CTAM Summit 2009: Panelists Offer Tips For B2B Marketing

First Rule: Don't be too cheap

Click here for more CTAM Summit 2009 coverage

A panel of cable business services marketers offered tips on how to market cable business services at a CTAM Summit panel here Monday, adding that while promotional offers will get some customers in the door, discounting too heavily can have an unintended effect.

"Offers are the hook," said Suddenlink Communications vice president of marketing Beverly Gambell. She added that cable companies would be smart to use the current state of the economy to their advantage.

"Businesses are looking for ways to save money," Gambell said. "Offers should be simple, complete and aligned across various sales channels."

But she said there is a fine line to tread when making promotional offers to the business community. Promotions should offer a demonstrable savings but going too extreme could be disaster.

"If you're too cheap, they might think you don't have a reliable product," Gambell said. Later, she added that pricing discounts of 10% to 20% have been successful in getting small businesses to switch from their business provider, but when they hit 30% to 40% the take rates stopped and even declined in some cases.

Cablevision Systems vice president of commercial markets Stephanie Anderson said that keeping the marketing message simple also is a key factor to success. She noted that is especially true for small businesses, which tend to stick with a provider if the service is working. She estimated that the average small business churn for a PBX phone system is 84 months, meaning that customers won't switch unless the offer is extremely compelling.

Anderson said that Cablevision has kept it simple in its print and TV ads - a print campaign that simply spells out how much the service costs ("$59.90 for voice and data, That's It") has resonated with customers, as have TV spots that specifically compare the Optimum business package with Verizon Communications.

Cablevision put those spots on broadcast TV in New York and New Jersey to counter a Verizon campaign that was specifically targeting Cablevision customers. She said the company's decision to put the spots - which pointed out hidden charges and inferior service from the RBOC - on broadcast TV also had a halo effect on residential customers.

"People thought if they [Verizon] are doing that on the business side, what are they doing on the residential side?" Anderson said.

Cox Business director of commercial marketing strategy Murray Goldstein said calling out the RBOC competitor specifically in your marketing materials is tricky. On one hand, RBOCs have definitely taken notice of the cable business competitive threat and are addressing it.

"There is nothing better than when your competitor is calling you out; it's free publicity," Goldstein said adding that any response has to be "straight forward, factual" and be careful not to "alienate the people you're trying to focus on in the first place."

To that extent, Comcast Business vice president of marketing Corey Eng said his company limits directly naming competitors to its direct mail pieces.

"We'd rather attack their technology," Eng said.