B2B marketing leaders need to drive demand in creative new ways.
The problem? It can be tough to get creative in a climate of high pressure and low resources. Successful marketers know that tough economic conditions are a cue to double down on proven tactics—like ABM—while also taking smart risks. Read on for the 5 key reasons top performing companies are prioritizing ABM right now, and get a sneak peek of Inverta’s new ABM Starter Pack, which makes it easier than ever to build, launch, optimize, and scale a pilot ABM pilot program.
- ABM provides focus to your sales and marketing teams, so they stop spinning their wheels and start collaborating more effectively to drive demand. By aligning your efforts around a set of target accounts, you can ensure that your teams are working together towards a common goal. This laser focus helps to eliminate the inefficiencies that often arise when sales and marketing are working in silos. What’s more, this collaboration leads to better alignment on messaging and more targeted outreach, which in turn delivers a more cohesive buyer experience. By providing focus and alignment, ABM can help your teams work smarter, not harder, to achieve your revenue goals.
- ABM is an efficient use of budget because you’re only spending money to engage accounts that are your ideal fit. Unlike traditional marketing approaches that cast a wide net and hope to catch some leads, ABM is highly targeted—akin to spear fishing. In fact, in a study by ITSMA, 87% of marketers who measured ROI said that ABM outperformed other marketing investments. By identifying and prioritizing these accounts, you can be sure that you are spending your marketing budget in the most effective way possible. Rather than wasting resources on leads that may never convert, you can concentrate your efforts on engaging the accounts that are most likely to become customers. This targeted approach not only saves money, but it also generates higher quality leads and ultimately, higher returns on your investment.
- ABM increases the value of pipeline opportunities. By focusing on high-potential accounts and delivering personalized content and outreach, ABM can build stronger relationships with prospects which not only increases the likelihood of conversion, but can also boost contract values. According to a study by Alterra Group, companies that implemented ABM saw a 171% increase in their average annual contract value. How? ABM allows marketers (and Sales, too!) to tailor their messaging and approach to the specific needs and pain points of each account, which can lead to a more engaged and receptive audience. In addition, ABM enables companies to target decision-makers directly, expanding the scope of the buying conversation to address organization-wide needs.
- When implemented correctly, ABM is low risk and high impact. One of the most appealing aspects is its low risk, high reward nature. Inverta has helped hundreds of companies, both enterprise and high growth, implement and scale ABM successfully. And with our new ABM Starter Pack, we not only help clients identify high-potential accounts and personalize outreach, but we also set you up with proven ABM platforms to ensure your team is equipped with the necessary tools for success. With the ABM Starter Pack, you can achieve more predictable and consistent revenue growth within six months, without the risk and uncertainty of other traditional marketing tactics.
- It’s easy to prove the ROI of ABM by identifying your key metrics at every account stage. Unlike some other tactics, ABM provides a clear and measurable impact at every step of the sales and marketing process, across three types of KPIs: revenue, relationships, and reputation. This level of visibility allows you to optimize your program and adjust your approach to best serve your target accounts. It also equips you to socialize early engagement metrics with your executives and stakeholders, to demonstrate marketing’s impact long before a new pipeline opportunity is created.
To put it simply, marketers are doubling down on ABM because it works.
How it works is an entirely separate conversation—but we’d be remiss not to mention one critical, but often overlooked aspect of running a successful ABM program. And that’s the marketing technology that makes it all happen behind the scenes, such as:
- identifying priority accounts based on intent signals
- personalizing content and creating custom content experiences
- delivering real-time intelligence to optimize your program design
- coordinating messages and content across channels and stages of the buyer’s journey
Whether you purchase new ABM technology to achieve your goals or work to integrate your existing tools to support your program design will depend on what you currently own and what you’re trying to achieve.. Remember, the end goal is to work smarter, not harder, to drive pipeline., So think through your marketing technology needs and strategy before you launch your program.
If you need support in your account-based marketing strategy, technology, or execution, the ABM Starter Pack can get you up and running quickly, while equipping you with a scalable foundation for growth. If you start now, you can launch an ABM pilot with early results in Q4. Learn more about the ABM Starter Pack today!
Unfortunately, simply co-writing or exchanging blog posts doesn’t constitute a true partner marketing strategy. Partner marketing can, and should, be so much more!
Blogs are to partner marketers what leads are to demand-gen marketers — an activity-based metric. While important, certainly, a partner marketing effort can be more.
Instead, partner marketers can learn from the ABM discipline of driving fully-fledged, targeted campaigns to make the most of a co-marketing partnership. When two partners come together on full campaigns that articulate the value of the partnership to their audiences, their impact doubles.
In this blog, we’ll break down the challenges and payoffs that come when you adopt an ABM mindset to partner marketing.
