Expanding into new territory doesn’t just require a technical plan for building out your infrastructure. It also requires a communications plan to build brand awareness with a new audience, drive interest and generate sales.
Just like your technical plan for the rollout, your communications plan will need to be customized specifically for your new territory. An effective marketing strategy will consider your audience and competition and employ strategic marketing messages.
Know Your New Audience
The first step in any marketing effort should always be to research your target audience. Even if you’re delivering the same service just one county over, it’s important to know what’s unique about your new market and how you can connect with them.
Take West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative (WK&T) in Mayfield, Kentucky, for example. When the city of Martin, Tennessee, invited WK&T to bring smart water meters to the city, the co-op also had the opportunity to expand their fiber network into new territory.
Before creating a marketing strategy, WordSouth worked with the co-op to research their new audience. The local schools, employment statistics, demographics, housing trends and more should all influence an effective marketing strategy. For example, because Martin is home to The University of Tennessee Martin, WordSouth helped WK&T form strategic partnerships with the university and advertise accordingly.
Once customer research was conducted, WordSouth was able to outline a strategic marketing plan for each phase of the expansion and create collateral such as:
- Informational events
- Series of direct mail pieces to target the specific streets slated to get fiber
- Radio spots and newspaper ads to increase brand awareness
- Member magazine feature stories to highlight local partnerships
- Press releases to announce partnerships, grants, and other developments
- WK&T-branded chairs and other collateral at Martin’s annual soybean festival
Each piece was strategically designed to engage the new target audience. As a result, WK&T was able to generate interest and sales in their new territory.
Within a few years, WK&T was able to begin three more expansions, this time into Weakley and Henry counties in Tennessee and Graves County, Kentucky. With each expansion, WordSouth took a proven approach for marketing a rollout, then customized it to fit the new market based on audience research. In each case, customer research was the critical first step in reaching new territories.
When you develop fresh marketing collateral and strategies to engage and convert each new audience, your co-op can expand again and again — always with full confidence that your new market will notice your brand, understand your offer and buy your services.
Know Your Competitors
As you conduct research on your new audience, it’s also important to conduct research on your new competitors. What offers do they advertise? What do their contracts entail? What available speeds do they provide and at what prices? How does their customer service team handle trouble calls? When you’re not the ILEC in a new territory, these questions will be crucial in understanding your market and communicating accordingly.
When Sandhill Telephone Cooperative in Jefferson, South Carolina, had the opportunity to expand into the community of Cheraw and parts of Marlboro and Darlington counties, they knew some well-known, global companies already had a large customer base there. They’d need a research-driven, strategic plan in order to compete.
Sandhill partnered with WordSouth to analyze existing service providers before creating a marketing plan. That analysis empowered Sandhill to create clear, simple, competitive offers designed specifically for their new market.
WordSouth was there to help them execute that plan:
- Developing MySandHill.com
- Creating a new bi-monthly magazine to introduce Sandhill to potential customers in the new territory
- Partnering with local nonprofits and community organizations to build brand awareness and trust
- Sending direct mail pieces to build awareness, measure interest and generate sales
- Designing and posting social media graphics
- Equipping technicians with door hangers to leave on prospects’ doors
- Designing ads for local magazines and newspapers
- Compiling a business services portfolio with product sheets for each business service
- Creating brochures and other sales aids for their team
- Creating pocket reference cards for technicians in the field
As a result, Sandhill was able to effectively compete against global brands and establish a strong presence in the new territory.
When you conduct a competitive analysis in a new territory, remember: This doesn’t mean you need to call out your competitors explicitly in your advertising. Instead, identify gaps in competitors’ marketing or services and step in to fill those gaps with clear messaging. Then, like Sandhill, you can go up against global brands with confidence that you can succeed in your new territory.
Sell What Your Fiber Network Does — Not What It Is
Once you analyze your new customer base and competitors, it’s time to craft marketing messages that resonate. As you do, resist the temptation to depend on the word “fiber” to sell for you. Instead, focus on the benefits fiber can provide to your customers.
North Central Telephone Cooperative (NCTC) serves part of Middle Tennessee and south-central Kentucky. When they decided to expand into Warren County, Kentucky, they turned to their longtime communications partner, WordSouth, for a marketing strategy.
First, NCTC was able to use CrowdFiber to identify areas of high interest where they should focus their marketing efforts. WordSouth’s responsibility was to build on that interest and generate sales. To do that, the marketing messages were focused on the lifestyle fiber enables. With NCTC’s fiber service, customers can earn a college degree online, work from home, stream on multiple devices without issue and reliably conduct business without internet downtime.
With this compelling messaging, WordSouth produced collateral such as:
- Informational pamphlets for local realtors
- Direct mail campaigns to target prospects
- A CrowdFiber website to measure interest
- Newsletters to educate prospects throughout the construction process
- Digital collateral to build brand awareness online
- Special signage outside of apartment communities getting the new fiber service
WordSouth also empowered NCTC to form strategic partnerships with realtors, contractors, and apartment complexes to put on events for their target audience. Each event required fresh marketing collateral and a portable office with tablets that made it easy to register interest or sign up on the spot. After just one of those events, NCTC signed up 145 new customers in a single night!
NCTC was able to have great success in new territories because they didn’t rely on the word “fiber” to do the selling for them. Instead, they focused on the real-life problems their fiber service could solve for customers and spoke to those benefits in their marketing. The result? Compelling messages that resonated with prospects and maximized their ROI in the new territory.
If your co-op is expanding into new territory, don’t assume that what worked in your existing market will work again. Instead, protect your investment by generating fresh collateral and a customized strategy based on your new market’s audience and competitors. Then, create compelling messages that will resonate with the pain points your prospects care most about.
WordSouth has a long history of partnering with co-ops throughout the various phases of expansion. Contact us today to discuss your needs and ensure your success during every phase of your rollout — and beyond.
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