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CMO50 2016 #9: Jon Amery, Vocus

  • Name Jon Amery
  • Title General manager, marketing and customer experience
  • Company Vocus Communications
  • Commenced role May 2011
  • Reporting Line Director, corporate and wholesale
  • Member of the Executive Team No
  • Marketing Function 13 staff, 5 direct reports
  • Twitter @HIFROMJON
  • Industry Sector IT and telecommunications
  • 2015 ranking 10
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Vocus has experienced unprecedented growth over the past two years, rising from a $500 million market cap business to $5 billion thanks to its acquisitions of Amcom and M2.

    While such rapid expansion elevated the group to fourth on Australia’s top telco providers list, it left Vocus’ marketers with the rather daunting task of consolidating three equal-sized brands into one power brand that can compete against the big three while retaining its challenger position and cultural heritage.

    “The essence of our brand is still about challenging the status quo, doing things better and being customer focused, and our marketing messaging reflects that, taking a tongue-in-cheek approach,” its marketing and CX leader, Jon Amery, tells CMO. “But it’s hard to do when you are starting to become one of the big guys. For us, it’s about how we balance the essence of where we came from, with being one of the top four telecoms in Australia.”

    Vocus’ overarching objective is to be Australia’s most loved telco brand. “It’s not about being the most loved brand - we are OK with not being the brand you dream about,” Amery says. “What we’re about is bringing brand personality into what is a dry product set to a serious decision maker.”

    Mastering a mammoth rebrand

    To master the rebrand, Amery and his team devised three core objectives: Integrate the internal brand for more than 4000 staff; build a national challenger brand to the ‘big three’; and transfer the equity of the retiring M2 and Amcom brands to Vocus. This meant rebranding more than 1000 assets across 25 offices, uniting 25 systems, and integrating three marketing teams into one, all in about five months.

    As a starting point, Amery says the marketing and customer experience teams jointly mapped out customer journeys across the organisations to identify key touchpoints. Marketing then created a project team and worked with all functions to manage the phased rebrand strategy.

    Alongside this, marketing created a dedicated site with blogs, timelines, a FAQ page, shared updates and regular video posts from the CEO and leaders. These were also distributed to customers via email marketing and triggered marketing automation activities, with output tracked and key messages re-delivered based on the level of customer response.

    While regular marketing activity continued for the three brands in three distinct versions, Vocus began uniting its Vocus brand with the Amcom and M2 monikers and used above-the-line campaigns to help inform and transition customer perceptions to Vocus. These stretched from press to out-of-home, digital, national events, in-building advertising and PR.

    At the same time, the marketing function integrated three marketing teams, four websites, three automation platforms and three CRM systems. And it did this with 13 staff, a smattering of agency assistance around campaign assets and media bookings, and while building out Vocus’ new brand identity and national campaign architecture.

    It’s no wonder Amery says the team has literally “cleaned out everything” in the past year.

    One big thing that’s helped is the CX function. Launched two years ago under Amery’s leadership, this division has expanded to a six-person team and orchestrated a host of initiatives that have lifted Vocus’ customer game, from a national Net Promoter Score (NPS) framework and front-line training to more than 400 staff, to a fresh customer on-boarding program. All of this, along with an early survey and feedback model, has seen customer churn significant reduce, Amery says.

    Becoming agile

    Getting the most out of such a small team of marketers also wouldn’t have been possible without a more agile approach to marketing, Amery says. This has seen Vocus actively work to foster skills sharing and cross-skill development, cut bureaucratic tape, tap data to make more informed decisions, and use agencies both as trainers as well as extended team members.

    “The traditional approach to building campaigns via an agency is so laboured and process driven, and it’s meaningless in so many ways,” Amery comments. “We know our brands so well, it’s easier to sit in a room and nut it out internally.”

    Embracing principles commonly found in startup culture has been another critical factor. One of the ways Vocus’ marketing team gained access to this community is via its Upstart seed capital investment program, now in its second year. The program was launched by the marketing team as a way of building the brand’s thought leadership and innovation position in the telco and technology space, and sees Vocus partnering with Curtin University’s Ignition Program as well as the Innovator of the Year Awards.

    Under the initiative, Vocus helps seven startups take a minimum viable product to market, develop a business plan and secure initial customers in return for an 8 per cent company stake. In the latest round, 80 serious applications were considered, and marketing worked with PR partners and co-working space, Spacecubed, to drive national and international exposure for the Upstart program, lifting goodwill around the Vocus brand.

    “Being involved in a startup community makes you question half the stuff you do, and certainly the process side of things,” Amery says. “You look at how agile you have to be as a startup and decisions you have to make and do quickly, without the bumbling process behind it.

    “We’ve brought a lot of that approach into the team, such as agile methodology, and we’re cutting out process we used to do for no reason. That MVP approach, and just getting something up then iterating, is a cornerstone of how we work today.”

    As a team, marketers work together to get a basic framework in place, detailing business goals and distilling plans into core prioritised objectives. Teams then cut objectives up into focused tasks that can be delivered in three- and six-month blocks.

    “It’s all about true north, and if it’s not a business priority, we’re not doing it,” Amery says. “We can’t justify doing things because we’ve always just done them, we have to focus on things that have purpose and a defined outcome, evaluate everything we’re doing and look at what we’re doing in the context of what the whole team is doing.”

    For Amery, this also means positioning innovation as a process of continuous improvement.He points out a key project staff were tasked with this year was coming up with two ideas that increased lead generation by 5 per cent – and could be executed in one month.

    “That’s how we get an iterative increase in marketing contribution,” he says. “If everyone here can add between 2 and 5 per cent, month on month, you’re growth hacking. Adding continual improvements month on month really adds up at the end of the year.”

    Key priorities

    Amery’s next big challenge is cracking attribution and contribution. To do this, he’s working to collate data across the organisation to gain a much better understanding of the influence different channels have on buyer decisions.

    “I challenge any marketer that says they cracked it, they’re lying or just doing direct response,” he says. “With a one-year sales process, it’s hard to understand everything we are doing and how much impact it’s having on the end decision. I’d like to get closer than we are now, and that comes back to systems and getting everything lined up to see that digital journey.”

    Another priority is improving cut-through on content, and Amery highlights the explosion of content over the last two years. “You’re not really competing against your competitor anyone, it’s competing for a share of screen,” he comments. “So how we create content that does that job of cutting through well is a big question.”

    Also on the list is touchpoint-led marketing, or identifying critical moments in the customer journey that cause them to re-evaluate what they have, and position the brand accordingly. Moving office is a big one, and Vocus has built a landing page featuring utility content such as moving checklists and expert advice to help customers improve the experience of relocating their office.

    “It’s a whole new category but the idea is we get people early in that journey, give us much as we can, become that trusted advisor and hope they come back to us later,” Amery says.

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