The Why & How of Teaming Up for Partner Marketing Campaigns
Adding two logos on a piece of content and calling it good isn’t the best partner marketing strategy. However, if this is you, you’re not alone. A recent survey of marketing leaders found that a lack of strategy is the greatest challenge to making partner marketing work for 25% of teams. Given that 15% don’t even have a documented partner marketing strategy at all, well, you see the problem.
An effective partner marketing strategy requires much more. It requires you and your partner to put on your ABM hats and get down into the details of your shared audiences, how a campaign might engage them, and what mutual benefits you can take away.
In short, it’s identifying a common story you and your partner are qualified to tell together, crafting a theme, identifying the programs and tactics you’ll deploy to get the campaign to market, and then creating joint goals to evaluate success. In essence, it’s an ABM campaign.
Is this hard to pull together? You bet! You’ll face hurdles such as:
- Identifying the right partners to begin with. Then, getting all the stakeholders on board to support the budget, resources, and promotion.
- Leveraging collective data, ensuring mutual benefits, and maintaining clear and concise communication for the duration of the campaign.
- Managing partner expectations regarding outcomes. Some 22% of marketers don’t pursue a partner marketing program because they couldn’t establish mutual growth goals with partners in the past.
However, that doesn’t mean going all in on a partner marketing campaign isn’t worth it. We know from experience! In a future post, we’ll break down the behind-the-scenes process of pulling together five industry-leading technology partners with us into the year-long campaign Martech Masterclass Series.
Payoffs of Great Partner Marketing Campaigns
We aren’t the only ones who’ve experienced great success from treating partner marketing more like an ABM campaign. A 2022 partner marketing benchmark report found that 56% of partner marketing programs have resulted in success over the past year, and 88% of marketers see partner marketing as a necessary tactic that yields value.
Whether you’re a tech partner or a services partner, combining your knowledge and expertise with a partner can multiply your efforts. Indeed, a well-crafted partner campaign can have a 1+1=3 effect.
Let’s break down the benefits of partner marketing for tech and service partners to illustrate how this can work in practice:
- Two Tech Partners: When two tech partners collaborate, they can talk about the power of their combined solution. After all, a campaign dedicated toward their joint customers can be much more successful than if they had one or the other product in a silo.
- Tech Partner + Services Partner: A campaign between these two is a little trickier since it can give the perception that the tech is so complicated it needs a service partner to interpret it. However, if done well, the service partner can provide the value of an “impartial opinion” to give credence to the claims of the tech partner. Meanwhile, it sets the service partner apart from competitors by demonstrating their specific knowledge and expertise associated with that particular technology. Win, win!
- Two Services Partners: Lastly, a partner marketing campaign between two service partners helps demonstrate a united solution where two partners can work together to solve related issues a potential client could have. Each focuses on its area of expertise, and each benefits from and augments the work of the other.
Next Steps: Transforming Your Partner Marketing Approach
As we’ve mentioned, the traditional approach to partner marketing is often very transactional. You sponsor my conference, let’s co-sponsor a field event, I’ll write you a blog post… sigh. The strategy behind it is all but absent.
So, how can you start to solve this? By hiring solid campaign marketers who have a sales mindset for generating revenue, just like ABM marketers do. THEN your partner marketing efforts can take on their strategic destiny and start to work as an arm of your company’s demand gen efforts.
At Inverta, our experts jump right into your team to cost-effectively optimize your strategy, campaigns, and more — including for partnering marketing. Learn more about what we offer here.
Learn More About Inverta
Just like there’s no “I” in team, there’s no “I” in ABM. No one individual can do it alone. And, just like with any sports team, it takes a combination of vision, leadership, and a team mentality to beat the competition and find success.
Unfortunately, many marketing teams approach ABM as separate components working toward separate ends rather than as a unified team where each person plays a part in achieving the same goal. Indeed, despite 52% of marketers spending 6-15% of their budgets on ABM, 26% of ABM programs don’t follow basic ABM best practices. In an increasingly budget-tight climate, low-performing ABM programs are at risk of getting cut.
Input and planning need to be a concerted team effort between everyone involved in an ABM program: one complete with the right leadership, essential frameworks, thoughtful strategy, and the right skills to make it happen. So, what makes up a winning team, and how does that apply to ABM? Let’s break it down.
What Makes a Winning Team?
In sports, a successful team requires both players and a coach. However, not just any coach or players will do. More specifically, a winning team needs a coach and players who understand their intended roles and how they come together to achieve their goals.
Winning coaches are responsible for:
- Setting the goals. A good coach creates the vision and plans for how the team will accomplish what it sets out to do — win the championship.
- Inspiring the team, getting them excited, and helping all players believe in themselves.
