2014 Pony Express Days Report

The happiest week of the year for our marketing department, Pony Express Days, is over once again. Like previous years, Directcom was a festival sponsor, and we reflected that we have been a corporate sponsor each year for over 10 years now. Although the City celebration was scaled back this year, this was Directcom’s biggest year ever as far as the parade was concerned, and we decided to try direct most of our advertising budget towards throwing out lots of free candy and toys along the parade route, and try give the folks something to remember. We threw out literally thousands of t-shirts, frisbees, and wristbands, and two new items this year: megaphones for the girls, and foam swords for the boys.

We began the week with a customer focus group, which we find is always a good way to set the mood for Pony Express Days. This year we invited customers who were subscribing to symmetrical speeds, and the very highest speeds, 100Mb and 50Mb, to attend our session, so we could find out more about what makes people choose premium speeds, and how they felt we were doing in meeting the needs of super users in Eagle Mountain. They provided us with some good insights, suggestions and discussion, and we provided them with dinner and some insider information into our future plans. Thank-you again to the customers who took the time to attend this session.

Directcom Ape throws out bananas to the crowd.

One of the most fascinating parts of this parade for us is how much people love to catch bananas from our Directcom ape (which started as a parody of 2001 Space Odyssey and represents the evolution of broadband to fiber technology.) This ape throwing bananas tradition began back in 2009 quite by accident, when he threw out an extra banana he was eating that year  just for fun, and the crowd went wild. Every year since then, we have thrown out more and more bananas, and this year our ape distributed three very large boxes during the parade. At the booth this year we had a couple of extra bananas sitting on the desk, and a father and daughter came by to ask a question, and we offered the child a banana. She was not interested in the healthy alternative to the candy on our desk until Diane (our office manager) told her that our parade monkey had actually touched these very bananas, and suddenly her face lit up and she eagerly snatched up the banana and began peeling it. Thanks to Troy for being the ape again–it is not a job for the faint-hearted–it can get very hot in that costume under the blazing desert sun, especially while dancing and surfing on top of a van and throwing out hundreds of bananas.

Ben Hayes, Outside Sale Exec for Directcom, presents a Smart TV to Nathan and Sarah Jensen- winners of this year’s Pony Express Days customer giveaway. They will be streaming video in style. –At Nolan Park in Eagle Mountain

Each year we hold a drawing for current customers, and give away a TV at the end of the week. This year the prize was a 40″ Vizio Smart TV, which fits well with our brand position of Faster Streaming Broadband. We try to encourage our customers to stream and watch as much online video as possible, because we have noticed that the more people use their internet for entertainment purposes, the more likely they are to be Direct Communications customers, because we are the only provider in Eagle Mountain that does not limit the amount of data (i.e. streaming movies) people can use each month. In the past we have done paper tickets, but this year we required an online entry, which was hopefully more convenient for both us and our customers.

Direct Communications employees and family at the Pony Express Days 5K run.

Each year we pay for several of our employees and their families to run in the 5K on Saturday morning. Kip Wilson, our General Manager, is a running enthusiast, and came away this year with a great idea for how to spice up the race in 2015. He is thinking about introducing an incentive like: every customer who finishes in front of him in the 5K next year will receive a free month of internet service. Would that give you extra motivation during your run?

Ben Hayes ready to answer questions at our booth in Nolan Park.

This was a relatively quiet year for us at the booth in the park, because we were not running any large sales promos like we have sometimes done in years past. (Some of you may have received a free Xbox or Wii simply for signing up back in the day.)  These days, new fiber is the message people want to hear, and rather than invest in sales promotions, we plough all available resources into upgrading copper lines to fiber. By far the most common question people asked at the booth was: “When is Fiber coming to my neighborhood?” We were even pleased to see a competitor with a booth set up just down the aisle from us, because it was clear evidence that contrary to some complaints, there is no internet monopoly in Eagle Mountain.

Superheros and super villains join Directcom for the parade. We say you can unleash your online superpowers with fiber optic broadband.

Thanks again to our superhero friend Tim who makes his own amazing costumes and marches in the parade each year with us. We would like to thank the City for again hosting this great event, and also say good job to the new event Coordinator at the City, Chasity Glenn, and her intern, Tia Trusty, who took good care of the sponsors and made sure everything went smoothly. We enjoyed being near the front of the parade. As a small local business, we must admit we enjoyed the scaled-back version of Pony Express Days–it was more like the old days, with mainly just local businesses as sponsors, locals attending, and a real small-town feel.

See you all again next year during Pony Express Days, and please comment below if you have any suggestions on how Directcom can make next year’s event even better.

Pony Express Days Smart TV Winner Announced

Paul Talbot-TV prize winner, with Ben Hayes, Directcom account manager.

Paul Talbot-TV prize winner, with Ben Hayes, Directcom account manager.

