Marketing bears fruit for leading IT services management company
“We had no coherent marketing plan and story before we met RCR. Now we do.”
Fruition Partners UK is a highly successful IT services company, headquartered in Bracknell. Formerly known as Partners in IT, it changed its name following a sale to US-based Fruition Partners in summer 2014.
This sale, not to mention its growing revenues and position as a leader in its field of IT service management, was driven by a range of factors, including a dynamic and ambitious management team. However, engaging RCR as part-time marketing directors to help structure and implement more effective marketing and business development also played a significant part. As UK managing director Paul Cash says, “We had no coherent marketing plan and story before we met RCR. Now we do.”
Founded in 1996, Fruition Partners UK helps clients create and deliver better, more cost-effective, IT service management: their consultancy and technology helps businesses run complex IT support functions, and ensure the smooth running of IT services. They also extend the benefits of their approach across other process-oriented business functions, such as HR, facilities and business continuity planning. The company uses its own tools and methodologies to help clients do this, as well as implementing the market-leading cloud technology ServiceNow.
RCR’s flexible experience fits the bill
The driver for hiring RCR was the company’s ambitious plan to double in size. Paul Cash and his management team knew that they needed to do more structured marketing and business development but they lacked resource and skills. Without any dedicated in-house marketing capability, marketing tended to be done on an ad hoc basis by Paul or others, when time allowed.
When he met RCR, Paul saw that their approach could be what the company needed. “We needed somebody experienced but we didn’t have the budget – or the need, really – for someone full time. The RCR model of a part-time marketing director with flexibility works well for us.”
Strategy project defines priorities
RCR’s recommended approach was to begin with a short strategy programme, to create a plan, budget and schedule. This involved workshops with the management team, market research and interviews with a range of the company’s customers to get a better understanding of their ‘buyer’s journey’ and its positioning.
The key was to move from “all these marketing activities look like a good idea” to having a clear set of priorities about what needed to be sorted first and what could wait til later. Using RCR’s 9 Box “Find-Convert-Deliver” framework, the recommendations for Fruition’s revenue generating priorities looked like this:
By way of interpretation:
- Two projects to build the foundations for future marketing success:
- – Clarify and articulate the business’s position in the marketplace as this had become indistinct and did not reflect its changed profile, particularly its focus on working with ServiceNow.
- – Capability: the company needed to put in place the resources, skills and tools to make marketing happen on a regular and repeatable basis.
- Two subsequent projects to ramp up awareness:
- – Improve the quality and volume of communications by using the company’s intellectual capital (IC) to demonstrate the strength of its knowledge, expertise and track record via coordinated marketing campaigns.
- – Build closer relationships with key channel partners, particularly Service Now.
- A potential third round of projects (“potential” because the intention was to review priorities at this stage):
- – Continue to research the customer experience or buyer’s journey to understand drivers and decision point.
- – A client management programme to segment the customer base and develop appropriate client relationship management and service strategies for each segment.
Turning intentions into action – positioning project is first step
Having agreed the strategy and accompanying budget and timeline, Fruition Partners engaged RCR to act as its part-time marketing director, providing some of the capability to get things done.
The positioning project was amongst the first to get off the ground. RCR ran a half day workshop at a company meeting to get input on the company’s key messages and strengths. This was tied in with the ‘buyer’s journey’ feedback from the client research, further workshops with the management team, and research into competitors.
What emerged from this structured process was that Fruition Partners’ key differentiator is the experience and expertise of its people, which allows it to advise clients in a way that they value highly. Client feedback showed that the company’s willingness to ‘push back’ as well as to ‘hold hands’ was a real strength, and the revised positioning was developed around this, along with a change of focus from products and technology to service and knowhow. The strapline of ‘fiercely collaborative’ on the new website summed up the company’s ethos, and the restructuring of its products and services around the buyer’s journey has made it easier to segment the market and tap into client needs.
Paul Cash says that they found the positioning project extremely useful: “What was great was the process of breaking messages and positioning down into different steps, which helped us see why people buy from us, and why they talk to us. As a result, RCR have helped us organise what we tell people, and it’s ensured that all our marketing flows from our position in a coherent way. It was a great exercise.”
As Paul comments, the positioning project did make it relatively simple to put a structured communications programme in place. This has been built around a number of integrated campaigns focused, for example, at specific vertical markets such as the NHS, and on issues such as extending the use of service management technology beyond IT into other business functions.
The switch of focus from products to service in the messaging has seen a new emphasis on developing materials such as customer case studies and opinion pieces, rather than technical data sheets, and on a website which highlights knowhow and expertise rather than products. RCR also advised Fruition Partners on the appointment of a specialist PR agency to help them communicate their messages out to a wider audience via the media.
Strengthening the channel
When it came to channel relationships the positioning project also helped. The company’s long history meant that it ostensibly worked with a wide number of service management technology vendors. However in reality many of these relationships were dormant and during discussions and workshops it became clear that the core of the company’s business is now built around the market-leading ServiceNow platform. Consequently it made sense to emphasise this position, particularly as Fruition Partners UK is one of the leading systems integrators for ServiceNow in the UK, and globally.
This has also enabled RCR to work with Fruition Partners to strengthen the relationship with ServiceNow, and the resulting focus and commitment has resulted in a number of joint marketing initiatives, including mailing campaigns, webinars, events and PR. Fruition Partners is ServiceNow’s first preferred services partner in the UK, and the vendor has recognised the value that Fruition Partners is able to bring to customers and joint marketing, particular in terms of its wide pool of high-profile customer references, such as Waitrose, Travis Perkins and NHS Blood & Transplant.
Building an engine room to deliver regular activity
RCR’s involvement has also helped Fruition Partners to create a more consistent marketing engine room: people and processes that ensure marketing and business development activity takes place on a regular basis. In addition to the PR agency, RCR has helped recruit telemarketing resource to supplement Fruition’s existing capability, and a continuing focus is on building reliable mailing lists and CRM systems.
There is also now a more coordinated programme of ‘touches’ going out to clients and prospects, including a regular newsletter, blog and social media communications.
RCR has also been involved in helping to build a more marketing-oriented culture. The company has always had a highly effective sales function in the UK and now, through regular internal communication, RCR has encouraged the sales team to tap into the marketing campaigns. For example, they recognise the power of customer references so they are keen to provide updates on client activity and contribute to content generation by writing blogs and suggesting topics for press articles.
One of the ongoing challenges for Fruition Partners UK, as for many SMEs, is to accurately track returns on marketing and business development campaigns. This is a work in progress at a detailed level, but the company’s continuing growth in sales demonstrates the effectiveness of the programme across the board.
Paul Cash points to a number of specific areas where RCR has helped them make a significant improvement. “Thanks to RCR, our marketing is much more coordinated and coherent now and our repositioning is really paying off in terms of how we are seen by our partners and by customers. I’m also impressed by RCR’s ability to help us communicate our messages and by the very high quality of the content and campaigns that they produce. The coverage that we’ve achieved in the media has also been outstanding, and our enhanced reputation makes it all the easier to position ourselves for high value sales.”
This position in the UK market was, of course, also an important factor in the successful sale of the PiIT business to Fruition Partners in the summer of 2014. While valuations are naturally a complex process with many factors under consideration, it was clear that the US acquirer was impressed by PiIT’s ownership of the high end of its market and its ability to differentiate itself.
RCR was able to support the merger team during the acquisition with advice on managing the communications process, and is now heavily involved in the creation of a joint marketing strategy that will ensure Fruition Partners remains a leading global player in service management.