Formula One and ABM – what on earth do they have in common?
The answer? A singular team focused on making the driver (in the case of ABM, the customer) the best they can be.
In a recent episode of Let’s talk ABM, we had the pleasure of speaking with Christian Weiss, Director of ABM, EMEA at Autodesk, about the ins and outs of ABM, and about applying a real ‘Formula One’ mindset to your programs.
In the interview (full recording here) we discussed:
- Why the customer is the car in Formula One ABM
- Common misconceptions about ABM
- How ABM can drive customer expansion
- Christian’s greatest ABM learning
So, let’s motor through some of Christian’s key learnings from his ABM journey to date.
8 tips for Formula One ABM
1. Prioritize and align with Sales
The beauty of ABM is that it requires the expertise, brains and skills of every department to truly flourish. It’s a team event, from the starting line to the finish.
And throughout the race, Sales will be your much-needed co-driver.
Selecting the right accounts for your program is one of the most important, and often most challenging steps in an Account-based journey. Get it right, and your program will be on the path to success. Get it wrong, and your entire strategy could take the wrong turn.
This is where your Sales team comes in.
Bring them into your conversations, get their input on the best-fit accounts for your program, and align on account selection.
As much as you may want to, you can’t do ABM for everyone, or it’s no longer ABM! You need to work with your Salespeople to prioritize, tier and shortlist your target accounts based on their fit with your ICP.
“You cannot just run every account with a One-to-many, one-size-fits-all strategy, but there are still too many accounts to run a One-to-one with each account. So, we have to find a good balance in prioritizing and aligning with Sales strictly on that.” – Christian Weiss, Director of ABM, EMEA at Autodesk
2. Always be relevant
Account-based Marketing is all about hyper-personalization, hyper-relevance, and hyper-awareness of your account’s pain points.
If you’re not aiming to be as relevant as possible to your account audience, then you’re wasting valuable time, money and effort!
So, what does hyper-relevancy look like in action?
It means speaking the language of your accounts – in two ways.
The first is the literal language that they speak, depending on the region you’re targeting. The second is about showing you understand them. That means addressing their pain points, putting them at the center of the messaging, and using language that is familiar to them and their industry.
This is where having specific members of your team dedicated to researching target accounts, gathering critical data and insights, and helping to translate messaging will be game-changing.
Being relevant and engaging to the buyer is a necessity to stand out in a crowded market. And when you’re targeting accounts on a global scale, the accuracy of the language and messaging you use is a strong factor in how successful your program will be.
“You have to speak their language in two ways. One is their real language, and the other one is you have to show them that you understand them. And if you approach your customers in a language they are not used to, then they might not appreciate how you share content with them.” – Christian Weiss, Director of ABM, EMEA at Autodesk
3. Get your 'pit crew' focused on the customer
This is where the Formula One analogy really comes in.
With ABM, think of your team as the pit crew. They’re all working as one to achieve a single goal – and in this case, that’s to land and expand on your target accounts.
When working in unison, everything runs smoothly, seamlessly and efficiently. But if communication goes awry, or someone isn’t bought into the process, it could be the difference between that driver winning the race – or not.
Now, let’s apply this to ABM.
Your customer is the car, and your team is the pit crew. If you aren’t all hyper-focused on the vehicle and ready to meet the needs of the driver, you have no hope of getting it over the finish line.
You need to consider how to help the customer win the race. And in this case, that means providing them with the information and tools needed to succeed – the information and tools which, ideally, your company offers.
“My challenging question was often: Is the pit crew meeting meant to put the Sales rep in the driver's seat, or do we have the pit crew meeting to put the customer in the center?” – Christian Weiss, Director of ABM, EMEA at Autodesk
4. Build vulnerability-based trust
Trust is key to any ABM program. Trusting your teams, trusting your data, trusting your strategy. You need to know that you’re all working together to achieve the same goals, and building trust will be essential for that.
But it goes beyond simply trusting that your team members know what they’re doing. According to Christian, you need to ‘build vulnerability-based trust’.
What does that mean?
