“Time and tide wait for no man” famously said Geoffrey Chaucer, the 14th century English poet. This quote should be pinned to every B2B Marketer’s desktop.
Today everything moves at a breakneck speed - new technologies, new fashions, new trends, new competitors, new markets, etc.
Marketing - be it B2C or B2B - has had no choice but to respond.
Remember the days when a new PC came out every 3 years or the latest software every year? Well, now hardware cycles are in the months and software often in weeks.
Time and tide certainly are not waiting for anyone.
Agility, speed, quickness, swiftness, sprightliness (I like that one...) are what is needed.
In the latest episode of Let’s talk ABM, I spoke to Marlowe Fenne, Senior ABM Manager at global cybersecurity company FireEye, about the importance of agility when it comes to ABM and how this strategy has translated into tens of millions of dollars in revenue each quarter.
In the interview (full recording here), we discussed:
- Why agility is key to ABM success at FireEye
- How crises can be turned into opportunities
- Why One-to-few ABM is the right choice for FireEye
- Advice on how to succeed at Account-based Marketing
So let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from the interview:
7 steps to accelerating growth with agile ABM
1. Deploy speed and flexibility to stay ahead of the curve
B2B Marketing is constantly evolving.
There’s always the latest tech, the latest social media trend, the latest marketing tactic to boost engagement, etc.
And as businesses grow increasingly digital, this rate of change will only increase.
So how can you help your organization be in the best possible position to stay ahead of these changes and adapt seamlessly?
It’s all about being flexible and adapting at speed.
“We're discovering new stuff all the time, right? So the whole idea is to have enough speed and flexibility to take those waves into account. And I'll, you know, kind of use the surfing analogy, there's always going to be some event that's going to be happening either now that we just don't see yet, or it comes over the horizon and hey, you know, surf's up outside [...] you need to be able to catch that in order to deliver the most value” - Marlowe Fenne, Senior ABM Manager at FireEye
Because your customers and your prospects rely on you to be the experts. They rely on you to be ahead of the curve and aware of what’s coming around the corner.
Which means you can’t react too late.
You must be on top of emerging trends and challenges so that you know when and how to react, and to provide your customers with the expertise they expect from a ‘thought leader’.
So you have to pre-empt change.
Having a structured, year-long plan for your ABM won’t be what makes you successful. In fact, it’s only likely to limit your potential.
Instead, focus on what comes next.
By all means, have long-term goals and plans, but be aware that these are not set in stone, and are likely to evolve with your organization and the changing state of B2B.
2. Make champions of key people within your target accounts
ABM is all about reaching the people that matter most.
By sharing high-level, thought leadership and strategic trends with your key contacts within your customers and prospects you can reach people far deeper in these organizations.
By providing timely, relevant, and contextualized information to your key client (and prospect) contacts, you are making champions of them within their organizations as they make this invaluable information available to the wider company.
Share your insights and your expertise, and encourage others to share them with their own networks.
“We're paying close attention to what they're looking at and what they're not looking at and what they're looking for. So there's an intent data component of this. So we know for example, who are the bad guys that our customers are looking for and we can then map the intelligence that we have about those bad guys, 'cause there's codes for all this right, that we then share. And that becomes extraordinarily valuable” - Marlowe Fenne, Senior ABM Manager at FireEye
And once you share that expertise, you can then track what kind of content your audience is engaging with.
What do they find valuable enough to share with their own network? And what, perhaps, isn’t as relevant to their specific needs?
All of this can be used to inform your wider ABM strategy and how you approach these accounts when it comes to trying to close the deal.
3. Pay attention to what you don’t know
‘You don’t know, what you don’t know’ - as old as this adage may be, it still rings true to this day.
Especially when it comes to ABM.
After all, ABM is all about knowing your audience and tailoring your message and your approach to specifically suit their needs and their preferences.
So it’s essential that you are constantly looking for ways to shine a light on your blindspots and find out more about your target accounts.
“If you're laser focused on one particular part of your ABM program - whether it's personalization or scale - those are important. I'm not saying that it's not, it's huge, right? But if you're not keeping pace with whatever the latest trends are, whatever you're giving your customers from the value perspective is frankly, you know, it's kind of stale and it's not as relevant” - Marlowe Fenne, Senior ABM Manager at FireEye
And this ultimately comes back to agility.
