Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm) – So, today I'm joined by Jack Rawlings and Josh Weale, two of our key ABM Strategists here at the Agency. Jack, Josh, thanks so much for joining us today.
Jack Rawlings (strategicabm) – Great to be here. Thanks, Dec.
Josh Weale (strategicabm) – Yeah, thanks for having us, Dec.
Declan (strategicabm) – So, thanks Josh. Thanks, Jack. So, both the team here, they work really closely with our clients. They kind of create compelling, engaging and impactful ABM programs. And we're here today to talk about something special that they've both been working on in the background over the course of the last few months.
So, Jack, tell us something – you've obviously been cooking something up in the background. I know that it's something to do with a podcast, but can you tell us a little bit more?
Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, absolutely. So we've been working on a new podcast called 'ABM Under the Hood' and this podcast is, it's intended to kind of sit alongside Let's talk ABM.
So, obviously where, with Let's talk ABM, you're interviewing some really great, sort of, experts and thought leaders from the wider ABM industry. The idea with ABM Under the Hood is for us to really dig deep into the, kind of, specifics, day-to-day challenges, problems, issues and solutions that we are seeing working with clients, and having conversations with people internally within our business here at strategicabm.
So, there'll be conversations between myself and Josh on some of the, kind of, main issues, particularly around things like strategy and development of ABM programs. But also, we'll be speaking to other team members as well from other teams in the business.
So, obviously, you know, a lot goes into an ABM program and a successful ABM program, so we'll be talking to people from Creative teams, Design, and other areas around the business that kind of help feed into that success of an ABM program.
Declan (strategicabm) – So, in essence, you're going to be looking under the hood, under the bonnet, of what an ABM program, an ABM strategy looks like. Looking at all the moving parts in the ABM engine and trying to, kind of, diagnose some of the issues that can happen, and trying to shine a light, really, on what good ABM looks like. Would that be fair, Josh?
Josh (strategicabm) – Yeah, exactly. We're going to be kind of just taking a look into the day-to-day kind of things, because ABM's ultimately, it's been around for quite some time now. I think it's around 20 years ago that Bev Burgess, kind of, coined the term Account-based Marketing. And what we are trying to do really is to enable, kind of, anybody who wants to do an ABM program to learn a bit more about what goes into the day-to-day.
So, thinking about the challenges, the things that you need to consider about who you're targeting, how you're going to reach them, what messaging you're going to put out to them, and ultimately just understanding, kind of, everything that goes into a successful ABM program.
Because, from our perspective, what we see a lot of is that people think that, specifically around, kind of, LinkedIn thought leadership, it can be very easy to say you're doing ABM and putting that out there. But ABM as a buzzword is kind of, like, well, what actually is it that goes behind it? So, just really looking into that deeper dives and exploring it from other people's perspectives as well.
Declan (strategicabm) – So, you'll be getting your hands dirty, basically, and kind of, you know, getting all the, kind of, the oil and filters and everything changed, and showing people really how to make the, kind of, the ABM engine really hum as best as it can, really.
So, let's talk a little bit about some of the, kind of, episodes and some of the subjects that you'll be touching on. Can you kind of give us a sneak preview of some of the themes that you'll be touching?
Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, absolutely. So, there's obviously quite a lot of different aspects that go, you know, goes into an ABM program, so there's lots of topics for us to discuss. But some of the, kind of, main focuses are going to be things like account selection, you know, picking the right types of accounts to be targeting and how to go about doing that.
There's going to be a lot of conversations, I think, around Sales and Marketing alignment. It's one of the massive issues that businesses face when they're setting up an ABM program, and I think there's plenty of things that we can, kind of, talk to there in terms of potential tips and solutions that we can give that might help on that front.
We'll also be looking at things like understanding what types of tech tools and tech platforms there are available to use that can, kind of, help you scale or grow your ABM program. And also, you know, what's necessary? What are the fundamentals that you might want to be looking at from a tech perspective?
