Bonus: ABM Panel Discussion
Account-Based Marketing: The Best Strategy For B2B?
- Bonus content brought to you by the Lead(er) Generation podcast trending_flat
- Experts discuss ABM, a topic that 70% of B2B marketers say is a top priority in 2022 trending_flat
- A deep dive into how to execute a successful ABM strategy
Watch an on-demand recording of the panel discussion with ABM experts.
Is Now The Right Time For ABM?
As B2B marketers, it’s our job to create demand and capture high-quality leads that easily convert into customers. But we can’t do it alone.
We share our growth mission with many other B2B players, such as salespeople, retailers, brokers, distributors and ecommerce teams.
Together, we have access to more data, digital tactics and technology. This has amplified business expectations. The impossible is now possible. Or is it?
While it feels like there aren’t any boundaries to our progress, B2B marketers often hit invisible walls. We continue to face age-old challenges of internal alignment, budgets, resources and time.
Is account-based marketing the right solution for B2B? Find out as we interview a panel of experts about the keys to executing a successful ABM strategy.
- Overview of account-based marketing
- Defining and prioritizing best-fit accounts
- Getting the sales team's buy-in to ABM
- Research and investment into personas
- Content personalization
- Measuring the success of an ABM program
Full Episode Transcript
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Tessa Burg: So today we’re talking about ABM and is it the best strategy for B2B? And especially as we head into some uncertain times and really look at how do we prioritize our marketing resources. So the questions that we have pre-sent to the panel are going to really focus on how do we solve, how do we staff, how do we ideate around some challenges that aren’t really new to us.
Tessa Burg: The first one is we want to be better marketers, we are all in this field because we’re passionate about our customers, we’re passionate about the data that informs what they do. And that leads us to our second challenge. We really want what we do as marketers to be valued by sales. And then the third challenge, we’re always looking to stimulate growth and that’s more important now than ever, I guess it’s always really important, but it feels like we’re going through a new wave of importance.
Tessa Burg: So today’s panel will answer questions around what is ABM marketing, who is it for, what is the value of ABM and how can we measure it, and then we’ll end with, how do we get started?
Tessa Burg: So a lot of people on this call may have just heard of ABM and have not given it a chance, I know a lot of other people on this call have actually tried to sell it in and have failed, have been met with resistance and blockers, and so I hope today gives you a good grounding starting point to kind of re-kick that off and look at ABM through a different lens.
Tessa Burg: So let’s get started with some introductions. Damaris, if you wanna go first, tell us what’s your name, what is your title and where do you work now, and maybe how long have you been practicing ABM or really just sales targeted marketing in general.
Damaris Santiago: Sure, so my name’s Damaris Santiago. I currently am the Vice President of Marketing at an organization called Learning A-Z. Learning A-Z makes literacy supplemental products for K-5 teachers and school districts.
Damaris Santiago: In terms of ABM, I think I have kind of gotten my start around 2016. I began because at the time I was using a consultant called Serious Decisions, which is now Forrester and they had started a new account-based marketing approach. And at the time it solved a really specific need I had and for us, it was going after our existing targeted accounts and expanding. So that kind of got me down the rabbit hole of ABM.
Tessa Burg: Nice. Ryan, just our most recent guest on Lead(er) Generation talking about ABM. You want to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about where you work?
Ryan Elmiger: All right. Well, hi everyone. My name is Ryan Elmiger. I work actually with a company by the name of ServiceNow, we’re workflow management software company based out of Santa Clara, California.
Ryan Elmiger: So, I have been kind of in the ABM space, I’ve made a transition over to over the last couple years. I’ve been kind of a field marketing role, leadership role for the past 10, 12 years. So, it’s been quite an exciting journey, I’ll tell you, I will say that you are all are blessed to have Damaris on the call as well, I’ve learned a lot. She and I worked together at Learning A-Z before I moved over to ServiceNow. So learned a lot from her to kind of elevate the ABM practice also and kind of really keeping that technology at the forefront on how you could leverage that within this space. So excited to talk to all of you today, and I’ll kick it over here to Paul.
Paul Pirozolla: Thanks, Ryan. My name is Paul Pirozolla, I’m the Vice President of Sales Marketing with JBT Corporation. And JBT is a large publicly traded manufacturer in the B2B space, primarily serving the food industry. And I’ve been in essentially doing ABM in one way, shape or form for most of my career.
Paul Pirozolla: The unique perspective that I’ll bring to the panel today is obviously on the B2B side, but also for a large portion of my career, I’ve been on the marketing side and then most recently in the last few years have been on the sales side. So, I’ve really been able to, you know, kind of live both sides of the fence and have seen the benefits and the challenges really of being account-based focused sales and marketing commercial person. So, looking forward to the conversations today and looking forward to learning from you guys too. So, thank you.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, thank you. So let’s kick it off with the definition or if you could, Damaris in a few sentences, tell us what is ABM?
Damaris Santiago: Sure, so I’d like to drop the marketing piece from that and say account-based approach, I think that’s the best way to think about it. What I’ve learned, just trying to engage in the strategy over the last couple of years is putting just marketing in the title doesn’t do it justice. So, I think of it as a focused approach to B2B go to market between sales and marketing in which you work together to target your best fit accounts to turn them into customers.
Tessa Burg: That’s a great way to summarize that best fit account, I think is an awesome definition. So, then Paul, when we’re thinking about, you know, how do we define best-fit? What are kind of, from a sales perspective, the factors that you’re looking at to say, “Yes, this is how I would define a best-fit account.”
