What We Did in 2011

2011- Although this year was one of increased uncertainty for the rural telecommunications industry, with the FCC and federal administration threatening to cut major funding sources for rural areas under the guise of the national broadband plan, Direct Communications as a company made some important strides forward to strengthen our company, get to know our customers better, improve our products and offerings, focus on our core business, improve our competitive position in the markets we serve, and acquire new customers and revenue sources.

Overall, 2011 was a very good year. Our employees and customers should feel satisfied that we made a real difference to our communities, and improved the quality of life in both Idaho and Utah during 2011. That is what makes even us in marketing sleep well at night. We spent the year expanding our fiber network to the vital institutions that serve your rural areas, like schools, hospitals, city, county and government buildings, doctors offices, libraries, small and large businesses, and of course, homes.

We were excited to upgrade to a new Metaswitch IP switch in our Idaho exchanges at the beginning of 2011. Direct Communications was the first telephone company in Idaho to implement a digital switch several years ago, and this new central switch replacement was another pioneering step for rural telecommunications in Idaho. The old digital switch was about the size of an average living room. The new switch is about the size of a small refrigerator. A major difference between the new one and the old switch, besides the size, is that this new switch was developed to take advantage of all the newest computer and internet advancements, especially in its ability to use IP protocol, to talk to modern electronic devices, like IP phones, computers, routers etc., and work on a fiber-optic network.

In Eagle Mountain, the year began with some great publicity as Direct Communications was awarded the 2010 Best Business of the Year by the Lehi Area Chamber of Commerce. https://blog.directcom.com/2011/01/19/direct-communications-awarded-2010-best-business-of-the-year/

After months of work, Direct Communications was able to open the doors to their new building on Campus Drive in Eagle Mountain in February, 2011.  Our grand opening was held in June, along with the ribbon cutting of the Eagle Mountain City business incubator program. The building has 8 “pods”, or office spaces, approximately 2500 square feet each.  Direct Communications houses four of the pods, Beyond Limits Physical Therapy occupies one pod, and the Eagle Mountain City incubator program has the remaining three pods.  After working in two separate areas for several years, Direct Communications was excited to have all of their employees at the same location. This new building signified an important coming-of-age for DCCV, which began as a start-up in the back of the fire station in 2006, and employees who remember all sharing a single bathroom and welcoming potential customers into the reception desk/storage area/stairwell, now had their own offices with hardwood trim—an unimaginable prospect 5 years ago. For more about the building see https://blog.directcom.com/2011/10/06/opening-ceremony-ribbon-cutting-for-new-direct-communications-building-in-eagle-mountain/

We began the year with a couple of new marketing initiatives to launch our new brand position and tagline of “faster streaming broadband” and started by giving away a year-long subscription to Netflix streaming to all new customers in January.  In February we gave away a Roku streaming media player to all new customers. In June, to coincide with Pony Express Days, we gave away a Wii to new customers, which enjoyed about the same success as the Xbox promotion the previous year. All of these device promotions were designed to migrate customers towards using streaming video as their primary entertainment source, because that not only increases the value of our service from a commodity to a premium product, but also, once they become dependent on their internet for video entertainment purposes, they are less likely to leave us for a wireless competitor. We conducted a couple of customer survey during the year, and found that 66% of our customers said they now use online streaming of video as their primary entertainment source.

Also during June, we announced new broadband speeds for all customers, with our basic speed starting at 8Mb, and our fastest speed on offer at 50Mb. This was designed around our main wireless competitors offerings, which had 7Mb as their top speed. Of course, by the end of the year they had also reacted and changed their packages to advertise 10Mb and 15Mb speeds.

After Pony Express Days we cut back on advertising until December, when we rolled out a Kindle Fire as a Christmas promotion, which emphasized making the internet fun—since the new Kindle could stream video, download apps, and play games. The Kindle promotion ended up being our most successful marketing campaign of 2011.

However, 2011 was an interesting year for marketing with the maturing of social media, which for the first time played an important part of our integrated marketing, and opened up a new target media market for us, since we could now target internet customers living only in Eagle Mountain and we began spending a significant portion of our advertising budget on facebook ads.

We began the year by splitting our facebook page into two separate pages for Idaho and Utah, to make it more relevant to each market. Acquiring fans was a slow process at the beginning, until we learned the only sure way to entice more customers to our page was with online promotions for facebook fans.  By the end of the year we had over 500 customers on our Eagle Mountain facebook page. See  https://blog.directcom.com/2011/06/14/first-winner-of-directcom-monthly-facebook-fan-contest/

Navigating social media has been a learning experience for us, and we have had to learn to take the good with the bad, as dissatisfied customers also like to use our page as a soapbox, but overall it has been a positive experience for both the company and our customers, and we actually implemented a lot of good suggestions made by customers on our page through our interactions this year.

We presented on the subject of social media at the annual Utah Rural Telephone Association meeting in St George.

Direct Communications Cedar Valley’s own Brenda Caldwell was named Utah Valley’s Raddest Receptionist by Utah Valley BusinessQ Magazine, and Brenda was featured in the Fall 2011 issue. https://blog.directcom.com/2011/09/29/directcoms-brenda-caldwell-named-utah-valleys-raddest-receptionist/

Probably the most significant change during 2011 was the sale of our wireless internet business to Digis, after being one of the first companies in southeast Idaho to offer wireless internet over 10 years ago. We made this decision primarily so that we could focus on our core business of growing our fiber optic network in Idaho and developing our wired internet products, including our cable and DSL technologies. The money from the sale would be reinvested into developing the products where we have a real competitive advantage. Read more about this move at: https://blog.directcom.com/2011/10/13/sale-of-wireless-internet-assets-to-digis/

Immediately after the sale of our wireless business, we launched the ESPN3 broadband channel for our high-speed customers in Idaho. 2011 turned out to be a great year to offer ESPN3, because BYU football, which many of our customers follow, went independent largely on an ESPN broadcasting contract, and so most of their games were streamed online on ESPN3 this year.

We were also kept very busy working with the three major national mobile phone providers to construct and deliver fiber optic service to most of the cell phone towers in the area, so that they could offer more data to their customers, and we also now wholesale broadband service to most of our competitors in the area. Without an extensive fiber optic network, our rural economy in Idaho would not be able to function in this information age. As our tagline claims, we are the future of broadband technology in the rural areas we serve.

About Brigham Griffin
Brigham Griffin, Marketing Director for Direct Communications, resides in rural Idaho, and has been with the company since 2005. Brigham has an MBA from the University of Utah, and a BA in Communications from Brigham Young University. He also serves as an adjunct professor of marketing at Idaho State University.

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