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ABM: It’s all about the alignment

In this episode of Lets Talk ABM, we speak to Alessandra Possamai, ABM Manager at Shutterstock about the importance of alignment and why the account experience lies at the heart of ABM.

Date published: Date modified: 2021-08-02 strategicabm 550 60

Alessandra Possamai
ABM Manager, Shutterstock

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Alessandra heads Shutterstock’s global ABM program. A passionate B2B Marketer with a real talent for Account-based Marketing, Alessandra is seeing huge success with her ABM strategy, creating personalized Account Experiences that deliver a truly customized buyer journey.

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 Strategic IC brand and sharing our clients’ ABM success stories.


Watch this webinar and learn: 

  • How alignment with Sales moves the ABM dial
  • Why the account experience lies at the heart of an ABM strategy
  • What are some of the hardest parts of ABM
  • Advice on how to succeed at Account-based Marketing
Read the full transcript

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ABM: It’s all about the alignment

The full transcript

Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm) - So today I'm joined by Alessandra Possamai, who's the ABM Manager at Shutterstock. Alessandra, thanks so much for joining us today. Alessandra Possamai (Shutterstock) - Of course, it's a pleasure to be here and talk all about ABM. I love it. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Fantastic. So let's get started then. 

So Shutterstock, it's such a well-known company. I mean, everyone who's watching this podcast will have known about, you know, Shutterstock. But tell us something about the company that perhaps we don't know. 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Yeah, so there's a lot, actually. Shutterstock is so much more than just a stock company. We've truly evolved into, you know a full service creative solution that helps brands, businesses, media agencies, and we offer, quite frankly, multiple types of content. 

So video, music, 3D editorial, and studios. So studios is our new creative arm that produces bespoke content. And on top of all of that, we also have our API business. So we call that platform solutions and they really strive to make our content ubiquitously available across really to anyone and everybody to leverage within their campaigns, video production, the list goes on. Yeah so a lot of people might not know. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, and obviously you particularly, you know marketing to marketers as well, which is an interesting... uh, we'll move on to that shortly. But if we talk a little bit about your ideal customer. Why is it that ABM was the right strategy to engage with those customers? 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Yeah, for sure. So I work on the enterprise side of the business. So technically, you know any account that does marketing, could be a customer, but what makes an ideal customer for our ABM program is quite frankly any account that has high revenue potential. 

So that usually comes in the form of a sizeable account, global presence, many Brand and Product teams, that require a creative solution. And so ABM is really brought into picture to help raise awareness and education of Shutterstock's offerings, to help Sales break into these quite frankly very siloed accounts. You typically see that a lot, the larger they get. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah and that obviously it's a perfect lead into, you know, to why Account-based Marketing is the right kind of fit for kind of breaking into those kinds of siloed accounts. 

So, when we were talking before Alessandra, you mentioned that you were about three to four years into your ABM journey there at Shutterstock. Can you talk us through that journey in the course of, you know, what did year one, year two, and year three, look like? 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Yeah, for sure. So, year one was really about launching as many One-to-one highly targeted programs as we could - the motto was truly fail fast. So learn pretty quickly what worked and pivoted more into that direction. Year two was all about scaling ABM beyond our One-to-one programs, and really just growing the program globally. And that was also the year that we just invested heavily in the 'Dream Tech Stack' all in one quarter, which I don't recommend. 

But we got all the bells and whistles in year two. And then year three was really meant to be the year that we, you know, fine-tune that well-oiled ABM machine, but then COVID hit, right? So we did so much more than just fine-tune, we reconstructed. We had to really adapt to the new normal and change the way that we are doing ABM to reflect that. 

And yeah, here we are in year four. So, year four is where we're really trying to develop that predictable demand - not only across our corporate accounts but also our media and agency accounts. 

Declan (strategicabm) - And I think you'd actually mentioned that previously about COVID and how that completely changed how your ABM program was being rolled out. One of the things that you mentioned to me was that you actually changed your reporting line as well, and you actually now switched into reporting directly to Sales. 

So I think you've obviously if you're an ABM manager reporting into Sales I don't think you can get a better alignment than that. Can you talk us through that in terms of how you work with your Sales colleagues there?

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Yeah. So, I think at the end of the day, you know Sales priorities are my priorities, and regardless of organizational structure that should really be the mentality of any ABM marketer or just marketer in general. It's moving beyond just seeing Sales as your customer and really embracing them as your partner and really meaning it. 

And so, in essence it just made me realize how much more closer you can be with Sales, and what true collaboration really looks like this past year and a half has really taught me that. 

Declan (strategicabm) - And do you have any particular learning that you'd share, with the audience in terms of how you get that close alignment

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - For sure. It's really weaving them throughout the whole ABM process, from account identification to when the campaign is launched and also how the campaign is performing and how it can ultimately be optimized as time goes on. 

And so, it needs to have touchpoints with all levels of Sales. So for me, that looks like weekly touchpoints with SDRs, biweekly touchpoints with AEs, and then monthly with Sales leadership. And it can get as granular as meeting on a weekly basis with an AE and SDR pairing just for one account. 