I think, you know, communicating the ROI and the value of an ABM program is something that we're going to be touching on a lot, because that's a conversation that people are having to have, you know, quite consistently with the wider business, and certainly with other stakeholders in their team. So, you know, from our perspective, being able to give them that sort of ammunition and the language that they need to be able to communicate back to the business about the value of an ABM program.
So, those are some of the topics. That's not by any means an exhaustive list, there's plenty of other things that we will be touching on. But certainly, yeah, some of the starting points for us, for sure.
Declan (strategicabm) – And let's talk a little bit then about the challenges of ABM, which I think you'll also be touching on, as well. Josh, this is perhaps a question for you. Where do you think B2B marketers struggle most when launching an ABM program?
Josh (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think from my perspective, what I tend to see is there's two, kind of, real key issues that come up quite often. The first one is businesses that come from, kind of, your traditional Lead Gen mindset, where it's all about MQLs, SQLs and hand-off points for Sales. And they're used to, kind of, trying to hit a quota and having leads in a spreadsheet.
And what that kind of pertains to is that you end up in a situation where Sales and Marketing aren't necessarily working together. So, it's around that Sales and Marketing alignment piece, and not having that, kind of, established from the outset – because of the mindset of the business – that's a real key blocker for successful ABM. So, that's probably one of the first things I'd talk about.
The second thing is probably around, kind of, objective setting and being realistic with what you can achieve in the immediate term, and also the long term. Obviously, everyone who thinks they're about to start an ABM program has ambitious goals to achieve. But ABM is about building the foundations and setting out realistic objectives over 3, 6, 9, 12 months, and beyond that even further.
So, it's about kind of setting the roadmap for success, as well. Sometimes we often see people who will set up an ABM program and jump straight in, and then wonder in three months' time why they haven't been able to achieve what they set out to do.
Declan (strategicabm) – No, I think they're great points there. Jack, would you add anything to what Josh has mentioned there?
Jack (strategicabm) – I think just developing on the point around objectives, it is that measurement piece as well, you know – what types of metrics and, you know, what types of data sources do we need to be thinking about for an ABM program?
It's certainly, you know, there's not necessarily one clear answer for this. The context for the business is absolutely key, but also, you know, even established ABM practitioners and businesses still struggle with that question around how best to report. You know, the reality is there's different types of reporting requirements needed depending on the situation. You know, whether you're talking to, you know, Marketing stakeholders, wider business, Sales stakeholders, all of that.
So, I think, you know, obviously setting objectives at the start is absolutely key, but then also how'd you go about reporting back on that? And, you know, the progress along that, along those lines.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think they're all good points, I think I'd echo that point around objective setting and also setting expectations, and not perhaps setting yourself up for a fall, really.
I think it's important to define what ABM means to your business, 'cause each business has a different definition of what they want to achieve. And then making sure that everybody is in agreement with what is achievable and when. And then that way everyone will be in agreement as and when the program delivers on its, kind of, main objectives, really.
But perhaps linked to that, a question really around perhaps where B2B marketers go wrong with ABM. Obviously, hindsight is a great thing to have; I wish we wish we all had it. But what do you think, perhaps, and Jack, I'll ask you, what perhaps do you think B2B marketers wish they had known before starting off on that ABM journey?
Jack (strategicabm) – Probably, I would say the number one thing is the commitment required to do so, right? It's not a simple transition. Depending on where you are coming from, what background, you know, where the business is at, at that moment in time.
It's not as simple as saying: 'We're going to switch on an ABM program and get going, and we're going to start seeing results.' There's a lot of groundwork, a lot of foundational work that needs to be done, you know, in the early stages to prepare you for success in an ABM program.
And I think, potentially, a lot of people underestimate that, the level of commitment and resource required to get an ABM program, A) off the ground and B) you know, running successfully. So, I think probably that side of things is something that, you know, maybe if you had to turn things back and you were starting an ABM program, at the start that's something you'd want to be thinking about.
