June 7, 2012

Successful marketing requires that you stay ahead of your customer, so your “customer doesn’t reach the future before you and leave you behind,” a great quote from futurist Faith Popcorn that I feature in my marketing book.

Customers leaving a company behind is happening right now in the world of mobile phones.  A generational shift is happening and calling people is now not the primary reason why people buy a mobile phone. The Wall St. Journal reports that the amount of time spent making old-fashioned voice calls has fallen every year since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007. The U.S. wireless industry trade group, CITA, reports that the average call now lasts 1.78 minutes, down from 3.03 minutes in 2006. Monthly usage is now 681 minutes, down from 826 minutes in 2007.

According to the Wall St. Journal story, AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson stated that he “wouldn’t be surprised if some carrier pops up in the next two years with cellphone plans that cover only data, no voice.”

Now the bad news for the carriers. Billing for voice calls still account for about two-thirds of what a carrier bills you each month, even though texting and accessing the web (data) are the major reasons people own and use a mobile phone. To protect their “call” revenue stream, carriers are throwing away plans based on minutes and replacing with flat rates with unlimited calls. Industry reports show that 80% of people selected unlimited plans. I love it – they are making something “unlimited,” which you don’t use, so it can be perceived as a benefit.  On the flip side, they are eliminating “unlimited” data plans (which customers use) and switching to minute plans to see if they can find a new cash cow. Something to discuss at your staff meeting this week: What are you doing to keep your product or service “ahead of your customer?”

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