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What Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Is and Isn’t with Kelly Jo Horton

In this inaugural episode of our Podcast, Must Contain, we’re talking ABM with Kelly Jo Horton, Senior Client Partner at Etumos. We discuss what ABM isn’t, common mistakes people make when implementing an ABM strategy, examples of how to execute successfully, and the ever-important measurement discussion. For your added enjoyment, we’ll also be sharing our favorite wrong explanations for what ABM actually is.

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Hosted by Kristin Crowe (OGK), and Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC)

Intro Theme Song: (00:52)
Rusty Hall Intro Music

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (00:54)
Welcome to must contain the podcast from Etumos where we help explain the how of marketing. Although we can’t always explain the why.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (00:59)
And also where we are desperately trying to live up to that theme song. That theme sounds great, right?

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (01:06)
I mean, I can’t believe we’re so lucky to have the amazingly talented Rusty working for Etumos. And he put that together, like who gets a theme song like that? I don’t know. I mean, all right, moving on. I’m Kristin.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (01:18)
And I’m Kristin.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (01:19)
Yes, we did consider calling this between two Kristins. You won’t always hear from both of us, but on this inaugural episode, it seemed fitting. And I am Kristen Crowe, director of consulting operations for Etumos, also known as OGK.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (01:33)
I am Kristin Carideo, the VP of revenue and client results here at Etumos, also known by my initials, KAC.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (01:39)
And every other week or so we will be joining you to break down a marketing or corporate buzzword or hot topic, or just something we’re hearing our clients talk about. We’ll talk about what that concept really means sometimes amongst ourselves and occasionally with a resident air quotes “expert.”

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (01:48)
We’re marketing Ops nerds. So getting to the real processes behind some of these concepts is important to us, and we’re pretty skeptical of most marketing buzzwords. And we know you are too. So if you’re the kind of person who’s had to stifle a little bit of an eye roll, or like stifle a giggle, or, you know, something of that nature, when somebody from your C-suite tells you to execute on a “brand new and exciting strategy,” this is the podcast for you.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (02:23)
And this week, we’re talking about ABM, which I know all of us have experience with because it’s been a buzzword and a strategy for a long time. Marketing trends, come and go, and then come again a bit like flare leg jeans and yoga pants. But ABM feels like it’s here to stay at least for a little while.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (02:41)
We’re joined this episode by Kelly Jo Horton, senior client partner here at Etumos and a longtime MOPs practitioner and advocate. Kelly Jo, do you want to introduce yourself?

Kelly Jo Horton: (02:51)
I’m Kelly Jo Horton. And the term ABM is very triggering for me. [laughter]

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (02:59)
That’ll work as an intro. Yeah. We wanted you to join us because we know you have opinions, right? So other than being triggering, what does ABM mean to you, Kelly Jo?

Kelly Jo Horton: (03:17)
Well, let’s talk a little bit about what people think ABM means and what it is, and what it isn’t. So it isn’t a piece of software, which is the first thing I want to say and people think, oh, I bought this ABM software. I’m doing ABM. It’s not software, it’s a strategy. It’s not a sales strategy. It’s an overarching strategy. And that’s why there’s an M in ABM for marketing. It’s not ABS it’s not account-based sales. It’s account-based marketing.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (03:47)
Great. So now we know ABM is account-based marketing, and I know Kelly Jo that you’ve done some recent polling on this. And you did talk a little bit about what ABM isn’t, but let’s start with what you found out from the masses and talk a little bit more about what isn’t ABM.

Kelly Jo Horton: (04:08)
Yeah. So I did a poll asking people is ABM really ABS sort of where you work, which is basically what I’ve seen with all of the places I’ve worked in, the clients I’ve worked with is a lot of times clients think ABM is sales buys a tool that’s scrapes, LinkedIn, or whatever. And then they import a hundred contacts from each company and they just start selling to them that there’s no marketing in that that is account-based sales, which is part of ABM too, but that’s not all it is. So the poll that I, that I had up asked people if they’re doing ABS or ABM, or if they think ABM is ABS then in most people. And I would assume most of these people I could look at who voted which way, but I won’t tell, but I figured that sales people would say they were doing ABM no matter what. And that the MOPs people would say, no, you’re not. You’re doing ABS, which is very true of how the poll broke out.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (05:13)
So if you know, we know that a bunch of organizations are doing what you know, you’ve called ABS how do we put the marketing? But back into ABM?