Paul Pirozolla: It it’s a great question. It seems like there’s a handful of major things, especially in a space where you’re selling a highly customized technical product, it has to fit the purpose. I mean, that’s the main important thing, but more specifically, in most organizations the drive is to find the most largest customer life cycle profitability. So trying to find the customer that, you know, in segments within the customer and accounts that really provide you with the most sustainable, competitive advantage and profitable growth over the course of their use of the product. And to do that is obviously the challenge, but also living it, breathing it, and executing, especially in today’s world is the real major challenge. But yeah, it’s always been find the customers that provide you the most sustainable competitive advantage and profits.
Tessa Burg: Yeah. Ryan, do you have anything to add to that?
Ryan Elmiger: You know, I would agree with a lot of what Paul just has said and most agree with most all that he said. And I would add that the account selection process, I mean, it really is, I mean, it is formulaic in a lot of ways. I mean, you really gotta look at that opportunity size and there’s various categories that can go there. That achievability is, can you actually, are you a good fit for that opportunity size? And then a biggie that we often look at is that collaborative spirit inside the business, like, do you have the support, the partnership with sales, the partnership with those content experts to really create and shape that content, to really meet market needs and meet those mission, those imperatives. So, it is critically important to take a look at that criteria when you’re, because ABM doesn’t fit across the board for all accounts. And I think that’s really important to mention here as we kind of kick off that selection process.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, no, that’s a good point. Where do you think AB, what kinds of accounts don’t fit for an account-based approach?
Ryan Elmiger: That was for me, I assume?
Tessa Burg: Oh yeah, Ryan.
Ryan Elmiger: Kind of open floor. You know, I, so again, I think if you have, I mean, again, we have a rubric that we have a very, very rigid scoring process that we go through. It takes about 6, 8 weeks sometimes to really pull that data across the board. And if you really score these accounts and you you’re putting all of that criteria together in that rubric and you see that they’re falling short in certain areas, again, you’re ranking your accounts, you’re going to have some that are going to naturally hit, you know, a high fit for the ABM process in the program and for those that kind of hit that bottom, you do want to have conversations about them and they may have a better place in the business, meaning like they could be nurtured by other areas of the business to kind of bring them up to a certain capacity or reshape, but, you know, they can fall off, they can fall off quickly as far as consideration. And that really should be a data-driven decision that you make with your sales partners. Not independent, I think that’s critically important. Because that buy-in is important that they have to support that decision with their teams and their organization and up to the executive level of why you’ve selected. So again, so if you hit that part, you may have a great opportunity in place, but if you have no partners to execute in the business, you don’t have a good solution in place for that opportunity, you’re gonna fall flat. So it’s not a good fit. So, Damaris.
Damaris Santiago: It starts, yeah. I think it’s what you identified, it’s identifying that criteria and anything that falls outside and doesn’t meet that criteria. It’s going to be unique to your business, right? So, if you’re working on that criteria, for example, and maybe you have a threshold for size and volume or number of employees, revenue size, those sorts of things, you just want to make sure that they fit within that criteria and if they don’t, you ultimately wanna drop those accounts from your programs. We’re a really fortunate in education in that we have a really finite ICP, we understand our target market really well. So that walking in, I think for me on the ABM side was a little easier at this organization because the sales side knew their accounts so well, it was just prioritizing which accounts to go after and which buckets. But yeah, I think it starts with knowing your ICP really well.
Paul Pirozolla: Yeah, one area that we’ve also looked at, looking at accounts, is who do we not want to do business with? You know, starting with the opposite, saying the obvious things is ethical behavior financial security and all those, these are things we definitely do not want to be doing business, but what’s been fortunate over the last few years is that business, and especially in our industry, has been so prolific that we can now add more to the what’s not on that table. We’re not going to be with non-progressive customers that are not going to be thinking about, you know, automation and technology that just want to be transactional.
Paul Pirozolla: And you could start to build that not side and then you can go kind of go to the, okay, now within those that are not in that not list, how do we find the right accounts and how do we wanna service them from different perspectives? So sometimes I always tell people in anything, start with what you don’t want, you know, it’s kind of like the cons list, like put that list down first and then that usually does a good job of putting you into the space that you need to do for refining, who you want, who you do want to go after.
Tessa Burg: So I’ve heard some really good, clear benefits. ABM helps you prioritize who’s most important. And the criteria that you use for that is really a reflection of your values and some metrics that mean the most to your business, whether it’s revenue size, volume, frequency of purchase. I know what has to be a challenge for my experience is you’re still getting random, maybe not so random, but requests from the sales team. Like, “Hey, marketing team, if we had this feature, we know we could push this.” Or “We got this big trade show coming up, we just need to make the booth look flashy.” How do you kind of create that alignment and stave off reactive marketing and stay within this sort of more formulaic and proactive approach?
Paul Pirozolla: Yeah. I could take that one in terms of just one of the things that I really pushed in our organization was collaboration with our marketing team and especially our product segment team to say, “I’m not going to be your typical salesperson that’s going to bring you random stuff that you have to react to and try to get you my attention. I’m gonna let you drive the bus in terms of where you want us to go.” And a lot of times in the B2B space, it’s product-driven.
Paul Pirozolla: So, what I’ve done is basically built my sales incentives around our marketing team’s initiatives. So, they’re aligned from compensation because that is what drives the salespeople for the most part. And we’re very clear on our compensation package that yeah, we want to drive top-line revenue, but we also want specific stuff that’s related to innovative new products, innovative new services, and we’re gonna reward you for it because that’s what the marketing and business team is putting as their growth initiatives and their focus, so that we’re staying locked in stock with them.
Paul Pirozolla: So incentivizing sales around it is a really important piece and collaborating with the business segments and the marketing teams to make sure that that’s aligned and that changes every year and it should, but I think that’s a really good way of sort of forcing the connection between the two groups.
