ABM Playbook

Under the Hood of the ABM Engine

7 August 2023

Jack Rawlings & Josh Weale ▪︎ Heads of ABM

Meet your hosts, Jack and Josh as they explore what to expect Under the Hood of ABM.

Josh Weale
Josh Weale
Head of ABM

Josh is a Head of ABM, leading the development of innovative strategies to help enterprise tech businesses win, grow and retain their most important accounts. With a background in journalism and several years of client-side experience, he works with Sales and Marketing teams to help them succeed.

Jack Rawlings
Jack Rawlings
Head of ABM

Jack Rawlings is a seasoned Marketer with experience in both B2C and B2B worlds. In his role as a Head of ABM at strategicabm, he works with Marketing and Sales teams of leading B2B tech brands to develop impactful ABM strategies to meet their growth objectives.

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Under the Hood of the ABM Engine

Our new podcast, ABM Under the Hood, takes a close look at the inner workings of Account-based Marketing.

From how to set an ABM program up for success to proving ROI and beyond, strategicabm's Heads of ABM, Josh Weale and Jack Rawlings, set the scene in Episode One. 

From account selection to value proposition, from strategy to execution; there are a lot of moving parts to an Account-based program.

With all the right parts in place and humming, your ABM program will run like a finely-tuned engine.

But how do you make it all come together? How do you ensure that your ABM machine is finely tuned?

Our new podcast, ABM Under the Hood, will take a deep-dive each episode and shine a light on the Account-based Marketing engine and all its moving parts.

Donning their ABM overalls over the coming series, strategicabm’s Heads of ABM, Jack Rawlings and Josh Weale, will be digging into the details, strategies, tips and challenges they’re seeing in ABM.

With the hosts joined by strategicabm ABM specialists – across Sales, Strategy, Demand, Execution, Creative and more – each ABM Under the Hood episode will share what we’ve learned from working with dozens of B2B tech brands and their ABM programs.

In Episode One, Jack and Josh set the scene for what to expect from ABM Under the Hood, and outline:

  • Why we are launching a new podcast
  • The topics Jack and Josh will be exploring
  • What is 'Under the Hood' of ABM
  • Plus insight into why a close look into ABM is important

Grab your wrench – it’s time to go under the hood (or bonnet as the Brits call it!)  of ABM.

Read Podcast Transcript

Jack Rawlings (strategicabm) – Hi, and welcome to a brand-new podcast from strategicabm, called 'ABM Under the Hood'. My name is Jack Rawlings and I'm a Head of ABM here at Strategic. And joining me today is Josh, my colleague.

Josh Weale (strategicabm) – Hi, Jack. Great to be here. I'm also a Head of ABM here at the Agency, and looking forward to chatting some more about ABM over the course of this series.

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Jack (strategicabm) – Absolutely. And so, the purpose of this series and what we are really looking forward to doing is, essentially, digging into the, kind of, details and, I guess, strategies, tips, tricks, ideas, that we are kind of seeing happening in practice in the Account-based Marketing industry.

There's obviously a lot of content out there from the ABM, kind of, perspective – in the ABM world, but a lot of it is, kind of, that more higher-level, maybe theoretical type of content. And what we've wanted to do for a while now is kind of put together a series, a podcast series, that is, kind of, more focused on what we're seeing in practice with our clients as an ABM Agency, and also, you know, with the business ourselves, as well.

In the coming episodes, we're going to be talking to numerous people from within our business – in terms of different teams that are potentially utilized in an ABM program. So, we've got people from our Design and Creative team joining. People from our Demand and Execution team, and many others, as well.

But also, Josh and I will be discussing a lot of topics, the two of us – particularly things related to, kind of, the setup of ABM programs, the strategy phase, in particular. We'll also be touching on, specifically, a lot of the kind of challenges and issues that people have with setting up an ABM program or starting an ABM program.

We obviously encounter a lot of these kind of pushbacks and concerns from clients in our day-to-day work. So, we've kind of built up a bit of a repertoire of how to manage these different challenges and, kind of, bring solutions to the table there.

So Josh, we're going to, kind of, talk about lots of different things over the course of this series. But, what would you say, in your mind, what's kind of the key things that you think is quite common for you to be, you know, hearing from clients when it comes to issues, challenges, and things like that, that they're having

Josh (strategicabm) – I think from my perspective, some of the biggest issues that I see around ABM on a daily basis is, is when is the right time to do an ABM program? And ultimately, how do you set that program up for success from the beginning?

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – Because you see a lot of examples where somebody's made a decision that an ABM program is the best way to go, but without really doing the groundwork and setting the foundations first. So...

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, absolutely.

