Occam provides a range of outsourced data services including data processing, database development and management as well as data analysis, to the charity and commercial sectors. Occam’s clients have included Eurostar, Royal Bank of Scotland, the Ministry of Defence, Kia Motors UK, GlaxoSmithKline, Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation.
Changing stripes to develop a new business proposition
At the time of the initial MBO we were investing in an established data-marketing agency. The rapidly changing marketplace meant Occam had to change the services on offer markedly. This led to a radical new strategy and the development of its proprietary marketing management software, Zebra. Livingbridge worked alongside Occam’s core leadership team to support the creation and execution of the Zebra strategy that saw Occam become a leader in its field.
- When we invested it became apparent that Occam was over reliant on a small number of existing clients and soon after the MBO revenues started to falter.
- We introduced a sales director, James Bagan who we had worked with previously to help the board understand the challenges the business was facing and how critical the rapidly changing market conditions were.
- The marketplace was shifting, data and data processing were becoming increasingly commoditised and it was clear that the existing strategy of the business was no longer relevant.
- Immediate action was needed which resulted in the board appointing James to MD, who together with Ian Williamson, the chair and Pete Clarke of Livingbridge set about developing a new strategy for the business, the initiative that became known as Zebra.
- The driving force behind Zebra was Occam chairman, Ian Williamson. James Bagan, the managing director, explained, “All of the tools that we use are widely available, if not generic. So Ian's view was, if we continue to sell the same products as our competitors, we'll only ever compete on price. So we identified what the key customer data-led marketing challenges were of the last few years. We asked customers which issues were causing them most problems. Then we’d look at the solutions we had already deployed and cherry-pick components from them – and a component could be anything – it could be a technology, it could be a software product, or a piece of consultancy - a person. We combine all of these components, and turn them into a Zebra solution.”
- In 2008 the recession increased pressure on the company again. Zebra’s early sales successes and growing interest from the market convinced James to commit everything to Zebra. The team set to work together on drawing up an all-or-nothing plan to fully realign the business behind Zebra.
- This commitment led to Livingbridge investing additional funds in the business to support it through the loss making periods in the belief that we had a winning strategy and in support of the team.
- Two years later and Occam had turned a corner, winning large contracts and seeing renewed interest from the market. This ultimately led to the successful sale to St Ives, an international marketing services group, employing more than 3,000 people in the UK, North America and Asia.
“We became acutely aware of the rapidly changing marketplace and, with Livingbridge’s support and backing, we have been able to transform the business into one of the UK’s leading direct marketing solutions businesses."
Ian Williamson, Non-executive Chairman
Occam is founded
Livingbridge backed an MBO from its founders enabling the company to exploit its marketing database solutions capability
New ‘Zebra’ strategy goes to market, and sales begin to recover
Significant government contract and an unprecedented uplift in new business
The business was among the eight leading market service providers identified by independent research firm Forrester in its first ever evaluation of UK database marketing service providers.
Occam is sold to St Ives.