Damaris Santiago: Yeah, I do something similar. We create joint sales and marketing plans, right, and they both have a revenue target that they’re working towards. You know, they’re working through those programs, I do give a lot of just leeway to the marketer, right? Like the marketer is almost like the GM of the business in terms of how they’re going to allocate the spend to hit that number in terms of marketing programs.
Damaris Santiago: So, while we get lots of requests and ideas around random acts of marketing, like it’s their job to hold to the plan that they’ve both agreed to, right? Like, so, “Hey, your objective is 5 million this quarter.” We agreed that we’re gonna do X, Y, and Z, we have to stick to the plan to hit these goals ultimately. But that’s sort of how I like to dissuade from there. And then honestly, the best way to get sales on board is getting a couple wins of your belts. Like that dynamic doesn’t start to change until you start netting accounts and winning opportunities.
Tessa Burg: Yeah. And Ryan, I feel like you’ll have a good perspective having experience in field marketing. Sometimes I feel like you’re just going to where the sales team’s pointing you.
Ryan Elmiger: Yeah, you know, I love this topic because it is, I could probably talk for hours about this one, but you know, at ServiceNow we have a very defined process about how we go about building that plan. It is a partnership as Damaris had alluded to with sales, and a variety of other stakeholders in the business, we actually have a very formalized workshop that we do that can take up to two months, we have a lot of our agency partners host and run those workshops.
Ryan Elmiger: But really the idea behind them is that we’re identifying key imperatives that the business, again, it’s not focusing on what the sales team most importantly is trying to accomplish. It is what is the customer? What is the account or subset of accounts that you’re, if you’re grouping them within a cluster, trying to accomplish, what are those key problems that they’re trying to solve within their strategic plans? We identify those three. We typically hone in on about three. I mean, really that is an area of focus and we build a strategy to those imperatives. And really the framework we go through is how do we impact reputation within the account? How do we build relationships within the account and how do we drive revenue?
Ryan Elmiger: So it’s not always something that we hone right in on that revenue aspect, but I will tell you that partnership with sales is critical. I do see a very, how do I say this, I almost would put a very hard line in between the field marketing and the ABM function. And I think they get, they naturally start to blend and blur at times where I think in some cases that field marketing function can be more of, every business sets it up differently, but it can be a little bit more of that reactive, sales-driven strategy. Whereas the ABM is truly that account-driven strategy that is being built from the beginning. And I don’t know if Paul and Damaris would agree with that sentiment.
Paul Pirozolla: I would hundred percent agree. I mean, it really is important. I always kind of joke and we had a conversation with a product category manager the other day and we were down in this category and he made the comment and he said, “Well, Paul, where should we go?” And I said, “Wrong question. You tell me, where should we be going?” You know, that’s, to me, you’re the, as Damaris put it, the GM, you’re the CEO of the product line, you tell us in your opinion the accounts, the spaces, the regions, the areas, the price points, all this, because if left to sales, we’re going to go to the quickest, easiest, fastest realm to get a business.
Paul Pirozolla: And it’s really important to have that and empower the marketing team, especially in the, it depends on your organization, in our organization we have product managers, and then we have sort of our key account managers and then our salespeople, and all three of those groups work in tandem because as the companies and accounts get more complex, that’s where it becomes even more difficult because you have different decision-makers at different locations and different priorities. So, but yeah, a hundred percent agree, Ryan.
Tessa Burg: Yeah. Damaris, do you have anything to add?
Damaris Santiago: No, agree, agree with what you two have said. I think it’s just for sure that partnership between sales and marketing has to be pretty tight.
Tessa Burg: So, we’ve covered a lot of what ABM is, and I just want to call it, this is like a massive mindset shift from what we even see in other kind of buzzword marketing, like inbound marketing. So you’re starting not with what’s the sales team’s goals or what’s marketing’s goals, or what products are we launching this year and what do we want to get from that, you’re looking at coming together with a shared plan around your target businesses. And to use Ryan’s word their, imperatives. But what are their challenges and needs and how do we align our communication under that? So with that massive shift, how does that impact then how you execute things like content marketing and email. And Damaris, do you wanna start?
Damaris Santiago: Yeah, it impacts quite a bit of the way you want to think about these things. The other, like thing about ABM that folks don’t mention, it requires a pretty high degree of personalization, right? So when you think about, if I’m going after these target accounts, I need to know who the key buyers are, is there a buying committee? Sometimes there’s three, four personas I have to influence, you now need to think about how do you personalize content and the reach to each of those buyers within that account, right? So it’s a huge, huge lift upfront to stand up ABM-style campaigns. So that’s the other thing that I think is pretty surprising to folks walking into this strategy, right? Understanding how much of a content build is necessary up front to execute.
Tessa Burg: Yeah. Ryan, anything to add?
Ryan Elmiger: A hundred percent agree, I mean, ABM is a very, very flexible model. I mean, you can get to that one-to-one, you can focus on a couple very specific accounts and that instance, I think the last accounts and the more focused you get and the higher revenue opportunities, the more personalized your content gets, you know? Yeah, you can get to that one to few and one-to-many kind of aspect in marketing, but the benefit of ABM, and I know in our practice, we don’t touch a one to many in our practice, from an ABM practitioners side, we only exclusively focus on one to one and one to few accounts. When I say one to few, that’s identifying cluster of 15 or less accounts that we focus on. And the reason is, is our expertise is in that personalization of content. If more personalized, the customer’s going to get, they’re going to wanna appreciate the effort and the understanding that you have for their business. And it typically resonates better and faster and quicker and then you really know you’re winning when your customer’s bringing you in to help elevate your business within their walls. We’re seeing a little bit of that now in some of our one-to-one accounts. So yeah, that was very long-winded to agree, but it’s critical.
