EarthLink Launches eBay Marketing Campaign

EarthLink
Wednesday launched a new campaign to lure current customers of Prodigy and other Internet providers to its service.

Using the eBay online
auction site, EarthLink made a direct switch-and-save offer to customers of Netcom, Prodigy Classic and other online
services.

The EarthLink deal on eBay recommends dissatisfied Netcom customers
switch to EarthLink. When a customer switches to EarthLink, the
company will skip the standard $25 setup fee. Netcom customers that switch
will receive a free month of Internet access and get a check for $50 after
two months of paid Internet service from EarthLink,

Netcom was purchased by MindSpring
Enterprises Inc.
in January of this year and the acquisition of
Netcom’s subscriber base was just completed this month. MindSpring is
currently offering Netcom customers the opportunity to switch to
MindSpring Internet access at a discount using a digital coupon posted at the
Netcom Web site.

The EarthLink guerilla marketing campaign targets online service
“switchers” whose current ISP may be falling victim to mergers, sell-off
transactions and service phase-outs. It is
reminiscent of the long-distance marketing wars between MCI, Sprint and AT&T that resulted in regulatory action to
protect consumers rights.

“This is an open invitation to all Internet and online service customers
who are being traded between providers, shifted around within their own
service or are simply sick of getting poor Internet access,” said Garry
Betty, EarthLink’s president and chief executive officer.

“We’re saying, ‘Avoid getting a raw
deal; take control of your destiny; graduate up to a higher level of
Internet service — and get paid for doing it!'”

“Roughly 65 percent of our members come from other services,” Betty said.
“We call them ‘graduates’ because they’ve gotten a taste of the Internet,
it’s become important to them, and they are now in search of the best
access and the best resources to understand and utilize the Internet.”

EarthLink’s auction offer kicks off an ongoing predatory marketing
campaign. The ISP says it will mount further campaigns to extend its reach
into the “switcher” market.

At this point, EarthLink is not concerned about starting a switch-and-save
marketing war. However, the company does believe that such a possibility
would be interesting.

“We like being a catalyst in this industry. We like asserting our industry
position in creative ways that underscore who we are and how we got to be one of the industry’s leading ISPs” said Arley Baker, EarthLink’s media relations manager.

Baker attributed EarthLink’s success to effective marketing strategies and solid Internet service that has built strong customer loyalty. According to Baker, EarthLink’s churn
rate is roughly 3.6 percent, well below industry average of 6 to 8 percent.

According to industry statistics, approximately 13 million consumers switch their ISPs in search of better services each year. Targeting the switchers market segment represents a new approach to customer acquisition among ISPs.

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