Your organization has to be tuned in when it comes to trends, pain points, etc. within your target market.
Of course, you won’t catch every single ‘wave’ (to use a surfing metaphor). Something is always going to slip past without notice, and that’s okay.
But it’s about opening yourself up to your blind spots and finding a way to shine a light on them.
Because if you continue to sit in the dark and produce content that isn’t up-to-date, then you can never hope to close those accounts.
4. Don’t compromise effectiveness for scale
A common assumption that newbie ABMers often make is that bigger is better.
Of course, there’s a certain degree to which this is true.
Bigger accounts, bigger ROI, bigger revenue, etc.
But when it comes to ABM, you want to be laser-focused on your target audience. And sometimes, that means focusing your effort onto a select few accounts, rather than targeting the masses.
After all, ‘spray and pray' marketing is extinct (or should be). People don’t want to be bombarded with ads that mean nothing to them.
They want relevance, personalization, and empathy.
Sometimes that means reducing the scale of your program so that you can focus on producing really effective campaigns, as opposed to something generic that everyone can see.
“I could do more accounts from an ABM perspective if I was willing to give up the agility, but the value of the program and the results would diminish accordingly. So there's always that sort of middle ground of, you know, how much scale can I deliver through a highly personalized set of activities that are mapped to each and every account based upon what's most important to them” - Marlowe Fenne, Senior ABM Manager at FireEye
5. Size isn’t everything when it comes to ABM
ABM isn’t for everyone.
As effective as it might be in the right hands, an account-based strategy isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and it certainly doesn’t fit the needs and requirements of every organization.
It’s a long-term approach that takes a lot of time and effort, and can’t be created overnight.
But does that mean only large organizations should consider ABM?
That’s not to say that small organizations will find it easy. There’s no question that a bigger team with business-wide buy-in and a sufficient tech stack will find ABM a lot easier than those organizations that are just starting out.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done, and it certainly doesn’t mean that ABM isn’t a right fit for your business.
“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
So long as you have the buy-in from your team - whatever the size - and the financial backing to get your program off the ground, then you should be in a good starting position to see results from your ABM efforts.
6. Learn everything you can about ABM before you dive in
If you’re considering ABM as a strategy for your organization, you need to start fresh in terms of Marketing.
What does that mean?
Simply put, ABM is not standard Marketing, and it certainly isn’t what you’re told Marketing should look like.
And that’s why you have to come at it from a fresh perspective, with no expectations of what ABM should be, because quite frankly, ABM will look different in every organization.
Because it’s about what fits that organization’s specific goals and needs.
“There's a lot of folks that come in from a broad based world into ABM, and think that, oh if I do a couple of things a little bit more personalized fashion, I'm going to do well at ABM. And I would ask you to stop and, you know, kind of time out and take a couple of really deep breaths and go through some of the great podcasts that you have. Learn everything you can about ABM, because it is a very different approach than traditional marketing” - Marlowe Fenne, Senior ABM Manager at FireEye
So before you get stuck into all the technicalities of ABM, take the time to really learn it.
Absorb content from other ABMers, see what they do and what they’ve learned, and see how you can apply that and tailor it to fit your own organization.
“It doesn't mean that you have to put all the corporate initiatives on hold, but you have to you know, set those down for a minute and really focus on those other elements of where your value is and where your customers really need that value and really laser focus on that in a way that a lot of traditional marketing folks don't” - Marlowe Fenne, Senior ABM Manager at FireEye
7. Keep an eye on your results
Results should guide everything you do in ABM.
From the content you share, to the accounts and decision-makers you target, to the timing of that initial and final contact - you should always be looking at how the data backs up your choices.
And this doesn’t mean checking in on your results within a few months of launching your program. You should be able to see those results within the first few weeks or even days if you’re reaching the people that matter.
“If you don't have that level of agility and that level of visibility into your customers, then you know, you should think hard about how you get the feedback loops that you need beyond the salespeople” - Marlowe Fenne, Senior ABM Manager at FireEyeIt’s all about knowing your data, knowing your performance, and making the necessary changes accordingly.
Because sticking your head in the sand and simply hoping the program is effective isn’t going to be what gets you to your goals.