Reprinted from Strategies newsletter, 3rd Quarter © July 2002 by First Marketing, 3300 Gateway Drive, Pompano Beach, FL 33069.

Decentralized cable company benefits from centralized communications program

What’s working for Charter Communications

1998 - Charter Communications, one of the nation’s largest cable companies, is on the verge of an aggressive acquisition plan. It needs a consistent way to communicate a cohesive brand to 2 million customers.

2002 - After countless acquisitions, and four years of an ongoing communications program with First Marketing, Charter has grown to 7 million customers.

“The newsletter has unquestionably built loyalty and improved customer retention,” says Stephanie Alu, Marketing Coordinator, First Marketing’s contact at Charter. “We couldn’t have achieved our growth goals without it.” Annual independent surveys of Charter customers continue to demonstrate that readers consider the newsletters informative, understandable and easy to read. “These factors were especially important when we rolled out our new digital technology a couple of years ago,” Alu says.

Making it easy for the client

Until recently, the newsletter included a separate version for each geographic region. This allowed regional systems to customize messages for their local customers. But with the acquisitions of local cable systems, the number of customized versions grew from 16 to 60. With that huge increase, Charter requested a cost-effective way to produce such a large number of local versions.

First Marketing’s Charter account team came up with a solution. “Now, each system gets a choice of article topic combinations for the front page,” says Melanie Schiro, First Marketing’s Account Manager for Charter. “Systems that choose the same topics share one version. With the new arrangement, we have reduced the number of versions to 33. And each system still has the option to customize some content.”

Centralizing the process

Thanks to the new Charter Retention Management Site, developed and maintained by First Marketing, Charter contacts can now choose topics online. “Contacts can also set up their quantities and insert information, and approve copy and art online,” Schiro says. “They can view the production schedule, updated contact list, and an archive of past issues.”

“Everyone at Charter feels the new site makes coordinating this enormous program extremely trouble-free,” Alu says. “It’s a central place for people to go, and allows them to visualize the entire process.”

Custom e-mail program

In February, First Marketing launched a customized, opt-in e-mail program for 750,000 Charter customers. “Charter’s existing database and First Marketing’s technology were the perfect marriage,” says First Marketing’s Digital Media Team Manager Chris Harris. “With e-mail addresses and customer profiles, Charter is now able to communicate with each customer individually, once a month.” Parents, for example, might receive their e-mail with a link to an online calendar that includes programming for The Disney Channel.

“First Marketing designed the entire program,” Alu says. “They did the programming, figured out who would receive what and wrote the content.” Thirty-three version newsletters; online management systems; e-mail campaigns. First Marketing can do the same for you.

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