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Let’s talk ABM: 25 lessons from 25 ABM leaders

As we reach the 25th episode of Let's talk ABM, Declan Mulkeen, CMO at strategicabm, takes a look back at 25 key takeaways from his conversations with global ABM leaders.

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Declan Mulkeen

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Jun 23 2021 - 27min Read Date published: Date modified: 2021-06-23

https://linkedin.com/in/declanmulkeen

15 months and 25 Let’s talk ABM interviews. It’s quite something to look back and review the enlightening conversations I have had with 25 Account-based Marketing leaders. 

When I started Let’s talk ABM back in March 2020, I never dreamed it would have such a major impact on so many aspects of my personal and professional life: 

  • I’ve built amazing relationships - several interviewees have become firm friends.
  • It has given me the opportunity to learn so much from such a generous group of people.
  • The Let’s talk ABM webinar series (which is now also a podcast) provides real education and learning for so many B2B Marketers and budding ABMers who are looking to be the very best they can be. 
  • It has proven to be a great conversation starter when we are talking to prospective clients as they will have invariably watched several episodes 

Well...we’ve now reached an important milestone - 25 episodes of Let’s talk ABM. 

So, it’s a good time to look back at some of the first 25 episodes of Let's talk ABM and highlight some of the great learnings from our amazing and generous guests. 

25 lessons from 25 ABM leaders

1. Start small and work your way up

Account-based strategies take a lot of work, which means biting off more than you can chew probably isn’t the best way to go.


So instead of diving in and hoping for the best, start by implementing a framework with just a couple of accounts. Then, you can gradually scale up and assess what works, what doesn’t, what tech you need to invest in, and more.

“If you're rolling out ABM in a One-to-one style, don't start with 58 accounts. Start with a small manageable number” - Andrea Clatworthy, Global Head of ABM at Fujitsu

ABM Virtual Lunch and Learn

2. Spend time researching before you dive in

Starting out with ABM, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. 

Sure, you might have heard about ABM and the amazing results it can achieve, but simply knowing about ABM doesn’t automatically mean a) that it’s the right strategy for your organization, or b) that you know how it works.


So do your research! Educate yourself, and then start looking at implementing ABM across your organization.

“I think the key thing is to work out, spend the time on research. What is the right ABM for you? If your deal sizes in the thousands or tens of thousands, you're probably not going to want to do One-to-one ABM. It's probably a One-to-few, One-to-many, blend that will work for you” - Bev Burgess,  Senior Vice President & Global ABM Practice Leader at ITSMA

3. Make sure you have the MarTech to support scalability

Tech isn't the be-all-and-end-all. But it sure does make your job a lot easier.


When it comes to tech, it doesn’t all need to be in place from the outset. In fact, you may find it easier to add to your tech stack as you grow and expand your strategy, and as you reach new pain points or challenges.

“Two to three years ago we started to see some of these Account-based Marketing technologies really start to come into their own. And I think that was a big part of the catalyst for it. Because you started to see technology that would enable you to scale an Account-based Marketing approach” - Tyler Lessard, VP Marketing & Chief Video Strategist at Vidyard

4. Get buy-in

Buy-in is everything for effective ABM!

And this isn’t just buy-in from the C-suite. This is organization-wide buy-in. 

That means your Sales team, your Marketing team, Customer Services, your Account team - everyone in your organization that has an impact on the account’s experience, needs to be on your side!


If you can get that investment from your wider team from the outset, it will completely transform your ABM initiative.

“We all sort of quote the Gartner statistic about seeing a 20% uplift in pipeline and close business 'cause we want to get that buy-in, but I think you need to be really clear on actually what it is that you are going to deliver and what you need from the Salespeople in order to be able to deliver that” - Christa Norton, Head of Industry and ABM at Capita

5. Ensure Marketing and Sales are aligned

Gone are the days where Marketing and Sales fight for input and authority. Today, the modern Salesperson and Marketer are united, and should fight toward the same goal - closing your target accounts!


This alignment is crucial to keep a smooth, seamless buyer’s journey, where messaging is consistent and your salespeople deliver the value promised by Marketing - and vice versa.

“If you can bring those two worlds [Marketing and Sales] together and climb in a successful way, then it's a formula that can be, is highly scalable and can be invincible in terms of what it can create in terms of success.” - Richard Lane, Co-founder and CEO at durhamlane

Lets's talk ABM, a webinar series by strategicabm -  Watch the series

6. Use data as the backbone of your ABM strategy

From third-party intent to first-party data - your data will inform every step of your strategy, from who you target, to how you promote and share content with your prospects.


Customers aren’t interested in the outdated ‘spray and pray’ approach that companies are all too familiar with. They want targeted, personalized, engaging experiences that are relevant to their specific situation.

And there’s no way to meet those expectations without data.

“I think data is literally the backbone of any ABM strategy. Without the right data and importantly, knowing how you use that data, your ABM campaigns will most likely fail. It's vital at the start, the middle and the end, it's throughout the whole process.” - Alice de Courcy, Head of Marketing at Cognism

7. Understand who you’re targeting and how best to reach them 

Of course, you can have the most well-executed ABM strategy out there, but if you’re not targeting the right people, then the entire initiative is destined to fall flat.