Kelly Jo Horton: (05:24)
I think it’s easiest. First of all, you have to have great communication, right? Between sales and marketing. This is not a decision made by marketing or sales. It’s a, it’s, it’s a strategy created between marketing and sales. And there has to be an agreement across the board, what that strategy is. So let’s talk about who, where it’s not useful, who can’t do ABM. If you are selling direct to consumers, consumers like an individual like me, I’m not an account unless I’m spending a billion dollars with you or a million dollars with you or something like that. But if I’m just, you know, out buying paperclips, you know, at staples or somewhere, I’m not a target for ABM, however, staples is a target for ABM, for whoever manufacturers staples. So it’s looking at you know, your consumer side and then your B2B side. So on your B2B side, yes, you could do account-based marketing to staples because they buy a lot of paperclips, but you’re not going to use it for someone like me who buys paperclips once every five years or get some free at conferences. So that’s that. So you need to know in order to use ABM, you need to know your, who your customers are. So if you’re in a market that has a very specific vertical, you’re a good candidate for ABM. If you’re in a, in a market where you can sell to anyone and you don’t have any big whales of customers, it’s not a good strategy for you.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (07:01)
So one of the things that I think you had alluded to and is a huge pet peeve of mine is when I’ve in the past, had a client, let me just note none of Etumos’ current clients are doing this of course, but in the past, when I’ve had a client you know, say, oh, well we purchased whatever platform Demandbase, Engagio, or whatever. So we’re doing ABM. So, you know, obviously, that skips the strategy, it skips a lot of you know, everything that you ran through that is supposed to lead up to the tech purchase, but where does the tech actually fit in? Cause I think that that’s something where a lot of our Marketing Ops, you know, folks struggle once they’re told, Hey, this organization has switched to an ABM strategy.

Kelly Jo Horton: (07:46)
Wow. There’s depending on how much money you have you could build out a great stack that will help you with your ABM and of course, tools like Demandbase now, Engagio part of Demandbase, whoever is doing your whoever you’re buying software from is a great tool for foreseeing your efforts in a dashboard. So it is displaying your efforts across the board by account or by contact or by opportunity. And that’s basically what, what the main focus of those tools are. Some of them also we’ll go out and give you the opportunity to append data, to accounts to go scrape places like LinkedIn and bring new contacts in. But that is at the end where you’re actually selling to people. So at the beginning, first of all, you have to identify who your accounts are and who your buyers are, who your influencers are in those accounts that starts on the marketing side, not the sales side.

Kelly Jo Horton: (08:55)
So you could have a predictive analytics tool, a sixth sense or lattice, or something like that. That is going to look at your current data and sales and tell you who your best, what your best customer looks like. Very informative. You could use a tool like Bombora too. That does surge data that tells you if those people who are in those accounts are actually searching on your competitors or keywords around what, what it is you sell. You need a marketing automation tool, of course with all the strategy, that’s the same as sales. And what, what I would like to say is, well, if I can give an example of what an ABM strategy looks like with, and I thought of something that’s very topical for this, we have a huge worldwide problem with supply chain. Right now, if you are selling supply chain software, you should be targeting all of these people, right?

Kelly Jo Horton: (10:04)
Because we have shipping containers sitting at ports. We have ships out at sea waiting to get in. We have not enough trucks to deliver. We have empty shelves at all the stores. So if you are selling supply chain software, you’re selling to all of these big accounts, but you’re not selling the same ways. You have to think of your overall strategy and targeting to these specific accounts. So if I have an ad that’s running somewhere and I’m trying to get the people in the shipping industry, I’m not going to put a picture of a truck. I’m not going to put a picture of a plane. I’m going to target that with some sort of banner or graphics that it makes sense to them. So it’s more than just knowing your accounts. It’s knowing what’s important to them knowing what’s relevant to them, and then having dynamic content that targets them and, and interests them. And it has to be consistent across all of your digital footprint.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (11:10)
Do you, in your experience or working with companies, know of a company that’s done this particularly well. A good example of someone who set up a strong ABM strategy or has launched a strong ABM campaign that you can talk about.