- Building and teaching a playbook that demonstrates how and why all the players must work together to accomplish their goals.
In short, the coach ensures their team knows that no one individual star can achieve their goal alone. It takes a team effort, and the coach’s role is to rally and lead the team together toward their common cause.
Likewise, winning players are responsible for:
- Committing to the goal and believing in the plan.
- Showing up every day ready to put the work in.
- Living with a team mentality — no one likes a ball hog.
- Playing to their strengths.
- Excelling at communication, both on and off the field.
While all great teams have excellent coaches and players, teams that excel and end up winning the championship tend to have one ingredient that stands out above all others: culture. Only the select few teams who truly get along, inspire one another, lift each other up, and have fun along the way will make it to the end.
Applying Leadership, Teamwork, & Heart to Your ABM Program
As with sports, applying a team mentality can make a world of difference for your ABM program. Everyone has a role to play. Thinking of your ABM efforts as a championship game can clarify each person’s role and motivate your team to achieve more together than they could alone.
With ABM, you need leaders who are responsible for:
- Setting the goals and vision for ABM. Your ABM leaders need to communicate where they feel ABM will have the most significant impact on the business, their expectations, and what they hope to achieve with the ABM program.
- Bringing the team together and getting them excited about the ABM program. Leaders should show their team that the business is invested in this program and believes it can have a substantial impact on growth goals.
- Building an ABM charter that clearly outlines each person’s role, how they should work together, and when they should leverage the tools in their toolbox.
There’s not a single star player that can get a team to win a championship. The AE or Sales rep alone can not get ABM to work, nor can one individual “ABM marketer.” Each person on the ABM team is essential.
With ABM, you need skilled marketers and team members who:
- Believe in the vision and are committed to doing their part to achieve the goals that the leaders have outlined.
- Own each of their individual pieces of the overall playbook and work to collaborate. No one individual or department should try to take it from start to finish.
- Develop a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) chart and follow it.
- Excel at cross-department communication.
So, what sets the greatest championship teams apart from all of their opponents? The secret ingredient of culture. The same holds true in the corporate world when it comes to ABM.
What do we mean by that? Getting your target accounts to engage, take meetings, and lean into your ideas is a payoff that rallies the team around the ABM approach. It’s that feeling of scoring the game-winning goal — it’s motivating, thrilling and exciting!
The Magic of Making ABM Win
A team-minded ABM strategy is an investment in your team’s full potential; 76% of marketers saw higher ROI with ABM than any other strategy. Indeed, the greatest ABM programs become highly successful when everyone across marketing, sales, and customer success is aligned, has bought in, is communicating, and is having fun — just like with any successful sports team.
Keeping competitors at bay and winning over your competitors happens when ABM programs go from disparate efforts to a united front. If you’re ready to take your ABM team to the next level, Inverta can act as the coach or a key player to help you win.
Learn More About Inverta
- Interested in how Inverta can help coach you through an ABM strategy? Contact us here.
- Peruse through our ABM-specific content including our latest eBook on ABM Readiness.
A fool with a tool is still a fool.
There are no silver bullets.
The best technology will fail without a strong strategy or business process.
Technology without vision, strategic plan, or compelling use case is a wasted investment.
Do these phrases sound familiar? They should! I know my team and I have acquiesced to these notions after a derailed martech deployment or two. They sound familiar because there is truth to the idea that a new tool or technology on its own isn’t going to mean the difference between outperforming and preserving the status quo. The “golden rule” has always been strategy before technology.
But I’m starting to believe that the old rules (golden or not) no longer apply.
Each day, point tools are creating markets by shining spotlights on business problems and painting pictures of a better way. Today’s martech landscape is like a women’s magazine, advertising countless get-in-shape fixes and miracle hacks – and marketers are desperate to show a digital capability that outpaces their peers.’ With a pace so frenetic – how can you reconcile a strategy-first approach every time?
The answer? You don’t. Because technology has critical role in informing your strategy.
In the same way that Account-based marketing and revenue has dissolved the linear progression of lead qualification from marketing to sales, so too has the “strategy before technology” requirement been made irrelevant. In both scenarios, sequential activities have been replaced with cross-function and collaboration. The digital transformation’s agile imperative is being acknowledged both in how we go to market, how we sell, and how we select the technology to support those activities.
It’s not a wise or efficient use of time to plan effective strategy without simultaneously considering the technology that’s available to support it.
If you refuse to consider both in concert, you’ll end up with two scenarios:
- The “Now What?” Have you ever spent 3-6 months developing a strategy for how you’re going to meet the following year’s goal? Usually, after slide 127 finishes its animation and the screen goes dark, you’re left with a lot of head scratching. Now what? How do we begin? Who needs to be involved? How will my job change? The “Now What?” scenario doesn’t think about activation, and when the rubber meets the road, there’s usually reduced budget, reduced time to implement, and little direction on where to begin.
