Calling All Small Businesses
Bill Rogers, creative director with direct marketing services provider Harte-Hanks, adds, "Heavy competition from other telecoms, especially offers to bundle phone services for a low combined rate, was certainly an impetus" for the new customer campaign redesign. Harte-Hanks' working relationship with BellSouth stretches back 14 years. It partners with BellSouth on the creative development and production of the new customer initiative as well as the company's retention and reacquisition programs. It also manages the database for the marketer's Small Business Services.
Developed over the past year, and phased in beginning in January 2005, the new customer program aims to lay the groundwork for a positive relationship between BellSouth and its small business customers. "We began to rebuild our program because we realized new customers are the lifeblood of our operation," says Marci Raible, senior director for small business advertising. "It's a critical time. For us, if somebody comes into the relationship with BellSouth, we want to make sure that it's a smooth transition. This program is really designed to build that partnership. It's about listening and understanding our customers and creating a program that eases them into BellSouth."
Although still in the process of rollout, early indicators point to this redesigned program's success, according to BellSouth. The company has seen a reduction in churn, an increase in revenue and sales, as well as higher response rates following the launch of the new customer program. This is the latest BellSouth initiative to help grow its return on investment in direct mail campaigns, which has doubled over the past five years.
Although successful, the previous new customer program—now in the process of being phased out—was more focused on BellSouth.
"We knew that we had siloed communications streams that were coming from how BellSouth was organized versus how the customer saw us," Raible says. Even though that first touch also was about welcoming the customer, "it was very offer-driven, as opposed to answering needs," she explains. Touchpoints, according to BellSouth, were more regulatory and budget-driven, rather than customer-driven. "The relationship aspect and the educational aspect were lacking in the older package," Raible says.