Stephen Wind-Mozley joined Virgin Media Business as director of digital just over a year ago, bringing with him digital experience from across retail, media, finance, and tech sectors. Charged with leading the telco’s digital transformation, he talks about why good stories remain at the heart of marketing, why penetrating the digital bubble presents a challenge, and how B2B can learn from the B2C world.
CMO.com: What is your role at the company and what are your responsibilities?
Wind-Mozley: My role is to unlock the digital potential inherent in three customer groups: our end-users, our business partners, and our colleagues. Colleagues are often an overlooked element of the holy trinity in B2B, but they need to understand how they can help the first two groups of customers to succeed, so we need to give them tools to do that. It is my responsibility to drive the customer effort out of those three groups.
CMO.com: Where do the biggest opportunities lie for Virgin Media Business?
Wind-Mozley: Just over 18 months ago, Virgin Media Business commissioned the Oxford Economics Group to carry out a study to evaluate the true digital opportunity within the U.K. economy. In other words, if everyone was to use digital to improve speed and best practice, and deploy this within the marketplace, what would the benefits be? We wanted to know how much cash could be picked up off the table. The answer shocked us—£92 billion annually. Clearly, that is a horizon number, but Virgin Media Business is all about helping businesses—whether small, medium, large, or public sector enterprises—to work towards unlocking that digital potential.
By digital potential, we mean achieving world-class connectivity and honing digital skills to make them the best in the world, but, for me, it is also about enabling the entrepreneur within everybody to achieve that £92 billion. Whether you are a startup or an entrepreneurial manager within a larger organisation, we need to find ways to help businesses to use digital to add value.
CMO.com: Is some “digital education” needed to realise that opportunity?
Wind-Mozley: Absolutely. Part of our objective is to educate, inform, and, hopefully, to entertain. So there is an education piece to be done, but not a preachy education piece. It is about making that technology contextually relevant for each customer.
For example, it might be someone looking to expand their hairdressing salon and wanting to enable an awesome experience for customers before they get through the door or when they are actually on-site. Or it could be that the technology is powering a contact centre for blue light [emergency] services to ensure that they dispatch help on time. It is making sure that we understand the contextual relevance, the critical business need of customers looking to deploy connectivity so we can help them unlock its potential.
CMO.com: How are you exploiting these opportunities from a marketing point of view?
Wind-Mozley: It’s about telling a story and trying to make that story infectious. A story has to deliver value to the people who hear it; it has to make something better. For example, we might create a thought leadership piece around cloud computing, and we might refine that in a round-table discussion with selected CMOs, and then create a piece of content and atomise that across our social and owned space. It is about making sure that we resonate back to the central story and make that relevant for different customer segments.
Rather than “Hey, do you want to buy something?” we talk about what a business is trying to do, what issues they are trying to resolve, where they want to be, and how we can help them get there. We aim to bring some of the thinking as well as some of the connectivity.
CMO.com: Can you share some specific examples of other recent marketing activity that illustrates how you start conversations?
Wind-Mozley: Last year we had a campaign called #Voom (previously called #pitchtorich), which is the U.K. and Ireland’s largest business pitching competition. We had just over 18,500 entrants and 21 category winners, and we gave away over £1 million of prizes. The initiative generated three billion “opportunities to see” across our marketing estate. We were able to do that because the Virgin brand, which runs through the core of our business, is about intelligent disruption and how we can help people become more entrepreneurial.
Another idea we have been working on for a while now is the “Seven Cs of Digital Marketing.” We have been running webinars with various organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses, and running Twitter Q&A campaigns, all aimed at creating some basic building blocks that will form a useful and measurable go-to-market strategy for many SMEs.
We also have a community website for entrepreneurs, called Virgin Media pioneers. We realised that entrepreneurs absolutely thrive on telling each other their stories and sharing their successes and their failures. As a result, we have created a forum for pioneers to come together digitally—and sometimes in the real world—to discuss options, as well as specific topics such as finance, funding, and connectivity. Virgin Media absolutely has a role to try and add value where we can, but, most importantly, we have an opportunity to listen and learn.
CMO.com: What are your biggest digital marketing challenges?
Wind-Mozley: I don’t really like the word “challenges.” I absolutely think that most challenges are opportunities and that is where you take business value. One of the opportunities we have is to tell a story in a way that resonates well in today’s so-called millennial bubble.
