Working Assets Long Distance: Direct Marketing campaign

Rebecca Stanfel


Founded in 1989, Working Assets Long Distance was the only enterprise offering a long-distance phone service and regularly donating to nonprofit organizations. It was a subsidiary of Working Assets Funding Service, Inc., which had been established four year earlier by Laura Scher, Michael Kieschnick, and Peter Barnes. Compared with the telecommunications giants AT&T, Sprint Corp., and MCI Communications Corp., Working Assets was a minuscule player. Nevertheless, it had succeeded in rapidly developing a base of customers and in generating considerable annual profits. Hoping to instill loyalty in its subscribers by sending them mailers that addressed social issues and its philanthropic work, Working Assets created an inexpensive direct-marketing campaign.

Every month Working Assets enclosed a letter with its subscribers' long-distance phone bill. The letters, which were printed with soy ink on recycled paper, informed customers about political issues and encouraged them to phone their Congressional representatives to register their opinions. Ten minutes of free long distance were allotted for every customer to call representatives in Washington, D.C., once a month. Without the burden of a large marketing budget, Working Assets was able to charge fees that were actually lower than those of most other companies. The company also donated 1 percent of its gross revenues (as opposed to profits) to an array of progressive nonprofit organizations. The subscribers voted annually on which organization should receive the funds.