Because no matter how engaging you think your content is, it will only truly engage those that it’s relevant to. 


Getting it right ultimately comes down to personalization. If you can find out who to target and how best to target them, you can use that information to inform your messaging strategy and create content that really resonates.

“The core, the line of delineation between success or failure is account selection and insights about those accounts. So, people that nail that, the rest takes care of itself, you know?” - Latane Conant, CMO at 6sense

8. Spend time on account selection

Account selection is another huge priority for 'ABMers'.

It’s about narrowing down your audience and assessing who is the best fit for your organization.


So you may have found out how to best engage with a certain account. But do you know if they’re currently in an active buying journey? And if they are, do you think they’re going to be worth the investment it would require to land and expand the account?

9. Invest in sales enablement

Want to get the best out of your Sales team? Then be prepared to invest

Because at the end of the day, ABM is all about giving your Sales team the best possible chance of landing your target account.


That means providing your Sales team with the content, tools, insights, data and even people they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

This is what will unify your teams and will create that seamless experience.

“It's not two journeys, it's one journey for a buyer. It's kind of from lead to close, it's one buyer journey, it's one customer experience, and what they're hoping for is that responsiveness, personalization, consistency, from kind of lead to close.” - Gideon Thomas, VP of Marketing and Growth at DealHub 

10. Create hyper-personalized interactions for your prospects 

You already know - personalization is the key to successful ABM.

But this doesn’t mean simply inserting the account’s name into an email. That’s not going to be enough to stand out today!


Personalization comes in many forms - and doesn’t always have to be messaging. 

Sometimes, the best way to show you understand your prospect is to send them a token of appreciation - whether that’s a plant for a green-fingered CMO’s home office, a custom t-shirt of their favorite football team, or even a gift card for their favorite eat-out.

“We've already been seeing huge, huge results for our customers, because they're still landing physical mail and using e-gift carding and charitable donations, which helps them position themselves accurately, but also allows them to actually reach the audience they want to reach.” - Alex Olley, Co-founder at Reachdesk

ABM in action: How Acxiom built a $2m pipeline in 120 days - Watch the video

11. Use content to empower your Sales team

Believe it or not, content isn’t just about the prospect. Having the right content can also empower your Sales team.



Whether this is a video, an ebook, an interactive hub resource page - having those pieces of content for your Sales team to use with prospects is so important to keep your message aligned and really emphasize your organization’s value. 

 

12. Boost engagement with video

Speaking of video - use it.

Video is arguably the most engaging content format when it comes to Marketing. And that’s because it stands out. 

 

Whether you use it in social media posts, on your website, or simply as a way for your Sales team to build more personal relationships with your target accounts - if you’re not using video in your ABM strategy, then you’re missing out.

“It's one of those interesting things with video as compared to other types of content where being able to know and track that, not only did they click play, but how long did they stay watching can become a very powerful kind of lead qualifier as part of your Account-based programs and your broader Marketing programs” - Tyler Lessard, VP Marketing & Chief Video Strategist at Vidyard

13. Find a balance across the '3 Rs'

Brand drives demand. And demand drives revenue. So where should your focus be with ABM?

 



Reputation, Relationships, and Revenue should be your key indicators of ABM success. As much as the revenue is your end-goal, you’ll never reach increased revenue without building your reputation and strengthening your relationships. 

“What’s really vital for those who are embarking on their ABM journey, is to think about measures around Relationships and Reputation as being leading indicators of what you hope to see in terms of returns around revenue further down the line” - Mathew Kent, Senior Marketing Manager (UK & IE) for Pegasystems

14. Invest in reporting and analytics

Reporting and analytics are your best friend. Use them, monitor them, and make decisions based on them. 

To accurately assess the performance of ABM, you need to constantly be reviewing your data and adjusting your tactics accordingly. 

 

And this doesn’t stop once you’ve closed the deal. After all, ABM is just as much about growing and retaining your accounts as it is about landing them. 

“The campaign impact is going to tell you how impactful your Marketing efforts were, your messaging, your partnership with your Sales team, and whether or not they were doing effective outbounding. And then the other picture is going to tell you how your Sales team is enabled.” - Amber Bogie, ABM Strategy Lead at Degreed

15. Decide on a set of metrics, and stick to them

That brings us back to metrics. Decide on a set of metrics that work for your business, and stick to them. 

That’s not to say you can’t add more metrics or swap them around as your business grows and develops, but you need to hold yourself accountable for these metrics and regularly assess your ABM performance. 



This may be a pipeline target. Or engagement metrics like click-through rate. Or maybe even something more tangible like revenue growth. But hold yourself and your team responsible for reviewing those metrics.

 

16. Use social media to drive awareness and build status

ABM is about reaching your audience wherever they are. And these days, that’s often on social media.



Now, we’re not saying you have to become an ‘influencer’ to be good at ABM (although it can be a nice bonus!). But it does mean you need to use social media to drive awareness for your brand and build status.