Kelly Jo Horton: (11:24)
I would say and this is super old school, right back when I worked at Tektronix, they sell soft, they sell hardware mostly right. There is specific market, very vertical. Not everybody needs an oscilloscope, right. Or some sort of or, or, or a piece of equipment that detects noise in streaming video. So we knew, we knew our market really well. Right. We knew the verticals really well. We knew who the companies were that bought our project products. Now there are individuals out there who are, who just geek out on oscilloscope and will buy one. Right?

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (12:04)
I’ve never even heard of that word, oscilloscope.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (12:06)
Yeah. Follow up question. What is an oscilloscope? [laughter]

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (12:10)
Also, how do you spell it? [laughter]

Kelly Jo Horton: (12:12)
Let’s not, this is not a spelling bee. This is podcasts. Don’t make me say I can spell it, but I’m not going to do it on a podcast. [laughter]. So these products are all about, sound, waves, noise, things like that, just detecting noise and things or specific sound waves. And so what we did was, first of all, we thought we knew all of our customers. We were sure we knew all of our customers. Then I finally convinced them to try predictive analytics. And we were going to use it for predictive lead scoring and to find customers that we hadn’t found before. And so at the time we implemented lattice, engine lattice engines, it’s not to be confused with lattice semiconductor. So lattice engines is like 6 cents. I meant to go, I don’t know if Mintigo still around, but Mintigo those sorts of, predictive analytics vendors.

Kelly Jo Horton: (13:15)
So they go and look at all of your customers and what they have in common. Those are your closed one deals, right? What they have in common and the close lost ones. They put that in there too. What do they have in common? They surfaced so many new customers that we hadn’t even thought of because it comes back with, you know, this is what your ideal prospect looks like, your ideal customer. So first of all, find out who your customers are, which is what we did at Tektronix. We found out, okay, we’re missing. We thought we knew, but we were missing some really good target customers then design your creative to target those people. Because if you’re selling into the video streaming industry, it’s different than if you’re selling into the aerospace industry, obviously different graphics, different language, different buyers. So we changed everything.

Kelly Jo Horton: (14:14)
When we started looking at doing ABM, like really doing ABM, not just buying a piece of software, but having a strategy that was across products and across continents. Yeah. Once we put that together and did predictive lead modeling and scoring, we found that that when sales called on those people, that we surfaced through all of our other methods, when they got to sales, they close deals at a, like a 2x rate or something like that. I don’t remember exactly what it was. It was awhile ago, but knowing how to target them, how to talk to them, it was key.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (14:58)
I think that’s kind of a really important point from my perspective, the companies that I have seen successfully launch an ABM strategy and make that transition from kind of traditional funnel, you know, marketing data to more of an account-based strategy are folks that were willing to put in the time to pilot and really figure out what the measurement of that success should be at milestones. Right? I mean, we work with a lot of companies who have 12, 18, 24 months sales cycles. And I think if you’re thinking about, you know, really transforming your marketing in this way, onboarding tech, putting in the investment to, to do this, you know, making six different versions of your creative that are going to appeal to all of those verticals and personas within those verticals from the start, figuring out what your leading signals are that this is working is really important. And that’s, you know, something that I have seen folks that have successfully done it, do well, is say, okay, well, at three months we should have this much in the pipeline source from these campaigns or you know, something of that, of that nature. Yeah. So those, those are having those milestone metrics I think is really important. What other metrics should organizations that are looking to start an ABM strategy or looking to better their ABM strategy be looking at?

Kelly Jo Horton: (16:28)
Well, it’s not clicks and opens and emails. That’s another one of my big pet peeves.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (16:37)
[Laughter]. When is it clicks and opens.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (16:37)
It’s never clicks and opens. [laughter]

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (16:40)
Take note everyone. Did everyone listen to that? It’s not clicks and opens and opens.