So, you know, there really is no limit to how close that collaboration can become. 

Declan (strategicabm) - And what, in terms of that, if you just dig into that a little bit more, what are the changes that you've seen in the market, and how is Shutterstock leading the way in terms of how your offering is relevant for B2B Marketers? 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Yeah, for sure. Well, you know, Marketing is something that's beautiful and constantly evolving and changing and especially you know in a global world and local markets the need for diverse content becomes ever more prevalent and the need to create more content, and more content cost-effectively. It's just really that agile solution that can be an extension of a Marketing team and, you know any pain point that they have we can fit in with our broad offerings to support that. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Okay. And let's talk a little bit about ROI, which is often something that can be quite difficult to pin down with some ABM programs. Can you talk us a little bit about the success of the ABM program that you run there at Shutterstock and perhaps some of the things that you look to measure. 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Yeah, for sure. So last year, quite ironically, was our best-influenced revenue year yet. And we really had to streamline our budgets last year, right? So our ROI was pretty incredible from that and makes it almost tough to beat this year. 

Definitely, a high bar that we're striving towards, but in terms of, you know what we define as success, I feel like it's not too different from other ABM programs in terms of the traditional ABM funnel that we measure. There's always going to be a number of our accounts - our engaged accounts, meetings, pipeline, bookings. 

Where I think the difference lies is just that emphasis on the bottom of the funnel, and driving revenue, right? Like what are we doing if we're not driving revenue to the accounts that sales care about the most? And so I feel like that's one of the differences that I've seen with how we measure versus how other programs measure things. 

Declan (strategicabm) - And in terms of the kind of the wider go-to-market strategy at Shutterstock, what percentage would the ABM program makeup of the whole kind of go-to-market strategy there? 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Yeah it's an interesting question because, you know our Marketing team, there are many layers, right? We have our E-commerce side of the business. We sit on the Enterprise side of the business and within that ABM is a function. And so I will say that year over year we have grown our influence, you know, our budget, our investments, just because we truly see the, you know, the importance of it in terms of driving outcomes at the right accounts. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah. And Alessandra actually, you just hit on an interesting point there in terms of the work that you're doing and the success that you've had over the course of the last four years with your ABM strategy. What's been the impact in the wide organization there at Shutterstock in terms of how they perceived the success of this program? 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Yeah. So it's, you know, since inception to this point it's been super, super fun for me to see that evolution and ABM has truly become something that Sales used to see as a 'nice to have'. And it's more and more becoming a 'need to have'. 

You know ABM is something that I have to sell less within the organization. And now it's more so just handling the requests for AEs that see the value of ABM being placed in order to help them hit, you know the revenue outcomes that we want to hit. So it's been very interesting seeing that evolution happen. 

Declan (strategicabm) - And if we dig down a little bit more into the ABM program that you do there and that you run rather, and we talk about some of the building blocks of an ABM program you know, like ICP, account selection, value proposition, intent data, account experience, etc. Where would you say that you spend most of your time in terms of building your ABM program there? 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Yeah, so I would say Shutterstock traditionally has always had a very strong grasp on our ICP as well as the accounts that we want to go after. There is a hundred percent alignment in terms of that. 

So where I spend the majority of my time is truly an account experience. And I think if you are doing ABM right, this is where you're spending a lot of your time. It's just really making sure that the buyer journeys that you're putting your prospects through are relevant, are personal, and just meet the pain points that they're facing. 

And so that's truly been where I spend most of my time and you know, there's, there's really no limit to how layered and how deep this kind of journeys can become. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I can definitely, I can definitely, yeah, I agree with you there. And let's just talk about some of the hardest parts of doing ABM. What would you say in your experience is one of the hardest things about ABM? 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - So for me personally, I'm a 'one-woman ABM show' at the moment. And so, really it's that balance between high-level strategy and really thinking about where we want ABM to go in the long-term and then getting really deep in nitty-gritty into the mechanics of, you know, a campaign, building out, account mapping and all that good stuff. 

It's hard to find that balance between quantity and quality but that's where I had the most, you know, challenges at the moment. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah. And just to finish off with Alessandra, what advice would you have for anybody who is either looking to roll out an ABM program or perhaps are in their early days and they're looking to improve what they're currently doing? What advice would you have for them? 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Yeah, so I would say, be very intentional with your ABM strategy from the beginning, pace out your investments, and make sure that you over-communicate your small wins in order to help grow the program and build that trust internally. 

I've heard of a lot of ABM programs failing hard and fast because they try to do too much within a short period of time. And I think it's important to remember that this isn't a Marketing centric journey. You really want to make sure that Sales is there by your side. And again, weaved throughout that whole entire process because I'll tell you this, their buy-in is truly integral to a long-lasting ABM success. 

So look to over-communicate, look for those small wins at the beginning, and then work as hard as you can to build that relationship with your Sales teams because there'll be the crux of whether or not you're successful or not. Right? 

Declan (strategicabm) - A hundred percent. Alessandra, fantastic advice to finish on, so thanks so much for your time today and I wish you every success for the future. 

Alessandra (Shutterstock) - Of course, thank you for having me.