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 …