Kelly Jo Horton: (16:44)
Clicks and opens do not equal success, okay? So yes, actually, yes. Setting up ABM probably good idea to set up your KPIs at the same time. Like how did, how are you going to measure success? Is it, you know, do you start with your paid media and are you doing multi-touch attribution on a weighted scale, or first touch your last touch and who gets credit for all of this? And you better decide on that upfront and not after so, you know, if it’s working or if you need to change it. And I think, I agree. I think Chris Nan said this, that it takes time. Like you can’t just launch something and, and, and ask if it’s successful in two weeks or a month, especially if you have a really long sales cycle, you have to look at it over time to see if it’s successful. These things take time.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (17:42)
And I think the measure of whether it’s successful or not is may change depending on your sales cycle, your measure of success at three months versus 18 months is going to be different, right? Like 18 months, it’s going to be revenue attributed to the campaign. If that’s how long your sales cycle is at three months, it might be, you know, you might have to go into some of those metrics that I think don’t make us on the marketing offside super comfortable, but like meetings booked, right. You know, make sure that you have your, your life cycle measurement really locked down so that you can see people moving through the funnel and see what that velocity of people moving through the funnel is what is the problem you’re trying to solve with ABM? Is it velocity? If so, like, that’s your leading metric to make sure that, you know, you’re starting to solve that problem.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (18:26)
I think so really mapping those out. It gives you the basis because what happens in marketing these days, right? Like stakeholders turnover all the time when stakeholders start is like, we have to go, you know, do ABM because this is how we’re going to increase our number of closed deals because of X, Y, and Z. And they may have a really good reason for wanting to do that. They take another job somewhere else, someone else comes in. And so like having those key measurements along the way to be able to say to the organization, not just, you know, the person whose idea it was, this is actually working, I think is really important.

Kelly Jo Horton: (19:08)
I just want to emphasize one thing you said, because in case people missed it, know why you’re doing ABM, ask yourself why don’t just let, if somebody comes down and says, we’re buying an ABM tool, ask them why and what they’re hoping to get out of it. Definitely ask the why questions, because just buying a tool is not going to make you successful in any realm, right? Marketing automation doesn’t make successful marketers. ABM doesn’t make successful sales.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (19:38)
It’s not magic.

Kelly Jo Horton: (19:40)
No, it’s not magic, but some people do think it’s magic.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (19:44)
I completely agree. I think that’s part of the problem, especially with ABM is someone comes in or comes down from the top or buys a tool and says, “Hey, this is the latest and greatest we’re doing ABM.” And no one stops to ask what the goal is, what the objective is, how they’re going to be measured, what, you know, what they’re trying to accomplish with that need. And I’m curious from your perspective, Kelly, Jo, what are some other common mistakes that customers are making when they’re implementing ABM or thinking about implementing ABM?

Kelly Jo Horton: (20:17)
I think the first question they usually someone asks, right? If, if, if we’re consulting is what have you seen other customers do? How do they do it? And the answer is it’s very specific to your business, your go-to market, how you sell the product you sell, how many people you have on your team. If you’re global, if you’re just US, it has it’s, it’s not a one size fits all. You know, I would go in and, and encourage the clients, the companies, whoever to do some discovery and really figure out like what we talked about, what you hope to get out of it, what your goals are, why you’re doing it. And just start somewhere, don’t have this, you know, paralysis around doing it exactly right. The first time, start somewhere and just start. And then you can always change, you know, as you go. But it starts with communication between sales and marketing and having the first discussion.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (21:23)
For sure, and you know, we, you talked a little bit about starting somewhere, doing some discovery. Are there any tips and tricks you have for people to easily identify if ABM would work for them, if it’s something they should even get started with, or if they are in fact, a paperclip company selling paperclips to Kelly, Jo, and shouldn’t be even bother.