But, I would also say, you know, it's something that I just keep touching on all the time, to be honest, the Sales and Marketing alignment. But, having Sales and Marketing alignment at the beginning of a program, rather than having to go backwards and, you know, actually, kind of, ask for that buy-in and come to the Sales team with requests, almost, for their input and their alignment later on. Having that buy-in at the beginning is so fundamental and makes such a huge difference to the speed at which you can get into market and start seeing results, as well.
So, I think those two things in particular would be, you know, if you could kind of go back and start fresh, I think that's probably where you would focus on.
Declan (strategicabm) – Josh, anything you'd add there?
Josh (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think for me, not to get too far ahead of yourself, really. It can be a kind of common scenario for Marketing, when we get excited about something as we're all Marketers here, we get excited about something and we're running away with it.
And trying to get something into market, obviously, we want to do so in a timely fashion, but it's also important to have the foundations right. Because if you go into market too soon with a message that's not quite right, that's not going to resonate, you're only then going to have to retrospectively try and diagnose where the issues are and put more work into it.
So, kind of, I suppose the saying is 'more speed less haste' when it comes to, kind of, building your program and figuring out, kind of, what is the right thing at this point in time and not getting too far ahead of yourself.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think they're very good points raised there. So, let's look at, let's look under the hood of ABM. Obviously there's, you know, Sales enablement, technology alignment, insights, data, Account Experience, execution, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. There are an awful lot of moving parts, just like we mentioned earlier, just like a car engine. Do you think that everyone is ready for ABM?
Josh (strategicabm) – I think, 'No' is the answer! I think it obviously very much depends on, kind of, the business' context, as we've already touched upon. But there's a really, kind of, wide spectrum of businesses and ABM fits into those businesses in different ways.
So, for those businesses who have got good product market fit, they've probably got quite an established reputation within a market. ABM is a perfect use case. But there's still, kind of, elements of the business that need to just be checked and sense checked to make sure that ABM sits within, kind of, the wider Marketing mix.
And it doesn't just become kind of a, something that becomes a bit tactical; it has to feel like a strategic joined-up play as part of the overall Marketing mix. So yeah, just from that perspective, I think it's really important, but I'm sure Jack can probably add more to that.
Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, there's absolutely a, there's a case for ABM in a lot of businesses, right? It's not something that is, people talk about ABM being only focused on Enterprise deals and all of that kind of stuff. And I think, certainly I would say, that it has more strength there and more viability there in that kind of space.
But, really, ABM is as much about being a mindset shift for an organization, as it is anything else. Josh made a great point the other day when we were having a conversation, which was that it's a lens. It's a lens to view a go-to-market strategy through. It's not about changing, you know, it's not taking a whole new sort of hammer to the whole thing you're doing already. It's about, you know, reorienting the focus and the priorities of the business, the Marketing team to a slightly different way of doing things.
So, in theory, you know, most businesses or a lot of businesses particularly in the technology space and with a solution product to sell could do ABM. But, there's a difference between those that could do it and those that are ready to do it. And I think the ones that aren't ready to do it are those that haven't necessarily thought about those long-term impacts as we said, you know, what does the next 6, 12, 18 months look like? This isn't a quick fix, something you can just pivot to and then change your mind later on. Just, you know, it's about taking that longer-term approach, you know? [Check out our ABM Readiness workshop]
Also, businesses that don't necessarily have the budget resource, time to commit to it as well. A lot of teams, you know, want to try and do this on a bit of a shoestring. And actually, the reality is you do need a certain amount of budget, time and resource to be able to actually get the results that you need from it, the ROI that you need.
So, you know, there's certainly probably an ability or a willingness to do it. I think business, most businesses could do it, but should they do it is a bigger question really.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, and I think I'd perhaps add to that and just be interested to hear your thoughts. I think the data that we've had, I mean, we've run, obviously, an ABM Lunch & Learn workshop and we've had, you know, over 400 bookings in the space of the last couple of years. So, that's an awful lot of data from an awful lot of B2B technology brands that we've able been able to talk to around their ABM programs, or their start of their ABM programs.