Tessa Burg: Yeah. So Paul personalization requires knowing the customer very well. Like not just having personas that go across many different types of businesses. So what are some tools that you’ve used in the past to really dig deep into the different customer types and different customers individually within an account?
Paul Pirozolla: Yeah, that’s a great question. And we’ve used what I would consider our tribal knowledge as a starting point for all of our touchpoints at different accounts as our sort of starting book for a playbook, if you will, on who to customize messages for from our account strategies. The nuances that we’ve had to adjust to over the years has been really making sure that at every level within an organization, we not only are pushing out the content that is relevant and specific to them during a certain time or opportunity identification, but also that there’s forensics coming back that we know that they’ve been involved and they’ve seen it and they’ve viewed it and they’ve absorbed it. But also there’s a group that’s viscerally making touch points with those different levels, whether it’s top to top at my level or director level, key account based managers that are talking with corporate engineers and corporate decision-makers, and then account managers within the region that have talked with clients. We make sure that each message is going out to their liking. But more importantly, it’s not just the giving it to them, but also connecting the personal touch with the right type of person that speaks the same language, speaks the single lingo, has the same sort of level-to-level interaction. And it’s a kind of an organic way of bringing them to together so that it’s not just a digital play, but also, it’s a face-to-face and it’s more personalized as well. So it’s evolved over time, but in a business, especially one where there’s a lot of decision-makers, a lot of influencers, a lot of different locations, regions, sometimes globally, it’s so important to be able to be aware and be aware and make awareness across all those places, rather than just relying on one touch point. Because in my experience, that’s the best way to bridge the time gap to market, as well as making the internal selling of a product a lot easier for your customer.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, I think that learning about the customer and research is probably one of my favorite phases of kicking off any project. But Damaris, is there like a stage or a plateau of analysis paralysis like how much should you be investing? How much time and money should you be investing in research and building account-based personas?
Damaris Santiago: Depends on the potential opportunity size, right? If we’re talking about six, seven-figure opportunities, it’s definitely worth doing the account research. So a good example of program, we ran at another organization I was at, we were going after healthcare hospital systems, a parent company in six subsequent hospitals. If we landed each of those, it was 2 million annually in revenue, right?
Damaris Santiago: So, you can imagine the type of deep intelligence and research We went into, understanding like reading their corporate reports, what are their major initiatives? What are they spending? What are the big projects that are happening within the account that they’re working on within IT?
Damaris Santiago: So that level is definitely prudent if the opportunity value of the account is there in size, right? And it meets your ICP and all those good things. I think we got to the point where we, even outside of the business, we understood their personal hobbies, right? So, we did like a direct mail campaign because one of the buyers we knew was into cooking, we sent her a cookbook, right? Anything just to get on the radar of these people that sort of made decisions on a wider basis for the hospital system.
Tessa Burg: Oh my gosh, I love that example. That is fantastic. Ryan, do you have any other examples of where you’ve used that customer intelligence to do something highly personalized and creative?
Ryan Elmiger: Now, you know, again, I think Paul and Damaris really hit a lot of the key points there. And the reality of this is yeah, you have to, if you’re not taking that time and you’re not really not blocking that time to understand the customer, you’re going to miss the mark right out of the gate, and they’re going to discount your efforts right out of the gate.
Ryan Elmiger: So we, I mean, we leverage a variety of resources a bit, we have, I mean, being ServiceNow is a massive company, recognize that a lot of companies don’t have the resources to, you know, internal resources, specific research departments, things like that, that can really dig into an account, but we look at it at multiple layers. We look at it from a CRM side and a sales, you know, sales insight side from an internal perspective, we leverage Dun and Brad street and a lot of those executive profiles, a lot of those business profiles to really understand that side. We do specific research projects on just signals that are being sent out in social media platforms and things like that, things that, you know, as Damaris said, kind of those strategic plans for the business. If you’re not mapping to those, you’re missing it from the beginning.
Ryan Elmiger: So, we use that content in a variety of forms to really one, make sure we know that they’re the right fit and that’s part of our scoring, but also to personalize the content going in to make sure that we are speaking to their imperatives accurately and identifying what those are and what points they’re trying to accomplish and how our business can solve the problem.
Paul Pirozolla: Yeah, one of the things that we’ve done with our account management, key account management group, is we’ve created a, primarily through LinkedIn, an understanding of where key new roles come into an organization that weren’t there before and make that imperative to understand why they were added and working with our customers to do that research, either directly through them or finding out in some way, shape or form.
Paul Pirozolla: So if a customer of ours all of a sudden adds three new sustainability officers or key people, for example, we wanna know why, what’s going on? Is that an issue that’s going on? Is that just a growth initiative on your end? That’s an example of like, we have a group that that’s one part of their job is to see who else is coming in and out from a job standpoint, they usually troll their LinkedIn sites and make sure they keep track of things.
Paul Pirozolla: And then we’ll also, we’ll do special ideation sessions, we just started to do that last year where we will do, like what Damaris said, we’ll go to the customer’s corporate, usually they have some kind of a corporate scorecard or corporate worksheet that tells about what their initiatives are and we learn and do homework off of their annual reports and say, “Here’s things that really they’re saying and matters to them. So now let’s go take that information and go back and have brainstorming ideation sessions where we’re listening and trying to figure out, you know, bring this to life in the context of your plants or your people.”
Paul Pirozolla: And that’s a new thing for us, because it’s always deprioritized, especially in times where business is good, because you’ve got a lot of, you know, tactical stuff that you could be doing. But we’ve started to do more of that, where we are doing our own homework, our own research on our companies, and going back to them and being more of an informed partner to them, especially those key accounts that we’ve identified as progressive and, you know, thought-provoking and innovative on their end.
