C-Suite Marketing: How O2 Leverages Thought Leadership for Executive Engagement

Momentum ITSMA Staff

January 20, 2021

A conversation with Mark Larwood of O2, about how his team is strengthening relationships with key customers through an innovative executive engagement program.

C-Suite Marketing: How O2 Leverages Thought Leadership for Executive Engagement

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Just before the new year, I sat with Mark Larwood, head of strategic customer marketing at O2, to talk about how his team is strengthening and advancing relationships with key customers through a tiered, innovative executive engagement program. It’s a terrific program that won the gold in the Orchestrating Executive Engagement category at ITSMA’S 2020 Marketing Excellence Awards.

The conversation could be a master class in how to develop a programmatic, repeatable executive engagement program so I encourage you to listen to the full half-hour conversation.

For now, I want to highlight Mark’s comments on one of the most important pillars of any effective effort to engage with the C-suite: Thought leadership.

Quick background: O2 began in the way we often advise our clients by leveraging what already existed. In Mark’s case, it was a strong and successful ABM program that already focused on O2’s most important accounts and had begun to connect at the executive level.

Building on the ABM foundation, Mark focused on going both broader, in terms of reaching additional accounts, and deeper, in terms of reaching additional senior executives within those accounts in a more structured and ongoing way.

One of the main challenges for the marketing team, as well as the account teams, was having something meaningful and relevant to say to the priority executives. At first, the pandemic got in the way of this mandate, but Mark soon realized that O2 could reach new audiences and drive greater awareness among existing customers if they leveraged strong thought leadership.

O2 seized upon the topic of how organizations could handle their workforces in terms of remote working and home working, which was a real and immediate challenge for their customers as well as businesses as a whole in early 2020. They developed thought leadership on how O2 sees the future of work in the future of society more broadly.

Clients were intrigued. And O2 realized clients needed their help.

Once the team developed relevant thought leadership, they had to deliver it. PR and broadcast messaging was second nature to the marketing team, and sales people were used to hand delivering new content, but connecting directly with the target executives in an all-virtual environment was a bit more difficult. Thus, marketing worked closely with individual account managers and account teams to tailor the right messages to and really connect with individual customers. Enabling sales to have direct executive-level conversations, ensuring that sales truly understood O2’s thought leadership and what could potentially impact their customers—that was the goal.

One tactic was simply mandating that sales teams attend “ask the expert” calls. But the “aha” moment came when Mark focused on how the thought leadership was of value to sales and, more importantly, how it’s valuable to their customers.

A quote I love: “You know, sending 25-page PowerPoint presentations is not the way forward. Now, infographics, and those sorts of things are really the simplest way of understanding things. And also just be really clear on the process … [and realize] not every time you speak to a customer has to result in an opportunity. You know, it’s that cumulative effect of those touch points, which is important … it’s just really about having the right sorts of content and a breadth of different types of content as to suit the purposes.”

Listen to the full episode to hear how O2 is integrating all the other elements of a successful executive engagement program, including:

  • Incorporating Executive Engagement with Account-Based Marketing
  • Developing a robust Customer Advisory Board
  • Gaining the sponsorship and commitment of senior leadership
  • Measuring not just revenue, but also reputation and relationships