Businesses like to claim the customer is king. But in the telecommunications sector, at least, there is a widespread perception that customers don’t get treated as royally as they should. And this is leading to something of a backlash for the sector, with increasing calls for greater consumer protection. As a telecommunications sector business-to-business (B2B) marketer, can you turn this to your advantage?
Before we answer that question, let’s look at how the UK telecommunications industry is faring in terms of customer satisfaction. According to the January 2019 UK Consumer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), customer satisfaction scores for telecommunications and media companies have been rising consistently over recent years.
In 2019, the sector scored 74.4 out of 100, compared to a score of 72.6 just three years before. That sounds like good news, until you compare it with customer satisfaction scores in other industries. The average UKCSI for all industries is 77.7, well above the telecommunications and media score. Only two industries, utilities and transport, score lower.
Challenging negative sentiment
Consumer trust is hard to achieve in telecommunications because the services it provides tend to be automated and impersonal. Perhaps tellingly, the sectors with the highest UKCSIs are retail and banking, …
A common theme in old episodes of the sci-fi series Star Trek was the discovery of enticingly attractive planets that ultimately concealed some kind of threat. Nowadays you don’t have to boldly go where no man has gone before in order to find such environments. For modern businesses, cyberspace is just as threatening as deep space.
In 2018, 62% of companies were subject to phishing and social engineering attacks and in the first half of last year data breaches exposed 4.1 billion records, to cite just two recent cyber threat statistics. And the situation appears to be getting worse as businesses go into lockdown to stop the spread of covid-19. To combat rising digital threats, worldwide cybersecurity spending is expected to top $133.7 billion by 2022.
In the UK, meanwhile, the security and resilience of telecoms networks is a strategic priority for the government. A ‘Statement of Strategic Priorities for telecommunications, the management of radio spectrum, and postal services’ published last year tasked the telecommunications regulator Ofcom to:
- Ensure appropriate risk understanding, ownership and mitigation by communications service and network providers.
- Lead a cyber penetration testing programme to undertake intelligence-led vulnerability penetration tests as an integral part of cyber
In a news cycle dominated by coronavirus and Brexit negotiations, it is hardly surprising that telecommunications infrastructure investment hardly gets a look in. But peer more closely and this is actually a bit of a turning point for telecoms infrastructure in the UK. And it’s a good moment to start speaking to your customers about network upgrades and expansions.
In January, Ofcom set out proposals on “supercharging investment in fibre broadband” to “transform the business case for fibre investment” alongside a £5 billion spending package for rural areas. Infrastructure was also a major plank in the ‘Statement of Strategic Priorities for telecommunications, the management of radio spectrum, and postal services’ published by the government last year.
“The Government is committed to providing the UK with world-class digital connectivity that is gigabit-capable, reliable, secure and widely available across the UK,” it said.
A host of important measures
Just some of the measures included in the strategic priorities document include:
- A “no undue discrimination” condition on Openreach that requires it to provide physical infrastructure access to all communications providers on equivalent terms.
- Complementary access to passive infrastructure owned by other utilities and by transport infrastructure providers such as Network Rail.
- A broadband
If you’re in the business-to-business (B2B) telecommunications marketing game, then you’re probably aware that thought leadership content can be an important part of your strategy. But you’re probably not aware of just how important it is.
A study last year by the communications firm Edelman found no less than 55% of B2B decision makers use thought leadership to vet potential vendors and partners. The research also found 47% of C-suite executives shared their contact information after reading thought leadership material. And 45% of companies were able to get onto bids by sharing such material.
These figures mean that if you are not already considering a thought leadership-led campaign in 2020, then you should be. But where do you start? The reason thought leadership material is such a valuable icebreaker is precisely that it is not easy to come by. You don’t get to be a thought leader by parroting what everyone else is saying.
Where to find inspiration
Having said that, coming up with ideas for thought leadership content is not difficult if you know where to look. And that’s straight ahead. To be seen as a visionary in your field, you naturally need to have a vision. At its …
The next 12 months promise to be interesting ones for business-to-business (B2B) marketing in the telecommunications sector. For one thing, B2B continues to gain importance within the telco marketing agenda as the market rapidly outpaces business-to-consumer sales.
At the same time, though, B2B telco marketers will be at the forefront of educating customers on a host of technology trends that are reshaping the telecommunications market and the products and services it offers. Perhaps the most high-profile example of this is the arrival of fifth-generation mobile technology, or 5G.
This standard will enable communication speeds of anything from around 50 megabits a second to over a gigabit, potentially opening up a massive new range of applications. For telcos, the implications are massive. As EY, the consultancy, notes, “The post-2020 landscape will be transformed by 5G.”
Plan for 5G marketing
Telco business customers are keen to understand how 5G will transform their operations and will look to telcos for inspiration and guidance. But the technology is so new that applications are still emerging. For mobile service providers, it may be enough to promote the capabilities of 5G to business customers.
Telcos without a mobile offering, however, will need to reassess …
Telecommunications companies face a challenge: growth in business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, the biggest revenue stream for most companies, is slowing. According to Bain & Company, the consumer market is only expected to grow at about 0.6% a year, barely enough to keep many telco revenues treading water.
This stagnation in B2C growth is increasingly forcing telecommunications players to look at business-to-business (B2B) opportunities, an area has traditionally played second fiddle to consumer sales. Compared to B2C, B2B offers considerable growth potential. Bain & Company believes the B2B telecommunications market is growing at around 2.6% a year.