Tessa Burg: So, I think something that’s been consistent in all of these answers is that you are using potential revenue, potential growth to determine how much you’re going to invest in the program and to determine how you’re going to measure success. And something I’ve heard a lot about ABM is it’s easy to measure ROI because you’re starting with numbers, you’re starting with rubrics and frameworks. And we’ve also heard a lot about who you’re targeting, their committees, you know these accounts.
Tessa Burg: So, ABM really works well for companies that have known accounts, who are willing to invest and research and put in the time to create personalized programs and have a clear line of sight on what this potential could be. Is there an area or initial types of businesses where ABM is not a good fit? Damaris you wanna start?
Damaris Santiago: Yeah, yeah. And so really small ACVs or deal sizes, right? So for example, product-led growth type companies, right? So companies that do like free trials, that sort of thing, right? So you’re gonna wanna think of like your drop boxes or Slack before it was part of Salesforce, right? Not a great model for ABM, unless you’re pursuing a product trial that should turn into a large enterprise sale. But typically it’s gonna be just those lower deal sizes, the math doesn’t shake out in terms of time allocation, and resource allocation.
Tessa Burg: Ryan, anything to add?
Ryan Elmiger: No, I 100% agree with everything she just said there.
Paul Pirozolla: Yeah, I think the only from my perspective would be, there is a little level, there is a level of type of business that makes it hard to operate with an ABM strategy. The ones that come to mind are smaller, privately held, family-owned, sort of the decisions and strategies are done at the dinner table, they’re not done in the boardroom, those types of companies tend to be a little bit harder to sort of get on board with this, you know, and able to craft a strategy to them, they tend to be a little bit more, either too risk-averse or too erratic in some cases in the way they do business or so one dimensional in their approach where they’ll take in but they don’t give out. So, they could be $2 million business or 200 million, it depends on their size, I hate to use size sometimes because sometimes the sizes are pretty prominent but there’s their mode of operation because they’re, you know, family-owned, privately held, not all of them, but, you know, those tend to be the ones that are harder to kind of see the value in ABM.
Tessa Burg: Yeah. So I think another big shift is we have, thinking about the customer and the account first and what they need, but then how does that impact how we measure the success of these campaigns? A lot of our clients, you know, were still asking for reporting on, how many visits did my website get? How many people downloaded this piece of content? What’s the impression size? What are the KPIs that really matter to account-based marketing? And Ryan, you get to start this time.
Ryan Elmiger: Okay, well, there’s, this is a loaded one, I mean, obviously most businesses go to the revenue impact. So, I mean, if you really think about meeting set, opportunities created, velocity of deals, so you have that narrative around that that are a little bit easier to track using kind of a wealth set up tech stack in a business. But there are also some of those, kind of those reputation and relationship measurements that are a little looser and anecdotal and harder, but they should not be discounted. And I really want to express that because if you really think about ABM, a lot of, you know, I get in some conversation with sales team members and they say, “We need more ABM.” Like it’s like a product or kind of like… But it should be a long game in the end of the day. We, our programs are no less than a year, very average, 16 months, typically up to two years. So we should be setting those expectation and benchmarks and have periodic touch bases to make sure that we’re hitting ’em along that, like I said, let’s say, a year to two-year journey. Not saying you can’t do ABM any lesser, but typically that’s what we try to set it up in our space. Does that make sense?
Tessa Burg: Yeah, that requires a lot of patience. That’s a big expectation to set, especially with the sales team. Paul, do you have any other metrics to add?
Paul Pirozolla: No, the hard metrics Ryan mentioned that we use a lot is very similar, opportunities created, velocity. What I call the softer metrics that we have been doing more recently with targeted, if you want to say, account-based promotions and or campaigns is we’ve been looking now more at, we call the viral tail, like how far is that information going within the organization?
Paul Pirozolla: And we’ve got some forensics now with Showpad, some other tools that we use, where we can see, you know, we went to customer contact A but it ended up at B, C and D and then E took it to X, Y, Z. And we start to look at that and see, okay, how much of our viral load, if you will, is this really working for us? That’s, it doesn’t translate necessarily to an opportunity or sale per se, but it shows that whatever it is sort of on their own getting pushed out within their organization. And that’s a clear indication to us that, “Hey, we got something here.” Something’s, it’s touched a nerve with some people. And we look at that now whenever we do sort of our launches out.
Paul Pirozolla: And what’s nice is we put that back into the hand of the sales team directly too so they can use their tools to do it themselves, and they can see it as well. And then we aggregate all that data and look at all those viral trails and say, “Hey, wow, this is really working in this area or this part of the country.” So it’s a softer metric, but it’s nonetheless one that we kind of use to look at, you know, are we getting traction on a particular account based strategy?
Tessa Burg: Yeah, I like that. It reminds me of magazine’s pass-along value, try and say, like if they read this magazine, how many they are with. Damaris, are there any other metrics that when we’re thinking about this long timeline to measurement, are there things that marketers can look at to say, “Okay, we are getting some early traction, we know we’re going down the right path.” To continue to investing in this highly personalized approach?
