strategicabm

A year in the life of ABM

In this episode of Let's Talk ABM, we speak to Marnie Giuranna Zaccaria, Global ABM Lead at Finastra, about their first year of ABM and the key lessons learnt along the way.

Date published: Date modified: 2021-09-16 strategicabm 550 60

Marnie Giuranna Zaccaria
Global ABM Lead, Finastra

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Marnie is Global ABM Lead at leading Fintech Finastra. The role sees Marnie oversee the entire highly personalized and customized marketing activity for all Finastra’s strategic accounts. Previously she held the position of Head of Marketing for DACH and Central Europe for Finastra as well as Marketing Manager at 360T and Managing Director at the European Association for Banking and Financial History.

Declan heads up Marketing at strategicabm. After some 20 years working as a CMO in the Professional Services, SaaS, and EdTech sectors, Declan is now Agency-side building the strategicabm brand and running the Agency's successful ABM program. Declan is the host of the leading ABM podcast, Let's talk ABM.


Watch this webinar and learn: 

  • What the first year of an ABM strategy looks like
  • Advice on what to do and what not to do in your first year
  • How educating Sales helps to unlock ABM success
  • Advice on how to succeed at Account-based Marketing
Read the full transcript

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A year in the life of ABM

The full transcript

Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm) - So today I'm joined by Marnie Giuranna, who's the Global ABM Lead at leading FinTech company Finastra. Marnie, thanks so much for joining us today. 
Marnie Giuranna Zaccaria (Finastra) - Thank you, Declan. Thank you for having me. 

Declan (strategicabm) - So let's talk a little bit about Finastra just to kick the conversation off. Tell us something about Finastra that perhaps we don't know and what's your elevator pitch? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Sure, so Finastra so as you said, is a leading FinTech company and Finastra is creating and deploying on an open software technology and cloud ecosystem for its customers that, independently from their geographical location and their size, need this technology. 

And this is mainly banks. Finastra Solutions span from retail banking, transaction banking, lending, treasury, and capital markets. 

And giving you another couple of figures, Finastra has a 1.9bn USD revenue, a little bit more than 9,000 employees, and a little bit more than 8,500 customers around the globe spanning from big and global financial institutions to credit unions and community banks. That's Finastra.

Declan (strategicabm) - So it's definitely not a startup in the sense of a FinTech. 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - No, no, no. 

Declan (strategicabm) - It's definitely an established financial player. 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah, it is. 

Declan (strategicabm) - That's very large. And actually you mentioned some of the areas that you work in. Let's dig into a little bit more around the ideal customer of Finastra. Talk us through who the ideal customer is. 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah, well, I can't say that there is an ideal customer for Finastra because we are pretty, pretty set. Our customers are banks or financial institutions. So definitely we do not have an ideal customer. However, as I said, our technology could serve big banks, global players in the market, as well as smaller community banks. 

What I can say, however, is that there is an ideal ABM customer. This is for sure. And the ideal ABM customer. So what we in the ABM team serve is a global player with what we consider a good return on investment. And it's a global player that has a big geographical presence in all geography. So a complex structure that needs special attention, not only from the Account Directors, but also from the Marketing team. Special attention, special insight, and some budget, some dedicated budget. 

Declan (strategicabm) - So all those things you just mentioned are all kind of tick, tick, tick for an ABM strategy, right? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yes, definitely. Definitely, yeah. 

Declan (strategicabm) - And if we dig into that a little bit more now obviously, that complexity in terms of selling a financial solution into large banks, that kind of lends itself really well to why ABM has been a strategy that you've adopted there, right? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Absolutely. Because the thing is that when you have such a complex, big account you need a good account insight. So you need just a program that helps you identify first of all, the strategy of this account. And if you're lucky and you have a good or a Customer Account Director that knows the account really well, and a good BDM, Business Development Manager, then you probably do have as a Marketer, this kind of help from them. 

But if not, you of course need an additional account insight activity. And we at Finastra have both. So we have some Account Directors who have a good insight in their accounts, and if not, we use an external agency to help us. 

So you need this account insight to know the strategy of the account. And once you know the strategy of account, you know also what is your footprint and what is the white space that you would like to get not white anymore, and to basically cover it. And then you can develop your strategy. 