- The “Tunnel Vision:” Sometimes the sizzle of a new technology is too loud to ignore. The train to Innovation Town is leaving, and you’ve cut a check for a first-class seat. Fast forward 3 months after your initial deployment and you’re having trouble rationalizing your investment. You begin to use the technology reactively. It’s Thor’s hammer, and everything is a nail. The tool’s functionality alone is driving your strategy, making you unable to see the forest for the trees. Your tunnel vision has prevented you from being able to differentiate from your competitors.
As marketing and sales leaders, you have a mandate to be aware of what the current tech landscape can offer you as you plan for how you’ll meet your revenue targets.
Here are some ways to stay ahead of the curve:
- Nominate someone on your team to run point on martech education, and ensure they create a regular process of information sharing and feedback collection. Check out this podcast with Jason Hekl and Megan Eisenberg, CMO of MongoDB on how she stays current with her own martech education.
- Commit to and prioritize internal education. Have vendors demo products at weekly meetings or have them join a quarterly offsite.
- Attend industry conferences. MarTech, Marketo Summit, SiriusDecisions, Oracle MME – these shows offer extensive sponsor case studies and exhibition halls. Create a shortlist of technology categories (AI, Buyer Intent, ABM, Sales Enablement, etc.) and set up meetings before you head out to the show. Ask for customer referrals, and be prepared to ask them how they would tackle your organization’s specific use cases.
- Find a trusted partner to help you sift through the landscape. At Inverta, we provide regular advisory to our clients on how to think about their stack, and will have more tips and tricks in the coming months. As always, if you’re looking at an area that we don’t cover, we’ll try our best to connect you with someone who can help.
Happy martech events season, friends! Hope to see you out there!
I have sat through numerous well-intentioned presentations from enthusiastic marketers sharing their account-based marketing case studies. While the stories are interesting and the results are compelling, some situations make it difficult for me to differentiate between ABM and JGM (“Just Good Marketing”).
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
“We had inbound activity but a majority of that activity was from companies and people that didn’t convert or didn’t fit our customer profile. Only a small percent of inbound activity actually turned into marketing qualified leads. While our inbound programs are important we had to do more to generate interest at the right companies that would good candidates for our solutions.
Our new approach was to create a targeted account list and create and execute focused marketing programs and tactics at those accounts.”
While that is certainly a smart approach and commendable, being account-centric is not the same as implementing account-based marketing strategy.
What differentiates an account-based marketing strategy from an account-centric strategy is customer insight. Customer insight is the heavy research, mapping, and monitoring that is necessary to establish yourself as a trusted advisor and potential solution provider to an account.
Audience and customer-centricity are table stakes for an account-based marketing strategy. If you’re going to market by product, have sales teams that are segregated by product, and are having product marketing creating product-focused content about products – then you are not set up to pursue a true account-based marketing strategy.
… even if you’re only marketing to a defined set of target accounts.
… and using some light personalization.
Knowing the organizations who are a good fit for your product and marketing to them is JGM, not ABM! If you can assemble the criteria of a target market, then they can be yours to pursue, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. However, calling that activity “account-based marketing” is rendering the term meaningless.
I am proposing that instead of the generic term ABM, we go a step further to specify what type of ABM we’re practicing. This helps marketers share challenges, solutions, and case studies that reflect ABM environments more similar to one and other. ITSMA, Jon Miller, co-founder of Engagio, and others have used a 3-tier system that describes the vastly different types of account-based marketing. I recommend we adopt it as a community of B2B marketers.
Tiers of ABM
All great ABM is customer-focused, insight-led and tech enabled. The secret sauce of account-based marketing at any tier lies in the insight. ABM at any tier features coordinated, parallel efforts or plays between marketing and sales to understand their accounts and markets.
That said, the level of customization in your tactics, messaging, and content, along with total number of accounts and overall business health dictates what tier of ABM is best for your organization.
Nowadays it might be tempting to refer to all forms of good, common sense marketing as ABM, but that would be misrepresenting the discipline. In doing so – we do a disservice to JGM’ers and ABM’ers everywhere.
This is how an award-winning, tier one ABM play was described to me at the IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) “Marketing Vision” summit in early November.
“It’s long tail, grind-it-out relationship building.”
“You’re not spending money on media, you’re spending money on meeting spaces.”
The relationship-focused, low scale, highly customized series of events had this digital native scratching her head. No bulk email communication? No targeted ad buy? How could this be?
Yet, as the 2-year long, thought-leadership and innovation-event focused play was described to me – it became clear that that events tactics used to initiate the relationship were designed to align with the buying center of this strategic account. Each element was highly choreographed: the type of information they liked to receive (provocative thought leadership), through the channel they trusted most (peers and subject matter experts), in a setting that would command their attention (executive briefing).