Damaris Santiago: Yeah, so we’re actually using an account-based funnel like that traditional funnel that you know from leads, there is actually an account-based version of that, right? So, for us, we’re measuring progression through that funnel, there’s stages. I think all those like leading indicators that you talked about are highlighted in each of those stages. So, for example, is there awareness? Very top of funnel, right? In our target accounts. Like how do we start measuring awareness? They’re engaging with our content, right? We’re like taking all that activity and seeing that we’re moving the needle and they’re progressing to the next stage, right? We actually are looking at marketing qualified accounts versus marketing qualified leads. So that means we’ve got a number of the key stakeholders within the accounts engaged, and it’s time for sales to take in action on that account. We’ve identified, “Hey, this account’s hot, they’ve got interest and intent, let’s send them over to sales.” So, we are looking at progression through that funnel and that tells us whether we’re like moving the needle or not, like are these folks progressing through stages? There are some accounts that won’t ever make it past the target stage, right? We can’t just make a dev into them. So I think just monitoring that funnel in the same way that you would as in a lead process, just it’s a totally different funnel and different stages to measure.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, so you’re kind of pulling it down to really just focus on that account. I feel like I’m going to butcher this quote, but there was a quote from David Ogilvy that was, oh God, “It’s not the number of people you count, it doesn’t matter how many people you reach it’s if you reach the right people.”
Damaris Santiago: That’s right.
Tessa Burg: And count the right people, not all the people.
Damaris Santiago: That’s right. And sometimes you can have a ton of like noise in the account, but it’s not the right people. So like, that’s not an MQA for us, unless the right decision-makers that we’ve identified are engaged.
Tessa Burg: So, we’ve talked about who it’s for, we’re talking about value. I saw a question come in, but before we get to the questions, I’d love to just hit on how we can get started. So I’ll start with you, Ryan, if a marketer wanted to kick off an ABM program, what’s the best way that they can start? And something that’s achievable and they don’t bite off too much.
Ryan Elmiger: You know, I think I had mentioned this in the podcast that we had done together, I think one thing that is critically important is identifying that core team that’s going to be around, kind of going to be digging into this, go through that training, there’s so many training outlets out there. I mean, Damaris mentioned Sirius, you know, I went through ITSMA, we follow ITSMA, make sure you understand truly some of the methodology behind ABM from the out of the gate. I learned this from Damaris and I couldn’t express this more, pilot, start small, get that agreement from your executive level that that’s what you’re going to do. If you, you know, we’ve had some learnings, I would say, on the running at east side even, of sales gets excited, really excited. The term account-based marketing starts taking its own terminology and it just starts running. And everybody says, “I want ABM.” But they don’t even know what they’re asking for. But the idea here is get that training to kind of roll this up, get that training, get that leadership alignment, identify some pilots, and then get a use case in place that you can bring to the rest of the business. And then that ultimately will set you up for success from the beginning. Otherwise, it gets hairy really quick.
Tessa Burg: Yeah.
Ryan Elmiger: Speaking from experience for sure.
Tessa Burg: Yes, I think we’ve all gone a little too far. One thing I think is really interesting, even when you’re talking about getting started and a lot of this conversation has focused on the investment of people power and being strategic and being creative and knowing how to score accounts on numeric values but really you’re working on that alignment first. What is the role of technology and where should that come in if I’m just getting started with account-based marketing? And Damaris, can you kick us off on that?
Damaris Santiago: One second. What’s going on? Can y’all hear me now? Okay, here we go. So the role of technology is secondary. I think like Ryan said, really just hone in on the strategy first, learn what ABM is, hone in on the target account selection, where technology comes to place is it’s gonna give you scale, right? So when you talk about these one-to-one programs, one-to-many technology will help you scale those programs from one to one to one to many, right?
Damaris Santiago: So, when you start thinking about, “How am I gonna target all of these accounts at once? That’s when you’re gonna start thinking about technology to reach all these accounts. There’s a number of vendors out there today, I feel like everyone now brings themself as an ABM technology provider. There are plenty out there, I’ve used just about all of them I’d say, but most of the technology that’s out there when it comes to ABM is gonna be around AB surfing technology to your accounts. So the Terminus is of the world six senses, they’ll have you load in your accounts into their platform and then target them with retargeting display banners, and they let you plug in third-party channels. I will say I would not jump to that step until you’ve really honed in on what your strategy is, your account selection, maybe you have some small wins you’ve been sending, I don’t know, email automation programs, direct mail, I would not move to technology ’cause it’s a pretty expensive investment until you’ve got that first pilot on your belt or a little bit of maturity there. Otherwise, you’re gonna sign up for set technology and not use it for about a year, just speaking from experience here.
Tessa Burg: Yes, yeah, definitely have seen that. Paul, anything to add before we jump into questions?
Paul Pirozolla: I think Damaris hit it right on the head. Don’t let perfection get in way of progress. You know, you don’t have to have all of the fancy tools, if you’ve got a pretty solid CRM system and you’ve got a pretty solid email marketing or marketing automation platform, and you’ve got a really good collaboration between sales and marketing, you can get the approaches for ABM off the ground and still have the same sort of core capabilities out there.
Paul Pirozolla: We’ve, I guess it’s just always been on the manufacturing side, we’ve always had to do a lot with a lot less so we’ve always had to be kind of resourceful, but you know, don’t sell your information, the information is short and the collaboration piece is, and that’s really the big piece. The tools can come, they certain technology facilitates things, maybe gives you a different angle of how you’re trying to push and push an approach with a select group of accounts or your account management team. But focus on the people and getting the people that you know are gonna be involved.
Paul Pirozolla: And then also recognize that you don’t have to have a fully integrated plan to start. You could start with what you think could be a target. If it’s, “Hey, I’m gonna pull one really progressive salesperson, a project manager and my marketing lead and we’re gonna try doing something for a particular offering or solution or product or service that we think would be really good for a certain account that accounts, and we’re gonna build something around it.” I think that’s , it gets to Ryan’s point about piloting, don’t be afraid to pilot something like that because a lot of times you’ll be surprised at first of all, how fast it is because you’ve got a smaller group, but more importantly how resourceful you could be with the stuff that you have.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, no, I couldn’t agree more. So we’re gonna jump into some questions. Our first one comes from Tom Barnes. “Do you have an ABM template for targeting one-on-one enterprise accounts that you can share? Something that is like a visual timeline or a funnel that shows those various sales and marketing touchpoints?” And Damaris will start with you since you mentioned that in one of your answers.
