How direct promotional strategy resulted in increased sales and awareness of TalkTalk Business

Opal provides Voice, Broadband, Mobile and System products and services to large and small UK businesses across the TalkTalk network. With a major shift in the services businesses consume traditional revenues are being eroded, replaced with ‘cloud’ based services. Throw in the fact Opal has no market awareness or brand strength and is competing against BT, Virgin and Cable & Wireless, and this creates a tough marketing job.

The Old Telecoms Giant

Opal had no previous long-term strategy. Creativity was random, disparate and tactical. Communications were mass market, unstructured, seemingly random and produced on a reactive basis. This created incredibly low brand awareness, with low engagement, and a brand, that was perceived (if at all) as a low-level provider of telecommunications to the business sector. The market had no reason to place Opal against the likes of BT. A clear creative and communication strategy was required.

Opal was positioned by repositioning the competition, leveraging old technology legacy systems that the likes of BT and Cable & Wireless are left to manage against Opal’s UK leading all IP Next Generation Network. Suddenly the ‘cloud’ based services businesses desire are too expensive, clunky and difficult to integrate with the leading competitors. The result was the Old Telecoms Giant, who represents everything the competition can’t do!

The direct and promotional strategy was to develop a segmentation strategy, sniper targeting, brand-led messages, solution-driven messages and a consistent quarterly approach wrapped up in the creative theme!

In order to address this, three specific direct channel platforms were created, one for the small business division, one for the large enterprise division and one for the partner division.

These platforms (See platform images) looked at five key areas to tackle and unite to bring synergies to the direct and promotional strategy:

  • Email strategy
  • Outbound sales team
  • Website development
  • Affiliate programme
  • Display advertising & retargeting strategies

Email strategy

The small business sector consists of over 2 million organisations in the UK, all of differing sizes and all with a variety of needs. Opal had been using email as a means of mass targeting, and attempting a one-size-fits-all strategy that communicated product-based messages to both prospects and their customers, with no creative engagement or strong calls to action. The market had become ‘bored’ and turned off, being constantly bombarded with the same message. Engagement was low with click thru rates below 1% and open rates below 15%.

The strategy was ‘sniper targeting’ email activity creating multiple brand and direct messages and segmenting the database into 10 distinct groups. These were:

  • Exchange capacity
  • Proximity from exchange (100 metres)
  • New business
  • 3 mth old business
  • 10mth old business
  • 18mth old business
  • Competitor suffix
  • Top 100 prospects
  • Within a business park
  • Mass communication when not in any of the above (100k records)

Each one of these segments had a point difference Opal could communicate on.

With creative engagement being delivered through the Old Telecoms Giant (OTG), emails began to offer more than just product (See OTG image). Containing calls to action to see what the OTG was up to. One minute he’s ranting about how painful small businesses are, the next minute there’s a rally he’s subjected to, he’s published a manifesto and taken part in a ‘big debate’ akin to ‘Question time’ with Opal’s Transformation Director. Users were asked to keep up with these developments through the email, maintaining high levels of engagement whilst providing product and price messages.

Campaign landing pages were developed between the email and the website, which were used to refine the brand messages and house the creative content.

With customers being treated in the same mass-market approach as prospects, a Customer Value Improvement strategy was developed, which meant email was refined to be used as a relationship builder. Research highlighted that customers wanted reviews and an opportunity to discuss their account. Email was used to deliver this and asked customers to phone to review their account, whilst providing them with the latest offer. This strategy saw click thru rates jump to highs of 11.2% and calls into the business rise by 30%.

Outbound sales team

In order to drive through direct sales, Opal utilises an outbound sales division. Prior to 2010, the team were using numerous data lists, separate from the marketing team, meaning contact records were not integrated and there was no apparent strategy in their targeting.

With an email strategy setup, the sales team were integrated in the email activity with much greater efficiency. Knowing what campaigns were on-going the outbound sales team were fed lists from the email communications appended with information about the campaign they’d been sent, the angles used to sell product (based on the segmentation) and how the user had interacted with Opal. This led to more informed, in-depth conversations with prospects about how Opal can help to meet their business needs. Conversation was meaningful, the initial ‘foot in the door’ and awareness had been achieved through email. A simple change in process, a massive change in mindset for both teams, creating collaboration and efficient marketing.

