Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm) - So today I'm joined by Elise Miller, Head of ABM for EMEA at ServiceNow, Elise, thanks for joining us today.
Elise Miller (ServiceNow) - Well, I'm glad to be on the show.
Declan (strategicabm) - Great, so we're going to spend 20 minutes, 30 minutes talking about ABM, and the ABM program you have at ServiceNow, but let's kick off with a question about ServiceNow.
Obviously, ServiceNow has a number of awards over the course of the last few years for it's ABM program. And I saw a figure published for 2019, which is a little while ago now that quoted $12 million in revenue and $130 million in qualified pipeline, which is very, very impressive. So what's behind that success?
Elise (ServiceNow) - My favorite topic! Thank you very much for opening up with that. I think there's probably a number of things. The first one I've mentioned is partnership. It may sound really obvious, but I think when a lot of people think about ABM, you think about a team. And I think the important distinction to make is that ABM is no longer a team. It really is an activity, it really is a mindset. And that's the way of, I guess, looking at the world, looking at customers, looking at your Sales team. So it's probably, if I was going to pick one thing, this was going to be the most important one.
I would give two more. So the second one I’d say is all about communication, probably over-communication in many ways. So how can you start small, publicize successes, and then over-communicate with all of your stakeholders? So not talking about customers for now, but thinking about your organization as an ecosystem as a whole. So making sure that you are picking out champions, looking for custodians of ABM, looking at people who are doing that really well across the company, whether they're in your team or other teams and over-communicating what you have achieved.
And I think maybe around the third one, I'd probably say humor. I think that's really important in psychology. It's really important to us in our personal lives. And I think it's really key in business as well. So if you love what you do and I love doing ABM, how can you make sure that you're having fun and you're using humor in your day-to-day life, whether it's with customers, whether it's with your Sales team, and so on?
Declan (strategicabm) - So a key focus of your ABM program now, I believe is Executive engagement, targeting the CEO, the CIO, the CTO, et cetera, et cetera. What have you learned from targeting and winning the hearts and minds of that collective?
Elise (ServiceNow) - I think I'll come back to the topic of psychology. So to me that's probably the most important thing. When you think about a company as an ecosystem of people, and I think it comes down to, who's making a decision, typically a group, right? It's not going to be one individual.
The C-suite clearly plays an important part within that system. So what can you learn about people that you are trying to approach and get to know? So what makes them tick? What are they trying to achieve? And what are some of the key drivers, both in business and outside of it?
So I think thinking about people as people and trying to use tools and psychometrics to get to know them a little bit better and how they consume information, what types of things they care about, maybe it's around whether you send them a very long email or very short concise PDF of some kind, maybe it's a video. So learning a little bit more about what makes them tick, what are they trying to achieve, personally and professionally, and how you could better communicate with them, I think is a really key standpoint.
One of the tools I use quite often is 'Crystal Knows'. So it's a great plugin for LinkedIn, where you can not only learn a little bit about their display file, but also begin a little bit around what types of approaches can you utilize, whether you're writing to them by email, trying to secure a meeting, whether it's around trying to pitch something or negotiate a deal?
So, I often use that as part of the marketing approach, as well as arm Sales with the information so that they can make a really good impression from the get go.
Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I'm very familiar with 'Crystal Knows'. And we, in fact, we in the Agency, we use it ourselves as well, both for targeting accounts, but also internally as well, just to work out the dynamics of different people in the company as well, which we find very, very useful.
Elise (ServiceNow) - Oh, it's great for that, isn't it? I think particularly when you're working as a team, I mean, ABM is not a one-man sport, It's a group activity, so you've got different personalities, different seniorities and different people in the mix. So I think looking at psychometrics and finding out the person behind the screen, so to speak and understanding what makes them tick is really key.
Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, absolutely. So let's just talk about frameworks, 'cause I know when we were speaking previously, you were telling me that you are very big fans of the whole ITSMA framework. And can you expand a little bit more on that in terms of how that's helped you build your ABM program there?
Elise (ServiceNow) - Yeah, 100%. I think the ITSMA framework is really at the heart of how we formulated the strategy for ABM across the globe. And the one thing that it gives you is a solid and consistent methodology that you can be using. So the experience for the salesperson and your marketing counterparts and solutions people, whoever it might be is the same, whether you're speaking to them in Australia, whether it's in Germany or Switzerland or in Sweden, for example.
