With the Consumer Electronics Show underway in Las Vegas, it's always interesting to see the new gadgets and gizmos that companies will be putting on the market in the near future. One reason there are predictions that the CES show may someday disappear is because nearly all of the gadgets – every year – are variations on the same theme. Most are delivering content – whether that means movies, music, websites, social networks or whatever. Content is still what it's all about.
And while we all suffer from the same assumptions – that the new products must be better in some way than the old, the truth is that the "old" ways of delivering content still have value, they are still used by consumers, they still have value as an advertising vehicle, and they still make money. The major television networks are doing just fine, for the most part. There are even signs that the radio industry might be returning to profitability (although the way the industry is getting back into the black are probably not the best). And, of course, our favorite industry – telephone time and temperature – continues to deliver content on the phone to millions of callers per day, including content delivered to callers on cell phones. At the end of the day – content is still what it's all about, no matter how that content is delivered. That includes time and temp.
Always interesting to observe the way we all obtain and use information in our daily lives, and how our perceptions of what others are doing can often be very wrong. Conventional wisdom these days is that everyone is on the web constantly, everyone uses their smartphone constantly, no one listens to the radio, reads a book, uses time and temperature telephone services, watches TV and so on.
That's why a recent study is interesting – it shows the number of HAM radio operators in the United States at an all time high: over 700,000 licensed operators in September, 2011. If anything is "old" tech, you would think it would be HAM radio. Just goes to show that our perceptions aren't always correct. Just like with telephone time & temp – millions of calls per day still go to Time & Temp systems – many from smartphones! Here's a link to the HAM radio info.
Here is a great article about a Time and Temperature service in Florida that has been operated since the 1930's – and still gets 2,000 calls per day. Now operated by a funeral home, the owner of the service points out how it's great promotion and public service. It's easy to say that the Internet fills all our information needs – but the fact is – we still obtain information the same way we have always obtained it – the telephone, newspapers, TV, radio. We have just added the Internet to the mix. The story on this service is here.
Interesting article about the need for a school district to communicate with parents. What do you imagine was the most successful way? Many people would say Facebook, Twitter, email, the telephone. Turns out the best way to communicate is with a few words at the top of the school lunch menu – apparently many parents stick the menu to the refrigerator!
If you operate a small\medium size business – how do you make your customers aware of the products and services you offer? In conversations with several business owners lately, the answer is often "I don't know." While the number of places to market your products and services has increased, the cost of marketing has also increased. To make matters worse, none of the traditional or non-traditional methods of reaching customers works as well as it may have worked in the past.
Let's consider the options – you can say to yourself: "Possible" or "Can't Afford It"
Facebook LinkedIn Presence\Ads
Word Of Mouth
You might say that the list starts with the most costly forms of advertising, and ends with the least costly, although you could certainly re-order the list.
As a business operator, you also have to determine which marketing\advertising methods will get results. There is, of course, no point in spending lots of money on magazine ads if the ads don't produce significant additional revenue. At the same time, there is no point in spending part of your day working on low cost marketing if THAT marketing also doesn't produce results.
In speaking with business owners lately, I hear the same theme: "there is nowhere we can afford to advertise that provides an adequate return." There is no easy solution to this issue – but a few ideas:
1) Try to narrow your target market. If there are 200 decision makers for the product you sell, you can afford to spend $10 on each one if it means you can be fairly certain of getting your message to those 200. Perhaps some unusual kind of direct mail. Do a search on "dimensional marketing."
2) Locate a (non-competing) company that markets to the same targets you market to. Ask them for advice. Determine if there might be a way to cooperate in your marketing with them. If they won't talk to you, analyze their marketing. Use their ideas.
3) Related to #2. Borrow ideas from other companies. If you see a magazine in the doctor's office and you have no interest in the subject matter of the magazine – don't read it. Look at the ads in the back and try to learn something from what the advertisers are doing.
4) Consider non-traditional marketing. What does that mean? It means things like a second website just for one of your products. Or participating in a LinkedIn group that deals with your area of expertise. Or having a custom message on hold recording done for your phone system so you are delivering your marketing message directly to callers (who are, after all, the best targets for your marketing). Look at things like our Time & Temperature products or our weather websites – to deliver a service the public that just happens to include your marketing message.
While our customers are getting great results from the Telephone Time & Temperature systems we supplied to them – they also mentioned another opportunity to serve the residents of their communities – with a weather-related website. Since RTI Media is in the business of providing affordable weather services to businesses and organizations in various towns and cities in the nation, we decided to extend our product line to include two web products.
These days, many small and medium-sized communities in the U.S. have limited sources of information available. Their newspaper may have cut staff drastically in an effort to survive, or the town may have only a weekly paper published by essentially one person, or the town has no newspaper at all. If there are any radio stations, they probably offer the same level of community service that most stations provide their communities these days: none. Most radio stations have computers that provide music-only or satellite-delivered formats.
In other words, there is a need and an opportunity in many towns for a new source of information – if it can be delivered at low cost. RTI Media has begun offering our customers a local weather website for their towns – a website that also provides space for local news and events. Red Cross blood drawings, church fundraisers, local government events and many other kinds of news can be promoted on the local site, along with the latest weather information.
