Cablefax The Magazine - July 2018 - 26

201 8 TOP OPS AWARDS
INDEPENDENT MARKETING
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
Susan Christian
Ritter Communications
Thirteen years ago Susan Christian was
an account executive at an advertising
agency in Jonesboro, Arkansas, preparing
a pitch for her new client-local
telecommunications company Ritter
Communications.
Her concept, centered on the tag line Ritter
Right by You, remains an integral mantra of the company's business
ethic today. And Christian, who took an in-house role at Ritter soon after,
remains an integral part of the executive team, currently serving as vp,
marketing with the recently added role of vp, federal advocacy.
" I guess that's why I got hired, " Christian says of her vision for the company's
customer-facing identity. " They were looking for a tag line that would
embody customer service. It was introduced as a tag line, but what I didn't
see coming but was hopeful would be the result... the employees really
held on to it, and it's become less of a tag line and more of a mission. "
The timing of Christian's hire was auspicious. Ritter was transitioning
from being solely a small rural telephone company with the purchase
of its first cable properties, a move that doubled its number
of customers. " Overnight, they became a cable TV and broadband
company, " Christian says, " And the clincher was it was a retransmission
year. It was quite the learning experience. "
Agile and a consummate team player, Christian rolled up her sleeves and
got busy. Looking back, " the way we've evolved and adapted not only to
company changes but to industry changes and consumer changes-to
me, that's extraordinary, " she says. " The way consumers make choices
and form opinions is 180 degrees different from when I started. "
Whereas in 2005 most companies weren't even using social media
and digital marketing amounted to a banner ad here and there, " now
it's a huge part of what we do, " notes Christian. So much so that
three years ago the company adopted a digital marketing automation
platform from HubSpot that Ritter uses to help develop, drive
and measure its efforts. " It's a powerful tool that helps us make better
decisions. It allows us to help understand the consumers' buying
process, and push out educational information. "
All digital marketing outreach drives the consumer back to its website,
Christian says, noting that " it's not just about pushing the latest products,
but informing the customer. " A central element is the monthly
educational blog, on topics such as its most-read entry, " What's the
difference between data usage and data speed? " " As a result, we get
2,000 views of our blog each month; that's a real success story of
what the automation platform has allowed us to do, " she says.
As well as evolutions in the consumer sector, Christian's team has
26
cablefaxmag.com
made a business of serving the commercial sector. After a successful
fiber overbuild in its HQ town of Jonesboro in 2008, Ritter in 2014
began launching enterprise services to major business corridors
across Arkansas, and created a monthly recurring revenue scoring
tool that guides marketing data-driven decisions.
" Ritter Communications has been extremely successful in serving enterprise
customers in Tier 3 and Tier 4 communities around Arkansas into
which we have expanded our fiber optic network, " says John Strode,
retired Ritter vp, external affairs and now a consultant to the company.
" Once we enter a new market, Susan and her team have identified key
target customers and developed and implemented strategic marketing
materials that have enabled our company to gain 15 percent market
share per year from incumbent competitors. "
Christian and her team have also helped launch a new hosted solutions
business with targeted sales collateral materials that address two tiers
of customers: those less sophisticated in information technologies, who
require education to understand the value of cloud services (or hosted
solutions); and those more familiar, who require more information about
the specific products and services, Strode says.
It's her embrace of partnership and her willingness to assist others
that makes Christian a leader not only at Ritter but across the industry,
says Rob Shema, evp, member services and finance, at the American
Cable Association. " Susan is also an expert of time usage, as a small
company marketer she wears many hats and is extremely busy and
has the ability to make sure things get done. "
One new hat is federal advocacy, a role Christian says dovetails nicely
with her marketing function. " Being able to advocate for our company in
DC or with other industry organizations and say this is what's important
to our customers, on topics like net neutrality, is important and also helps
me see what [developments] will impact our customers, " she says. n
- Cathy Applefeld Olson
FAST FACTS
u 45,000-plus: Number of Ritter customers across Arkansas
and parts of Missouri and Tennessee.
uLucky 13: How many years Christian has been with Ritter
as of this August.
uFour: Number of full-time marketing employees under
Christian's purview. She also supervises a two-person
video production team.
u Eight: Number of communities where Ritter has launched
business services in the past five years.
July 2018
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Cablefax The Magazine - July 2018

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