So I think using consistent language, showing very simple and consistent slides across the board is very, very important. And I think the ITSMA framework just lends itself really nicely to it.
And it really forces you to think in simple steps. So how do you get from account selection to understanding the customer, to formulating a really personal message to them, to actually executing and evaluating your result? And one thing I'd say about it is, as any framework, I think there's always going to be elements that you sort of slightly adapt and change for your individual organization and even for yourself.
And one of the things I've found for me is around use the framework, but actually be flexible with it. So, I think you need to adopt to your environment, your organization, the people that you're working with.
And I think particularly when you're starting out with ABM, so maybe you are running a new piloting, an ABM program within your company, or you're working with a new geo or new country or a new Sales team, sometimes the rigidity of that framework makes it a little bit difficult and slow.
So what I'll probably say is, if you are adopting some of those ABM practises and using the framework, make sure that you keep flexible with it. So have a think about what can you do in parallel to the activity? And I think particularly in my head, what can you do to show results really quickly to win the hearts and minds of your Sales team and really prove what you can do and then come back to those steps, and complete them as you go?
Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I think that's very good advice to actually be, to be flexible, as you said, and to have the framework there. And as you said, also to personalize and to customize it because you've got your own metrics, you've got your own culture in the company and it doesn't necessarily, you don't have to be that rigid, I think that's a very, very good approach, Elise.
Also another thing that we were talking about before we started recording, was around ServiceNow, and where you are in your ABM program. I think you've been doing ABM there for around four years or so.
Elise (ServiceNow) - Yeah.
Declan (strategicabm) - And one of the key focuses for you now is to scale your ABM efforts globally. What have you got planned?
Elise (ServiceNow) - I guess a couple of things. So the first one that I mentioned, I think when you're looking at ABM as a team, it becomes very difficult to scale at one point, because unless you keep adding more and more people to your team, it becomes very, not sustainable, I guess, in the long term.
So what you really want to do is inspire others to use the mindset, to use the tool, to use the methodology and make it as easy and inspiring as possible for people to adopt the same approach. So whether it comes to new geographies, whether it comes to new sets of accounts, you're really looking at that partnership with your Field Marketing team and other people within the organization so that they can do the same thing.
So what we're starting to look at and we've been doing for quite some time actually is this partnership model and looking at ABM as an activity type. So anyone can be doing ABM. It's a methodology that can be applied to any set of accounts, so intelligently to any set of accounts.
So, the focus really shifts on to how can you train, educate and inspire others to do the same in different geographies or in different parts of the organization? And how do you shift your mindset to become a custodian of ABM? So you're really training, inspiring and putting a lot of your time and say, I guess, showing the arts of the possible by doing, so really showing the best practise, but then the second part of your role being that consultancy element, that custodian, that advocate, I guess, for ABM.
So you're providing training, you're there for creative brainstorming. You're there to help people leverage the framework and explain it to them. And then, and you were there just along the way as a helping hand.
Declan (strategicabm) - Well, I love that, 'cause it's, you were saying it's like an ecosystem that you're trying to create in effect in order to allow you to scale.
Elise (ServiceNow) - That's it, I think that's exactly it. I think when you're thinking about your counterparts in Marketing, particularly Field Marketing, there are lots of brilliant people there, and some of them have been applying the practises of ABM and the mindset for quite some time so how can you provide them with tools and make it easier for them to do the same thing and partnering with them on some of the key opportunities or key accounts that they're trying to deliver ABM into, yeah?
Declan (strategicabm) - And what's been the reaction from obviously Sales, the wider Sales and Marketing team, and indeed even the wider company to this kind of shift to rather than being an ABM team doing ABM you are rather the custodians of ABM?
Elise (ServiceNow) - I think it'd be really, really positive, I think, well, for us, as you said, we'd been doing ABM for quite some time. So a lot of people have heard about it and know what it is. So I think there's always demand for ABM. So it now becomes a situation around, well, how do you supply that demand and how do you identify the right opportunity when you can apply the mindset and when you can really deliver some great results?