Kelly Jo Horton: (21:43)
So some of the ways that I’ve done discovery in the past has had with marketing and sales together have have sales look at their closed one deals. I mean, if you’re not gonna, if you don’t have the money to buy a tool, that’s going to do that for you. But, but really look at your close one deals, then go back and look at the journey of how those people got there from lead gen all the way through to close one. Then you start seeing patterns. So look for looking for patterns. What, what worked and what didn’t like looking at your successful marketing campaigns in relation to close one deals, looking at the ones that failed miserably, like no engagement. But it’s important to understand the customer journey. So looking back and doing some reverse engineering on your closed, won and closed, lost deals all the way through the funnel.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (22:40)
All of that is possible without the tech, right? Like the fancy, shiny ABM tech definitely allows you to much more easily scale those processes. But again, I think, you know, starting at a place where you’re almost piloting some of these strategies into a specific vertical, or with a specific persona, that’s one way that you can do this without doing the investment and the tech, the investment and the tech in my view should be to scale something that’s already working, not to start something that you don’t know if it’s going to work. Right.

Kelly Jo Horton: (23:14)
Correct. I think so. If, if you’re a person in an organization who is trying to convince your marketing and sales to adopt an ABM strategy, then it’s going to take a little bit of manual labor on your part to go through and do that reverse engineering discovery that I just talked about. And that, that you can present to sales and marketing to say, look, I have found these patterns in, in our successful client’s sales. Right. But you have to do, yeah. It’s a little bit of manual work, probably a lot of manual work, but yeah. So if you can’t afford the tools, you can still do it.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (23:57)
You had successfully, I mean, you don’t need a dashboard to tell you if something worked or not. Right. I mean, you can…

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (24:03)
It’s nice to see, but…

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (24:04)
Yeah, it is nice to see, sure. Who doesn’t love a pretty picture, especially when you’re in marketing, but…

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (24:09)
Yeah, are you making money? Are you not making money. [laughter]

Kelly Jo Horton: (24:11)
But you can still create, you know, views and lists in your CRM or, or in your marketing automation platform. So you can do it. It’s just not going to be as fancy.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (24:21)

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (24:23)
So I’ll put you on the spot. What is your best ABM acronym that isn’t, account-based marketing

Kelly Jo Horton: (24:37)
All bout me.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (24:41)
Is that sales saying that all bout me?

Kelly Jo Horton: (24:43)
Yes. Sales all bout me. What about you guys? Do you have one On the spot now? See how it feels?

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (24:56)
I feel like when you’re marketing, you’re, you’re just “always be marketing.” So whatever new, latest, and greatest thing it is, it’s “always be marketing.” So whatever the new acronym is, it has something to do with marketing, no matter what.

Kelly Jo Horton: (25:10)
I think that that might be a new LinkedIn post. What does ABM stand for wrong answers? Only.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (25:20)
I would love to see what people come up with. That would be I’m sure we’d get some real gems.

Kelly Jo Horton: (25:24)
I may be posting that after, after we get off this podcast.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (25:29)
That’s a great way to kind of wrap our discussion. And here are the three things that you really need to know about ABM. If you know nothing else about it, if your boss is coming to you and asking you, these are the three things that you need to know to help make your organization successful. So the first one that Kelly Jo really emphasized is knowing why you are doing this. Why is the organization taking on an account-based marketing strategy? Are you selling to specific verticals? Are you selling it to very specific personas? Who are they? Where are they? What do they like? Your sales team probably already knows a lot about this, but your data also knows. And part of what marketing’s job is, is to marry those two things, your sales team’s opinion on who they’re selling into and what works best and what the data, the close one opportunities, the closed lost opportunities, the successful marketing campaigns, but unsuccessful marketing campaigns and what that’s all really telling you.

Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC): (26:29)
The second thing to know is while you’re mature, ABM strategy probably requires technology to scale. You can get started with a pilot without the technology. So that is all, those are all things that you can do without buying and investing in a lot of tech. The investment should come. Once you have shown some success. Speaking of success, the third thing that you have to know about ABM is for the love of everything, figure out how to measure success before you start making changes to your processes and stack. This is not an easy transformation for an organization to make. And if you’re going to do it know if it’s successful or not be able to measure it.

Kristin (OGK) Crowe: (27:10)
Absolutely. I think hopefully everyone got a little bit of something from our discussion today. Big, thanks to Kelly Jo for coming on be on the lookout for her LinkedIn discussion on what ABM really stands for in our minds. And that is Must Contain ABM. I want to thank everyone for joining us. In our inaugural episode, we will be back in two weeks with another great mops topic until then double-check your and/or campaign logic, every time.

Theme song: (27:57)
Theme song exit

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