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Building an ABM program from scratch

In this episode of Let's talk ABM, we speak to Becks Powell, Marketing Programs Manager (UK & Nordics) at Showpad, Becks shares her plan for rolling out a personalized & curated ABM strategy at Showpad.

Date published: Date modified: 2021-11-22 strategicabm 550 60

Becks Powell
Marketing Programs Manager UK & Nordics | Showpad

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Becks is a seasoned B2B Marketing professional with significant experience - both Agency and Client-side. Having built a formidable ABM at scale machine in her previous role at Unit4, Becks is now rolling out a more personalized and curated ABM strategy at Showpad, the leading revenue enablement technology.

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 sharing our clients’ ABM success stories.


Watch this webinar and learn: 

  • How to get started with ABM

  • What constitutes the building blocks of a successful ABM program

  • How to use intent data to aid account selection 

  • Advice on how to succeed at Account-based Marketing

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Building an ABM program from scratch | Showpad

The full transcript

intentDeclan Mulkeen (strategicabm) - So today I'm joined by Becks Powell, Marketing Programs Manager, UK & Nordics at Showpad. Becks, thanks so much for joining us today.

Becks Powell (Showpad) - Thank you. It's great to be here.

Declan (strategicabm) - So, Becks, I'm literally very, you know, really happy, delighted to be able to pick up our conversation where we left off several months ago actually. Previously you were heading up ABM over at Unit4 and we had an initial conversation and we were about to record, but unfortunately, then you obviously moved on. 

So we never got to share that amazing program that you were running there at Unit4. So obviously it was quite a formidable program actually. What can we expect from you with your new role at Showpad?

Becks (Showpad) - Yeah, of course. So unlike what I was doing at Unit4, I have a much more regional focus. So rather than focusing on the One-to-many, it's very much focused on our top accounts, which is One-to-one. And also looking at some One-to-few activities and actually being in region, it means that we're able to do regional events, which were included in part of our ABM strategy

So we're kind of doing everything from, running very bespoke digital campaigns, right through to very targeted round tables, which we're inviting our top accounts to, so I’m much more, I would say, narrow focus on the accounts that we're targeting. 

So going from Unit4 where we're targeting around 6,000 accounts, we're now focused on sort of top 20 accounts here at Showpad. I think Showpad in their ABM journey are a bit more mature, in terms of how they want to approach ABM and the resources that they're putting into it. We've actually got very good executive buy-in to ABM as well, which really does help for those types of programs.

Declan (strategicabm) - Absolutely, I mean, the C-suite buy-in is absolutely crucial to get the ABM to kind of move out across the company, go wide, go deep. 

So obviously, Showpad, it's quite a well-known brand and I've been following you as a company for about two or three years now. And I see you're doing some fantastic marketing. How are you continuing Showpad, the actual technology Showpad itself? How are you going to use that in your ABM program?

Becks (Showpad) - Yeah, so great question. So, Showpad is all about creating very highly personalized experiences for our buyers. So we want to make sure that people that we're selling to that their customers have great experiences. 

And we also use that functionality as well. So, we use everything from, and so we have ‘Showpad Content’ where we can collate content for our Sales team to be able to use for their target accounts. But you can also heavily personalize that content within the platform as well. 

And we've got ‘Showpad Coach’ as well, where we can actually train Sales teams. So we have very good Sales training. So, say if we get an account exec in the UK, and they need to get up to speed, we can do that very quickly through the platform. 

And then a really new, exciting feature, which is fantastic for ABM is that we've just introduced Showpad Video. So we can now actually create very engaging experiences using that, we can do mini demos that we can fire off. And, we can do very personalized touch points that you just can't do sometimes through email and all those types of communications. So yes, we'll be using it, and we are using it quite heavily in what we do. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Since you've obviously got the whole suite to Showpad, you're actually able to roll that into your ABM program, and obviously with the video being the most recent feature in addition to that. 

But let's talk about, 'cause obviously when we were talking before about this interview and some of the focus moving from where you were running at a kind of an ABM at scale program at Unit4 now to a much more kind of boutique, more focused, targeted campaign at Showpad. What's the main learning that you take moving from one ABM role and one ABM program in one company? What's that kind of main learning you take moving from one to another?

Becks (Showpad) - Yes. So the absolute key learning, especially going into a more targeted approach, is doing the research. We have done some ABM campaigns previously where the account insight and research wasn't done upfront. So, what ended up going out was quite generic and wasn't hitting the right people, and they weren't engaging with the content. 