So it becomes around selection, real emphasis on that account selection and the real emphasis on, well, what can we deliver together? So it's never an 'I' conversation, it's always a 'We' conversation, which I think is very accepted by the business. And I think that's very in-demand.
Declan (strategicabm) - Okay, and this kind of leads nicely into the ABM Center of Excellence that you've created there as well. I know that it's been up and running for some time now, can you tell us a little bit more about it and perhaps share some of the learnings?
Elise (ServiceNow) - Absolutely, so, the purpose of the ABM Center of Excellence is essentially to be the central hub of all things ABM. So when we're thinking about coming back to being the Custodians of ABM, you are providing a service to the rest of the business.
So the ABM Center of Excellence owns the needs, and things like training, on things like inspirational series. So how can you show how your ABM actually applies in practise and maybe utilize some of the internal success stories, where you've had the, some of the other accounts, or maybe do a fireside chat about how to utilize technology in ABM and so on.
So there's an inspiration series, a hub for all things we do, where you can look for materials, you can find templates and toolkits. You can learn a little bit more about the framework and so on.
And one of my, I think favourite parts of the CoE is focused on the Plays Matrix. So I think when you have so many people within the business looking to do ABM, you have to look for efficiencies so that you're not starting from scratch each time you look to launch a program. So the ABM Plays Matrix is aimed at exactly that.
So every time someone starts doing a new Account-based Marketing initiative, on a new account, essentially they would go and check the matrix to see what other accounts across the globe has a very similar imperative or very similar play. And then what materials have they created to address that play, so that I can maybe leverage that information so that I'm not starting from scratch, but I'm utilizing some of the templates and the toolkits maybe just adopting that for my account.
So I think looking at everything that you do and trying to find efficiencies within the process and trying to formalize some of them as much as you can, there's always going to be, I guess, gaps and sort of lee-ways and flexibility amongst that process. But looking at what can you leverage across the globe? How can you create that community where people communicate and brainstorm and collaborate and utilize each other's brilliant work? I think is the central pillar of the CoE for us.
Declan (strategicabm) - So in effect, it's trying to not have to reinvent the wheel every time.
Elise (ServiceNow) - Yes, absolutely.
Declan (strategicabm) - And obviously if you're looking at targeting a company in the same industry, or with the same business challenge, then you can almost pull from the shelf and say--
Elise (ServiceNow) - Exactly, and that doesn't even need to be the same industry. In some cases you'll find plays in imperative that will span different industries. So it may be just taking something that's being created for Pharmaceuticals, and then lightly adapting it for Manufacturing, for example, where some of the imperatives may be slightly similar, or maybe taking a look and feel of something or a framework of how someone's positioned it and then adapting it for your account.
So, anything that you can do around creating efficiencies is making it really easy and adaptable, yeah.
Declan (strategicabm) - And that actually leads nicely into the next question that I wanted to ask around alignment with Sales. Does that mean that Sales are also accessing all of this material as well?
Elise (ServiceNow) - They can, absolutely. And there's a set of materials that we've created specifically for Sales. I find that with Sales less is more, so you don't really want to overwhelm anyone with a hub of information. So, we would typically create mini-stories or collateral that specifically aimed at inspiring the Sales team.
I think within ServiceNow, 'cause we've been doing ABM for such a long time, there is a lot of talk about ABM amongst Sales. So you'll find that many people from the Sales team already know what ABM is or they think they know, they've heard of it. So there's probably not as much inspiration that we need to do. It probably becomes a little bit more about, well, how can we show them great stories and applications of ABM to inspire them in specific ways?
So I think we're talking more about mini success stories within the Sales team, or maybe inspirational assets that you can easily bring up as part of your conversations to say, ‘ah, I know exactly what you're talking about. We've done something similar here and that's worked really well in this way, and actually the customer came away super inspired and I’ve closed a huge deal on the back of it.’
Declan (strategicabm) - So would it be safe to say, Elise, that Sales is firmly on your side?
Elise (ServiceNow) - Absolutely, I think if they're not on your side you're probably doing something wrong. So I would say that they're probably the first guardian of a successful ABM program. And I think there's a couple of things that I tend to do, to improve that relationship.