Well, put simply, it means building a level of trust within your organization that allows your team members to feel comfortable owning up to their mistakes, sharing weaknesses, speaking up when they have something to say, and not being afraid to ask for help or guidance.
It’s about allowing vulnerability within your team.
Account-based Marketing is a long journey. And you will inevitably encounter various challenges and failures along the way. To get through them, you need a team that leans on one another, trusts one another implicitly, and is able to bounce ideas off each other.
“We said, okay, how can we make sure we are really on shared goals? And this requires of course, full transparency and high trust level.” – Christian Weiss, Director of ABM, EMEA at Autodesk
5. Be prepared to 'find Wally'!
Who didn’t love ‘Where’s Wally’ (or Waldo!) growing up? Searching for a man in a little stripey jumper amongst a sea of people. It was challenging, but there was fun in the challenge.
ABM calls for a similar technique.
In your target accounts, particularly enterprises, you’re faced with an ocean of people and decision-makers. Your challenge is to single out the ones that matter most. Your goal is to find Wally.
Who is influencing the buying decisions? Who has the final say? Who do you need to engage with, in order to push the discussion further into the account?
Every employee in an organization is involved somehow. But, as you move through the funnel, you need to determine the individuals that sit high up in the buying committee – these are the ones you need to focus on building relationships with.
This is where third-party and intent data can come in handy, helping you gather insights around key decision-makers, and make strategic choices around how you approach them.
“When we look into these large enterprises and talk about buying committees, these buying committees, they are changing by topic. So it's like, "Where's Wally?". And this is exactly what we have to do when we go into these large enterprises.” – Christian Weiss, Director of ABM, EMEA at Autodesk
6. Avoid over-scaling
How to scale ABM has been a major talking point within the B2B community for a while now. The results from ABM are impressive, but how can you take them to the next level?
The key is to not overdo it.
One of the strengths of ABM is its ability to really hone in on the pain points and individual challenges of your target accounts with hyper-personalized, hyper-relevant messaging. But naturally, the more you scale, the less personal and relevant that approach becomes.
Don’t fall into the trap of over-scaling and, consequently, under-delivering.
Instead, focus on carefully selecting your accounts and scaling wisely. You cannot do ABM for all of your accounts. You cannot ‘boil the ocean’.
“This risk is enormous. And I think we can scale ABM if we do it wisely and if we select the accounts wisely. But, you cannot scale ABM to a level where you say I'm doing ABM for every account.” – Christian Weiss, Director of ABM, EMEA at Autodesk
7. Be patient with results
One of the biggest misconceptions about ABM is that you can get results overnight. And it is precisely this misconception that drives a wedge between Marketing and Sales.
The truth is – as with any strategy that is worth the effort – Account-based Marketing takes time. It’s not about quick wins and rapid results – it’s about the long game. And if that’s not a game that you’re willing to play, then ABM isn’t for you.
The key to overcoming this is communication.
Overpromising to your Sales team what you can achieve with ABM, and within what time frame, is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Of course, you need their buy-in and their input to succeed – but you won’t get that by providing inaccurate or misleading information.
Instead, focus on celebrating the small wins when you can, and ensure that your Sales team understands that results take time.
“This misconception of, there's immediately a positive result, is a killer for the relationship between Marketing and Sales, and also for the ABM we are doing. Because then you do a lot of transactional Marketing, but not in terms of building a relationship and optimizing our reputation with the customer.” – Christian Weiss, Director of ABM, EMEA at Autodesk
8. Lean on the data
Data is an ABMer’s best friend. It supports you, it guides you and, ultimately, it will be the key to your success.
From third-party data providers to intent data platforms and first-party data stored in your CRM – any insight into your target accounts and the key decision-makers within those will help shape your messaging and your strategy from start to finish.
ABM is founded on empathy and understanding. But how can you understand your accounts without any insight into their behaviors and pain points?
This is where your data comes in. Use it, understand it and leverage it throughout your program.
“My greatest learning was, you cannot do ABM without good data, and you have to be able to measure success and you have to define it in the beginning.” – Christian Weiss, Director of ABM, EMEA at Autodesk
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