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B2B Thought Leadership Case Study

“Perspective has surpassed all expectations.  The content was resonant, unique and engagingly produced – even competitors admit that it has raised the benchmark.  There is direct evidence that the campaign created several million pounds in incremental revenue.  And internally the feedback from our Senior Leadership Team and sales organisation has been overwhelmingly positive”

The end goal

Vodafone had noticed a critical change in the mind-set of their business customers.  Telecommunications were no longer being viewed simply as a ‘utility’, but as a strategic business consideration.  This had two important implications:

  • Business customers wanted to work with a supplier who understood the business environment and their strategy
  • Rather than just talk to ‘technology’ roles about providing communications, Vodafone needed to talk to ‘business’ roles about their challenges

Creating a research-led thought leadership programme was the perfect response to this situation.  High value content could not only raise brand visibility and create opportunities for one-on-one sales discussions, it could do so in a way which firmly positioned Vodafone as a partner who understood the world of work.

Recognising this, Vodafone engaged long-term partners Circle Research and Geometry to help create the Perspective series.  Two years in and the programme has won several awards and delivered an ROI in excess of 8,000%.

The means to the end

Creating the Perspective series was a collaborative effort.  Circle designed the strategy, conducted research to substantiate the point-of-view and wrote the end report.  Geometry, Vodafone’s marketing partner, embellished the report with case studies and expert third-party commentary then promoted the content.  And throughout, Vodafone led the programme and ensured that it remained closely aligned to corporate goals.

Circle kicked off the project by identifying topics for the series which were:

  • Relevant to each audience segment
  • Relevant to Vodafone’s desired positioning
  • Not already ‘owned’ by competitors

To ensure this was the case, all competing content was audited, in-depth interviews were conducted with the target audience and key internal stakeholders (especially sales) were engaged.

This comprehensive approach identified a strong theme:  ‘The changing shape of UK PLC’.  Within this, four specific content topics were identified:

  • Building a fanatical workforce
  • Creating best-practice customer service
  • Embracing changing working practices
  • Mitigating new types of business risk

This initial stage also identified common pitfalls to avoid and these formed the basis of the campaign strategy.  For example, much content is based simply on opinion or flimsy evidence.  Vodafone would use reliable facts, honestly presented.  And rather than present a one-sided view, Vodafone would bring together multiple opinions, but still clearly rubber stamp their own position.

Strategy in hand, it was time to get to work.  Several ‘hero’ reports were created throughout 2013 and released at regular intervals.  Each report was based on a different survey and adopted a unique approach.  However, the report ‘Fluid Society’ illustrates the format well:

  • Vodafone UK’s CEO provides an introduction
  • Insights from an exclusive, statistically robust survey of senior managers in UK PLC are shared.  These insights are coupled with narrative and supported by secondary research
  • Throughout, case studies are provided which demonstrate how different organisations have responded to the challenges
  • We then share unique perspectives on the topic from respected commentators, business leaders and entrepreneurs
  • We end with a closing comment and five practical tips

Geometry subsequently created several supporting, ‘bite-size’ content assets.  For example, the report ‘Customer Service Beyond Today’ was supported with:

  • A video interview with Linda Cheung (CEO, Cubesocial) revealing how to use social media to improve customer service
  • An infographic visually illustrating what drives customer expectations and why a multi-channel approach is so important
  • A short document giving five essential rules to optimise customer service delivery

Attention then turned to using the content.

Webinars and face-to-face sessions were run to brief sales teams on the key insights and provide ideas on how they might use the content to engage customers/prospects.  Then several externally facing marketing activities took place to raise visibility and create debate, e.g. the ‘Your Better Business Live’ series of events.

The end result

The campaign had three core objectives:

  • Raise brand visibility and engagement
  • Position Vodafone as a thought leader
  • Create opportunities for targeted, one-on-one sales discussions

There’s no doubt that Perspective is creating a buzz around the brand:

  • Over 5,000 report downloads
  • 70 pieces of high quality PR, e.g. the Sunday Times, CIO Magazine
  • Wide social engagement, e.g. 4,000+ shares of latest infographic in 30 days

Perspective has also established Vodafone as a thought leader.  Brand tracking research shows that associations between Vodafone and ‘thought leadership’ have risen by a statistically significant amount since the campaign began.

Marketing have found the insight to be invaluable in strategic planning. And sales teams have also found the Perspective series to be a valuable tool.  Account Managers trained in using the content have generated several million pounds of incremental revenue.  Overall, hard data shows that Perspective has created an ROI in excess of 8,000%.

Now there’s some food for thought.