“If you can find what your niche is, and stick to it, then you can develop a nice little audience for yourself that will really help, and then it'll come back to consistency. And if you're not posting at least like two to three times a week, you just get buried in everything else” - Nick Bennet, Director of Field Marketing, North America at Logz.io

17. Share your successes and learnings

One of the best things you can do for your team and your brand is to share your successes and lessons learned along the way.

This might mean celebrating small victories. Or it might mean acknowledging where mistakes have been made and learning. 

Share learnings LinkedIn post

And this doesn’t just have to be internal - by sharing these discoveries on social media, you’ll show transparency, authenticity and vulnerability that people will not only appreciate, but respect. And that’s how you’ll develop a reputation as a trusted advisor. 

“ABM is a long term approach to activating these target accounts. And sometimes it takes a while to actually see the fruits of your labor at the end. And so being able to show those smaller milestones I think is really important” - Jennifer Leaver, Global ABM Strategist at Bazaarvoice

18. Don’t skip out on Social Selling

With 94% of B2B marketers using LinkedIn as a content distribution channel, this is most definitely a platform that you want to leverage as an ABM’er.

But this isn’t just in terms of building brand awareness. This is about using Social Selling to build your personal brand.


People buy from people. So if you can create a personal presence on social media with your own viewpoints and your own voice, people are more likely to trust you - and by extension, trust your brand. 

“It's a really useful tactic to go beyond kind of the traditional branded posts and make sure that your employees have a perspective and have a voice because people buy from people. And so having your people be active on LinkedIn is a really nice way to make sure that happens.” - Kyle Coleman, VP Revenue, Growth & Enablement at Clari

ABM Virtual Lunch and Learn

19. You don’t need a huge ABM team to succeed

As complex as ABM may often seem, you don’t necessarily need a huge ABM team to see significant results. So long as you have the buy-in and financial backing to support your endeavors, you’re pretty much set.



And of course, you need to have that support network with the necessary insights and expertise to help build upon your ABM efforts - whether that comes from the Sales team, the Accounts team, or somewhere else from within your organization.

“There's only two of us doing this at FireEye and we're a billion dollar company, right? So you can through the right, you know, mix of technology and, you know, wisdom if you want to call that around ABM, you can build an ABM practice, even if you're small. And there's a lot of new, you know, services that'll help you do that on outdoor spaces as well.” - Marlowe Fenne, Senior ABM Manager at FireEye

20. Don’t over-complicate it

Yes, ABM can sometimes feel complicated. Which is why you should focus on keeping your strategy as simple as possible. 


It’s perfectly fine to want all the ‘bells and whistles’ that make ABM that much more effective - but in the pursuit of these, don’t lose sight of the basic foundations of ABM. 

These are what will support your strategy through thick and thin, so make sure you keep it simple and focus on what matters. 

 

21. Be agile

ABM is a fast-moving world. It’s all about staying relevant and engaging to your audience, so you need to be on the ball when it comes to trends, challenges and opportunities. 


You need to be able to adapt and evolve at speed. Your customers expect you to be the expert, so it’s up to you to stay one step ahead and know what’s coming next.

“We need to be agile. We need to be able to move quickly based off what's happening in the world around us for sure.” - Andy Culligan, CMO at Leadfeeder

22. Never stop moving forward and progressing

When it comes to ABM, there’s always room for improvement and progression

The cycle doesn’t stop when a deal is closed - there’s always something you can do to actively improve your relationships and boost your reputation. 



The key to true ABM success is to constantly push for more. Look to improve - whether that’s processes, content, scale, whatever it is that you think could be better, push for it.

“We all get guilty of kind of sitting there and going well, it's running, we're moving things, things are happening, which is great, but actually there's always marginal gains. There's always improvements that can be made” - Neil Berry, Head of Global Account & Deal Based Marketing for FSI at Atos

23. Turn crises into opportunities

You’re always going to come across challenges and obstacles when it comes to ABM. But the key to overcoming them, is to view them as growth opportunities.



ABM isn’t always a smooth strategy. You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll come across some rather big hurdles that may seem catastrophic at the time. But you need to start seeing those crises as opportunities to learn and improve. 

That’s how you’ll see the most progress!

 

24. Don’t compromise effectiveness for scale

In ABM, you have multiple program types that you can choose from to fit your organization’s needs: One-to-one, One-to-few, and One-to-many.

So how do you know which is best for your business?


It’s about finding a balance between effectiveness and scale. 

 

25. It’s not just Marketing. It’s an Account-based experience! 

It’s been 18 years since ABM made its debut in the world of B2B. And since then, the world of account-based has evolved into more than just Marketing. It’s an account-based experience!



ABM goes beyond just Sales and Marketing - it’s an organization-wide tactic that needs buy-in from every team to be successful. 

“It's more than just Marketing. And I think if you're really trying to foster and create that one team mentality, looking at it through that lens of how Sales and CS is also contributing to that strategy, I think is key” - Jennifer Leaver, Global ABM Strategist at Bazaarvoice

25 Let’s talk ABM and counting...

We’re not stopping at 25 - we’ve got many more great Let’s talk ABM interviews coming out in the coming weeks and months, so be sure to subscribe to our Insights here or, alternatively, subscribe to our podcast: 

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