But for this, again, you need an Account team and you need an Account-based Marketing program. Definitely. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, so let's talk a little bit about the last 12 months, Marnie. So I think you've just completed your first kind of year of ABM at Finastra. 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah.

Declan (strategicabm) - And I think we were talking about this before the recording, that it's been quite some year for you in terms of your learning, in terms of the ABM journey you've been on. It'd be great if we could spend a little bit of time talking about that last 12 months. If we've kind of go back and let's wind the clock back 12 months, can you talk us through some of your initial thinking that before you started your ABM journey, what was the initial thinking you had about why ABM would be the right fit and your first steps, so to speak? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Absolutely, sure. Well, the first, it was kind of a top-down approach. So it had been decided at a company level that Finastra would start an ABM program. So some Marketers have exactly the opposite approach. So it is the Marketing department that decides and tries to get buy-in from the management, right? In our case, it was quite, I mean, we had an easy start in this respect, so it was again a top-down approach. 

So the CEO decided that this would be a good route to follow for a part of a section of the Marketing team. So this was set. However, we were just told, okay, go ahead. And we had to start with it. 

So our first thought was what to do? How do we integrate the ABM team within Marketing and particularly within the regional Marketing, so Field Marketing? And so we decided to create the Marketing Hub. And I was part of it together with a couple of other colleagues in the team. And we started to create a 'role chart'. So we decided what were the responsibilities and the ownership of the Hub versus the one in regions. 

And of course, we started then to set the processes, the procedures to follow, and in order to make sure that these are the tasks of the Hub, these are the tasks of the regional Marketing teams, and these are the KPIs, right? And so we decided basically that the Hub would take care of the planning and the strategy, and the regional Marketing would take care of the execution of the ABM program. 

The second step was the accounts. Again, also here a little bit different than in some other cases. We were not involved in the selection of the accounts. We got a set of 50 accounts, which is a lot to start with. And so we basically decided who would do what. And so we selected 10 accounts to be part of the One-to-one ABM program, and 40 accounts to be part of the One-to-few. And we decided to give everything in the execution to the regions while we the Hub would just be in the planning and in a sort of also Consultant role. 

Yes, now a year has passed and in May, about May ‘21, we took stock and we saw what worked and what did not work. And in June ‘21, our, actually, and you see I'm hesitating because June ‘21, our new fiscal year started. So we call it fiscal year '22. So for the next six months I will constantly be in doubt. Are we in '21 or are we in '22?. 

And so we changed things. We just reduced the number of accounts from 50 to 25, and we decided to get our team bigger. And the Hub that was only two people will be now three people. Three additional, so five people. So we reduced the number of accounts but we increased the number of ABMers. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Okay, so that's an awful lot of things that happened in 12 months, right? And I think you probably, as you mentioned, the new financial year has just started so you did an enormous amount of ABM in 12 months. But let's just ask ourselves a few questions around those last 12 months. So I think you mentioned to me that you had started doing all three program types, One-to-few. 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yes.

Declan (strategicabm) - One-to-many, One-to-one. With hindsight, looking back, would you do that again or would you have perhaps done it a little bit differently? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - I definitely... differently. Definitely, and we will. So we will definitely continue doing all three programs. However, the One-to-one, instead of having 10 accounts participating in the One-to-one we will have only three. The One-to-few, so the clusters we will have only 22 instead of 40. And then we have identified a set of key regional accounts that will undergo a One-to-many program, and this will be done in the regions. 

So the ABM Hub. So it's quite well separated. So the ABM Hub, so the central team will be completely aligned with the safe strategy and another point that we did have last year, but not as with really a One-to-one alignment. So we will be aligned, that the global team will be aligned with the Global Strategic Account team and serve the same 25 accounts. And the regions will take care, the Field Marketing will take care of the One-to-many. 

Declan (strategicabm) - And actually just touching on that point, Marnie. You mentioned before that there was a split in terms of what the Field Marketing team did and what you did. I think between the One-to-many, One-to-few, One-to-one, I think it was a split between that. Is that something, are you continuing in the same vein? Are you continuing in the same way or you're going to change the way that who does what? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - We have a clear separation. So let's put it this way. These 25 global strategic accounts that we have identified will be per default opted out of all the campaigns that the Field Marketing will do. Because otherwise it creates an overlapping, and an overlapping that will be not good in the end for the customer. 

