Created in 2007 by North Carolina towns Mooresville, Davidson, and Cornelius, MI-Connection was saddled with improving the image of a now community-owned cable company in the wake of Adelphia’s bankruptcy and Time Warner Cable’s brief ownership that followed. The task: to change the company’s image so that it could compete with the big guys.
“Some folks didn’t really buy into the fact that a cable company should be community-owned,” remembers director of marketing and sales Ellen Baker. “At the time we were doing regular marketing, as the big box people do, and we were getting customers and all, but we weren’t telling our story. So we felt like we needed to find our voice, and communicate that with our customers.”
The fruits of that pivotal moment continue to bear fruit today. Their advertising is a husband-and-wife team in town who relocated from San Francisco. At one of MI-Connection’s many community events, the pair pitched a new “straight talk campaign.” It was blunt and to the point. “If you owned a grocery store, wouldn’t you shop there?,” read one advertisement. “Does your cable company really need your business?,” read another. Or how about tapping into the population’s economic concerns, with “Can you create local jobs just by watching TV?”
“Our uniqueness is that we are local—our service is provided by local people,” says CEO Dave Auger. “We are owned by 3 towns that we service, and so we tell people you should buy local as opposed to sending your dollars to New York City, Denver, or wherever the competitors are headquartered.” Visit MI-Connection’s Facebook page. As you scroll down, you will see some of its creative marketing campaigns. They’re pretty engaging and even funny. One example: “Best when bought locally: Seafood, Produce, and Cable TV.”
MI-Connection also has created a consumer retention program using the straight talk campaign messaging, so as not to leave out the company’s current customers. One headline reads, “You’re going to need a lot more popcorn.” During the summer they give free VOD movies, one each week, to all of their customers. “It’s a retention method for during the summer when there’s a lot of disconnect. In all of the copy the message is the same,” Baker says.
Another key component of the turnaround was the company’s improvements to customer service. “We provide 2-hour windows for installation and service calls, which our customers love,” says Auger. “We answer the telephone promptly, and very rarely are people placed on hold. If there’s a service problem, we’ll address it that day or at a minimum next day.”
And of course being local means showing your face at community events. The company sponsors many local community activities, such as Race City Festival, and it has partnered with the Mooresville school district to provide free Internet to students who are at risk or need government assistance.
Pulling all this off is a challenge for a staff of 62. “But it’s something we have to do just because of the level of competition that’s in this market,” Auger said. And it’s paid off fantastically. In the last 5 years revenues are up 37 percent, EBITDA is up 132 percent and customers are up 30 percent, according to Auger. “It’s been explosive growth since initiating and implementing this campaign.” And while they prefer remaining under the radar, “it’s great that some of these successes are being acknowledged,” he said. Baker concurs, adding that “it’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been rewarding seeing the tides turn.”
Moving forward, the team will continue their straight talk messaging. “We just want to keep building on it, and try to convey the message and take it to another level,” Baker says. “We are increasing Internet speeds for our customers without increasing rates. We’re just going to keep our nose to the grindstone and get feedback from our consumers and see where it takes us.”