Website development

With a range of products being sold online to the small business community such as broadband, voice minutes, new line installations etc. This direct channel represented a huge opportunity being under-utilised. Existing marketing activity dropped people into the online store, and the store itself had been developed to simply showcase the products. This showed high leakage from the store to other sections of the site and the strategy for 2010 required the tightening of the store area to integrate with email campaigns, provide simpler user journeys and integrate with the in-house billing system.

A. Marketing integration - Templates were developed with dynamic content in pre-determined areas to ensure Opal could display messages and product offers depending on the marketing channel the user came from. Including referrals from organisations Opal had acquired such as Tiscali and Nildram to ensure users were treated with relevancy.

In order to facilitate the segmented campaign activity from differing direct channels, templates were developed to show dynamic telephone numbers, ensuring Opal could track inbound calls by campaign activity, providing greater reporting transparency back to the business.

B. Purchasing route - The store templates were radically updated in order for users to move through store easier, add products to their baskets, browse additional products whilst being able to go straight to the basket and importantly display products based on the users location and products currently in the basket as an ‘also recommended’ addition to the templates.

This overhaul in the store section of the website has resulted in an uplift of online sales of by 42% across the year.

Affiliate marketing

Small business broadband is commodity, sold through multiple direct channels and widely researched by businesses to ensure the best deal. It’s vital for providers to be seen in the spaces small businesses conduct research – comparison websites. With no affiliate strategy in place, 2010 was about building relationships with these ‘affiliate’ websites and display the leading products to show the wider range of features available against the competition. Opal was able to directly position themselves against the competition and with the development of the store section of the website, they were able to convert high levels of traffic from the affiliate channels.

An initial trial in 2010, saw this channel deliver initial revenues over £25,000 from a standing start and growing monthly.

Display and retargeting

Opal has a wide target audience and an offering spanning all business sectors and businesses from one-man bands to FTSE 100 companies. Previously, online advertising had been limited to offering £10 broadband but across a variety of business ‘spaces’. This showed a huge amount of waste and also no strong brand recognition was developed. As a result, online advertising was used as a direct channel to sell product and raise awareness.

As this medium had to work hard, online ‘spaces’ were clustered into key strategic groups, ensuring Opal could resonate with each of the target groups and move them out of simply offering £10 broadband to communicating brand messages where appropriate.


The following methods of conducting research were used to ascertain customer attitudes and the level of brand awareness during the campaign:

  • Internal research was conducted with each customer facing function
  • Regional qualitative focus groups with SME customers were held
  • Research was conducted at contract review and renewal stages.
  • Research was conducted during tender phases with corporate customers, including lost opportunities.
  • On-going customer satisfaction strategy via social media.

IAS B2B Marketing also formed Strategic alliances with analysts such as Gartner to remain at the forefront of the industry.


The strategy for the year has been about uniting direct channels and putting platforms in place for the change to TalkTalk Business in 2011. Not only has this had an impact on KPIs, it’s had a major cultural effect on the business and marketing activities, with previously disparate divisions now working together in a consistent and cohesive fashion. Behavioural effects aside, the KPIs from the year have been remarkable:

  • Increased sales by 6%
  • Increased inbound leads by 30%
  • Increased awareness by 15%
  • Click thru rates at a high of 11.2%
  • Online web conversion up by 28%

As Sir Clive Woodward once said “You can’t increase one thing by 100% but you can increase 100 things by 1%”. This was the year of the 1% in preparation for the change.

Client Testimonial

‘When Craig Duxbury of IAS told me we should get one agency to plan all our activities, I was highly sceptical. We had never done it before. One year on I can't see it being done any other way.’ Paul Higgins, Principal Marketing Communications Manager, TalkTalk Business.

This case study was the winning entry in the category of direct romotional strategy at The Drum Marketing Awards

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