Just making an example, you might be invited to two different round tables, the generic one and the very specific one that the ABM team organizes. And this is of course confusing. So it's doing more harm than good. 

However, this said, we will have an interlock with the field colleagues. So a very administrative cadence, probably a weekly cadence, because if we will see that in the regions there is something that is done maybe in the language, because in the global strategic accounts we have some that, of course, have their headquarter, I don't know, in Paris or in Vienna. So if we see that in the regions they're organizing something that is still matching the strategy of that account, and it's probably in their language, then of course, we will opt the strategic account in the campaign that is run by the region. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, and just another couple more points around the last 12 months. 'Cause I think that there's so much learning that you've taken from that, right? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah. 

Declan (strategicabm) - What's the greatest thing that you've learned in these last 12 months? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Oh, okay. Probably the greatest thing that I've learned is set clear objectives, be transparent with your objectives. First of all, because you set the expectation in the Account team and you are clearly measurable.

And what I've learned is that ABM is not always generating more revenue. Yes, ultimately it is. It is the ultimate goal, definitely. But it is not the immediate goal. You can - what I've learned is that an ABM program can span over three years, for instance. And it should not necessarily be after a year we have to close the 'elephant deal' of, I don't know, 7 billion, or seven, or whatever. 

It's just a program that has the tasks, phases and steps. So it's fine to say, okay, this account, for instance, has a completely wrong perception of Finastra. They think we are an old dusty on-premises software company. Let's change this perception and let's gain at least one executive sponsor inside the company that opens doors for an opportunity. This could be a goal. 

So I've learned that be clear, know the customer, do good insight and set a clear goal. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I mean, that's probably should be repeated and probably should be published everywhere on LinkedIn, that advice. I think that's fantastic advice. 

And just touching on that then, if there's anything linked to that, you said, you know what, something I've learned over the last 12 months I would not repeat again?

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah, I would probably avoid doing what we have done with this hybrid model of the central ABM team does a bit and the region do another bit without being clear in separating. I think that this leads to misunderstandings, sometimes even to frictions. 

No, this is mine. No, this is yours. And we are one team, it's Marketing and in the end we have the same goal, right? So I wouldn't repeat this hybrid model, or better said, the hybrid model how we did it right now is fine. The central team does One-to-one and One-to-few, the regions do One-to-many. The global accounts are opted out from the region, and only if there is something that they can profit from they can be opted in. 

So a hybrid model is fine, but with really clear, clear, clear distinctions. 

Declan (strategicabm) - So clear separation, basically? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Declan (strategicabm) - And talking about the separation and actually linked to that, perhaps, you mentioned earlier that at the beginning of your ABM journey, your ABM program there, that the accounts that you were working on were actually not chosen by Marketing, but rather chosen by the accounts team? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah. 

Declan (strategicabm) - The Sales team, the Account Managers, et cetera. How did that impact everything going forward? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah, the thing is that you get this set of accounts, right? And you don't know anything about these accounts. And you are not used as a Marketeer to have such a close relationship with the Account Director. So sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. 

So, actually what I would do, and I will if it's the case, even if this year I think we are better set. But I would have done last year, let's put it this way, is something that I've heard from a very experienced ABMer or that I've listened to in an interview recently. And she had said that she would have these selected accounts and monitor in the first three months the first results of the ABM program and the ABM activities. See the engagement, monitor the engagement of the account and the engagement of the Account Director. If both measurement pieces would not be satisfying, she would remove this account from the program. 

I think that this is a very healthy way of dealing with the case of I did not select them, I got them. Okay, let's go with them, let's work with them. But if after three months neither the engagement of the account, because is good, because it's not receptive, nor the engagement of the Account Director, which is absolutely necessary, is satisfying, account removed from the program. It's quite harsh, but I think it's a win situation for everyone. 

Declan (strategicabm) - It's similar advice actually, to some of the conversations I've had on "Let's talk ABM" around getting the Sales team to justify why an account should be part of the ABM program, and actually asking them to put forward a business case, at least a one page business case for why they believe the account should be in the program. Because if they go to that effort to actually write the business case they actually truly believe that that account warrants being in. 