Account-based marketing is truly the child of marketing and sales alignment – so much so, that our friends at Engagio coined the term “Account-based Everything” to more accurately describe what happens in an account-based approach. In the scenario above, marketing and sales were together known as playmakers who worked in such close concert with one and other that it was nearly impossible to determine where one function stopped and the other began. After all, when one account means the difference between your company staying in business or not – nobody has got time for a turf war.
While the example above is an extreme, the ABM play can take on many forms (digital included – thank goodness!) based on the play’s specific objective. In a programmatic scenario, technology plays a much more significant role in communicating personalized, relevant content at scale. While the execution may lean slightly more toward marketing or sales depending on the skill sets required, both functions move in tight alignment with one and other for the life of the play.
Therein lies the difference between a traditional marketing program and a play. Marketing programs are executed in traditional demand creation scenarios – where there is a more deliberate hand-off of demand from marketing to sales. Marketing lays the foundation, and sales puts up the house. Marketing shops for the fabric, sales makes the dress. The sequential nature of activities allows some level of separation. At best, you have coordinated functions who are on the same page. At worst, you have ships passing in the night.
In contrast, there is no room for misalignment in a play. None.
Below are some other key differences between a play and a program:
- Entity focus
Traditional demand creation marketing programs take a “leads first” approach to targeting – using firmagraphic attributes like industry or job role to enhance relevance. Marketing plays also communicate to the individual, but use an account-centric approach to targeting, using inferred attributes that help identify job role as well as the role in a buying center within the overall account.
- Customer Insights
While an insight-lead approach to traditional demand creation has been shown to boost response – one could argue that it’s still considered optional for marketing and sales organizations that are structured by product. However in ABM, customer insights are the very foundation of each play design. True account-based marketing and sales require deep, comprehensive research to identify the internal and external factors facing their target accounts. This knowledge establishes a solution as a credible source, and creates more relevant conversation with the buying center.
- Success Criteria
Traditional demand creation focuses (somewhat frivolously) on classic marketing attribution. Typically, we’ll see successful outcomes of marketing tactics aligned with opportunity value to determine things like marketing sourced and marketing influenced revenue. Account-based marketing plays can sometimes run over 12-18 months and involve hundreds of marketing and sales interactions, making any accurate attribution impossible! Instead, influence becomes a better measure of success. Are there certain marketing interactions that are correlated with successful sales outcomes or desirable deal attributes? Are certain tactics associated with things like shorter time to close, larger deal size, or better account coverage? These correlations show whether or not the play activity is successful.
Playmakers are associates from the marketing and sales function that work together to achieve the unique goals of an account-based marketing and sales approach. Although the entity focus, the need for customer insights, and the success criteria also differ between a program (or campaign) and a play – the difference between the two is underscored by the simultaneous, mutual interchange between the two functions.
What are some other reasons that the marketing program (or campaign) differs from the account-based play in your organization?
(This post originally appeared on the Engagio blog. View more great content at http://www.engagio.com/blog/.)
It’s been a few days since the Demand Unit Waterfall was introduced at the #SDSummit in Las Vegas, and in the wake of that introduction, the Internet was awash with initial takes, reactions, and feedback.
At Inverta, we too pooled our thoughts in effort to chime in – not wanting to seem like we didn’t have a take on the newest addition to the Waterfall family. However, our attempt at a quick reaction piece was dismal. 1500 words after editing.
There are serious implications to modifying your demand management taxonomy to comply with the new way of creating demand – too serious for broad strokes. Too serious for 450 words.
Our community doesn’t need another set of reactions to the Demand Unit Waterfall. Our community deserves a deeper dive.
The truth is, the inception of the Demand Unit Waterfall legitimizes a bigger change in the discipline of demand management. The dissolution of discrete marketing, sales and lead development functions, and the requirement to measure buying entities in their aggregate will no longer be ignored. Some organizations have battened down the hatches, thinking they can ride out this storm of account-based revenue, AI, and intent-based targeting.
Pass out the life vests, because those ships are sinking.
Our community doesn’t need another set of reactions to the Demand Unit Waterfall. Our community deserves a deeper dive.
We’ll be releasing a three part brief series called The Evolving Discipline of Demand Management. The series will cover different taxonomies for managing demand (including the three Demand Waterfalls), the tech implications of modern demand management, and the discipline of measurement in modern demand management. All three will be written with one objective in mind: to crystallize what these changes mean for you and your organization, and how you can best react to them.
Many leaders are staring down the barrel at some serious personnel and technology investments to help stay ahead of the curve. Our goal is to compile some practical advice to help guide that decision-making.