And roughly, the data shows that around about a third of those companies haven't started but are looking to start an ABM program, potentially. A third are in the first kind of 6 to 12 months. And then one third are kind of 12 months into their journey. So, it's quite evenly split between, you know, not started, just started and, obviously, in progress.
But I think, to add to that point you mentioned around enterprise, mid-market, when ABM is the right fit or not. Is it not the case that you also find that the readiness or whether the team and the company are actually able to be efficient and proficient at ABM is also linked to the types of Marketers that they have in the company? And also other organizational issues that perhaps not every company has got sorted? Can you perhaps touch on those two issues, one around experience – having done ABM before or at least been exposed to ABM – and then some of the organizational issues that perhaps companies need to think about before launching ABM?
Jack (strategicabm) – Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I think, from a Marketing perspective, you know, ABM is quite an advanced way of going to market, right? It's not saying that it's necessarily complicated or convoluted, but it's not simple. It's not something that you can just switch on and off, as we've said.
So, if you've never done ABM before as a Marketer, I think a level of training and education is required in the ways of ABM, and there's obviously some fantastic resources. We've got some ourselves on our site, and Lets' talk ABM is a brilliant resource for that, in and of itself. But, there's a need to educate yourself, I think, first.
And actually, some of the clients that I've worked with who potentially have started from zero ABM knowledge, the ones that ended up having successful ABM programs took the time to go away and educate themselves on ABM as a process and a methodology.
From the wider business side of things, I think it's potentially around that the pressures that you potentially see on a business either from above or, sometimes, you know, it can be from other teams, as well, but often it's from leadership or investors where you see a pressure to hit a certain lead goal, or revenue target, or whatever it might be.
And that's not to say that ABM isn't right for those businesses – it can absolutely be right for those businesses – but it has to be framed within the context of the need for patience and a need for a full, kind of, buy-in from the team to get that approach working.
I think if you, what the leadership team or the investors of a business take ABM as a kind of, you know, magic wand that they can kind of wave over the business and it'll fix anything. They're going to feel pretty hard done by, you know, 3, 6 months in, where things are still, kind of, not chugging along as they want to.
So, I think it's, you've got to evaluate the pressures that are on the business at that moment in time, and understand – does ABM actually fit the bill to solve those issues? Or is it something that people, you know, is it wishful thinking that actually, you know, ABM's not going to be the thing that solves that for you?
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think they're great points. And I think, you mentioned at the very beginning of this chat that when companies are used to being in an MQL lead model and they switch to looking at an account and looking at growing an account, they're very different ABM metrics. And so, you have to have those, you have to have that dashboard set up and everyone to agree those numbers, really.
Let's just talk about success factors. Josh, what would you say are the greatest success factors behind some of the programs that you've been working on?
Josh (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think that there's two, really, in terms of the two categories or success factors: There's obviously the traditional, kind of, impact from a business perspective. We use the Three Rs model of reputation, relationships and revenue to understand, kind of, what are the impacts that we're having on the target account list that we're trying to reach? And that's how we measure the success of our programs and translate that back into language that makes sense for the business we're working with.
So, that's kind of the external-facing success factors. But, on a kind of softer level in terms of internal, changing perceptions is a really big one. And I think the most successful ABM programs that I've been a part of and I've seen success in have been the ones where, at the very beginning of the program, it feels like there's maybe a, kind of, a little bit of friction between Sales and Marketing, or a little bit of misunderstanding of what an ABM program is going to do, or how it's going to help. And there's some kind of natural, healthy cynicism there, or skepticism, sorry.
And it's actually seeing how this new mindset and new shift towards working together in a collaborative way can actually transform the way a business, two departments within the business, work together in Sales and Marketing. And actually, to see Sales and Marketing teams speak the same language, move towards the same goals, and, actually, really understand what each other is trying to do – that's really great to see.