There is this digital echo chamber—or bubble—which just gives us (as consumers) more of what we want. That is a real challenge for marketers, because we want to tell stories that move customers from point A to point B and, hopefully, add value to them, meaning we, as marketers, also derive value. But if a customer is stuck in this echo chamber and is constantly receiving feedback about stuff they already know and which reaffirms their view of the world, it becomes harder and harder for us to reach in and pop that bubble without discombobulating that customer or causing fear or confusion.
Unless we understand when and how to use the “ghost in the machine,” we will end up in pretty much a zero-sum game where we continually keep the customer in a state of stasis, but what we actually want is for them to grow and evolve.
CMO.com: How are you tackling this challenge—or grasping this opportunity?
Wind-Mozley: We need to reach out and make that interruption in a way that is welcome. It is quite difficult to do in the B2B space because, unlike the B2C space, which has a wealth of data points and customer data, the B2B world has a much smaller group of prospects with which to model, and a much smaller stack of transactional data points to sift through. Right now, we are trying to identify the points that suggest we should reach out to customers and give something slightly different to them.
More importantly, we are considering how we can increase the integrity and the fidelity of the data that we use to make decisions. Traditionally, we would have targeted the decision maker, but now we are looking at targeting the environment that the decision maker inhabits. There will be people within that organisation whose behaviours influence the decision maker, and our task is to reach out to those people, make them aware of what we offer, and find a way to add value and relevance to the conversation. By doing that, we can increase the amount of data we have to navigate by and orientate ourselves with, and then, hopefully, reach into the bubble at the right time and give them a nudge.
I think the B2C guys have proved that it is possible to mine value, and I think the B2B guys—with a little bit of hindsight—now need to think about how we avoid being predictable in the insights we derive from data. But we simply don’t have the data volume to run an Amazon-like model, so there is more work to be done.
CMO.com: How important is social media in gathering insights and starting conversations?
Wind-Mozley: We know that social tends to be consumed on personal screens, so our approach is to make our social interaction as personal as possible. It is about moving beyond our brand and looking at the professional and workplace needs and desires of the person we are interacting with—what is their interest point, where are they in their career, what are they trying to achieve, what is the environment they operate in? If we can get that context, we can then start to generate atomised content which is personalised, but which is also part of a coherent campaign. We think of social as being about the people rather than about the brand.
CMO.com: How has digital changed marketing, and what can B2B learn from trends in the B2C space?
Wind-Mozley: Predictably, it is about data. Data has changed the way we approach and think about our campaigns. With digital, everything becomes much more measurable, which is great because we can see what is not working and then work out ways to fix it. Today, marketing is about test and learn and embracing failure so that we can work out how not to do stuff. That is one of the most exciting areas of change.
If we haven’t failed every day, we aren’t trying hard enough. Learning from failure is what makes us better. I think the danger is that if you don’t learn fast enough from failure, you won’t be around very long, so it’s getting that balance.
CMO.com: How is digital integrated into your marketing function?
Wind-Mozley: We haven’t yet fully infused digital throughout the business, but in marketing we have made steps to make digital part of the conversation, from product development to pricing—digital is a part of each discussion now. We have some individuals who are experts in that field and act as advocates, moving around the business trying to drive that behaviour throughout the team.
The overarching concept is quite simple—we take the customer, we then look at the parts of the organisation that are closest to the customer (i.e. sales, customer service, and segment marketing). Everything else, including digital and brand, acts as a supporting structure to enable us to have the right conversation with the right customer.
Ultimately, I think my job is to make the need for a discreet digital function within Virgin Media Business redundant. A mature organisation will just have digital across all of its touch points. For someone with “digital director” in his title, saying that is a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas…
CMO.com: How do you see the future of marketing changing for the company going forward?
Wind-Mozley: I think automation is absolutely key. We are already exploring how we deploy Artificial Intelligence in a way that adds value to the customer. Our work in the programmatic space is a good example of this. We’ve just wrapped a project using IBM’s Watson in our consultative selling space that was looking at how we can use tools like Watson to improve customer outcomes in the sales cycle.
Machine learning and natural language processing are also growing in importance, offering opportunities to impact the service and care space, and we are beginning to deploy them more and more in our outreach marketing. But the old school stuff—telling great stories—that won’t ever change.