Providers are ditching tech jargon to sell high-speed internet

FIBER CONNECT, ORLANDO, FL — Low take rates have broadband experts at Fiber Connect talking about how to pique subscriber interest in the high-speed internet capabilities now available across the country.

In a keynote address, Matt Collins, chief commercial officer at Calix, said that building higher speed tiers as many providers have been doing “is an incredible capex investment strategy," and "something we all have to do.” Although, in spite of providers racing against each other to provide the highest speed tiers on the market, he noted “subscribers don't understand speed."

When Calix researched over a million subscribers across the providers it works with, fewer than 20% opted for speed tiers at 1-gig or higher. According to Collins, take rates for 5-gig and 2-gig services are typically even lower.

The answer to that problem for many providers will be educating subscribers on the benefits of high-speed offerings in terms they’ll understand.

“The key is understanding the persona that you're going after,” Collins said, whether it’s someone who uses Zoom, someone who is gaming for hours each day or someone who streams a lot. “These are very, very different subscribers. And so the key is to help them understand how your service will make your experience better, not the technical capabilities of their services,” he added. 

Valerie Buckingham, CMO at Plume Design, Inc., said companies need to reconsider the way they talk about consumer experience, telling the keynote audience: “A significant percentage of consumers do not know the difference between software and hardware. So when we have a conversation about the difference between a magical, invisible thing called latency, which is different than the magical, invisible thing called the internet in your house that's got interference issues, consumers are just like, 'I don't know what you're talking about'.”

During a separate panel, Jonathan Restivo, chief development officer for Cityside Fiber, said in the nascent Californian provider’s efforts to gain subscribers, one of the biggest surprises is “how little prospective customers understand” the tech jargon that so often weighs down consumer messaging.  

Restivo said a learning experience for his team has been "that man, people really don't know what we're talking about. They hear fiber and think okay, I think that's better. But what does that actually mean?”

Cityside Fiber is pouring most of its marketing dollars into partnerships that help with community outreach, at local events and in advertisements, to have one-on-one conversations with prospective subscribers and give “real solid examples” of what a fiber connection can bring them.

"Using real world examples... I think is what we've tried to do," said Restivo. "But it's been it's been really surprising, the lack of understanding from the general public and so, for us, it's taking a step back, putting ourselves outside of the industry for a second and speaking directly to the consumer from their perspective."

Ting Internet Senior Field Marketing Manager Jennifer Lasky said her company is focused on community outreach as well, especially to give prospective and existing subscribers the opportunity to “ask the right questions.”

“Questions that they want to ask that they don't like to pick up the phone and try to call somebody and have to ask,” added Lasky. Instead, getting in front of subscribers means they can actually talk to the installer that will be coming to their home if they have questions “about this really specific landscape.”

Quanda Hunter, senior manager of product marketing at Calix, noted that a lot of subscribers aren't aware of “uploads, downloads, all of these very technical terms.”

Hunter said to resonate with subscribers, providers should hone in on their offering strategy. One change she suggested is instead of having three speed tier packages to offer, providers should consider personalized bundles.

Gaming bundles or streaming and work-from-home packages are a way to ensure that when subscribers consider their options “they can see themselves,” Hunter said. “It's meeting your subscribers where they are, we have to work with customers.”