Damaris Santiago: I do, I have a couple that I’m happy to share after this call, I’ve got a couple scenarios that show you, like, depending on the buying stage, what the touch points you should think of. And this is a really important one because sales wants to use the same tactic for every stage in the journey, right? So it’s really important for you to map this stuff out upfront to find what sales is gonna do and what marketing’s gonna do in each stage.
Tessa Burg: Would that be okay to send out to this group after the, oh, awesome.
Damaris Santiago: Happy to share it.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I feel like every time you get into a crunch, the reaction is to, you know, yeah.
Damaris Santiago: Send an email, send an email, send an email, sign up for a trade show for sure.
Paul Pirozolla: Yep.
Tessa Burg: The next question comes from Tom Madlay Hos for Mod App. “In your experience, is there a specific role who should ultimately own and be responsible for the account selection and the account rubric? Knowing that there will be stakeholders opinions across the organization?” And Ryan, why don’t you take this question?
Ryan Elmiger: I don’t know if that was on my end, but I lost part of that question. I couldn’t hear it all. Sorry, if you could repeat it real quick for me please.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, no problem. So it’s from Tom Madrellejos. “In your experience, is there a specific role who should ultimately own and be responsible for the account selection and the account rubric knowing that there will be other stakeholders?”
Ryan Elmiger: Absolutely, I mean, really, I mean, if you have ABM practitioners in your business and you’ve really built that ABM house internally, that marketing manager practitioner is the one that owns it. I mean, that is hands down the person that owns it and drives it. It’s collaborative as far as kind of the information that they pull in, but their job is to make sure that they’re aggregating, analyzing, pulling all that together and putting a recommendation for the business forward and starting that dialogue. So somebody in like my role, again, I’m a practitioner for ServiceNow, that is my job to do.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, I feel like something you’re emphasizing to put it differently is, somebody has to take the ABM hat and put it on.
Ryan Elmiger: Oh yes.
Tessa Burg: This my role and this is what I’m gonna be focused on.
Ryan Elmiger: Oh yeah, you can’t make this, again, it can be a vast crowd that can come into this process, but there has to be somebody driving, you can drive at the bus, it has to.
Tessa Burg: That’s great. The next question from Shannon Sullivan from Mod Op asks, “What do you think are the best engagement methods outbound for reaching your target accounts?” What media do you think is the most effective?” And Damaris do you,
Paul Pirozolla: I can take that.
Tessa Burg: Or Paul do you wanna take that one? I didn’t think you wanted, Damaris do you wanna take a stab at that? No?
Damaris Santiago: Sure, sure.
Tessa Burg: I that that was like no.
Damaris Santiago: This is a loaded one. I feel like I get this, I get this question all the time. Like the president CEO wants to know, what’s the one thing so I can give you a bunch of money to go do that one thing. The answer is there isn’t one specific engagement method, it’s really a multi-channel approach, and it’s really dependent on the target you’re going after.
Damaris Santiago: So, if you’ve done that research, you know your ICP, you know the stakeholders you’re trying to reach, each of them is going to have a preferred method or channel they consume, right? If I’m an IT buyer, maybe I’m reading Gartner Reports, I’m attending these specific events, or maybe I’m active in these like Reddit forums, right?
Damaris Santiago: So, you’re really just going to have to understand who that buyer is that you’re going after and build those engagement methods into your program. ‘Cause you want to reach your buyers where they’re at, right? And oftentimes it’s not in one place, it’s an approach over a long time to find them at the right channel on the right time. So I would say it’s gonna be a mix.
Tessa Burg: Yeah, I think that’s an awesome answer. And I feel like another common theme I keep hearing, these ICPs ideal customer profiles are very rich for ABM. It’s not just, you know, where are they online? It’s how do they get information and how are they building relationships wherever they are for the purpose of solving their business challenges, not necessarily looking for your product. Paul, did you have something to add?
Paul Pirozolla: No, I just, I think it’s definitely multi-channel, it’s definitely different strokes for different folks. I mean, certain things will resonate more, but in the B2B space that we typically deal with, the thing that has always been a constant and maybe we’re 20 years behind so it’s could be the reason, video is still the most interactive, effective way of explaining a very complex thing and it is succinct lucid fashion. And it tends to be the one that resonates across levels in an account and gets, has the most viral load is the video piece. So, but with subject matter expertise, case studies, white papers, you know, basic marketing, collateral, basic testimonials, everything has its merit and has its effectiveness. But video seems to be the one that still to this day in our space has the most impactful way of sort of driving across everybody.
Tessa Burg: Ryan, you want to add to that?
Ryan Elmiger: Yeah, you know, I agree with everything here. And one thing I would say is when you’re selecting those channels, I mean, one, don’t be afraid to test, but make sure whatever you leverage, make sure has data points that you can, that you can respond to. You know, if there’s no way to track and measure if it’s working, then it’s really hard to assess that’s the channel you should be using. You know, for example, a lot of, on the ABM front, we create a lot of custom content for our sales team, should be putting bread crumbs on everything you put into a Salesforce. If you don’t do that, you’re going to lose track. So, creating a piece of content, a piece of collateral that has no way of measuring engagement with that piece, I mean, it makes it tough to determine if that’s the right channel or the right place you should be putting your money.
Tessa Burg: That’s a great point. I mean, I think a lot of content marketers get frustrated by not being able to measure the impact of their work and doing simple things like that, to track that viral load as Paul described it, is really important. ‘Cause then you know, what’s resonating, what’s not, and where you can take your content calendar.
