Office program, which is designed to nurture more transaction-oriented relationships between the company and its airline phone product. It makes use of a series of postal mail and e-mail communications combined with links and references to its satellite Web site.

According to Jason Wadler, vice president and group director at Townsend, “When we started working with GTE two years ago, we first examined their file of about 100,000 members. We did a lot of database cleansing and then we helped them establish exactly who these people were. We then linked duplicated credit card information, names, etc. The interesting thing we noticed was that people's past usage did not determine future usage.”

After establishing usage trends, Townsend put together a program that included the customers initial receipt of a GTE Home&Office membership kit, which outlined the benefits of membership and the rewards it offered through additional Airfone usage. Reminder mailings followed, along with e-mail notices designed to motivate further usage.

Since its inception in June, GTE's Web site has received hits from an impressive 2.9 percent of its Home&Office universe, which Karen Kerbis, director of database marketing at Townsend, said represents “a blended rate that shows how many customers met their goals for [increased usage] as well as additional long-term usage.”

GTE Airfone is currently available on about 60 percent of the carriers that have in-flight phone usage. GTE's major competitor is AT&T Inflight. But Wadler said GTE is not competing with AT&T. “What you are fighting is people's usage of the pay phone or cell phone before or after they get on a commercial air carrier.” He said the goal is to change their impression of the product and motivate usage while they are flying.

GTE Airfone is now on 2,000 commercial aircraft representing 11 North American carriers and more than 1,300 private corporate aircraft. GTE offers numerous business-related products and services, including its recently launched BizConnect brand, which the company says delivers competitively priced dedicated broadband access to small businesses nationwide 35 business days for as little as $450 per month.

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