Build Broadband and They Will Come? Not Without Great Marketing!

I’m pretty sure there were a lot of millionaires – well people whose broadband grant applications scored millions of dollars – who woke up one day after they got their award letter and said, “Crap! We promised to do what!?

Of course, there are a greater number of people who wake up many days whose applications didn’t win money from Uncle Sam or Cousin Google and say, “Crap! How the hell are we gonna do that!?

For both camps, I’ll repeat the slogan I printed on my first business cards while I was still at Cal Berkeley: The great thing about marketing is…it works.

Next week at Broadband Summit in Dallas I’m tackling the issue that should be on top of mind for everyone who’s responsible for their broadband project’s success: how do we generate enough revenues. It’s a panel discussion that shows you how good marketing drives networks’ financial viability.

You can produce a great paid subscriber base through effective partnership development during and after your network build out. I’ve been making this point since the first days of the broadband stimulus program. The right partners can underwrite much of your marketing costs to reach specific audiences, and then also ensure a high level of customer loyalty that minimizes subscriber churn. The trick, of course, is to aggressively pursue this tactic months before the network goes live.

At the summit I’m outlining the particulars of how you structure an effective partner-marketing effort. You also get a peak behind the curtain to Chattanooga’s effective campaign that’s shining a national spotlight on their EPB network courtesy of Danna Bailey, their Vice President of Corporate Communications. Giving us the co-op perspective is Tad Deriso, President and CEO Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative. MBC is another organization that is both aggressive and effective in their marketing efforts. Our moderator is Mark Ellison from powerhouse law firm Patton Boggs,

Private sector provider, nonprofit, co-op or local government. Regardless of who owns and operates it, you must market well if you want a financially viable broadband network. Even when the network’s primary objective is to be a public resource that serves the needs of the community’s various private, public and nonprofit constituents, there has to be revenue so the network covers operating costs and eventually pays off its debt.

If you’re on Twitter, you can get real-time highlights of this presentation and info from other presentations. You should follow me, and also, use hashtag #bbpsum11 for all of your Broadband Summit tweets.

If you want to get deep inside the marketing campaigns of two other community broadband networks, next week check out my feature story in this month’s issue of Broadband Communities (formerly Broadband Properties) Magazine. Marketing executives from the public utility-run broadband networks in Reedsburg, WI and Jackson, TN have been at this for years and they offer some valuable tips that expand on the Broadband Summit panel presentation.

  • You have to start building market awareness while the network is still in the preliminary planning stages.
  • A good survey during your needs assessment not only identifies the type of partnerships I’ll discuss in my presentation, but uncovers potentially hidden sources of network revenue and even network investors.
  • Marketing success doesn’t come from fancy slogans and pretty brochures. Customer service done right, fair contracts, knowing when to make faster speeds available and partnership choices are just some of factors people may overlook when planning their campaigns.
  • One marketing message won’t win the battle for subscribers. Your messages must be as multi-dimensional as your community or region the network will serve.
  • Incumbents will do their best to put small providers and community networks out of business. DON’T let competitors dictate your marketing message. You must own and control the message.

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