In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
A new approach to media intelligence is not only helping South Pole Group figure out which content matters most to clients and influencers, it’s also informing management decisions and driving sales conversions.
The Swiss-based environmental consultancy group provides sustainability solutions and services to both the public and private sectors, and was founded 10 years ago. Having started with a focus on emissions reduction, South Pole Group now works across a diverse range of sustainability topics, from climate change to water conservation, to sustainable buildings, renewable energy and how organisations can become 100 per cent climate neutral. It has 150 employees in 16 locations globally including Australia.
Head of product marketing, Thomas Schroder, told CMO that when he joined two years ago, there was no systematic media and communications work being undertaken. However, the shift in power in the carbon market from sellers to buyers, along with the highly complex nature of its solutions, made it vital the marketing team find a way to better communicate with prospective customers.
Since then, Schroder has built up the communications team to three people, and enabled South Pole Group to produce its own thought leadership content, blog, newsletters and social media interactions. It’s also built up a pool of external guest contributors.
As part of this communication investment, South Pole Group invested in a media intelligence platform from Meltwater eight months ago.
“We’re using media intelligence to inform us on what topics are picked up that we deal with, where and by who, to ensure our impact,” Schroder said. “We’re working across a broad range of topics and we are a global company, so we need to better understand our footprint in different markets, industry sectors and geographies.”
Climate change and sustainability solutions can be abstract, buyers need to be well informed, and sales cycles can be long. By knowing what’s trending and ascertaining the impact of its communications, South Pole Group can focus on relevant content creation for both the media and the public.
“We need to engage our audience in long-term conventions, where we empower them to better understand challenges they face, the market environment with respect to sustainability, and understand our solutions,”Schroder continued. “This is why communications is so important to us.”
As an example, Schroder pointed to the historic COP 21 Paris Conference agreement on climate change signed in Paris in December 2015.
“Like many climate change decisions, it’s often a trending topic in the media, but many don’t know what it entails or what the implications are,” he explained. “We tried to exemplify this to our audience through live examples and case study solutions we are involved in.”
One of South Pole’s recent accomplishments was helping launch the first climate neutral super fund in Australia last year. It’s also working with companies to transition towards renewable energy in South America.
“We view climate change as a business opportunity for nimble companies willing to embrace this, and this is the underlying red thread through all of our communications,” Schroder said.
The service specifically helps the communications team see who is picking up its stories. In the case of South America’s energy mix, for example, the South Pole team could then engage with journalists, influencers and activists interested in its activities. Having this kind of business intelligence also provide an early warning sign for potential opportunities for South Pole Group, Schroder said.
“We are looking at some of our markets and have established a bunch of searches that enable us to work quickly through the daily briefings from Meltwater,” he said. “This has resulted in communicating with new business opportunity and clients, many working in the investment space. We identified the opportunity, then our business developers reached out to these prospects.”
An example Schroder pointed to was seeing companies signing up to a pledge/initiative to reduce greenhouse emissions. “We were able to contact those companies, get a meeting and win new business,”he said.
Another is a recent pilot conducted in Nuremberg, Germany, of a new service that measures locally generated carbon emissions via a user’s mobile phone data. The South Pole team could see how much attention the story received in the US and from whom, then by sharing the insights, local offices in San Francisco could reach out to local and national businesses interested in the tool, Schroder said.
The parameters, searches, industry sectors and time periods South Pole has established through its media intelligence are now informing the marketing team’s KPIs.
“We have a marketing dashboard we look at, and the top-level marketing dashboard figures form part of our company balanced scorecard,” Schroder said. “That is analysed quarterly by top management, so Meltwater is also informing management decisions as part of the marketing we’re doing here.”
Another benefit has been around social media, and Schroder said the organisation is more precise and results-oriented thanks to the media intelligence it’s tapping into, helping improve both its reach and engagement.
“Through telling us who picks up our tweets for example, it helped us to engage in bidirectional conversations with influencers and win them over to include us in their own tweets and social media activity,” Schroder said. “It’s a way of amplifying our voice.”