Paul Talbot of Eagle Mountain, Utah, was the winner of the 2013 Direct Communications Pony Express Day Smart TV giveaway. Each year we give away an internet-enabled, or “Smart” TV to a current customer in Eagle Mountain, as part of our Pony Express Day celebrations. The winner is drawn on Saturday afternoon at our booth at Nolan Park. Thank you to everyone who participated  this year–perhaps next year will be your lucky year. We wish we could give a smart TV away to every one of our customers, to encourage all of our customers to stream as much video as humanly possible, because we find that the more our customers stream video, the more they like and value their Direct Communications service.

Why? We don’t cap your service. This is vital for really being able to enjoy HD streaming. All of our wireless competitors are now capping data, or throttling speeds if their customers download too much. Even Comcast is capping data,[i]  which is wonderful news for independents like us, because we can claim to be the only provider to offer unlimited data with no caps.

Online video has become more prevalent, more sophisticated and more bandwidth-intensive.  In 2012, video streaming sales surpassed hard media sales for the first time ever.[1] Netflix says on their website that HD video will use 2.3 GB per hour. A Verizon 4G customer could use up their monthly data allotment on a single HD movie. Netflix is beginning to roll out 3D streaming video and SuperHD quality, and soon we will be streaming Ulta HD, which has four times the resolution of current HD. Ultimately, in a future of video streaming, we as fiber providers with unlimited bandwidth are going to become the entertainment partner in your home.

Two years ago, a customer poll showed that two-thirds of our customers were streaming online video, after several years of us giving away streaming devices like Xbox’s, Wiis, Rokus, Apple TVs, Kindle Fires, or free year-long subscriptions to Netflix with our broadband service. We recently completed our 2013 annual customer satisfaction survey, and found that almost 99% of our customers are now streaming video, with 75.5% reporting that they are streaming video every day. This is good news for our customers, who are saving money on entertainment every month by using their broadband connection to access video rather than paying for satellite, and getting better-quality entertainment on demand, and it is good news for us as a service provider. So go ahead–watch as much as you want to–we won’t cap you.

[1]  IHS Screen Digest Broadband Media Market Insight report

What We Did This Weekend: 2011 Pony Express Days Report

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The 2011 edition of Pony Express Days is now over for our tireless employees involved in marketing, but the real work is just beginning for our techs, who have a whole lot of new installs to take care of in the next couple of weeks. After months of preparation, and a mailing blitz, our first night of involvement in the city’s annual festival started  Fri May 27 with the opening night of the PRCA Rodeo, where, as an official sponsor, we set up display booth with banners advertising our big announcement for this year, which was our new 50Mb speeds, and the free Wii for new subscribers. On Thursday afternoon we set up a table with brochures and flyers at the rodeo ground, strapped everything down with packaging tape, and hoped the wind would be kind to us this year.

Diane Bradshaw presents an Xbox 360 to Kloe Thompson, the lucky winner of the 2011 calf scramble.

On May 30 – Monday, was the Final Night of the PRCA Rodeo, and our big event, because we were the sponsor of the calf scramble. Diane Bradshaw, our office manager, gave free t-shirts to all the kids who participated, and a free Xbox to Kloe Thompson,  the lucky winner of the calf scramble.

On Tuesday, as part of our effort to keep in touch with our business customer’s needs, we hosted a 1-hour focus group to learn from them how we could improve our services and products for local businesses at our new office conference room. We gave local business owners $20 plus lunch to hear their opinions. We asked them questions like:

  • What can we do as the local broadband provider to make Eagle Mountain a more attractive destination for business development?
  • How much speed do you think you will need in the next couple of years?
  • Do you employ a dedicated I.T. person?

That evening at 6pm we held a similar focus group for current residential customers to try gauge how we were doing as a company, and were pleased to hear from them how far they thought we had progressed as a company over the past few years. We have been hosting these focus groups for several years, and each year the complaints have decreased, and this year our customers had nothing but compliments to share, even though we tried to stress that we really wanted them how we could improve. One important piece of feedback we did get was that even though we were being involved in the community, donating to schools and athletic teams, the general public was not getting this news, and they explained how they get information from the school newsletters, PTA groups, Crossroads Journal and so forth. Also, we learned that not a lot of them use our homepage after they had got the information they needed to make the switch to us, so we need to use that space purely for advertising for potential customers.

On Wednesday evening we held a focus group for residents who were not our customers to try find out why they would use a different ISP, and what we could do to be more attractive to them, and received a lot of good market information that we will be using to improve our products. An encouraging nugget from that session was that the participants said that even though they may not be using our service, everything they had heard from their neighbors about our company was positive, and they had heard we had great customer service, and that we always treated people well, even in billing disputes. We will continue to hold these focus groups, so if you want to participate next year, contact Ben Hayes at 801 789 2808.

