Walking on the Wired Side in a Broadband World

Walk on the Wired Side: Marketing to Consumers in a Broadband World" is a catchy theme for this year's CTAM Summit. But the conference theme offers more than a proposition designed to draw operators, network programmers, tech companies and suppliers to the Summit; it suggests a dose of reality that reflects the astounding opportunities and the challenging times industry professionals and their businesses are facing.

The recent dot-com failures have shown that, to get ahead in a broadband world, today's businesses and industry professionals must do things differently. Successful companies will champion innovation and set up processes and environments that encourage and reward creativity. They will constantly reinvent themselves and change the rules. Tomorrow's survivors will manage in the gray areas, be partner oriented and, most importantly, be customer focused.

For too long, we've given lip service to being customer-oriented, when in actuality, most have been and remain focused on products or services. Customer-focused companies assess consumer needs and then develop products and provide services to address those needs — giving customers what they want, when they want it. They provide great experiences, from excellence in product design to excellence in customer service. These businesses react and adapt to the changing, multicultural, American consumer base by diversifying their work force, senior management and key decision-makers.

In a world of rapid, constant change, being customer-centered also means keeping up with consumer trends and perceptions, responding quickly to customers, getting new products to market fast and altering strategies on a dime. Successful businesses and industry professionals focus on adding value, hiring great people and achieving flawless execution.

Indeed, the high-tech fallout on Wall Street signifies that classic marketing basics — such as the "Four Ps," product,price,place,promotion
— still apply. A company must fulfill a need and build a business around a product with a fair price and a healthy return on investment. Today's competitive marketplace demands increased innovation and creativity when it comes to promotion, positioning and product placement.

Many consumers are starting to demand personalization. For these reasons and more, today's marketing environment dictates that the sellers' four Ps correspond to the customers' four Cs —customer solution
(product), customer cost
(price), convenience
(place) and communication
(promotion). Winning businesses in the broadband world will be those who can meet customer needs economically, conveniently, rationally and effectively.

Just like the classic marketing basics still apply, we don't see an end to the days of mass marketing — yet. The program networks are national brands that supply an excellent platform for national marketing. People still gather around their televisions for national, communal viewing experiences and marketers are still in a position to capitalize on this phenomenon. But segmentation and personalized opportunities will grow as new technology is deployed. Enhanced services will be effectively overlaid, enabling us to learn from the early trials.

Sophisticated marketers will do more niche marketing because of the continuing segmentation of audiences and the emergence of new market segments.

Over time, research, database segmentation techniques, and other technological advances, such as targeted Web sites and interactivity, will enable marketers to be more effective in reaching potential customers and staying connected to them after the sale is made.

Technology disappoints consumers when it isn't simple or convenient, and it doesn't make life easier. All of the marketing in the world won't convince a consumer to embrace a product that doesn't add value. Marketers need to understand what their consumers want and can master then work with the engineers to develop and launch products that fit the bill. Giving people a chance to try out new products, to determine for themselves the benefits of the technology, and to form their own emotional connection to a product or service will help consumers and industry professionals share our passion about the technology.

Ultimately, to advance in a broadband world, industry professionals have to understand more than the technology. There are many challenges associated with our journey in this new world. We have to move from a product and sales philosophy to a customer-oriented, value philosophy. To accomplish that, we'll have to take risks. That's where CTAM and the CTAM Summit come in. We'll invest three days at the Summit, and gain years of experience. The education, exposure to new products, the customer research, and the networking opportunities will ensure that the time spent in San Francisco helps us keep our balance while we "walk on the wired side."