Actually, that leads in nicely, and actually, Marnie, to just one thing that you talked about when we were talking previously about educating the Sales team. And I think one of the things that you learned in the first 12 months was the fact that you realized that you had to spend more time educating and talking to the Sales team than perhaps you thought you needed to. Can you touch on that a little bit? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah, it was. I mean, I probably calling it a failure is too much, but it was certainly a missed opportunity and an area that we will definitely need to be more aware of in this new fiscal year. 

So, basically we relied very much on the, let's call them instructions, they got from their managers. Yeah, as you said, probably if they had done the business case it would have been better, but they didn't. And we organized two big education sessions and to buy them in, to explain to them the value of ABM, how an ABM program works. And in the end it was definitely not enough. It was definitely not enough. We probably bought them in during the sessions, but then we kind of lost them. 

So we will definitely do in this fiscal year. We will, and we have already created cadences, one-to-one cadences with each of the Account Directors. And we have also created two communication channels that are not email. One on MS Teams, where we have a repository of all the educational documents. But generally speaking, it's like a survival ABM kit. And then we have another channel on a platform called Yammer that you might be acquainted with. And there we just with a regular cadence we post some little success stories. And we reckon that this, and we name not only the account but also the Account Director. And we reckon that this triggers the natural competitive character and attitudes of our Sales colleagues, yeah. 

Declan (strategicabm) - I think that's a really, really good idea. I think it echoes a lot that I've been seeing as well in terms of celebrating successes as early as possible, even if they're small successes. As you said that you've got a sponsor internally within a target account, you've got somebody who's talking well about Finastra inside the account. And obviously the Sales team having those guys on board, unless you've got that then it's not going to work, right? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Exactly. 

Declan (strategicabm) - So a couple more things really. ROI. You mentioned earlier around revenue that obviously revenue is the ultimate goal, but obviously reputation, relationships are the precursors and the kind of the early indicators of success. But in terms of the ROI that you've achieved there so far, can you talk us through what you've seen? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah, sure. Yeah, as you said, the ultimate goal is to generate more revenue. I mean, it's clear. It's, otherwise a company would not invest so much money in dedicated Account Directors and Account-based Marketing

But I have a very nice example of what an ROI can or what an ROI and a measurement piece can be considered as valuable, as increased revenue. We, last year, for one of our global accounts we started as we usually do with an account insight. And then in that case, the Account Director was quite new to the company and to the account. So we didn't have internal resources. So we outsourced it to an Agency and we received a huge PowerPoint, over 100 slides, that gave us an incredibly good insight about the account, the account strategy. 

And so reading this deliverable, and after a couple of calls and virtual meetings with the Account team, we decided to go for a specific line of business. So we asked another Agency to help us get more contacts for this specific line of business. And we did using a social selling campaign that brought us over 50 new C-level and C-minus 1 level contacts that contacted on the LinkedIn profile with the Account Director. 

And then, following that we did the follow-up nurture campaign, engaging these 50 plus contacts on a LinkedIn campaign. And towards the end of last fiscal, the Account Director engaged with some very valuable conversations. 

And now we have a solid opportunity that hopefully in this fiscal year will lead to a closed deal and increase in revenue. So you see that it was a whole year of just creating this relationship and engaging. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, and I think that's the thing that many people don't realize about ABM, is that it's a marathon and it's not a sprint, and you've got to put the effort in. 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Exactly. 

Declan (strategicabm) - If you put the effort in, as you said, you've got the insights work, you've got some deep level industry company, executive level insights that you've carried out. You then put a strategy in place, you get your value proposition, your messaging strategy into those individuals. You do a social selling campaign, as you mentioned. You generate their interest, you start those conversations. 

And I think from an ROI point of view, having just kind of talking about how many conversations have you started is a great early indicator of what could come down the road as long as you continue, right? And so hopefully in this fiscal year now, 2021, '22, or whatever you call the fiscal year there. 'Cause I think you've got.

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - '22. 

Declan (strategicabm) - '22. So you're like a year ahead of us. You're like talking to somebody in the future. 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Exactly, yeah. 

Declan (strategicabm) - So good luck with that one. Good luck, that's a great example. Let's just finish off in a couple of more questions then, Marnie, please. 

