Craig Settles’ Broadband Question of the Day (July 28)

Today’s question comes from Mike Mathiesen, CEO of America 2.0 Inc.

How would you get the participation of the local merchants?

Getting the merchants involved with your broadband initiative, and I’ll take the liberty to include the entire business community under the “merchant” umbrella, is at once simple and challenging. The simple part of the process is showing them as convincingly as possible that they stand to do well financially in the short- and long-term.

The challenging part typically is creating a detailed picture of what their broadband needs are, then tying these needs to the quantifiable benefits that will result from matching the right set of technologies and services to address those needs. As you take these steps, local businesses will become increasingly vested in the outcome of the project. This in turn means they’ll want to participate –i.e. buy services – on the network you build.

The devil, of course, is in the details. You have to segment your businesses. The downtown retailers, your largest companies, the business park, home-based businesses, etc. They all have unique needs. Retailers may want fiber for their computers that run the business, but also outdoor wireless for driving customers into their stores. Professional service companies may only want a network to connect doctors, accountants and so on, from their homes to the office.

Only through an effective needs assessment can you determine what it is that will make local business jump for joy about the network.  This is how you determine pricing structure since businesses will pay more for services tailored to their specific needs. And as these businesses complete the process, their executives become mini sales forces promoting the network to their colleagues.

So, your primary question should be, how do we get a representative group from our business community to the planning table? How do we structure the process to get maximum buy-in to the broadband plan?

After assessing needs, involve your businesses (including the home-based ones) in establishing the tech requirements and evaluating the provider or tech vendor solutions.

This question came from my Webinar “12 Steps to Move Broadband From Ideas to Execution.” Don’t miss my next Webinar, “Finding the Right Business Model for Community Broadband.”

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