Josh (strategicabm) – …what tends to happen is, you get into the program, and all of a sudden, you start to realize that there's certain things that aren't in place. Or you don't have, kind of, a clear direction, and it's really about setting yourself up for success.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – So, that's, kind of, a real big key topic for me. And also, just around, kind of, some of the more tactical elements in terms of measurement and reporting around ABM – understanding, kind of, how do you move the needle within your target accounts? And what it is that you can do, both across the short term and the long term.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – And I think, a real big key topic that we're seeing a lot of discussion around is about, how do you quantify value within an ABM program? Specifically, when you're targeting enterprise-size businesses with long sales cycles. So, how do you play back to your, kind of, Senior Leadership teams, the impact that your ABM program is having?

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, absolutely. I think for me, that is definitely one of the biggest challenges that clients always kind of mention is: How do I demonstrate ABM ROI? What is it that I can, kind of, talk to as a success?

Because obviously, yeah, as you say, there's these long sales cycles. You know, when it comes to enterprise deals – you might be looking at 12-month, 18-month sales cycles, but the ABM program has got to show some kind of impact to the wider business in those early stages, in the first six months, first nine months, something like that. You know, what is it that I can show? What can I, kind of, demonstrate back to the business?

And yeah, it's not an easy one to answer, but it's something that we are obviously thinking about a lot, and dealing with a lot on a, kind of, day-to-day basis. So, we've got some tips and tricks and suggestions that we can, kind of, play back in the future episodes.

I think another thing that we're going to touch on a lot, I think, over the coming weeks is, what ABM isn't, as well as what ABM is. 'Cause I think that's something that people can, kind of, get a bit confused about. You know, there's different views on what we would class as an ABM program.

And I think, some people think maybe that One-to-many is, kind of, not necessarily the most, you know – it's not a traditional ABM program, right? So, potentially, there's question marks there around, how that's executed, whether that should be done, in what ways it should be done, et cetera.

But, I think, in particular, defining what ABM means to a specific business, right? That's absolutely fundamental. And I think there's a lot of important factors to consider when you are kind of doing that. Is there anything, is that something that you're hearing as well?

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Josh (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think so. I think one of the things that, kind of, comes up is that people start off with an ABM motion and they think it's going to solve all of their problems.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – But the reality is, is that ABM isn't a silver bullet. It's not going to...

Jack (strategicabm) – No.

Josh (strategicabm) – ... kind of, take you from A to B and transform your business overnight.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah. Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – It's a process. It's a long-term process. It's quite a cliché saying, but ABM is a, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – But ultimately, it's about, as you just said: How do you, kind of, define those leading indicators and understand, what is it that I can, kind of, show as how we're driving an impact within target accounts and getting them engaged with the business and telling a story?

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – It's as much about, kind of, storytelling and actually developing. And we'll come on to specifics, I guess, around value propositions and core messages.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah. Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – Later in the series. But for me, it's about, kind of, telling that story to the target accounts. But also telling the story of ABM internally to your internal stakeholders.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah. Yeah. I think that's absolutely spot on because yeah, ultimately, you know, ABM is just another way of going to market, right? It's not a completely separate thing from what else that you are doing as a business or, you know, what else you're doing from a Marketing perspective. It's just another approach. It's another way of looking at things, essentially, with some, kind of, foundational principles around targeting and personalization brought in.

But ultimately, it's certainly, it's a bit like what, kind of, Sangram Vajre says, is: "ABM is B2B, B2B is ABM" – it's the sort of, there's a lot of crossover. They're one and the same, in many ways.

It's not about trying to, kind of, put ABM on a pedestal as something that's going to solve all your problems, because you're doing something different. It's just part of what you're, it's an evolution or a, kind of, revision of what you are currently doing, right? So...

Josh (strategicabm) – Yeah. I think, to add to that point, I think I would describe it as being a lens, and it's something that we talk a lot about internally. It's like...

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – ... you're already going to market into these accounts in a broader way. If you have a Marketing team set up that's developing content, that's pushing out paid ads, maybe pushing out, kind of, events. You're already talking to these accounts.

What ABM is there to do, is to basically apply a lens over the top of that.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yep.

Josh (strategicabm) – That then, kind of, adds an additional layer of personalization.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – And an additional layer of value to the accounts, because you're not then speaking to them, kind of, in a broad Marketing sense. You're talking to them in a very specific way.

And it allows you to, kind of, go to those, kind of, use those insights that you gather around the accounts and develop some really personalized and creative experiences that really cuts through.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – So yeah, that's how I would, kind of, see ABM – how it fits into the bigger picture.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah. I like that. I think that's a really good, yeah, it's a really good analogy, 'cause it's suggesting, yeah. It's not suggesting that it's something totally apart from what's existing. It's just looking at things in a different way, right? So, yeah, no, I think that's a really good point.

So, what would you say in terms of those first couple of months, that when we start working with a client, what is it that you, kind of, identify as something that people should be considering?

