How O2 transformed its marketing operations and won a B2B Marketing award (part 1)

The O2 story: Identifying opportunities and developing a strategy

By Chuck Leddy

A leading mobile network operator, O2 competes in both B2B and B2C markets. The UK-based communications and IT services company has recently been driving transformation in its marketing operations, boosting its marketing ROI through streamlined processes, the right martech, and enhanced human capabilities. Working with Sojourn Solutions, O2 Business has been exceptionally successful in these efforts, so much so that in late March O2 was honored at the 2019 B2B Marketing Awards in London, winning “Transformation Project of the Year.”

At B2B Marketing’s Get Stacked Conference earlier this year, O2’s Head of Marketing Operations Paul Stevenson made a presentation along with Sojourn Solutions managing partner Rebecca Le Grange about the background, strategy, implementation, and yes, tremendous success of O2’s transformation efforts. We’ll use this presentation as the basis for telling O2’s success story.

This first post will describe why O2 Business felt it needed to change, as well as describe how it collaborated with Sojourn Solutions to identify problems and develop a strategic plan for solving them. In the upcoming second post of “the O2 story,” we’ll describe the company’s principles for managing its transformation and the eye-popping outcomes it achieved in driving efficiency across its marketing operations and the wider O2 organization.

O2 Business’s rationale for change

O2’s Paul Stevenson explained that “we needed to transform due to increasing competitive pressures and the diversification of the business into new areas. O2 identified multiple areas for improvement in its marketing operations. One was data: “we were challenged with our data, which was siloed in multiple areas within the company. We wanted to use our data to drive insights and to better understand our audience, but we weren’t set up to do this effectively.”

O2’s existing processes were another problem area. Stevenson spoke of “many manual processes and a lack of standardization around the delivery of campaigns.” Additionally, O2 wanted to boost its lead management capabilities, exploit the opportunities presented by martech, and improve reporting. Finally, O2 was quite reliant upon outside agencies for essential marketing operations capabilities. The team at O2 was spending too much time managing external vendor relationships rather than developing its own, in-house skills.

Partnering to identify needs, develop a plan

O2 reached out and partnered with Sojourn Solutions to analyze its “opportunities for improvement,” seeking to develop a plan for next steps in driving peak performance. As Le Grange explains it, “we used our Peak Performance Strategic Framework to help O2 take stock of what it already had in terms of people, processes, and technology, and then developed a plan for next steps.”

Both Le Grange and Stevenson emphasized that transformation in marketing operations isn’t simply about implementing shiny new martech. “I have neither the time nor the inclination to understand 8,000 martech tools and vendors,” said Stevenson, “but I do have time to build my marketing operations team and their capabilities, as well as build our processes.” Technology is one part of the transformation, but neither Le Grange nor Stevenson considered it the most vital component: “Someone once told me that the technology part of any transformation makes up only 20% of the needed change,” Stevenson noted.

O2’s strategy for change: Improving data, processes, people

Once O2 had defined its “opportunities for improvement,” working in tandem with Sojourn Solutions, it next moved to defining its goals in multiple areas – data management, people, processes, and its use of external agencies/resources. Stevenson noted that O2 sought “to develop a centralized view of all our marketing data,” streamline our processes, develop more in-house marketing capabilities instead of managing external relationships, “train and develop our people,” and build standardized, self-serve reporting capabilities. Quite an ambitious to-do list.

“Our data needed to be centralized,” said Stevenson, “we weren’t able to fully leverage data to optimally inform our marketing operations and customer engagement.” As for in-house human capabilities, O2 “had to think long and hard about what skills we wanted in-house and what to outsource, and then we had to train our team in the skills we wanted,” said Stevenson.

O2’s ultimately-successful and award-winning approach therefore had two main pillars: (1) getting its “data house” in order and (2) building its human capabilities. As Le Grange explains it, “strategy, processes, and martech are only as good as your people.” In terms of martech platforms, O2 Business uses Salesforce for CRM, Eloqua for Marketing Automation, and Tableau for business insights.

 O2 business’s implementation: Start small and iterate

O2 didn’t begin by going big, “moving fast and breaking things.” Instead, it started its journey of transformation at small scale, trying new tools and practices in parts of the organization, measuring, learning from mistakes, and then sharing lessons learned across the organization. “Start small and scale up,” notes Stevenson, “we opened up different segments and learned all we could about best practices and governance. You have to constantly iterate.” Le Grange calls these multiple cycles of iteration “the journeys within the journey”: success requires a virtuous cycle of testing and measuring assumptions, failing small, then iterating upon lessons learned, and sharing/scaling know-how across the organization.

In summary, O2 understood WHY it needed to change, collaboratively defined WHAT it needed to change, developed a strategy/roadmap for HOW to change (and what change would look like), and then began its implementation at small scale, with iterative cycles of testing, measuring and learning. In the second post, we’ll explore the specific lessons O2 learned along the way and the fantastic results O2 has achieved so far in transforming its marketing operations.

Interested in watching the full presentation – “Shifting the Paradigm on the Value of Marketing Operations: The O2 Story?” Watch it now.

If you’d like to learn more about how Sojourn Solutions can help your business transform its marketing operations to see peak performance results, contact us today.