Deloitte, meanwhile, estimates the global B2B telecoms market will have seen a 2% annual compound growth rate between 2010 and 2020, based on Gartner data from 2015. B2B IT services could grow twice as fast. Focusing on this market makes sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Deloitte warns that “to make the B2B value creation engine run you must transform the operations and build new capabilities.”
Adopting a new approach
Deloitte and Bain & Company both recommend that telcos should carry out strategic realignments of their business to capture the B2B opportunity. For example, Bain & Company says it is important to …
A recent report from the accountancy firm PWC paints a challenging picture for business-to-business (B2B) telecoms marketers in 2019. “Revenues across the B2B segment of the telecom industry are slowly declining,” says the report. “The needs and desires of buyers are not being fulfilled.”
Furthermore, it says: “New competitors are circling, with capabilities that many telcos can’t easily match.”
Against this backdrop, what can you do to make sure your brand stands out? Here are five strategic pillars you could consider, all based on thinking carefully about your customers and their experiences.
Understand your top-spending customers
Most marketers will be aware of the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. In 2019, successful marketing begins by understanding who these clients are, and how you can nurture them.
Identifying your top accounts is easy but understanding how you can serve them better might require more work. It’s an essential task, though. If you are missing data to provide an accurate customer profile, then don’t be afraid to engage with these clients, for example through email surveys.
The chances are they will be glad to offer you the information you need to give them …
At the beginning, a global marketing strategy gives birth to a plan. That plan then reaches out to the right people. And those right people then need to know how to implement the common message through a scalable approach… with consistency. So what’s the solution? We’d say solid, effective, efficient processes, that’s what. Though our thoughts may be best illustrated with an example.
Let’s look at digital marketing…
If digital marketing is your thing, content is your king. Whether you’re going local or global, outstanding content will still be one of the key ways you engage your audience and drive them towards a purchasing decision. So what do you need to do to pull together the right processes for extending your current operation to accomplish your global plans?
Audit your current content operation
When you’re gearing up for a global marketing attack, doing an audit of your existing content is a must. Let’s face it, if you discover literature that can be used globally, and not just locally, it will put you ahead of your plans. The problem is, though, if you’ve been going for a while, finding out what and where that content actually is can be a bit …
Whether you’re planning on taking over the world and going global with your marketing, or wanting to simply hit a new ‘locale’, making the right impression takes more than just being brand consistent. There are some chunky actions you need to take…
Get thinking area specific
At the risk of teaching you to suck eggs, we feel this needs saying: Regardless of whether you’re going to be operating at a regional level, a country level, or an extensive common-language level, catering for cultural differences and population tastes matters. Not being seduced into thinking a single language makes things easier is important, therefore, from the start. True enough, implementing marketing plans in one country does open up options for then extending campaigns to other countries that speak the same lingo, but ‘normal’ marketing rules still apply. A blanket approach to more than one country is unlikely to be as effective as you’d like. Language is one thing, but legal frameworks, financial constraints, and social expectations are another.
Start tackling translation
But if you’ve straightened out your thinking on language, the next thing to tackle is the realities (and potential opportunities) springing from that decision.
Opening up new French markets, for example, …
Implementing a global marketing initiative requires a carefully considered strategy that’s been agreed by key stake holders… and a lot of energy. As we wrote last month, you have to do your homework first, within your organisation and without, before you can develop your strategy. But once that’s done, and you can see that the picture looks promising, the next step is to outline your plan.
Putting together your global marketing plan
If winning support internally for your global marketing aspirations is the glue that will hold your strategy together, data is the fuel that will energise your plans.
To create a plan you need information – details of what you’re aiming to achieve internally, and why – because this will provide the focus. You’ll want to establish various facts and figures to get started, and these will include aspects such as the revenue you want to achieve, how many customers that revenue will require, and what your conversion rate is likely to be etc. You’ll also want consider in detail how your sales cycle is likely to run, as well as what peculiarities the new overseas markets have that mean you need to tailor your approach differently to the …
A global marketing initiative has to be based on a sound strategy that fully supports the business objectives. It’s planning has to be informed by market data that’s specific to each location. And it MUST have the right team collaborating and driving it forward. People matter, people.
Pulling together the right team
You may have the luxury of some dedicated heads, you may not. Either way, though, you’ll want to pick your helpers carefully. We’d always recommend choosing marketing talent over language skills. Yes, it’s tempting if someone speaks German to have them overseeing the German campaigns, but actually an outside pair of hands who can speak the lingo will give you the interpreting skills you need, when you need them; the marketing excellence is much harder to find.
Also choose those with a genuine thirst for global expansion. It’s up to you how you detect this, of course. Asking the question in an interview will elicit a set of standard responses; you’ll have to read between the lines. But someone who sees the role as a step in the right direction for their career (not necessarily with an increased salary) will work with enthusiasm and be keen to grow …
You are in business. You have customers, prospective customers, loose connections, people who have never heard of you, and people who would gain from having heard of you. Your data universe is a mix of existing contacts and prospective contacts; the problem is knowing who the latter actually are.
To get the most out of your marketing, you run different types of campaigns depending on the people you’re hoping to engage, and that is influenced by their profile and where they currently are in their buying journey. But reaching the people you don’t yet know exist, and who have never heard of you either, is a key component of growing your sales. And the only way to do that… is to understand your data universe.
What is out there?
Did you know that there isn’t actually a single database containing all private sector businesses in the UK? The closest to it is the Inter-departmental Business Register (IDBR), which is managed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). But this only includes VAT/PAYE registered businesses. To find out about unregistered (or non-employing) businesses you need to do a bit more digging. However, if that sounds like a lot of effort, don’t …