And as I said, that's been, kind of, typical of the most successful ABM programs that I've seen is when there's been that mindset shift and a real collaborative mindset.
Jack (strategicabm) – I think, from my side, I would just add to that the need for specificity and being very targeted with your approach, right? Ultimately, ABM is about being targeted. There's a total addressable market that you can be going after, absolutely, but ABM is not geared towards, you know, facilitating the Marketing to that whole market. It's about picking and prioritizing accounts based on what the data is showing from an intent perspective, what your internal metrics are, and goals and objectives are.
You know, I think probably one of the most, the comments I get most often – or something that I hear a lot from businesses – is: 'Can we target more companies? Can we go wider?'
And the answer to that is, to some extent, yes. If you've got the budget, the time, the resource to do so, right, you know? But, it requires quite a lot of heavy lifting, even at a One-to-many level. It shouldn't be about going as broad as possible and getting as many accounts into that net as possible.
It's, you know, the classic phrase of spearfishing, I think, is much more accurate, right? And I would say that the businesses that get that, the Marketing stakeholders that get that – that it's about a targeted approach that can then be picked up and replicated across other markets, across other accounts. They're the ones that really start seeing success from these programs rather than the ones that say, 'Can we add a few more accounts in? And just sort of up our chances, almost, of success.'
It's a mentality shift for sure 'cause, you know, it's a change to that kind of traditional Marketing thing of more in equals more out at the end, I would say.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think we like to call it zero-waste Marketing as well, really. So I think, just trying to be a lot, very much focused, and I think, you know, Josh's point around a lens overlooking your total addressable market, looking at the accounts showing the greatest propensity to buy, or those accounts which are most similar to your accounts that are profitable and successful, and long-lasting customers, is a great way of looking at things.
Just a couple of final questions for you, Josh and Jack. Josh alluded to this earlier: We're obviously celebrating 20 years of ABM, since the term was coined some, 2003 by Bev Burgess, and obviously now it's kind of established itself as a Marketing category in its own right. Do you think that ABM is in good shape now as a 20-year-old?
Josh (strategicabm) – Yeah, I do actually. I think as a category in itself, I think it's pretty well-defined what Account-based Marketing is. I think in terms of understanding what it isn't, that's kind of where the gray area still remains, but there's still, kind of, a lot of talk that we see that ABM is just display ads or targeted display ads, or it's very simple. And the reality is, is that awareness and education is the only way we're going to get there in terms of continuing to grow the health of ABM as a category.
But I think in terms of where it is right now, it's certainly, kind of – we see it just from the number of, kind of, conversations that we're having on a daily basis around, with different stakeholders that aren't traditionally, kind of, the number one people that would come and talk about ABM. We're seeing people from other departments who are now interested in, 'Oh, you're doing ABM over there, I want to know more about it!' So, I think, as far as we can say today, I think it's in a good place.
Jack (strategicabm) – I would probably add to that that it's still a maturing market, right? That's the key thing. It's, certainly, a lot more mature even when I first started, but it's not at full maturity as a market, in my opinion. And I think there are still plenty of areas and arenas that it's going to enter into over the coming years and places it'll go.
I think, particularly with some of the new technology that's coming out and that's available or will be available, that's going to have, you know, that's going to change things dramatically.
But also, you know, it's a similar situation to potentially where things are at, you know, maybe 10, 15 years ago with something like SEO, where everyone was doing it or wanting to do it, but not everyone was doing it well. And not everyone was fully, you know, fully versed in it.
There's a lot of desire, there's a lot of awareness of it, but being able to actually do ABM well, I'm not sure that it's, you know, we're not at market saturation of that by any stretch. So, there's still plenty to see, you know, grow in the ABM space, I would say.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think I'd agree with both of your points there. Let's just talk about something that you just mentioned there, Jack. You mentioned technology and, you know, I think if we were having this conversation 6 months ago, we'd be talking about the Metaverse, more than likely, and we'd be talking about what are we doing getting into the Metaverse and what's the impact going to be on ABM and the metaverse?