I think the first part is humor. I think you have to have a laugh and you have to joke with people, and I think you have to bring your authentic self to the table. So if you are a practical joker, if you are a light of the party, if you are a certain type of person, I think it is vital that you show it to the team and you really talk to Sales on their level.
So, and particularly me, I'm not one for hierarchy or sort of very stickler for very traditional ways of working. I think you have to be flexible and particularly with Sales, you have to be on their level. So I think bringing confidence, bringing your authentic self to the table and working with Sales as your counterpart, so you both have something to add becomes a critical part of any program. And if you can do it from the beginning, you're really on the winning side of ABM.
Declan (strategicabm) - And I think that's very, very good advice actually. Let's just move on to something that we were talking about previously, which was something that grates you, something that you find a little bit annoying, which is this kind of misconception between what ABM is and what custom content is. Tell us a little bit more about this thing that's grating you.
Elise (ServiceNow) - It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine, I say. So, interestingly as I think ABM has been gaining momentum for a number of years now, and many organizations are trying to do it, there is a point when all of us run into this challenge where ABM, you are a victim of your own success in some ways.
So, there was this confusion between what is custom content and what is a true ABM program. And I think the difference is quite clear, but actually in the context of when you're operating it, it becomes a little bit more challenging to distinguish.
Essentially, the differences are, ABM is a program. So it's an activity type that's aligned and centred around the value of the customer. So how are you really putting your best foot forward and aligning with what they're trying to achieve and then articulating the value of what you can bring to the table to help them solve a challenge?
Custom content is a part of the activity. So it's essentially as an outcome or an output of that tactic. So custom content is something you do to help you address that problem. And I think sometimes it's a very difficult distinction just because, when you are potentially looking at a piece of custom content, it may feel generic, but what you sometimes what's really difficult to see is maybe language or particular wording or phrasing that you may have used within that content that made that very specific bespoke and custom to that particular customer.
So whether it's around using that strap-line, whether it's around actually really showcasing some of the strategic goals that they're trying to achieve or aligning to their KPIs and so on. So with the naked eyes, sometimes it's very difficult to see, but when you dive into it, I think there is a real difference there.
And then the other thing I'd say is, custom content is a critical part of ABM. So it's how you address your customer's challenge and how you, I guess, articulate and prepare your position to them, but it's not a beginning and an end, it is a thing. So you really, we really need to be starting to think a little bit more around, well, how are we using it? What channels are we using? How are we utilizing that customer psychology and really trying to appeal to those people's emotions, whether it's hearts and minds or their logical views and so on and applying it in a way that really matters and creating the experience around that, I guess.
So, custom content, whether it's video, PDF as part of it, but how do you surround that in the real experience and how do you make it show up in places or areas or channels that are really important to your customer so that it's front of mind and you're able to close that deal or influence particular opportunity.
Declan (strategicabm) - Okay, I think that's quite clear now for the audience. Talking about differences. There's a lot of talk out there on LinkedIn and other channels around Demand Generation and ABM. Where do you see the difference?
Elise (ServiceNow) - I think Demand Generation is a part of your ABM program. And I think it's just one of the channels that you apply to the program as specific. So, if you're looking at the customer life cycle from awareness to loyalty, and advocacy and adoption, so, Demand Generation is a part of it, but it's quite an early-on part, so I think what we also need to consider and focus on is what happens after that.
And I think that's what ABM brings. 'Cause it's a longer journey, so once they, once you've created that demand and the customers considered it, they've purchased your product, what actually happens after that? And sometimes some of the most interesting or the most influential, the most critical work actually takes place after.
So how do you make sure that your customer really sees and realizes value and they can articulate it to the business? Assuming that you have a myriad of products and offerings that you can be selling to a customer, your Demand Generation is an element of it. If they're not seeing the value out of the solutions that they've already purchased, it's going to be very difficult for you to generate additional demand.
So I guess to sum it up, I think Account-based Marketing really has a part to play across the whole of the sales cycle and across the whole of the buyer journey, not just the Demand Generation elements.
Declan (strategicabm) - Not just Demand Generation at the beginning, yeah. Okay, and at the very beginning of the recording here, we talked about psychology. And I know that this is a really important part of how you approach ABM. And in fact, you say the most important thing about ABM is actually psychology. Could you expand a little bit more on that for us?