Our first essay, which will help guide you through the different taxonomies for measuring demand, will be available at the end of June. In the meantime, check out our panel discussion “Getting Real about Account-based Revenue” on June 8.
Patrice will be joining Kathy Macchi and Trish Bertuzzi for a live panel discussion on Thursday, June 8 at 1:00 PM EST
I got a chance to catch up with Patrice Greene, President of Inverta. An original member of the “marketing automation generation,” Patrice’s early adoption of marketing automation has led to successful roles in marketing and sales leadership on both the client and partner side. Now as President and co-Founder of Inverta, she hears the perspectives of marketing and sales leaders every day, and keeps a laser focus on the ever-changing B2B marketing landscape.
[Ashley] To start, I’m curious about “a day in the life of Patrice.” What are some of the reasons that organizations are coming to you? Are there commonalities in the concerns that you are hearing from marketing leaders?
[Patrice]The two largest commonalities across all of my conversations have to do with account-based strategies and the gap that exists between theory and practice. ABM is a trending, hot topic right now and while it’s not new – developing and mobilizing an ABM strategy in a tech enabled world is a bit new. The question I get most often is “where do we start?”
When you think about inbound marketing, for example, or anything that we did with respect to getting your demand generation engine in place, there were clear and cumulative steps to setting that up. Also, it was much broader because the objective was to drive a large audience into the top of the funnel. So common sense would say, “Okay, we need to get our funnel defined. Then we need to have some scoring in place to qualify those leads once they come in. Okay, now we need to get nurtures in place to market to those leads on an ongoing basis.” So it was easier to understand how to get started, and the strokes were broader.
Now, when you think about account-based marketing: You need to treat accounts, or groups of accounts, differently. You need to figure out which accounts you’re going to go “all-in” on. You need to consider which resources you are going to pull in, how much you’re going to spend, what tactics you are going to use, and whether or not there are similarities in those accounts from a segmentation perspective. And if you’re an Enterprise, and you have multiple products and multiple markets? All of those considerations can paralyze folks.
[Ashley] Besides this “paralysis,” or inability to get started, as you described it – has there been a common issue or variable that’s preventing organizations from adopting an account-based strategy?
[Patrice] The word I would add in there is adopting an effective account-based strategy. A lot of organizations think that they have adopted an account-based marketing strategy because they bought certain technologies like Demandbase or Terminus or they bought Engagio. They’re sending cupcakes, right? Therefore they have a set of target accounts and they’re not outbound spraying and praying like they did before. They’re getting a little more specific and disciplined, but it’s still outbound marketing where they are handing leads over to sales. So it’s not really ABM.
I would say the thing that’s preventing people from being effective with it is having a true collaboration with sales: where they are targeting a group of accounts and they are both engaging in activities with those accounts to achieve a common goal. That isn’t happening because there isn’t alignment on the how the organization is defining their specific account based strategy.
When I talk to organizations about their account-based marketing programs, it almost always results in discussions centered on how sales and marketing can be more collaborative to truly surround the target accounts. More often than not they are simply conducting marketing activities to sales’ target accounts. That still results in a marketing to sales handoff versus a true coordinated, all-hands-on deck blitz to penetrate the target accounts as a team.
[Ashley] When we talk about organizations that have agreed to pull the trigger on ABM and they know where they are going to start, what would you say is the biggest pitfall that you see after the project has been kicked off?
[Patrice] One: trying to speed out of the gate. I absolutely understand needing to move quickly. I get needing to not wait and get things in play, etc. But that need for speed means something or multiple things are getting sacrificed. Alignment is usually a big one, and then people are skipping steps on the target account selection. I hear, “this is what my rep gave me. I just got them on board. We’re aligned – they JUST decided to support me with this initiative. I can’t go back and tell them that we need to revisit this list. That is going to set us back, and so we have to use this list.”
And then, I hear, “We don’t have time to take a step back and revisit our segmentation strategy. We need to go with how we’ve always done it – these are our personas, this is the content that we have. We can’t create new content, we have to use existing content.”
What you end up with in that scenario is potentially targeting the wrong accounts with the wrong message because it’s what you have and you don’t want to upset the apple cart.
And it’s all driven by the need for speed.
[Ashley] Do you think there’s a different dynamic in a project that’s initiated by a marketing function vs. a sales function or Chief Revenue Officer?
[Patrice] ] I do think there’s a different dynamic. When we initiate the conversation with the sales side of the house first, and the sales side will bring in their marketing team to continue the conversation, there is sometimes defensiveness like, “We’re doing this already.” Territory becomes an issue, and you can tell that the marketing function feels protective of the work they’ve already put in.
Right there, that tells me that alignment is an issue. If one function hears a new idea and becomes defensive, we can tell that sales and marketing are not on the same page, or in a place where they’re able to work together.