Whereas, we've completely changed our approach where we're using a third party to help with that research and insight piece. Because without that, it's the absolute foundations I personally think of ABM is having that account research and insights in place. 

Because from there you're able to build your messaging. You can build a creative hook and then you can work out what plays and you can go to market with. Because within that account, you may have the sort of C-suite, Sales and Marketing, for example, but they all need to be targeted completely differently. And so I think absolutely doing that research is integral to everything that we do.

Declan (strategicabm) - Becks, let's dig a bit deeper into the ABM plans rather, that you have at Showpad. I understand that your focus in the first instance is going to be an ABM program, looking at your prospects, as opposed to your customers. It'd be great if you could share with the audience how to get started with ABM, that sounds like a good thing to dig into. 

What made you choose between prospects versus existing customers? Because the ABM originally in its essence, in its early days, it was primarily focused on existing customers rather than new logo acquisition. So what's your thinking about using it for prospects in the first instance?

Becks (Showpad) - Yeah, so what our Sales team and BDRs are really good at Showpad is landing and then expanding in accounts. So we wanted to focus on our prospects to see - so we're focusing on prospects which have a higher, sort of lifetime value so that we can really land those. But then we can nurture them carefully into all the different solutions that we do offer so that we can grow that account over time. 

And, rather than looking at our existing customers, because we do have programs where we kind of nurture those and help them grow. So it was a key focus to try and drive our pipeline and really land some accounts, to enable our Sales team to really grow their pipelines.

Declan (strategicabm) - So if we talk about the prospects that you're going to be going after with your ABM program there, Becks, how'd you go about selecting which accounts to actually target from your prospect list?

Becks (Showpad) - Yes, absolutely. So, the first thing we did, so I aligned with our BDR Manager in the UK, and then what we did is pulled a list from Salesforce to look at who are our prospects within our IPC. 

So we looked to our, we've got what's called our ‘IPC Plus’ and our ‘IPC Mature’. So we know that we can go to market very well with those IPCs. So we picked those and then we looked at TRA accounts and that have shown intent, sorry, that have shown a 6sense intent over a certain amount. So there are sort of plus 60, if you know 6sense modules quite well. 

And then what we did is we looked at that list, and we worked out which industries are sharing the most intent or which have the sort of longer lifetime values that we could go after. And we identified two industries, which were manufacturing and technology. 

And then within those what we did is, we looked to all of the accounts with the account executives and got their insights and intel as to who do you think could be the top accounts within these, but also using their data and insights that we have from our MarTech to see what their engagement's like, what sort of intent they've had, have they engaged with us in the past for example, as well? 

And we used all of that information to then pick, we've picked four accounts per AE within our region. So we've got five account execs and they've got four accounts each. So we wanted to make it fair across our account execs as well, to make sure that we're trialling the program with each one of those, to also see who adopts it well, who adopts the ABM model well for future programs.

Declan (strategicabm) - And so we dig into that a bit more about the accounts selection, 'cause you've touched on their 6sense and their intent data platform. You've touched on working with your Sales team, very closely and your AEs. So let's just dig into that a bit more. 

6sense, for the audience out there that perhaps may be familiar with the name, but not familiar with the technology. How'd you go about using the platform to look for intent to help you guide choosing X company over Y company?

Becks (Showpad) - Yes, absolutely. So it's based on, either keywords or topics that we've entered into the platform, and also a bit of competitor analysis, and then 6sense also picks on, have they engaged in the ecosystem around these particular topics or areas? 

And so for example, if they've visited a webinar or engaged with a certain piece that's around sales enablement, we'll know that they're in that market or starting to research those particular pieces that we want to target them with. And then that starts to show in a platform, and it's segmented through. 

So we have Awareness, Consideration, Decision and Purchase. So we're able to see what accounts fit under what buckets. And then we actually target them separately. 

We've bundled Awareness and Consideration together, and then Decision and Purchase. So we have Awareness and conversion campaigns for each of those different models, but it's such a useful way of us being able to say, okay, we've got these accounts, they're showing intent, but it also helps inform the messaging that we're going to that account with. 

So if account X, for example, is saying, I'm interested in sales enablement content, or how I can use video? We can actually target them with video and our content offering. Or if they're interested in Coach, we can target them with that. So it really helps us target those accounts in the right way and make sure that we're being very relevant and not wasting their time, bombarding them with every single offering that we have.

