Rodrigo, you hit on one of the hottest, buzziest buzzwords of 2016, account-based marketing. Can you tell us a little bit from your perspective what account-based marketing is?
Account-based marketing, to us, is a strategy that has four key elements. And I’ll go through each of them now. Number one, it’s marketing and sales teams agreeing to, Number two, target named accounts through, Number three, one or more communication channels, and Number four, measure results based on accounts moving down the funnel rather than individual leads moving down the funnel in a CRM. High level, that’s the approach people should consider when thinking about an account-based marketing strategy.
I interviewed about 40 marketers this past year. And there was a recurring theme among them. It was that marketers who entered marketing as a career pre-2000 will look at me quizzically when I ask about account-based marketing. And they’ll say, Well, this is what we’ve always done, this is how marketing should work. And then when you interview marketers who grew up and learned the trade through digital marketing post-2000, their eyes will just light up. They’ll say, Oh, my God, this is a silver bullet that was missing in my marketing mix.
And I think that divide is happening and we’re seeing that in the market. Because post-2000, email marketing became this very commonly accepted way to get your messaging across. I think it has become the dominant way to push your marketing messages, almost as if it is the backbone of most marketing campaigns today. With that in mind, you start thinking about account-based marketing almost like bell bottoms – what is old is new again.
This recent resurgence of account-based marketing seems to be an appreciation and, essentially, an agreement that account-based marketing, at least how it used to be done, is still incredibly valuable. It’s very powerful. And suddenly, in 2016, there’s an ability to do it at scale, an ability to orchestrate campaigns far more easily than it was possible perhaps in the 1990s. And I think that’s what’s causing a lot of the hype and interest around account-based marketing now.
There’s so much hype. There’s so much interest in account-based marketing. And, I think, there’s so many great potential value adds that it can bring to the marketing team. Let’s talk about some of the common challenges of implementing account-based marketing. You’ve talked to so many different companies over the last couple of years. Share a little bit about what you learned are some of the challenges in implementing account-based marketing.
Account-based marketing is very effective, but it’s not necessarily easy to do. One of the biggest challenges is orchestrating a campaign, essentially resource management. Account-based marketing requires buy-in from management, from the sales team, from various teammates in marketing, and then you’re coordinating these very complex plays. And that requires you to essentially herd cats sometimes. And then not only are you herding people to do the things they need to do, you’re also managing and touching multiple pieces of software that also need to talk to each other to accomplish the campaign you want to deliver to your most desired accounts.
That could be very complex. I think it’s daunting for a marketer to think about. When you must place extra thinking cycles on how you’re going to do something, that already makes the task more difficult. Management or sales or even marketing says, OK, we’re going to run this campaign. You already know you’re going to do A, B, C and then D. The question is, what are we going to say at each of those points. What’s the content that we’re going to deliver.
With account-based marketing you’re having to say, OK, what specific content are we going to make for this microsegment, or for that microsegment of companies. And then how are we going to deliver it, how are we going to orchestrate our emails, our display advertising, our direct mail, our phone calls from sales, so that they all orchestrate and touch the decision makers at a large account, across multiple days, in a coordinated, supported way. I think that’s daunting for people. There are ways to manage it, but there’s no getting around it. It is a high-touch effort or can be.
There are so many great things that account-based marketing can bring, but I think the point is that it’s a lot of work. I love that word, orchestrate, that you use to provide the analogy to what really needs to occur with all those different touchpoints, all the different people, and content for this microsegment and that microsegment.
In the big buckets most marketers are really on the hook for, building brand, generating demand, expanding customer relationships, could you share some of your perspectives and maybe highlight ways that a company could be implementing ABM to support their targeted selling efforts in each of those areas?
Absolutely. What I’ll do is I’ll take each of those areas, brand, demand and expand, and I’ll just highlight a couple of quick tactical takeaways that people can hopefully bring to their company and start executing on next week.
I’ll start with the first one, brand. I think the big question here is, OK, you’ve got a list of accounts, they’re your most desired accounts, they have a lot of strategic value. That’s great. But do they even know who you are? Do they know about your brand, what you do, what you offer, what makes you different from competitors in the market?
That is the first question, I think, that needs to be answered in the eyes or ears or brains of your customer. One thing you can do with at least display advertising is identify your list of accounts. And in your ads what you want to show to them, it’s going to be a very simple, high level, top-of-funnel campaign. You’re just going to identify the problem space. And let’s say if this were a campaign for Act-On, the problem space where you’re playing is marketing automation. And then the content itself might be just those words, marketing automation, rethink marketing automation. And the branding, the logo, the colors of Act-On.
And that alone would be a great top-of-funnel content piece so that as your most targeted, most valuable accounts are receiving those ads, they’re associating in their brain, Oh, marketing automation, Act-On; Rethink marketing automation, Act-On. And what that ends up doing in the short and medium term is that as the sales people are calling in to those most desired accounts, what’s happening is that those sales people are reinforcing that brand when they leave voicemails, when they talk to specific leads. They’re going to say, Hey, this is Joe from Act-On, and we do marketing automation. And then that connects what the lead or account saw in the ad to what they’re now hearing in these sales calls, and then connected even further and make it resonate to the emails they’re also seeing in their inbox.