When a project is initiated by marketing, or we are brought in by marketing – it is a little bit different.
Given the nature of a marketers day to day, going to sales to gain buy-in is a common occurrence. They are habitually trying to gain sales approval. I would say marketers are a bit more skilled at navigating those internal politics because of that fact. Often times they’ve already talked to a friendly sales leader or have selected a few key reps that they feel will be collaborative to kick off some account-based programs with. So the conversation tends to go more smoothly. If there’s any push back from sales – it’s typically related to the fact that they’ve been doing target account selling forever and this isn’t new to them. I’m generalizing – and it’s certainly different in every organization, but on the whole I find the conversations with sales when marketing has pushed for the initiative tend to go more smoothly than the other way around.
Want to hear more? Join us for “Getting real about Account-based Revenue,” a live panel discussion with Patrice, Trish Bertuzzi, and Kathy Macchi on Thursday, June 8 at 1:00 PM EST.
Kathy will be joining Patrice Greene and Trish Bertuzzi for a live panel discussion on Thursday, June 8 at 1:00 PM EST
I got a chance to catch up with Kathy Macchi, a long time survivor of the technology industry who brings over 25 years of sales, marketing, and technology experience to her role of Vice President of Consulting at Inverta. As an ITSMA Partner, Kathy has been working with companies on strategic account marketing for more than 10 years.
[Ashley] Let’s talk about account-based marketing. For people who have just started hearing the term in the last year or two, how long have you been working with organizations on account-based marketing?
[Kathy] I have been working in it since 2007. Ten years.
[Ashley] So why are people treating this like it’s a new thing?
[Kathy] Because of how it’s being positioned in the marketplace. When it first started, it probably began about five years before I got involved with it, it was large service providers with high deal sizes, and it was the idea of, “how do you take your best accounts and really get to know them better?” Peppers and Rodgers published a book in 1996 called The One to One Future, and that’s essentially what ABM was back then. It was one-to-one marketing. If I look at some large technology companies, 85% of their revenue comes from 15% of their customers. It was time they stepped back and said, “why are we marketing to them like we don’t know what they have?” It seems like common sense, but if you rely on a small subset of companies to make your number – it’s worth doing the deep research so you can treat them like you know them. Especially if they are buying millions of dollars of your product.
[Ashley] What are some of the pitfalls you see with organizations who are trying to get their account-based marketing program off the ground?
[Kathy] Couple things. So some organizations will take a bunch of accounts, and just then just batch and blast to those accounts. The marketing isn’t any different from broad outbound, and they sit back and ask, “how is this different from what I’ve been doing?” and the answer is: it isn’t.
Another pitfall is when marketing thinks they can do it on their own. Marketing will say, “I’m just going to do this, but then I’m still going to toss the leads over to sales.” ABM is not about alignment with sales, it’s about collaboration with sales.
Finally, mismanaged target account selection can be a big pitfall. Your target account list should not be comprised only of accounts that you haven’t been able to win in the last two years. There needs to be defined reasons why they are a target account and what you expect to do with them – and making sure those expectations are realistic. This isn’t a situation where you say, “we’ve not had any luck with these accounts: you take them!”
[Ashley] We are seeing a lot of account-based marketing technologies emerge in answer to this trend (and there’s an argument to be made that they’ve created the market as well). How would you describe how you help organizations make sense of all their options?
[Kathy] The first thing they need to do is to define what their account-based marketing program is. The term has lost a lot of meaning recently, and many things can be considered account-based marketing. But you need to focus and say, “this is a strategic 1:1 ABM program” or “this is a precision ABM program” because that helps guide you toward technology that will best support that strategy. So, define what ABM means for your company. Then, think about the capabilities that you need to be able to segment and personalize your message. What level of granularity do you need to do that? You’ll probably come up with five to eight different categories: do you need account selection? Lookalike modeling? Do you need to append coverage or contacts? Do you need to support digital interactions like advertising? Do you want website personalization? From there, you can come up with a grid to help visualize what technologies fit in what categories – and further – which technologies can achieve the level of granularity or personalization that you’re looking for.
Finally, you want to consider your own infrastructure and what is going to work best.
The biggest factors that people ignore are things like, what training is involved? What integrations are involved? Is it going to change my sales and marketing process and how minor or major is that going to be? It’s very hard for a zebra to change its stripes. You can’t completely expect a sales and marketing to change overnight, or at all.
[Ashley] Is there a piece of technology that’s in market right now or on the horizon that you’re particularly excited about?
[Kathy] Yes, there are a couple solution providers out there and it will be interesting to see where they overlap. Everyone has lots of data now – you can scrape the web, you can get intent data, you can get all types of reports – but how do you take all that information and use it to recommend a next action, based on the company, based on the person. We are starting to see software help marketers make sense of all that data, and use it to make recommendations on next best offer, or what that next treatment should be.