Elise (ServiceNow) - Absolutely, and I think it goes back to being your authentic self and appreciating that everyone's an individual, we're all very different. And I think psychology and empathy is a really great concept that you can apply in many ways.
So I think ABM naturally forces you to put yourself in the customer's shoes. And I think to achieve that and to help you along the way, you also have to continuously be putting yourself in the shoes of your Salesperson or of your Solution Architect, or of your Field Marketing counterparts and whoever it might be that you are creating that approach with.
So being able to understand what each person needs and wants and what they have to contribute to a meeting or an engagement, and what's really driving them, and how can you appeal, help them, I guess, realize their ambition, realize their goals as part of the journey, 'cause we all have a part to play, we'll have our KPIs, we're all, we're all incentivized by something.
So how can you understand what's really driving that individual? Is it about creating that personal brand? Is it about helping them get to that next step? Maybe they're trying to really build their credibility across the company, maybe it's around giving them the tools and the confidence they've got to speak up about anything. So I think applying some of the empathy and putting yourself in various people's shoes, as you go through that journey, really helps to bring people together, create a really great team environment and the truly collaborative approach to enable you to help a customer.
Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I think I definitely agree there, particularly, showing the customer that you know them, ‘show me you know me’, is so important in ABM, right?
Elise (ServiceNow) - Yeah, absolutely, I think some of the conversations that sometimes have, particularly with customers, 'cause, ABM is no longer something you do to a customer, it's in many ways something you do with them. So being able to appreciate what's driving a particular person, what do they need from you to help them really big up what your partnership's been able to deliver or what they hope the partnership is going to deliver, 'cause that's essentially how you move a customer to being an advocate.
So that psychological part is really key.
Declan (strategicabm) - And I would absolutely concur with that, Elise. Let's just talk about the building blocks of an ABM strategy, obviously ICP, account selection, value prop, intent data, et cetera. Of all those, where would you say that you invest the most time?
Elise (ServiceNow) - I'm going to say account selection. Probably not very unique to us as well, but I think if you've got your accounts wrong, you can't do any of those other parts. So it becomes critical that you spend as long as you can and do that process really thoroughly.
And sometimes it's a very challenging process - from experience it's never a smooth one. And you want to be starting as early as you can. I think, unless you really invest your time and resources and maybe proactively making recommendations, as well as having conversations with your Sales team, with your Marketing team, with your Leadership teams around which are the accounts where you're trying to bring the most value or you think are going to be the building blocks of your growth strategy for the business as a whole or your region, you're really dead in the water.
So I think that's probably going to be my, if I was going to invest the majority of my time in any of those steps, that would probably be the step where I've put the majority of my efforts and then invest the most then.
Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of the guests on Let's talk ABM actually agree that the account selection, particularly at the beginning, everything else will fall into place. You can, whichever tactics or campaign tactics you choose later, will live or die, will succeed or fail, based on the account selection.
I know, Elise, we talk about ABM as being a journey, a marathon, not a sprint and obviously any journey has its ups and downs. You take a wrong turn and you come back onto the path and you end up maybe getting blisters or whatever, but in this journey that you've been on at ServiceNow, you and the whole team there, have there been any kind of ups and downs that you could share with us that you learned, and as you say, we know, we'll never do that again?
Elise (ServiceNow) - Yeah, and I think I've sort of touched on one of them. So I think that the biggest learning for me is around flexibility. So thinking, coming back to that framework of ABM, whether we're using ITSMA, using something different, I think if you are looking for a process that doesn't allow for flexibility and adaptation, then that's where in my experience it can easily unravel.
And I think being very conscious around what's happening within the industry, what's happening in the macro-environments, and actually coming back to the pandemic, you have to have your eye on the longer term plan, but you have to be very willing to make a change and a difference in the short term and be really adaptive, whether it's around actually identifying very quickly that you've unfortunately picked the wrong accounts and you need to make a change, or whether it's around that tactic no longer works, and actually it hasn't landed as well as you hoped or whether it's around actually, where we are on the journey of ABM with this particular account, and at the moment, we should be doing our value proposition rather than discussing tactics. But actually there was a really huge opportunity that you need to be supporting right now.
