Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative (CVEC) Manager of Marketing and Member Services Jon Cullimore was challenged in 2020 to develop and launch marketing for his co-op’s broadband service.
He wanted members to understand the impact broadband will have on streaming services, online video game platforms, telemedicine, distance learning, and a host of other data-intensive applications. The co-op, based in Talladega, Alabama, didn’t have to look far for the perfect backdrop: Talladega Superspeedway.
“Broadband service is all about speed,” Jon says.
“We knew we needed to make sure that message was clear when we launched, to help build the excitement of what we are doing as well as help fend off existing competitors trying to lock our future customers into long-term contracts,” Jon explains.
CVEC began marketing efforts in November 2020. The program launched at the speedway on March 31, 2021. The first customers will connect in September.
Jon partnered with WordSouth Account Manager Jennifer Urban to design a logo and tagline, “Faster Broadband + Better Service.” Then the team developed branding materials and website content, and planned the speedway launch. The launch was live-streamed on Facebook, and billboards went up the next day.
For race day, the team created:
- Launch video
- Branded hats for members and staff shirts
- Swag bags
“Everyone got a speeding ticket when they left,” Jenn says. “It was a lot of fun.”
Switching Marketing Gears
Before hitting the track, Jon and his team had to switch gears, adapting electric utility marketing experience into targeted tactics to compete for broadband customers.
“We realized pretty early on that we needed to understand what’s important to those prospective customers,” Jon explains. Based on member questions, four marketing points drive customer choice. “It really comes down to speed, price, reliability, and service.”
To position Coosa Valley Technologies ahead of the pack, the utility worked with WordSouth to develop messaging on the core choice drivers.
- Speed: Coosa Valley Technologies offers the fastest speeds of any provider in the area.
- Service: As an electric co-op, the utility always focuses on reliability and service.
- Cost: Pricing will be competitive and consistent, avoiding low introductory pricing that rises after 1 or 2 years.
To build on the co-op’s existing reputation for reliability and service, the team developed a brand connecting the broadband subsidiary to CVEC.
“Ensuring a strong connection helps communicate that service and reliability are going to be important to Coosa Valley Technologies,” Jon says. “We used ‘Coosa Valley’ in the name, working with WordSouth to develop a logo that was in keeping with the look of the CVEC logo and our other subsidiary, Coosa Valley Propane. Then we let the tagline say in a clear and simple way what the brand was going to focus on — ‘Faster Broadband + Better Service.’”
Although messaging differs between the brands, CVEC’s team will use coordinated communication plans to support broadband subscriptions.
“We are addressing our broadband communications plan from two directions,” Jon explains. “While Coosa Valley Technologies will have a stand-alone marketing and communications plan, CVEC’s communications plan will work to support Coosa Valley Technologies. The primary focus of that support will be to maintain the connection the two companies share.”
To support Coosa Valley Technologies, the utility dedicates two pages for broadband content each month in Alabama Living, the monthly statewide magazine used by CVEC to deliver member news and build community. The three issues after the launch highlight broadband benefits, the buildout phases, and construction updates.
- CVEC April 2021 (PDF) | How will you use your fiber connection?
- CVEC May 2021 (PDF) | Broadband buildout
- CVEC June 2021 (PDF) | The economic benefits of broadband
WordSouth Photographer Melissa Gaines took pictures of broadband construction for the magazine, and the team continually creates fresh social media content to keep customers aware of broadband benefits.
“Facebook is king of social media — that’s where a lot of people go, so you definitely need a plan for social content,” Jenn advises. “But you can’t only rely on social media to get your message out, you need a multichannel approach. You have a diverse membership. A lot of folks may not have access to social media. Direct mail is helpful. Expect a lot of phone calls. You need to be out in the community where members can see you and ask questions.”
Staff Pit Stops
A lot of work took place behind the scenes, long before the first customer crossed the “finish line” to join Coosa Valley Technologies. WordSouth’s Director of Strategy and Training Carrie Huckeby helped train co-op staff who will interact with broadband customers.
“We also put together different types of talking points that would help them understand what it is we are doing and what the benefits will be,” Jon says.
Regular emails kept staff aware of how the program was developing.
One big piece of news was kept under wraps until everyone reached the racetrack: the name.
“We wanted the launch to have the biggest impact possible,” Jon says. “We felt any leaks of the name or logo would’ve stolen from the moment we were trying to create with the launch. It was all about maintaining the mystery and building excitement about what we were going to be unveiling.”
By unveiling the name and logo for the broadband program to members and staff simultaneously, the co-op hoped to slingshot the program ahead of the competition.
“Members knew broadband was coming,” Jenn says. “We sent an email saying, ‘We hear you, we know you voted for this, stay tuned for an announcement.’ But we kept the name and logo a surprise until the event.”
Are you gearing up for your own broadband program launch?
“The sooner you can start planning the better,” Jenn advises. “There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Jon and Jenn offer the following “countdown” strategy for anyone in the broadband marketing driver’s seat:
- Connect your brands. Build on a utility’s local reputation for reliable service and concern for community. Ensure a broadband subsidiary can be easily connected with the parent utility.
- Plan ahead. The sooner you can start planning your launch, the better.
- Keep the message simple. Focus on what’s important and reinforce it. Keeping your message simple helps future customers be advocates for the new business.
- Venues matter. Choose a location that will help drive home the message you are trying to communicate with the launch.
- Limit speakers. Many people (board members, utility management, local community leaders) may want to talk at your launch. Limit the number of speakers to no more than four or five. Less is better.
- Pick a leader. An emcee leads a launch, introducing people involved with the project, board members, and dignitaries, and moves the event forward between speakers.
- Write a script. A script helps the emcee reinforce the message each speaker will deliver and reinforces the reason for having the event in the first place.
- Prep staff and technology. Schedule plenty of staff to be on hand to help, and clearly communicate roles and expectations. Test all technology (sound, video, presentations, etc.) and make sure staff are on-site who can operate the equipment and troubleshoot.
- Create multichannel content. Livestreaming a launch and posting timelines to Facebook works well, but not everyone can get online easily. Avoid relying on one way to share your message. Instead, use a multichannel approach with magazine content, direct mail, billboards, and a presence at community events.
Broadband Marketing Guide
Our broadband marketing guide, What to Expect When You’re Connecting, is based on experience WordSouth gained as a communications partner in more than 30 fiber build-outs. A variety of marketing materials for both internal and external audiences are showcased to spark ideas.
Download the guide and let us know how we can support your broadband experience!