You know, we're going to go into a lot more depth on specific, kind of, stages of rolling out an ABM program in the next episodes. But, I just wondered, like, if there's anything that you, kind of, see coming up quite frequently when you're speaking to clients that is, it might be an issue, but also, potentially, it's just a consideration or something to be aware of that they need to, kind of, think about.

Josh (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think for me, it comes back to what we were just discussing in terms of understanding where does ABM fit in? So.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – What is the present-day scenario? What is already happening? How are you marketing to these accounts? And how are they engaging with that? So, taking, kind of, the temperature of your target accounts and understanding, even if it's a broad segment, how are they interacting with your accounts? Because all of that will give you insights to then take into your ABM program.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – But yeah, it's about understanding where you are today, and understanding, really, whether ABM is the right thing for you. Because it's really important that, when you start an ABM program, you have the foundation set up. And that means, kind of, taking into consideration: Do you know who it is that you want to go after for your ABM campaign?

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – Because one of the things that we get into quite often is that, a company can sell their product to a lot of different industries. 

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – But do you know which one is the highest value to them? And if they don't, how can they – that's almost like the starting point for the ABM program.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – But then, on top of that, it's about, kind of: What resources do you have? What level of buy-in do you have internally? A lot of the times, what we often see is that ABM becomes – because it's got Marketing in the title – it becomes a very much Marketing-led motion.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah. 

Josh (strategicabm) – But the reality is, is that ABM was never intended to just be a Marketing activity. 

Jack (strategicabm) – No.

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Josh (strategicabm) – It was always intended that ABM, when Bev Burgess first created and coined the term, it was always intended that it was going to be, kind of, a joint, collaborative go-to-market strategy.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Josh (strategicabm) – It just so happens that she, at the time, called it Account-based Marketing. But the reality is, it's about Sales and Marketing coming together to join up, and actually go out to the target accounts with a lot more, kind of, personalization. And really understanding, kind of, how can you target those accounts in a very specific way?

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, yeah. Understanding the accounts, understanding who they are, who their buyers are, the challenges, the pain points that they have, really getting into their mind. Yeah.

I think, kind of, the point around ABM being a bit of a... not a misnomer as such – but it's certainly something that people tag with the Marketing brush, because it's got Marketing in the name.

And that, it certainly does have a bit of a downside, because I think, we always talk about getting wider business buy-in, or Sales buy-in -– and actually, it'd be nice not to have to do that, right?! It'd be nice to, instead, have these, kind of, led by the Sales and Marketing teams, or led by the wider business as a whole, rather than feeling like you have to, kind of, go and have those conversations with the wider stakeholders.

I don't think that's the case for every business and certainly not every business we work with, but it's definitely something that's quite common, that Marketing take ownership of it and then have to, kind of, go out, cap in hand, to the Sales team, to the wider business to, kind of, explain what's going on and get them to, kind of, come on board.

So, it's, yeah, I don't know if that's going to be something that changes in the coming years. Obviously, with all these, kind of... people talk about different acronyms, don't they? ABX and ABE, and all of this sort of stuff. Like, potentially, that's something that might shift, but I think, potentially, there's enough, there's so much, kind of, brand reputation, recognition with the term ABM now, that I'm not sure it'll necessarily change anytime soon.

Josh (strategicabm) – Yeah. And I think the reality is, is that the most successful ABM programs that I've seen have been the ones which have been driven by Sales and Marketing together, from the very beginning. And ultimately...

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, a hundred percent.

Josh (strategicabm) – ... they're coming in with sponsorship from the Senior Leadership team because they know it's a strategic, kind of, value-driver for the business. So, yeah. From that perspective, if you have all of that in place from the very start, you're already, kind of, set up for success.

It's when you have to, kind of, retrospectively try and go and get the buy-in – that's when it becomes more difficult, because the expectation changes, because it's not something that's just: "We are doing this work and this is what to expect." As in: "We've driven engagement and what happens next?"

It's the other way around. If you've already got that buy-in, it's: "We've driven this engagement" and it's the Sales team coming to you and saying: "Well, we're ready! Let's go and take the next step." Rather than trying to, kind of, get that buy-in.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, absolutely.

Josh (strategicabm) – Once the wheels are already in motion.

Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, yeah, exactly that. Yeah. And that's, yeah, it's always such a, kind of, stalling point, isn't it? If you don't have that, and you're having to go backwards to, sort of, to get that, yeah, get that, kind of, conversation started. Cool.

So, yeah, hopefully, this gave you a little bit of a taste of what we are looking forward to discussing over the coming episodes. There'll be lots more talk about Sales and Marketing alignment, and what is required to get ABM programs set up, getting buy-in from wider business, and some of the challenges and pain points that we're seeing on a day-to-day basis from clients and businesses that we work with. So, looking forward to sharing more insights in the next episodes. 

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