Tessa Burg: The next questions comes from K. Lucido. And he’s asking, she ’cause it’s a K, “What does the marketing channel mix look like versus personal contact via sales?” In other words, what is that balance between one to many messaging and one to one contact. And Damaris, you wanna start with this one?
Damaris Santiago: Sure, so I typically won’t, I won’t involve sales in messaging until I’ve got some type of engagement within the account. So, they’re engaging with our content, maybe they’ve downloaded some things, they’ve attended maybe like a round table or something. I then we’re using, a disclaimer, we’re using a sales engagement software called Outreach. And there’s a ton of tools out here like the Salesloft is another one.
Damaris Santiago: What we do is as soon as we start to see that account spike and show engagement, we consider them the marketing qualified account. We automatically launch a set of engagement touch points on that platform. So, what that platform does for us is it automates all the sales touches that need to happen to bring that account forward, right? And oftentimes it’s like 16 touches across 30 days on the sales side.
Damaris Santiago: So once marketing’s done, it’s work to engage that account, it’s time for a salesperson to start doing their outreach. When they launch that sequence, typically the first step in the sequence, is like send an email and send a LinkedIn request and then it continues over the course of 30 days. Hopefully they don’t have to go the full 30 days of touches to make some sort of headway in that account. But typically that’s the type of engagement, that’s the line, right? The definitive line between marketing and sales, right? So marketing’s working on all the marketing activities, the account starts to spike in in terms of engagement then we pass it off and kick off this sort of process that happens in Outreach, which is just automating sales touches for us.
Tessa Burg: That is fantastic. Paul, do you have anything to add about that balance of one to many and one to one between sales and marketing?
Paul Pirozolla: Yeah, no, the one, the part that I kept thinking about when Damaris was talking about is really at what point do you have to make it one to one when there’s some situations where there’s a lot of engagement for whatever reason? I believe that it’s, unless there’s a relevant need, our brand managers and our marketing managers really should drive the those discussions until it makes sense because, especially in times like now where there is, we’re blessed with a lot of demand, it will just fall flat. And you know, you’ll get more attention with the sales team when times are a little tougher and leaner and they’ve got to go hunt for business, they tend to be a little bit more field marketing interested and lead gen interested. But until it really makes you know, of relevant spike, I think it should stay in the marketing side to determine sort of that their best approach. And then when it gets to that level, then you get to the one-on-one and you say, “Hey, something’s going on here. Guys, you need to sniff this out.” But it’s harder now with times being so good for a lot of the B2B side, it’s really been a, it is important to the marketing person needs to take that lead to make sure that, you know, “Hey, if this is gonna fall flat, I’ve gotta make sure that it’s relevant enough to even get their attention.”
Damaris Santiago: Yeah, otherwise you lose credibility with the salespeople, right? And they don’t want, it’s the same lead story, right? Where they want don’t wanna fall up on your leads ’cause you’ve sent them things that are just noisy and distracting.
Tessa Burg: Yeah. I’m gonna try and squeeze in one more question. Do you belong to any professional organizations specific to ABM? And this question comes from Lawrence Schmidt who is in Mod Apps market research department. and Ryan, as an ABM enthusiast.
Ryan Elmiger: Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, I mean, as far as, again, a lot of the training that we get, I mean, I’m part of ITSMA, right? So they not only have the certification program, but they have a wide variety of resources that they create for ABM. They have a network that they have for ABM and that is personally what I am, as far as an association around ABM. I mean, it’s a community in the end of the day, so that’s what I follow. Damaris, Paul?
Damaris Santiago: Yeah, you know, what’s interesting is there used to be more things that were associated with ABM, like groups, but it’s so much a part of the man generation now that you’ll find it in any sort of group that you participate in, that’s demand gen centered. So I won’t say there’s like an association specific to ABM, it is now like you have to do this if you’re a good marketer, right? You need to understand ABM. I will point you to, there are some awesome resources around ABM, for me what really changed my perspective, aside from like serious stuff was great, but really the foremost like thinker on ABM is a gentleman by the name of John Miller, one of the co-founders of a platform called Marketo, the marketing automation platform, went on to launch a company called Engagio, that was an account based marketing platform and he wrote an awesome book called “The Definitive Of The Clear and Concise Guide to Account-Based Marketing.” So to this day, I have a copy of that book, I go back and I reference it. I will tell you his company was sold to Demand Base and he has updated that book and Demand Base puts it out now with a newer revised version of it. So I would definitely get on John Miller’s blog, always has great anecdotes about ABM and just the evolution of it.
Tessa Burg: That’s fantastic. Yeah, we are a minute past time. Do you have anything to add Paul?
Paul Pirozolla: No, that’s it.
Tessa Burg: That’s great. So thank you everyone for attending our very first virtual panel. This had so much rich information in it. It has been recorded, you’ll all receive it, including some of these pointers and Damaris’ tool for where you should do ABM. What tactics to ABM at different points of the funnel. Yeah. And thank you so much for being on the panel and taking the time to be here, this was incredible. So I really appreciate it. And I think our clients are getting a ton of value out of this.
Damaris Santiago | SaaS B2B Leader | VP of Strategic Marketing at Learning A-Z
Ryan Elmiger | ABM Government Cluster Lead at ServiceNow
Paul Pirozolla | Vice President of Sales & Marketing at JBT
Tessa Burg | Host of Lead(er) Generation | Senior Vice President of Technology at Mod Op
Can ABM Strategies Improve Lead Generation?
Join us as we explore the relationship between ABM and lead generation on this episode of the Lead(er) Generation podcast.