Ever since Hong Kong Broadband Network refocused its marketing strategy heavily to online marketing in January, it has more than tripled its orders for broadband services with around 30 campaigns.
“That tells me there was pent-up demand in the market where customers wanted online promotions for a long time,”said Selina Chong, chief marketing officer and co-owner of HKBN.
Chong sees her company’s shift towards digital marketing as one that breaks with the conventions of the broadband industry where street promoters and telephone hotline services rule.
“Traditionally, customers like to have someone to talk to and answer all their questions, such as, ‘What’s the difference between 500 and 1000MB?’ she said.
Chong added, “That was history. Now the times have changed. Our lives revolve around the online world, for example, we watch TV online on our tablets. The proliferation of e-commerce platforms such as Taobao and eBay has changed the shopping habits of Hong Kongers.”
“We see that companies which aren’t selling broadband are selling their products online too. If you can buy, say, a mango online, then why not broadband? The times have changed so shouldn’t we change to keep up with it?”
This year, the company is spending 60% more on online marketing compared to 2013. Early this year, it doubled the headcount of its online marketing team to 20 staff members.
For Chong, the results of emphasizing digital in HKBN’s marketing strategy has garnered a better response than it had anticipated.
“People think that if you talk to a real person on the street, you can bargain for a cheaper price for your broadband plan. So we thought, ‘What if people still prefer talking to a promoter on the street even after we launch our online campaigns?’ she said.
“We made sure we kept the pricing of our broadband plans the same for online and the street, and during promotions, the broadband plans are cheaper online than on the street.”
Her team also discovered that the teams on the street did not necessarily encounter less business because online promotions got people going to the street booths to look into options for non-broadband products such as land lines, paid TV and music portals.
Chong said, “The offline street and online teams have their own roles to play.”
The major draw of online advertising is increased reach through more cost-efficient campaigns.
“From a business perspective, if you compare the street teams in the busiest areas of Hong Kong such as Mongkok and online campaigns, digital can reach people in all 18 districts on a bigger scale and faster,” she said.
Although the company will continue running booths on the street and 24-hour hotlines, customers purchasing broadband plans online with just a few clicks means savings on labor costs per customer reached.
Chong says that digital media lend themselves more to creative campaigns than offline media.
“Many campaigns by telecommunications companies speak almost top-down to the customer and don’t give them a say. With offline advertising, you can’t change the visuals for a booth on the street too fast because it has already been printed,” said Chong.
“But with an online campaign, as soon as you think of something, you could upload it and launch it straight away.”
The challenge is to keep staff members’ creative juices running.
“Hong Kong is a very stressful place. It’s fun for my staff, who are often very young, to play around with ideas that can go online quickly. My goal is for us to present new gimmicks to the customer all the time, so I told my staff, ‘Whatever you propose, as long as it’s not illegal, we would consider it,'” she joked.
More seriously, she adds, “Online is a channel where you have to keep trying new things. Customers would lose interest if your website is not updated regularly with something fun.”
For example, in April, HKBN launched its first Power of Many group-buying campaign where people are encouraged to purchase a broadband deal in the hopes of accumulating enough people to get a group discount within a certain time limit.
A similar four-day campaign was launched yesterday.
The real-time countdown meter on the campaign’s website was developed especially by HKBN’s IT team, aiming to excite customers with a sense of urgency.
The graphics used for online ad visuals are also much bolder and snappier compared to before to cater to customers browsing online. HKBN developed its signature blue and orange graphics and uses simple and colloquial Cantonese slogans in its static ads.
“In the online world, we found that what stimulates people to click on something or to buy something is a bold style of branding. The ad has to be in my face and speak to me with a very direct message,” said Chong.
But it’s easier said than done to quickly launch an online campaign after brainstorming it, as it would require a clear prioritization of campaigns and the help of the IT department.
“Luckily, our IT colleagues and the marketing team share the same key performance indicator (KPI) so they are happy if the campaign goes well,” said Chong.