Ben Hayes at our 2011 pony express days vendor booth

On Thursday afternoon we set up our vendor booth at park, and kept that open till 10pm each night till the end of the celebrations on Saturday night. Our promo this year was the free Wii for new subscribers, plus the 50Mb broadband speeds, so we tried to decorate the booth with advertisement that would leave nobody in doubt as to what we were offering. We had a new Wii hooked up to the TV that we were giving away as a prize, and had the Wii playing Netflix, so that people passing by could see the streaming broadband in action. The booth seemed not quite as busy as last year with new sign-ups, but I did notice that most people seemed to know exactly who we are now, if they were from Eagle Mountain—nobody was confusing us with DirecTV, and we didn’t get any customers stopping by to complain like they used to several years ago at the fair. So, our network improvements are definitely being effective

On Friday morning we sponsored a team at the Special Needs Charity Golf Tournament at The Ranches Golf Club, the proceeds of which went to the EM City Exceptional Kids Club (special needs activities program). Our company team managed a score of 4 under par, which was a way off the winning 13 under par, but any day that I get to play golf for work is a fantastic morning at the office for me. Our General Manager, Kip Wilson, is really a good golfer with real golf shoes and everything, and a 330-yard drive.

Hopefully they showed our pre-show ad at the Movie in the Park that Friday night at the Silverlake Amphitheater.

On Saturday morning we sponsored several of our employees and their spouses at the 5K and Kids’ Fun Run—you would have noticed them wearing our “faster steaming broadband” t-shirts.

Soon after the 5k was time for the main even we had all been planning for—the Grand Parade. Each year this event seems to get longer, and this year was no exception. We lined up in our spot, #76 this year, at 9am; the parade started at 10am, and we didn’t pull into the parking lot at the end of the parade until after 12pm. During the parade we gave out several hundred dollars worth of candy, plus over 200 frisbees, 300 t-shirts, and 100 bananas. The bananas came about kind of by sheer coincidence –last year Troy, our gorilla man, threw out some bananas his mom had given him into the crowd because he didn’t want to eat them, and people went crazy for those bananas from the monkey. We took note, and this year came prepared and had the ape throwing bananas from the roof of the truck on purpose, and they were probably the most popular item we gave away. Strange but true—marketing is truly a fun occupation. We try to ration the kids in the trucks to space out the Frisbees and t-shirts, and wish we had enough to give everybody on the sidelines something, but unfortunately just don’t have the budget to that that—hopefully you all came away with a good haul from all the local businesses that were represented at the parade.

The thing that most people will probably be talking about was the visit from Master Chief from Halo, who decided he wanted to walk along with our parade float because he was a Direct Communications customer himself. This was a perfect fit for our brand, because any self-respecting gamer would obviously want our fiber optic service with its low latency and ridiculously-fast upload and download speeds. So many kids wanted to come up and high-five Master Chief, that it really slowed down our vehicles’ progress, and we were soon far behind the rest of the parade—we couldn’t see the next float down the road. Anyway, he was fantastic, a real trooper, made a lot of little and not-so-little boy’s days, and hopefully enjoyed himself in Eagle Mountain that day. We really enjoyed having him join us. We need more passionate people like that in the world.

After the parade it was back to the booth, where we had a lot of people switching from wireless services to our fiber-optic broadband, and we listened to their stories of terrible service on wireless with great sympathy, and welcomed them to our better network with open arms, and sent them away happy with a free Wii for their troubles. This is a very satisfying moment for anybody in sales or marketing—when you see somebody making a positive change their lives, something that you know is going to make a real difference to their family and quality of life. We generally save them money, give them faster broadband, a more reliable service, and open up a whole new world of streaming video to them. All it takes is them discovering the truth about how internet service works, and giving them an incentive to make the switch, because it is hard work to switch service providers. Most people we talk to are willing to make the switch right there on the spot at the booth, which is a huge contrast to several years ago, when nobody really knew who we were.

Kip Wilson presents JASON & JENNIE OMER with their new TV during Pony Express Days 2011.

A little after 3pm on Saturday afternoon we held the drawing for our smart TV with VIZIO INTERNET APPS. This drawing was open to current customers in our Eagle Mountain Utah exchange area only. This TV with WiFi built in is the future of video. No wires, no bulky receivers, set-top boxes or media players–streaming access is built right into the TV, and you just hang it on any wall and start watching online video over your home internet network. Kip drew out the ticket, we checked our billing records to make sure the winner was a current customer in good standing, and called them up to pick up their prize at the booth. They showed up within a few minutes, we checked their ID, took a picture, and we posted the announcement of the winner of the TV to our Facebook page literally within a minute of the little ceremony. Congratulations again to JASON & JENNIE OMER, winners of our smart TV drawing for Pony Express Days 2011.

During the first two days of Pony Express Days we signed up over 50 new customers, talked to hundreds of people one-on-one, and hopefully were seen out there being involved in the community by just about everybody in Eagle Mountain, so overall I would consider this year’s event another success.

Thank you letter from Eagle Mountain City expressing appreciation for our sponsorship of Pony Express Days.