Awards case study: O2's ABM campaign perfects sales and marketing alignment, and smashes targets by 325%

Find out how O2's ABM programme brought sales and marketing together, using customer insights to create a highly-personalised report that proved the value of partnering with O2

Despite a diverse portfolio of ICT services, O2 continued to face low brand consideration beyond mobile. This perception prevented the company from being seen as strategic ICT partners, and therefore suppressed growth opportunities. O2 needed a step change in how it communicated with customers and made itself relevant to its target audience.

So, O2 developed a strategy that combined marketing’s expertise with sales’ customer insight – a flagship ABM programme. The programme was led by a highly-personalised report that clearly demonstrated the bottom-line impact of partnering with O2.

At its core, this was a programme based on a simple idea – speaking directly and clearly to target contacts in terms that resonated with their business priorities. What made the programme so commercially successful was the attention to detail.

About

O2 launched its enterprise division in 2011 to compete in the crowded B2B space. O2 Business supplies ICT services to enterprise organisations with 2000+ UK-based employees, and the public sector.

O2 Business operates across all verticals and offers solutions far beyond mobile devices, encompassing enterprise managed mobility, unified communications, converged infrastructure, security, IoT and cloud solutions. The company's technology and processes are designed to boost productivity, improve the bottom line, and support transformation into the digital economy.

Strategy

The brief

Sales feedback showed that, despite having recently diversified its portfolio into ICT services, O2 continued to face low brand consideration beyond mobile. This perception was preventing the company from having strategic conversations with c-level audiences.

To support the ambitious growth targets for its ICT business (34% for 2017), O2 needed to demonstrate its credibility as a strategic ICT partner. The company wanted to leverage its existing successful relationships with customers, and achieve trusted advisor status as a credible ICT partner.

The solution

Account-based marketing (ABM) was employed, complementing traditional marketing techniques with highly-personalised content built on account and industry insight from sales. Armed with tailored content for each account, sales could have more strategic conversations and, ultimately, close more business.

The approach

The execution of the programme had to stand out from the conventional demand generation programmes run by established ICT vendors.

O2 decided to lead with a bespoke report. The report clearly outlined the projected savings and revenue generation for each organisation in a big, bold font on the front cover.

The company took inspiration from the ‘challenger sale’ methodology. Challenger is a sales principle where the supplier takes control of the buyer journey, teaching the customer something they didn’t know about their business, tailoring the communication, and establishing itself as an expert in the field.

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Marketing and sales generated a highly targeted list of organisations from a variety of industries, working together at every stage of the process: from developing the early account insights and messaging, to reviewing how each meeting went and agreeing a plan to close the deal.

Campaign objectives

The 40 target accounts launched to date, generate:

  • Opportunities in 33% of target accounts
  • Multiple millions in closed business.

Target audience

  • Private sector organisations with over 2000 UK-based employees
  • Public sector organisations
  • Existing customers and prospects
  • CXOs, board members, senior leadership.

Media, channels or techniques used

Account nomination

Sales worked closely with marketing to nominate a list of their highest-priority accounts. Accounts were only considered for enrolment onto the programme if the potential opportunity was greater than £1 million and the account insight strong enough to build a bespoke business case.

“When we had the pitch day for the initial approach to ABM, initially I struggled to understand it, but then it became very clear, they completely brought us into it.”

Pete Asman, head of sector specialist – business sales

Report development

To gain traction with this senior audience, the focus needed to be on strategic business priorities and commercial benefits, challenging their current approach to achieving their business goals.

With this in mind, O2 developed a calculation model, based on Cebr (Centre for Economics and Business Research) findings. The company used account and industry insight to create a bottom-line improvement projection for each target organisation. This was displayed on the cover of a personalised report. The inner pages explained, in detail, how the recipient could achieve that figure, positioning O2 as a trusted advisor.

A bespoke data build was completed for each account, key individuals were identified, and the report was sent as direct mail for maximum impact. A digital version was developed as a follow-up touchpoint, to provide target contacts with an asset they could easily share with other team members.

Lead generation

Calling took place prior to the report landing, to warm up PAs and identify any potential issues. After the report landed, the inside sales specialist followed up to generate face-to-face meetings.

Scaling the programme

The initial pilot was extremely successful, delivering a ROMI of 1229:1.

O2 salespeople quickly approached marketing to get their accounts included in the ABM programme.

The company then adopted a two-stream approach to scale up the programme. This segmented target accounts into categories based on their growth potential and O2’s existing relationship with them: 'one-to-one' and ‘one-to-few' approaches.

For the ABM 'one-to-one' accounts, in-depth research was conducted into their objectives, challenges and current initiatives using publicly available information and insight from previous engagements. This resulted in a detailed understanding of each accounts’ pain points, and helped O2 create a one-to-one programme that mapped its propositions to customers’ specific objectives.

ABM 'one-to-few' took a broader, sector-level approach. O2 looked for common objectives and challenges between accounts, and used this to build a sector-based messaging framework that allowed the team to scale up activity and address multiple targets in a programmatic way.

Timescales

  • 2015: Campaign pilot launched within a single strategic account.
  • 2016: Roll-out with further 10 strategic accounts.
  • 2017: Full programme secured, including ABM one-to-few. 40 accounts launched so far, with plan for an additional 80 in 2017.

Results

  •  325% of target business won
  •  118:1 total ROI (investment to written business)
  •  313% of target pipeline
  •  19 BANT c-level qualified leads
  •  39 new c-level contacts
  •  67.5% SQLsconversion rate.

“Our client, Swinton Insurance, has a network of over 600 transactional suppliers. The ABM programme elevated O2 to become one of only two strategic partners, and as a result, has helped us add over £7 million to our pipeline.” Ash Aggarwal, client director, O2

B2B Marketing Awards 2017 – winners

This submission won the award for 'Most commercially successful campaign' at the B2B Marketing Awards 2017: 'The ABM programme' for O2 by The Marketing Practice.

See the full list of winners

B2B Marketing Awards 2017 – winners