Visit one of our websites that is now offered to the community of Apex, North Carolina by the Apex Chamber of Commerce: www.apexweather.com. Note that in addition to the weather and community events, the site also provides advertising space, so the site can be not only a vehicle for serving the community – but to make money too.
In addition to the desktop website, our customers also have a mobile website for their towns – specially formatted for the screen of a smartphone. So our product contains two websites – desktop and mobile. We think the websites will be a great add-on to the Telephone Time & Temperature systems we offer. Give us a call for more details.
One of the most important and expensive aspects of running a Time and Temperature service in your community is the phone lines you will plug into your time and temperature system, the cost of those lines and the telephone provider you will get them from.
In the old days, you had one choice – you got your phone lines from your local landline telephone company. While there are other options today, your best bet may still be the local phone company. But what are your options? You are aware of VOIP – everything from Magic Jack to Vonage to business-friendly VOIP providers. RTI Media's Time & Temperature systems are the only systems available that work with VOIP services (in other words, a direct network connection to the T&T unit). But in many cases, your best bet is still the local phone company – for now.
The issue with most VOIP providers is that they limit the number of inbound phone calls you can receive per month – if you go over the limit, you pay a per-call penalty. So if the VOIP company's limit is 5,000 inbound calls per month you will pay a small charge for the 5001st call and up. If your Time & Temperature service gets 100,000 calls per month, you could be looking at a hefty phone bill every month.
On the other hand, inbound calls on Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) from your local phone company carry no per-call charge, no matter how many calls your T&T service gets.
There are some special cases where VOIP service can be used for Time & Temperature right now without the extra monthly charge – typically in companies that are using VOIP for ALL their phone services, and they have spare phone lines on the system. Their business may get hundreds of thousands of calls per month – adding 100,000 more for Time & Temp will not cause a problem, or extra charges.
While POTS lines from the local phone company may be a better deal for Time & Temp right now, that will probably not be the case in the future. Just as the cost of long distance has trended toward zero, the cost of inbound VOIP calls will do the same – perhaps within two or three years. At that point, VOIP will be the best deal in town for T&T phone service. Time and Temperature units from RTI Media are all set to accept VOIP when the time comes.
If you are thinking of starting a new time and temperature service in your community, there are a number of issues to consider. In a previous post, we discussed some of the issues involved in taking over a time and temp telephone number previously held by another person or company. In this post, a discussion of the issues in starting a brand new service.
First – the number of phone lines you'll need. This decision depends on the size of your community. As a general rule, one phone line is never enough for any T&T service. But in very small towns, two lines might be enough. Your objective as a time and temp operator is to take as many calls as possible – but also to keep callers on the line for as short a time as possible. For example, there are some T&T services in the northeast run by TV stations. Naturally, they want their TV weathercasters to be providing the forecast – and sometimes they go into great detail about the forecast. That's great information to provide, but a 2 minute, detailed forecast ties up the phone line. The T&T system may have been able to handle several more callers in that time period. Instead, one of the phone lines was tied up, and other callers may have heard a busy signal.
The key to providing a two line T&T service is to keep each caller on the phone for short periods of time – freeing the line for the next caller. In this way, you can take many more calls – thousands more per month. Keep in mind, of course, that some callers will listen to a portion of the T&T information, then hang up, freeing the line.
As for the phone number in a new T&T service, the key is for the number itself to be memorable – and you may find your options limited. Many local phone company offices these days receive banks of 1,000 phone numbers to give to new customers. They have to use those numbers before getting the next batch of 1,000. If the numbers they have available are not memorable you will have to choose the best of what is available or wait for the next batch of 1,000.
In the next post we'll look at how to choose the provider for the telephone lines, and whether VOIP is a viable option.
If you are thinking of providing a Time and Temperature telephone service for your community, there are a number of things to consider. In the next few posts, we'll look at the issues involved, including the phone number, the phone lines, the Time and Temperature announcer and promotional issues.
First – let's talk about the time and temperature phone number in your town.
1) Do you have a current time and temp service and your old time and temp device is showing its age?
2) Was there a time and temp service in your town operated by someone else, they shut it down, and you have obtained the phone number?
3) Or are you starting fresh – with a new time and temp service, device and a new phone number?
If you answered "yes" to #1 or #2, much of your work is done. You only need to obtain the time and temp announcer, then plug it into your phone lines. You'll find information on our devices elsewhere on this website. And keep in mind – if you fall into the #2 category – you have obtained a phone number used by others in your community in the past to offer a time and temperature service – there are two ways of looking at your situation.
In a way, it's important to get your service up and running as quickly as possible on that phone number so members of the public don't stop calling the number (no operators of time and temp systems shut them down because they weren't getting enough calls – they shut the service down because they didn't know how to take advantage of the calls they were getting).
On the other hand, we've seen examples of time and temp services being shut down by the original owners, then the service is resurrected by someone else in their town MONTHS later. To their surprise, they find that the people who called the old time and temp service for years are STILL calling the number, even though the service is no longer there. When the new time and temp service is put on the phones – area residents just resume calling again. In substantial numbers.
In our next column, we'll examine #3 – how to handle a brand new time and temperature service in your town.