And obviously, you know, fast-forward six months, we're now everyone's talking about, you know, ChatGPT and artificial intelligence, and that's kind of taken up all the conversation at the moment. What's your take on those two technologies in particular? And how do you see some applications, perhaps, in the ABM space?
Jack (strategicabm) – So I think, I mean, I'll talk about the AI side of things, first. I think, I do think it has a potential to be absolutely, kind of, revolutionary for, well, for a lot of things. But from an ABM perspective, especially, there's so many different use cases that I've already seen in the space of maybe two or three months of actually using some of these tools.
I know Josh has been really, kind of, digging into it as well – what, you know, what is possible with these tools? And how can we apply it to our ABM programs and our framework?
I think from a data perspective, there's a huge amount of, you know, scalability and gains that can be had there, organizing data, digging into data, you know, building out categories, all of that kind of stuff. I think, from almost a, you know, research and insights perspective as well, I've already used it in some of my client work to really kind of analyze markets and trends.
And you have to take things with a pinch of salt at the moment. Obviously, there's inaccuracies and not everything is spot on, but it's certainly got so much better and it's getting better every day as to how you can kind of apply it.
So, I'd say probably those two sides are big for me. I think Josh will probably give some other use cases as well. But just before that, I'd say on the Metaverse side of things – I still think there will be a place for that, and I do think that it will probably come back. I think AI is the shiny thing at the moment and I think it's probably going to be more significant than the Metaverse, but I think there is a benefit to this kind of, this ability to potentially have a sort of hybrid experience between, you know, reality and non-reality or digital.
There's been some really nice potential use cases, kind of, discussed I think by someone in one of our DashDot articles as well around, I think it was someone from Google that was discussing that and there was a lot of use cases there that sounded really intriguing.
I just think that potentially we overreached a bit as a sort of an industry and certainly on the Marketing side of how quickly and of how feasible all of this stuff was going to be able to be rolled out, and actually, then AI kind of swooped in and that's become the new focus. But I think there will be, at some point in the next sort of 6, 12, 18 months, a conversation happening again about how to integrate Metaverse technologies into ABM.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah. Yeah. Josh, anything to add?
Josh (strategicabm) – I think for me, and some of the use cases that I've mainly been exploring is, how do we simplify the complex? How do we use things like ChatGPT to take complex data sets or complex concepts and boil it down into simple language that can then be translated across the business that we're working with?
Because, as Marketers, we have to cut out the jargon, we have to cut out, kind of, all of our acronyms and start to use language that the rest of the business understands. And I know it's a very simple use case, but using ChatGPT as a sounding board to basically say, 'Is what I'm saying going to make sense?'
I think I asked it the other day to simplify ABM as if a five-year-old could understand it, and it came back with a really nice analogy around how ABM is like having a children's birthday party but you're personalizing it to the individual needs of that child. So yeah, things like that, just simplification.
Obviously, there's a lot more complexity that can be brought into it, but I think for me at the moment, that's where I'm seeing some value out of it.
Declan (strategicabm) – Well, good stuff guys. Listen, thank you to both of you for sharing the news around this new podcast that you're launching, ABM Under the Hood. I think this episode of Let's talk ABM may well be out before your podcast is launched, but we'll obviously be promoting it and sharing it through your profiles and mine, and obviously then, you know, lots of people will be talking about it.
And as you mentioned, it's going to be great to shine a light on a lot of the teams we have at the Agency, from Content through to Creative, through to Strategy, through to Account Director teams. And sharing their stories and their insights, really, around how to be successful and how to run successful ABM programs. So, thank you very much guys and all the very best.
Jack (strategicabm) – Thanks very much.
Josh (strategicabm) – Cheers, Dec.