Sunday, May 24, 2009

Seven Days of StarText

The Original Packaging ...

The Revised Package ...

If you've been following these posts one thing you probably already know:

StarText was never a big budget operation.

Most of the funding we did get paid for staff and computer equipment. There just wasn't a lot left over that we could throw at "marketing and promotion." A company like AOL spent more in one week giving away CDs than we would spend in, oh say, a thousand years -- give or take a hundred. The closest we came to that was The Big Modem Giveaway, which didn't deliver the results we hoped it would.

So for the most part, outside the "house" ads that ran in the Star-Telegram, we had to get creative if we wanted to get the word out to more people about StarText.

One idea that proved more successful was the "Seven Days of StarText" program.

It really evolved from our earliest marketing effort, the "Free Trial Password." The genesis of that was our conviction that if we could get someone to give StarText a try, there was a fairly good chance we could turn them into a subscriber. The free trial allowed someone to use StarText five times at no charge.

What we came to realize was a person could burn four sessions just trying to get their computer and modem configured for using StarText. Others would deliberately hold back logging on, trying to stretch the free trial for as long as possible.

So we hatched the idea of "Seven Days." For $4.95, someone could use StarText all they wanted for a week, giving them plenty of opportunity to try all the features. The package, containing a user ID/password, a User Guide and later, a custom communications program we authored called StarComm, was available directly from us or participating retail locations.

The latter was my challenge: Enlist stores who would display and sell the product. That also meant I was about to learn more retail selling than I ever wanted. Such as working out wholesale/retail pricing; affixing a bar code; tracking inventory; maintaining adequate supplies.

Just another "hat" among the many the staff wore on a regular basis.

Actually it was exciting as we signed up the first locations, for the most part "mom and pop" computer stores. But as we went along, we started getting traction in the bigger "chain" stores that had multiple locations. We found bookstores also receptive.

At $4.95, it made a great stocking stuffer as well.

At its height, we had "Seven Days of StarText" in over 70 locations around the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. For a grass roots marketing effort, that seemed pretty respectable.