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How Fujitsu’s Transport Hackathon events won business and built relationships with key accounts in the rail industry | B2B Marketing

Find out how Fujitsu used account-based marketing events to reposition itself as an innovative partner for the rail industry


Creating relationships and (re)positioning are common themes in B2B marketing. Fujitsu took a completely different approach to achieve this with three accounts in the account-based marketing (ABM) strategic programme, all in the transport sector across EMEIA.

The Hackathon campaign was designed to address Network Rail, SNCF and Transport for London (TFL), with a secondary and by happy accident to support general vertical marketing efforts for the sector. To achieve this, Fujitsu collaborated with Hack Partners (a small SME who organise Hackathons) for a series of Hackathon events, which actively involved our three target customers, who introduced a series of real-life business and technology problems for Hackers to solve. Each hack took place over 48 hours, in various locations across Europe, including travelling on trains from city to city.

Fujitsu acted as technical and business mentors at the events and as a potential IT partner to help implement the hacker’s solutions. The results to date are two pieces of closed business, two opportunities in development, successful down select on one bid and great feedback from the accounts on the hacks, contributing to our increased relationships and repositioned reputation within the accounts. 

Hack Partners are a small SME who organise hackathons for the transport sector. The participants are members of the public who apply to participate typically they are developers, technical architects, designers and entrepreneurs.


Organisations in the rail industry face similar issues around efficiency and reliability, growth and safety. Network Rail, SNCF and TFL all presented real-life examples of these issues along with dataset during the Hackathon.

  • Efficiency is an issue in with rail operators because they need to operate, maintain, renew and enhance their infrastructure on public sector money, this means replacing manual process with digital ones.
  • Reliability is an issue because of the decreasing performance of trains, which frustrates passengers.
  • Growth is important because the UK rail infrastructure is the most congested in Europe, operating at 99% capacity – which has meant the UK government has invested £47bn (2019-24) to expand it.
  • Safety is an issue for the general public and workers who are at risk on the railways due to poor infrastructure and communications with workers on the track.

Objectives of the campaign

In 2018-19 Fujitsu were campaigning to be down selected on a number of key bids at Network Rail (£50m), TFL (£142m) and SNCF (£2m) competing against half a dozen multinational IT suppliers. Network Rail was a new name/target account where Fujitsu had a small number of relationships limited to the IT department. TFL and SNCF are existing customers of Fujitsu however the footprint is small and limited to stakeholders within IT.

Insight from all three rail organisations showed that they found large IT companies such as Fujitsu difficult to deal with, due to often being slow at decision-making, lacking innovation and agility and often slow to implement solutions. The ABM objective for these accounts was to position Fujitsu as a different type of partner that in contrast is innovative, something that would give it a competitive advantage in its bid campaign. There was also an objective of expanding relationships with each of the accounts outside of our day-to-day contacts in IT.

The target audience

The campaign targeted the three ABM accounts (Network Rail, TFL and SNCF) plus the wider transport sector. It was specifically looking to engage with people it knew were working on bids on the accounts, and the influencers for these pieces of business. Some of these were already known and it had relationships with, others it did not. It actively worked with Hack Partners to get those stakeholders involved in the hacks.

Media, channels or techniques used

Fujitsu decided to work with Hack Partners on a series of Hackathon events, and asked its target accounts Network Rail, TFL, SNCF to participate.

At the Hackathons it asked the customers to present a series of challenges they were facing on the railways that could potentially be addressed with a technology-related solution. These challenges ranged from passenger flow in stations, asset management, overcrowding on trains to overgrown vegetation on tracks. The customers presented their problems at the start of the Hackathon along with the data sets needed for the participating Hackers to design a solution.  

Using Hack Partners it pulled together a group of 80 plus external hackers – mainly designers and innovators from start-ups or SME’s. It then challenged the hackers to design solutions over a 48-hour period where they could potentially win a cash prize or (with the help of Fujitsu and the owning rail organisation) see their solution implemented.

Each of the Hacks took place at various locations across Europe – the first at the InnoTrans event (bi-annual world’s largest trade fair focused on the rail transport industry) the others typically on trains travelling across Europe, in the offices of the sponsoring organisations or in Fujitsu’s offices. Fujitsu’s role in these events was to act as mentors and to provide technical support to the Hackers, helping them design their solutions and write a business case. Providing a critical interface between the rail organisation and the Hackers.

During the course of the Hackathon, Fujitsu was able to spend 48+ hours with each of the target customers (a fantastic forum for relationship building) and hear about some of the biggest challenges in the rail industry. This was a great way to understand their business better and think about new opportunities.

The Hackathon’s were supported by a social media campaign on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and on its corporate blog to raise awareness of promote what it was doing, before during and after the events. Video content has been reused as case study material, and to re-engage specific contacts to remind and reminisce of a shared experience. 

Timescales of the campaign

The campaign started in June 2018 when we researched potential partners to run a Hackathon with. The three hackathon events took place in September 2018, November 2018 and May 2019. 


To date the Hackathon’s have generated two new business opportunities which were implemented at Network Rail working alongside the people who designed them at the Hackathon. One for general consultancy services (£150,000) another for Crack IT (£500,000) – a solution to detect deteriorating brick work on buildings and bridges on the UK rail network. Fujitsu is also developing two other solutions from the Hackathons, focussed on the issues of vegetation and asset management (£1m). Additionally, and due to the repositioning outcome of the Hackathon events, Fujitsu was down selected to the shortlist for a significant deal to the value of £50m. Feedback from Network Rail was that the Hackathon’s proved Fujitsu has a business model in place to provide IT solutions for transport quickly and with agility and that we have an attractive model in place to support SMEs. This marks Fujitsu out as being different from many of the large IT multinationals.

SNCF said that the Hackathon’s completely changed their perception of Fujitsu and led to the door being opened to a wider group of stakeholders on the account. Pipeline generated on the account in 2019 was €2m in line with the 2019 sales target.

All three accounts provided good feedback from the events and agreed to participate in further hackathon’s in the Future which further demonstrates impact on relationships and reputation.

“This campaign enabled us to engage in a new way with our customers, and bring an innovative approach to them that they were not expecting us to do. And it was good value for money”

Chris Patton, head of transport marketing EMEIA, Fujitsu

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