So, it's around I think being flexible and being able to run a couple of things in parallel rather than sticking to your steps, one, two, three, four, five and seven. So I think for me, it's going to be exactly that, what can you do to accelerate the delivery, rather than to stick to the same process and kind of, and take a long time in getting something perfect?
So I'd say, don't wait for perfect. Something now, is better than perfect later because that perfect may never come.
Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I love that advice. So it's basically being flexible, being agile, thinking on your feet, seeing what's happening out there and not seeing, making a change of course, if you need to.
Elise (ServiceNow) - Yeah, absolutely.
Declan (strategicabm) - Okay, two final questions, Elise. What is the hardest part of ABM?
Elise (ServiceNow) - Oh, well, when you love all of it, I think none of it is really hard. The hardest part I would say is around I think supply to demand. And so when you're doing something great, and when you're showing results to a company, I think it becomes difficult to generate enough supply to the Sale's demand of ABM, 'cause you've got so many people coming to you to say, I've heard great things about ABM, I'm just seeing this thing, I need the same thing.
So it's around, how do you scale, and how do you create a plan where you'll maybe say, not now, but this is how we're going to evolve in the next one, two and three years? So I think that's probably one of the most difficult parts 'cause you're often kind of pulled in different directions and you think, oh, that is a really great salesperson, that's a great team, that's a great customer, I'm really excited, and I'd love to help them all, but it's around how do you stick to your plan and some ways, and actually deliver real greatness or maybe a smaller number of accounts or smaller teams or limited GOs or whatever it might be for you, rather than trying to pull yourself in a million different directions and supply to that demand.
And I think the second thing I'll mention, which I won’t dwell on too much, 'cause that's going to be a challenge for everybody is reporting. So I think ABM touches on so many things and we're really starting to move away from MQL, SQL, number of clicks, and opens, and it becomes more about influencing opportunities, influencing the whole account and delivering additional customer engagements, to value and qualitative and quantitative, but actually our reporting and the way of thinking in the way that we articulate that information hasn't quite kept up with what we need to be doing.
So I'm sure lots of people have already mentioned it and it's been a challenge for all of us. And I think I'm starting to see some really great developments in that field, but we're still far from having that single view of how do we articulate a real great investment on the program over long-term and actually that amazing success for the customer. There isn't one dashboard that actually is very easy to bring all that data together.
So you do have to play some tunes. You do have to try to bring different things together and actually do a little bit of manual reporting as well, which a lot of people don't like, but unfortunately I think there is some manual work here and some heavy lifting.
Declan (strategicabm) - And I think the part around, about supply and demand, that's obviously down to your great success there. And if you're successful, more people will ask and that's all credit to you and Gemma and the whole team at ServiceNow.
Very, very last question. So somebody comes to you and says, hey, Elise, I'm looking to launch an ABM program, what's the one piece of advice you will give me? What is that one piece?
Elise (ServiceNow) - So I had this conversation, this exact conversation with somebody there recently who reached out to me for some advice.
My advice is always start small. So, don't get pulled into different types of ABM and different directions. So, I would start with one or two One-to-one ABM accounts and really prove your case. Find people that are passionate, that are strategic, that are 'partnershipy', so that you can work with them and deliver real success. And then create stories off the back of it.
So, create inspirational materials for other teams, over-communicate the successes and ask your Salespeople to do the same thing. Get quotes from the customer, get quotes from your Sales team and your Leadership, and go to your business and build the business case for more investments in ABM based on the successes within the small group.
I think if you try to start too big or you're adding lots of complexity with different types of ABM, it becomes a little bit more challenging and you will have a problem trying to get back to the ABM roots and actually sell the value of One-to-one ABM. Because I think that's probably where some of the challenge around, is ABM just Demand Generation comes from.
So if you start One-to-one, one account, two accounts, maybe three accounts, pick your team very well, focus on them, deliver real excellence, and then over-communicate, you'd be in the best possible position to, for the investment and for additional, I guess, growth of the team and real success in the future.
Declan (strategicabm) - Great advice, Elise, great way to finish off this interview. Thank you so much for sharing your ABM journey with us. Fascinating to hear how you've been so successful with your program, and we wish you all the best in the future.
Elise (ServiceNow) - Thank you so much, thank you for having me.