Building a school of marketing excellence

“Training is not about courses in fancy country hotels,” says Will Orr, marketing director at British Gas. It’s about creating consistent excellence throughout the business. To that end, the utility company is in the process of rolling out a dedicated British Gas Marketing Academy.

Life and style: British Gas’ ecoMetre – also known as the Pebble – is evidence of the company’s customer-led vision

The first of its kind within the utility industry, the aim is to equip marketers with “common tools and common language” that will enable them to approach their job with “consistent excellence”. What that means in practice, hopes Orr, is that his team will learn the “British Gas way of working”.

Following a Brand Learning Radar assessment, British Gas identified how to transform the company from an operations-led business to a customer-led organisation. The marketing school it has set up aims to teach employees the utility company’s business ethos and its customer-centric approach. Orr says the academy is backed by the very top leaders in the company – managing director Phil Bentley and managing director of services and commercial Chris Jansen “have a strong and passionate belief that British Gas needs to be a customer-led company”.

Orr looked outside of his industry to learn how others have created marketing academies. He sought the advice of mobile phone company O2, which had set up its own marketing academy to enable employees to learn on the job.

Everyone in the British Gas marketing function will take at least three days of marketing academy training this year. The first tranche of people have just completed their introductory two-day course covering all core marketing capability areas such as insight, communications and customer experience.

Later this year and in 2013, the utility company will introduce more advanced learning, with a series of masterclass-type courses that are more specialised and geared towards particular job responsibilities.

While the aim is to create world-class marketing standards across the business, it will also benefit those who want to progress their careers. The idea is that marketers will collect points for completing particular courses and gain internal qualifications. Orr adds: “The hope is that, over time, people’s marketing academy experiences will influence their career progression”.

The British Gas Marketing Academy’s success will be measured like other marketing activity and will be scrutinised to ensure that investing in its people provides a good return on investment.

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