I never tire of hearing the story of rural cooperatives. It is one of progress. Meeting a need that some never thought they would want or need. Services that ensured one could live in the rural community of their choice and have the safety of communication. And don’t forget just the simple ability to chat with the neighbor.

Back then it was a telephone. Today it is broadband services and fiber networks giving us the same abilities. Communicate across the county, country or the big pond. Communications are definitely a necessity for safety but today it is also the ability to create economic opportunities, entertain ourselves and control our thermostats.

Windy Hill_MarketingAs our founders went door to door to ask for signatures it wasn’t a matter of who the cooperative would serve but when. Every door was a potential customer. Sixty years later, is the same true today?

As a marketer from way back and always in the cooperative environment my understanding was that every home passed was our potential customer. Have a promotion discounting prices or give something away and add as many as possible. I considered it a great success to see those new customers tallied after every quarterly promotion. Basically knocking on those doors like our founders did and get signatures…on two year contracts.

In my opinion, cooperatives today find themselves in a place where every customer may not be the customer the company needs. The regulatory changes and the restructure of settlements forces marketing to have a much better understanding of the customer we want…need on the network.

Face it, fiber networks are expensive. Upgrades to copper networks are expensive. Providing video is expensive. Marketing promotions are expensive. In today’s cooperative environment it is still about serving the rural areas but we find ourselves in a place that the financials of a cooperative have to be managed like any other business.  The profitability of each service and bundle today has to determine whether we knock on every door.