Position your Product

You already know that everyone hates their cable company (and certainly not without reason!). You may be surprised to find out what specific things your potential customers actually care about. It’s easy to think that customers just want faster and cheaper but there are lots of other metrics that customers actually use to decide the value of the service they’re paying for.

Focus the message in your advertising more around what the customer can do with the service than around the raw throughput or price. Some communities place a lot of value on doing business with a member of the community rather than a faceless corporation, even if that means paying a slightly higher price or compromising in other ways.

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Talk to customers

Talk to your neighbors and check out online reviews about your local Internet service providers. Yelp is a good resource. Keep in mind that people don’t necessarily understand how to compare things like speed (in Mbps/Gbps), latency, uptime, and oversubscription rates but they do know when they are having problems with their Internet service. You may have to ask follow up questions to find the real problem they are having with their existing provider.

For example, here are some sample answers to the question “What don’t you like about your current Internet Service Provider?" along with potential follow up questions and suggested interpretations:

Answer Follow Up Question Follow Up Answer Interpretation
“It’s too slow” / “I want Gigabit service” “How do you know it’s slow? What things do you do that feel too slow?” “My Netflix is constantly buffering!” Even though the advertised speed might be fast enough for Netflix (you only need about 25Mbps for a 4k stream) they have too many people sharing the same connections so it slows down during the evenings. Build your network with better oversubscription rates and then advertise ‘less buffering while streaming.’
“Pages are constantly timing out when I’m browsing the Internet” Could be related to network problems other than just speed. It could be as simple as a cable connection exposed to the elements and dropping connections when the wind blows. Build your network well and monitor it well and advertise ‘snappy web browsing’ (not necessarily tied to a specific Mbps).
“I get lag when online gaming” Could be related to the latency and jitter on the network. Wireless networks can be very low latency. Measure and optimize for latency and advertise ‘Game without the lag.’
“It’s too expensive!” “How much is it?” “I don’t know / It changes every month / It goes way up after intro price” Charge a flat rate - no teaser rates. Consider including the taxes in the rate so it’s a nice even number every month.
“It’s $X/month” If you hear this a lot and find that people are happy with their existing service other than price then be wary. CableCo can easily undercut you.
“Customer support is terrible!” Advertise that you’re a local company with local customer support. Perhaps more importantly build your network well and get your billing system set up properly so customers don’t have to call very often - if everything just works they won’t need to call. Answer the phone yourself up to your first 100 or so customers - you’ll get a good feel for their needs and they’ll feel good about talking to the person in charge.
“It doesn’t work in my basement / backyard / bathroom” Poor wireless router placement and/or a poor wireless router. Train your technicians to find optimal router locations and either provide your customers with a good wireless router or recommend a good one to them. Install a second wireless AP if necessary. Advertise ‘wall-to-wall coverage.’

Ways to Advertise

A challenge when advertising for a WISP is avoiding advertising to customers who can’t get your service. Often you are only able to provide service to a single neighborhood or even just part of a neighborhood because of lack of line of sight. Advertising to homes where you can’t provide service is a waste of money and can also discourage customers who get excited about your service and call in only to find it’s not actually available. It can be hard to get them to call back later when you actually can get them service.

Many WISPs start by advertising with door flyers. Hang flyers on the doors of the homes where you’re confident you can get coverage. Once you have some customers you can start to rely heavily on referrals - ask customers to refer their neighbors and consider giving a free month of service for every customer referred.

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Selling to Businesses

Business Internet connections can be very lucrative and low maintenance. Many businesses rely heavily on their Internet connection and are willing to pay for a second connection just as a backup, especially if the second connection uses entirely separate infrastructure from the first one. Often even if multiple providers are in a commercial building they all share at least some pieces of infrastructure so you have an advantage selling a connection that is entirely separate.

Like most B2B sales the sales process can be long and very involved. Consider hiring a commission based sales person to go after large business accounts. Attend local business events and talk about your services. Familiarize yourself with the other options available to businesses in your area and define your products in ways that are competitive.