[Ashley] Let’s change gears from technology to skills. What marketing skills are imperative to have when you want to get account-based marketing off the ground?
[Kathy] If I look at a skillset for a 1:1 ABM marketer, I think they are seasoned, experienced marketers that can hold their own with senior members of their sales team. They have market knowledge, and consultative abilities. They are well-rounded executers – they know the different areas of marketing. You look for leadership, people who are collaborative, strategic thinkers and who are creative. And good communication skills. That makes the difference because, in a 1:1 scenario, they are usually working with a top sales rep.
Want to hear more? Join us for a “Getting real about Account-based Revenue,” a live panel discussion with Kathy, Trish Bertuzzi, and Patrice Greene on Thursday, June 8 at 1:00 PM EST.
Trish will be joining Patrice Greene and Kathy Macchi for a live panel discussion on Thursday, June 8 at 1:00 PM EST
I got a chance to catch up with Trish Bertuzzi, a fellow Massachusetts native and renowned sales development expert. Trish’s book, The Sales Development Playbook, is the bible for high performing SDR organizations. Trish’s practical advice, zero tolerance for BS, and sterling reputation has amassed a substantive cult following on both Twitter and LinkedIn, and she spends her days dolling out tough love to organizations who want more productive sales development and inside sales teams.
[Ashley] Trish, what are some of the biggest reasons that companies are coming to you?
[Trish] Companies come to us when they aren’t getting the productivity and yield that they want out of their sales development team or inside sales teams. Maybe they’ve been executing the same model for a really long time and they’re not getting what they need out of it anymore or there’s a new product introduction or a shift in the market and they just don’t know how to adapt their strategy and tactics to address their new reality. That’s typically when we step in.
[Ashley] How has the popularity and of account-based marketing, or what you refer to as “Account-based Revenue” changed the types of questions you are getting asked?
[Trish] My introduction of the term “ABR” was very intentional. I wanted to move the conversation away from account based marketing. We were talking silo city with that term. I wanted our clients to understand that to execute an account based strategy not only does marketing have to change what they do but sales has to change the way they sell too. I think bringing term Revenue into the conversation accomplishes that task.
What got me thinking about this was hearing less of “How do I get more productivity out of my teams?” and more “I can’t get the market to respond to me anymore. What has happened?”
I will tell you what has happened: organizations are realizing that they’ve bored the ever-loving crap out of their buyers with banal messaging and vapid emails so much so that their buyers have put up a wall.
So, it’s not always the team itself that is the problem. I’m seeing more that the process and message is the problem. Organizations know they need to change but they often don’t know where to begin.
[Ashley] Circling back to the term “Account-based Revenue.” How did you come up with that term and why did you feel there was a need for that term?
[Trish] Well, I’m a sales person at heart, right? I’m a sales development rep and I’m an inside sales person – no two ways about it. So-my-focus-is-and-always-will-be: REVENUE.
When I heard people talking about account-based marketing, or account-based everything, or account-based sales development I thought, “Okay, well those words are … interesting. But if all paths don’t lead to revenue, it doesn’t matter what type of account-based strategy you execute.”
So by naming it Account-based Revenue – it puts the visual picture of dollar signs in everybody’s head, and so every conversation needs to lead there.
[Ashley] You’ve obviously worked with lots of organizations trying to get this ABR strategy off the ground. What would you say are some of the most common pitfalls?
[Trish] The first pitfall is thinking that it’s a silver bullet for every single company out there. It’s not. Much as I love ABR, not everybody needs it.
You have to sit back and look at your market. If you’re selling to the SMB, you don’t need an account based strategy. Just do a fabulous job of getting more interesting and relevant with your buyers, and that’s going to uptick your productivity.
If you’re selling to the mid-market, and you’re selling a commodity product or a well-understood product or a product with a lower price point – you don’t need ABR. Just get smarter about what you’re doing.
But if you’re selling to the enterprise, and your deal size is over 50K (that’s an arbitrary number that I selected), or you have a complex solution – you might want to consider ABR. Having said that, I’m seeing a lot of companies that need multiple strategies – because these companies sell into all of those markets! So you may need a traditional demand generation strategy AND you need an ABR strategy.
But because ABR is a buzz word, everybody is picking up all their eggs and putting them in that one basket because it’s nice and tidy.
Well guess what: winning isn’t tidy. Winning is hard so we all need to be smart about our unique market requirements.
Want to hear more? Join us for a “Getting real about Account-based Revenue,” a live panel discussion with Kathy, Trish Bertuzzi, and Patrice Greene on Thursday, June 8 at 1:00 PM EST.