Declan (strategicabm) - So it's kind of relevant context and timing, really, to get the message to land into the right accounts at the right time with the right message.

Becks (Showpad) - Yes, absolutely.

Declan (strategicabm) - And you mentioned there about messaging and messaging framework. How'd you go about then building those messaging frameworks? 

You've worked out using 6sense, talking to your AEs and your Sales teams, that you have the right accounts, you do some tiering, I imagine, that you do some kind of prioritization. You then have your account list that you've mentioned, but per industry. How would you then go about building some messaging framework for those accounts?

Becks (Showpad) - Yes. We, at this point in time, are working with an agency on that framework. But, where I've done it previously is, we would either work with our internal product marketing team or our content team. And we would do interviews with each of the AEs to see if there's any sort of golden nuggets that we're not able to find from sort of desktop research within those accounts. 

And then we'd also look at the intent around the accounts. We'd look at what content we already have that we could maybe utilize and repurpose. 

But then we would start to build out a messaging framework based on what industry they're in? What persona they are? What the key value drivers are as well? And kind of craft something that way. 

But it's absolutely all in the research that informs those messaging frameworks because you might decide, you may not want to split your plays by Manufacturing and Technology. You might want to do it by business challenges, for example. So it's just really trying to understand what those key drivers are for, for your customers.

Declan (strategicabm) - And Becks, when you talk about prospect plays, do you go to the degree of kind of documenting this and do the Sales team have literally a playbook that they can rely on and use? Is that the extent you go to?

Becks (Showpad) - Yes, we're actually working on this right now. So it's set nice and fresh in my mind, which is great. But what we're doing is we are developing a BDR playbook for our business development reps all around our ABM strategy as well. 

And it goes down even to the point where once the AE has, or the AE or the BDR has engaged, we've started to split it out into stages as well. So if we have Commitment as a live project, we'll target them very differently as to if there's absolutely no response or no interest in Showpad. 

So what we're doing at the moment is working out and mapping out what those different plays would look like. So for example, do we do competitor displacement campaigns? Do we up our ABM spams? Do we move accounts in between tiers? So we're sort of working that out at the moment as well.

Declan (strategicabm) - So it's work in progress, but it's something that's going to be going live relatively soon I imagine from the way that you're talking about.

Becks (Showpad) - Yes, it has to be live by next year.

Declan (strategicabm) - Well then, I better not detain you too much today, then otherwise you won't make it in time. 

So let's talk about obviously Showpad is a MarTech solution that many people are familiar with, obviously when you were running the ABM program at Unit4, you'd built a pretty formidable tech stack to be able to deliver an ABM program to 6,000 accounts at the same time, obviously with a degree of personalization, there's a lot of talk about technology and ABM. What's your take?

Becks (Showpad) - Ooh, that's a good question. I'm a really strong believer in MarTech using it for ABM, but I would say the one thing is you have to have the people and the resource who know how to use it properly. And that could be hiring an ABM or a MarTech person internally, or actually using an agency who really understands how the tools work and how to orchestrate everything. I think that's absolutely fundamental. 

I also think there is so much MarTech out there at the moment. It can be quite overwhelming to know which solutions to use. So it's just making sure that when you're looking at those different MarTech that it's going to work for your company or doing some trials with different solutions to see if they work for you and your business. 

But I would try and build a tech stack where you can really automate a lot of your ABM plays and make everything always on and dynamic.

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I mean, it's interesting because there's different schools of thoughts out there. In terms of whether you go down the more automated, or the more personalized route, or whether there's a halfway house in the middle, really. 

And also it depends clearly if you're running a programmatic One-to-many or One-to-few or a much more curated, highly personalized One-to-one program where there's less technology and more hand creation so to speak. 

I think when we were talking before, Beck, you mentioned that you were in the kind of the early stages of building out an ABM Center of Excellence. Can you share with us, what does a good ABM Center of Excellence look like?

Becks (Showpad) - Yes, that's a great question. I think it must have a Head of ABM or a kind of Head of Field Marketing in the center of that, and then all around it needs to be supported by the business. 

So you must have executive buy-in. I would say that's really important because it gets the whole business on the same page of doing ABM and executing ABM. And then I think around that you have people like myself who work in field marketing and how do we drive ABM within our regions? How can we take what's done on a global level and execute it because it's going to be very different for every region, how we approach our accounts. 