So let's talk about the building blocks of an ABM strategy. Account selection, we've talked about value proposition, intent data, insights, account experience. In your experience there, where perhaps are you spending more or most of your time? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - We're definitely spending the majority of our time - and I really recommend anyone starting a program doing so - with account insights. I think, it is really, really important. It's, you have to know - you can't build a targeted program if you don't know the customer, if you don't know what the customer is doing, what the strategy is. You simply can't. 

Of course, also the data and the right personas are important. But the account insight is the piece that we really spend a lot of budget because we engage an external Agency a lot of the time. Because, I mean, yeah, we spend the budget, we have a briefing call with the Agency. The Agency is well-experienced. Does it - it's day in and day out they do this. 

However, then we get a deliverable, and the deliverable is huge, as I said, Sometimes it's 80-100 slides with a lot of information, with a lot of links to click... ...that opens an entire world of information. And so reading, digesting and processing, basically this insight takes really, really, really a lot of time. And this is the only way to then do a work on a targeted value prop. 

This is another building block that we spend a lot of time on. Last year we even did for two select accounts, we did an account manifesto which is actually nothing else than a targeted value prop. And almost a promise, a Finastra promise to the account to solve its pain points or issues with our solutions.

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, so it's and all that work you've done ends up helping you to show the client that you know them. 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Yeah, exactly. Exactly, I think, this is an even, if I can add one thing more, even doing little things like an executive profiling. So okay, this is probably if we spot a person that could really open inside the account, that could really open doors to further conversation, we let the Agency do an exact profiling.

And even just to give you an example, we discovered that in one interview one of our target execs was just talking about his free time, his spare time taking the two kids to do horse riding lessons. So, I mean, knowing this little bit, this thing, we just send them as a present a book about horses, for instance. Which is a small present. It is something that you can do because it's a low value. 

But imagine you getting from your vendor or yeah, your vendor getting something like this. It adds a lot of value. It's in these little things and these little details that you show that you're caring about them and you know them. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, it's funny, isn't it? Because you have to do it in a way that is not creepy. You’ve got to do it in a way that is not kind of like, why are they doing this? Why are they digging around in my history? 

But if you do it in a way that is very natural, that is, like you said, you've mentioned about horse riding, or an example I remember with our Agency, we were trying to onboard a prospect that was interested in ABM services and the deal was stuck. Because sometimes deals get stuck because they get other priorities, other things come in. It happens to all of us. So the deal got a little bit stuck. So we kind of did some research and we found out that she was very interested in netball, which is a sport. 

Yeah, and so we managed to work out. We kind of guessed what size her shoe was, and got these beautiful netball shoes and we sent them to her in the post. And then we actually guessed correctly her shoe size. And we put a little personalized note to say to, hey, look, like you do with the horse book. 

And she basically said, "Look, guys, what you've done for me, how you found that out, how you knew that I was a netball fanatic, how you guessed my shoe size, can you please do this for me and my clients, because I love it?" And so it's exactly the same thing that you just mentioned. It's just that level of connectivity, that level of connection, that level of emotion, that level of, connect with me in a way, show me you know me, right? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Exactly. 

Declan (strategicabm) - So Marnie, just two short questions to finish off, because you've been so, so generous with your time today. ABM. What do you think is the hardest thing about ABM? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - I think it's just to act with a sales mindset, to be customer-focused, customer-centric, to speak their language so that you get understood. And also to speak the same language of your major stakeholders, which is the Sales Account Director. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I think, I would definitely, definitely agree with that. Speaking the language of sales is so so important and not talking about MQLs and SQLs, which basically salespeople just go ‘don't talk to me about MQLs and SQLs’. 

So very, very last question. Advice - for companies who are thinking about starting their ABM journey, or perhaps are not as advanced as you are at Finastra, and have just started. What's the one piece of advice you would give them for their ABM journey? 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Okay, considering also my experience, start small. Start small. Just a few accounts, set up your KPIs in a realistic way or your goals in a realistic way. Select the accounts together with the Account Directors and keep them engaged. Very simple. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Very simple, but very effective. That's great advice to finish off, Marnie. Thank you so much for your time. Grazie mille. It's been an absolute pleasure speaking to you today about ABM and all the best for the future. 

Marnie Giuranna (Finastra) - Thank you, Declan. Really nice. I really, really enjoyed it, thank you.

Declan (strategicabm) -Thanks, Marnie.