The Marketing Strategist:
O2: Cracking the B2B Market with ABM
Telecoms brand O2 has long stood out in the UK’s crowded and competitive market thanks to bold marketing campaigns, including long-term sponsorship of the world’s most successful entertainment venue, the O2 in London.
A few years ago, O2 decided to raise its profile as a total communications provider in the B2B space. This would demand a carefully-crafted marketing program to change perceptions of the brand externally, energize staff internally, and demonstrate marketing’s contribution to overall corporate objectives.
Preparing for the pilot program
As the latest ITSMA case study shows, the resulting approach was underpinned by a passionate belief in the power of account-based marketing (ABM) combined with the challenger sales methodology. Marketing activity would center on developing well-researched, financially-quantified value propositions for prospective targets which would grab their attention by showing how they could save money.
By the end of 2015 the team was ready to roll out its pilot program. A major utility where O2 had pockets of engagement to build on was chosen for the first trial. The aim was to identify real and measurable value for the company that could lead to a deepening of the relationship.
The resulting content consisted of a provocative, upfront claim backed by financially-credible calculations. Targeted executives received personalized reports that explored industry trends, specific challenges and opportunities, with the financially-qualified proposition broken down across areas of the business. These were accompanied by additional supporting material and outreach.
ABM proves itself
The outcomes exceeded expectations. Championed by a senior O2 executive, the program expanded. The ABM team used the same methodology, including bespoke workshops, with other carefully-chosen accounts.
Its very success meant the team had to ensure that internally everyone who was keen to ‘get some ABM’ appreciated the sheer amount of work involved. Because of limited budget and resources, account selection became critical. Just as important was shifting the sales mindset away from short-term targets to sustainable, mutual value.
Over time the ABM program has evolved to a more blended approach, adding One-to-Few, sector-based programs for both existing clients and potential targets to the One-to-One approach.
Important lessons learned
Some of the key lessons learned include:
- Sales and marketing must act as one team with one vision and one goal.
- It helps enormously to identify internal ABM advocates early on to dispel misconceptions about what ABM is.
- Board support is vital.
- Promote the importance of measuring relationships and reputation as much as revenue.
- ABM, particularly when combined with challenger sales, won’t work for every account. Be ruthless when choosing.
- Integration of ABM with other parts of the organization should be a priority.
View ITSMA’s case study, O2: ABM Success with Quantified Financial Value Propositions, to learn more about O2’s strategy of combining ABM with challenger selling to win new customers and open up broader opportunities in existing accounts.