And then it's absolutely having the Sales, and I think the business development representatives, aligned into that ABM Center of Excellence because we really need them to help us execute all the different plays that we're doing. 

But another part of it as well, I think it should also include our Customer Success Managers. And so when they're on the front line, speaking to customers and getting that feedback as well of, how are we marketing to our customers? What sort of place do they like to see? What do they absolutely hate? 

All of that feedback's really important so that we can make sure we get our tactics and content right moving forward, but it takes an awful lot of work to build this out. Luckily at Showpad everything's coming from the top. So we're able to build those foundations quite easily.

Declan (Showpad) - Well, it sounds like you've got quite a formidable Center of Excellence coming together there. And I think from speaking to other let's talk ABM guests as well, I think that a lot of them see it as being the ABM team rather kind of almost like the guardians of ABM and the Center of Excellence is a way for them to be able to extend the ABM mindset out and beyond the ABM team into the wider Marketing team, into the wider Sales team and indeed into the wider company. And I think having a Center of Excellence at the heart is a great way to go about things, really. 

Just a couple of final questions, actually, Becks, now, let's just talk about, we often talk about the building blocks of an ABM program. You know, whether it's ICP, whether it's account selection, or value proposition, the ABM mechanics experience, et cetera, where would you say that you spend the majority of your time? Which building block takes up a lot of your time?

Becks (Showpad) - Yeah, another good question. I think most of the time is spent in the developing what accounts we're going to target and then the research on those accounts. And I think it's so important to get that right. And that's why it takes quite a bit of time. 

And it's also developing what messages we're going to put into those accounts. I think that's where we spent quite a lot of our time at the moment and making sure that we're mapping the right content to those accounts based on what message we want to send out to those. But I think once you get that right, you can execute quite quickly from there.

Declan (strategicabm) - So it's the account selection, the insights into the candidates, particularly at the One-to-few, One-to-many and One-to-one rather level. And then obviously then the content and the messaging that you want to run into those accounts.

Becks (Showpad) - Yes, absolutely.

Declan (strategicabm) - And here's a question for you then, Becks, what do you consider to be the hardest part of ABM?

Becks (Showpad) - Oh, wow. I think the hardest parts of ABM is making sure that you have the bandwidth to be very customer-centric on the accounts that you're targeting. And actually making sure that you know your top 20 accounts inside out and what's going on with those, and not dropping the ball on them. 

I think that is probably the hardest part is just keeping up that momentum in every account, making sure you're aligning with Sales to make sure that we're targeting them in the right way.

Declan (strategicabm) - So in effect, keeping up to date about everything that's going on, 'cause obviously the work that you do at the beginning is almost like a photograph, right. And then how'd you keep that photograph up to date as the account goes live into your ABM program and how you keep that relationship and that data exchange with your Sales guys. Will that be fair?

Becks (Showpad) - Yes, absolutely, absolutely. 'Cause also the Sales team are very busy on all their other accounts that they're working as well. So it's just making sure to keep up that momentum with the ABM activity that you spent so long rolling out and yeah, just making sure that you've always got your finger on the pulse of those accounts.

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, and the very, very last question, Becks: it's Friday evening, you get a call from a colleague who's a B2B marketer and they say, "Hey, Becks, I need to launch an ABM program." And you say, "Well, I'm about to leave the office now." Whatever, but you give them some of your time. What's that one piece of advice you would give them for launching an ABM program?

Becks (Showpad) - Yeah, I would say, firstly getting executive buy-in. I think that's the most important thing because once you've got that and you've actually educated the executives on what ABM is and what it can bring to the business, then that still starts to filter down to the rest of the company and everyone gets on the same page. 

So rather than for example, someone like me, who's a kind of little cog in a big wheel, trying to educate people in ABM, go straight to the top, tell them why ABM is a good idea. Tell them why it's going to bring value and show them how it can potentially grow their business. And from there, it'll just be like fireworks and everyone will be on the same page.

Declan (strategicabm) - Well, that's a great piece of advice to end on Becks. Thank you so much for sharing your ABM journey with us today and being so generous with your time. And I wish you every success there at Showpad with your ABM program.

Becks (Showpad) - Perfect. Thank you very much. Great to speak to you.

Declan (strategicabm) - Thanks, Becks.