When you’re getting this trifecta of different messaging channels that are saying the same thing via different means, that’s when you’re helping your brand get in front of these target accounts. That’s a very, very simple top of funnel campaign that you can kick off to start priming the pump and putting your brand in a good position to get a response, to get engagement from those accounts.
That makes sense. I think the brand awareness side, and just getting your brand known, in a way creating some more air cover for the sales team when they try to call in to that targeted account, that there’s some sort of connection to the main message that you’re trying to align with or the main challenge in the space. That’s a great example on the brand side. How about on the demand gen side?
On the demand side, what we like to recommend as a tactical thing you could try right away is mirroring. Mirroring your email marketing, let’s say from Act-On, with display advertising. And by mirroring, what I’m talking about is everyone already has a lot of email nurture programs in place. Which means you already have a lot of the content in place that you want to say to a specific lead and a specific account under a series of circumstances that you could program in your marketing automation system.
Well, if you already believe in nurturing these leads via email, why wouldn’t you want to complement that with display ads that are saying essentially the same thing? And that’s something that can be set up – let’s say with an Act-On web hook integration to ListenLoop – and effectively all the email you’re sending out could then also appear as display ads. You already have the emails, you already have the words, you already have the colors, the images that you wanted to use for your email nurture programs. And if you just throw them into an advertising platform, you can suddenly get more juice out of that lemon for almost the same amount of squeeze.
We’ve done studies between two cohorts of recipients, one group of people who’ve been exposed to ads through this mirroring technique, vs. another that has not. We see between 30-60 percent increases in open rates and email click rates from the first group. It’s essentially sort of the turbo booster for your email nurture campaigns in the demand gen side of the house, where you’ve got a lead that’s engaged, but you need to keep nurturing them over time so they eventually turn into an opportunity.
Makes a lot of sense, complementing what you’ve already created. What about on the trying to expand the customer relationship, expand the total lifetime value of your customer base?
Expanding that relationship, especially the lifetime value of a customer, is an often-overlooked area for people when it comes to leveraging display advertising. Once people sign the deal, oftentimes, they pass it on to the account management team, or maybe the salesperson says Hey, OK, I’m done with this and I’m on to the next one. And there’s this big missed opportunity to either reengage with those customers via email, some lifecycle marketing that is prompting them to, number one, use the product, and number two, get them to refer the product to friends or colleagues or other people in the market.
And I know some savvy marketers are doing this with email, but even savvier marketers are doing it with display ads as well. And there’s this knee jerk reaction, especially with people who are accustomed to retargeting, that say OK we’ve retargeted the person with ads, they have submitted a form, stop retargeting. Oh, I cringe every time I hear that. I understand the instinct. No one likes to be retargeted by shoes you’ve already bought. But this is not ecommerce. This is not B2C marketing. This is complex, crazy lifecycle journey, business to business marketing. And you want to maintain your hook on these people, on these buyers of yours. And you’re not going to do that by setting an exclusion pixel, in retargeting parlance, that prevents them from receiving your advertising in the future.
What should you do then if you’re not excluding them? Well you should change the messaging. I think everyone’s on the same page there. Great, they purchased your product. Sure, don’t tell them to buy the product anymore in your ads, don’t tell them to request a demo. You’re past that. You need to be smarter. Now the content needs to be, Hey, have you implemented yet? Have you scheduled a call with account management services yet? How about an NPS question in an ad unit, so that you can get a feel for how your product is performing for them? How about instead of request a demo, it’s request a service call? How long has it been since you’ve spoken to one of our representatives so we can make sure you’re getting the most out of the product?
Whether people are taking you up on those offers, just the fact that these banner ads are appearing on publisher’s site as your customer browses the web, it gives them a very light touch, omnipresent feeling that you care, that you’re there for them, that you want to be of help, you want to be of service. And that is incredibly powerful. And, hopefully, some of those customers do take you up on it and you fulfill that promise. And then what happens? They become a customer for life, they’re incredibly happy with your product and services. As a result, they’re referring you on, which is essentially revenue that’s left on the table for a lot of people.
Great, actionable takeaways. Anything we haven’t talk about?
I think we covered a lot of great ground. It’s a matter of getting your team bought in. If I can leave people with one thing, it’s that ABM, although it looks very sexy and you want to just dip your toes in the water, I would caution that it requires more commitment than just a pilot campaign. It’s a conversation people need to have with management, with sales, with their counterparts. And just get something more than just a – quote, unquote – pilot. Because what’ll end up happening is if you do just a pilot and you’re not fully committed to it, you might get results that you don’t like, or results that you can’t justify to those stakeholders. And you don’t want to ruin ABM for yourself or for your company forever by taking that approach.
There is a lot of power in an account-based marketing campaign. But it also comes with some level of commitment. And just know that it is possible. More and more people are doing it. And we wish everyone well. If anyone has follow-up questions, I’d be happy to just get on another phone call or interview.
Fantastic. Great insights. Thank you so much. This has been a great podcast. Thank you, Rodrigo.
Thank you, Adam.