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Creating a unique story with ABM

In this episode of Let's talk ABM, we speak to Nancy Carlyle Harlan, Head of Global Account Based Marketing at Qlik about how she creates unique stories as part of her ABM strategy.

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

Nancy Carlyle Harlan
Head of Global ABM, Qlik

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Nancy Harlan heads up the Global Account-based Marketing program at Qlik, leader in data management and analytics. Nancy is that rare Marketer with a successful Sales background at IBM and Siemen. This Sales insights has helped Nancy to develop the successful ABM program at Qlik that has transformed their approach to strategic account management and growth.

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: 

  • Why One-to-one is the only true ABM
  • How insights drive account strategy
  • Where ABM tech vendors need to improve their offering
  • Advice on how to succeed at Account-based Marketing


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Creating a unique story with ABM

The full transcript

Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm) - So, today I'm joined by Nancy Harlan who's the Global Account-based Marketing Manager at Qlik. Nancy, thanks so much for joining us today. 
Nancy Harlan (Qlik) - It's my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Declan (strategicabm) - So, Nancy, obviously we've been speaking a little bit before, talking about ABM and talking about your ABM journey there, but just for the audience, very, very briefly tell us something that we don't know about your company and perhaps what is the problem that you're trying to solve? 

Nancy (Qlik) - So Qlik is a data analytics and integration company, and we really help customers free their data, all of their data sources. We help them find it, categorize it, make sure it is consistent and clean. We help them understand their data. And then most importantly, we help them action based on data. 

So our target customers are Fortune 1000 companies that are very much focused on digital transformation and leveraging data to actually run their business. So that's what we do at Qlik. 

Declan (strategicabm) - So it's all about the data? 

Nancy (Qlik) - All about the data. 

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Declan (strategicabm) - All about the data. So when we were talking before, you were telling me a little bit about your ABM journey there at Qlik and I believe it started some seven or eight years ago. And I recall that it started through a whole kind of Key Account Management, Key Account Marketing approach that kind of then evolved into ABM. Tell us a little bit more about that journey. 

Nancy (Qlik) - So I actually was hired at Qlik to help solve a problem. So we were finding that our Sales organization was landing in large enterprise accounts, but wasn't expanding. And that there was a lot more share of wallet we could have been capturing if we were supporting the Seller in finding those growth opportunities. 

So that's really where Account-based Marketing started. We started with myself and one individual and we focused on about 50 accounts in the U.S. Now we are actually expanded. We focus on about 150 accounts and they are located globally. So it is our top customers, where we believe that we have an opportunity to drive significant revenue, not just in the next year, but in the next several years. 

So we really focus on understanding who that customer is, where they are in the journey with Qlik, and how we can drive additional revenue out of them. So we spend a lot of time finding new users, establishing new executive relationships, engaging across the enterprise to drive awareness for what Qlik is and the value it can deliver in that particular company. 


Declan (strategicabm) - So let's dig a little bit more into that point you mentioned there about salespeople, that you mentioned that your Sales teams there were fantastic at winning accounts, but the kind of classic problem is you've won that account, now how do you land or you've landed rather, how do you expand, right? 

And I mean, I've experienced that problem in many, many companies that I've been in before, where we all celebrate those great wins, but then suddenly we think, well, it's not as big as we'd like it to be, or why are we not doing more revenue? So how is ABM in particular, how is that solving that problem? 

Nancy (Qlik) - So, as part of the planning process with the Seller, we really do focus on particular areas of the business where they are currently not established. So think about large enterprises that have multiple divisions. Maybe we landed in a particular division and now we want to take our success and package up that success and apply it to a new division. 

It can be as simple, and this is the great thing about Qlik, it can be deployed anywhere within the organization. It can be as simple as we landed in Supply Chain and we're showing great results in Supply Chain, but why can't we get into Marketing, Finance, Human Resources? How can we penetrate those new areas of the business? 

And, fundamentally for us, it's about making sure that we're documenting the ROI the customer's currently experiencing, but then sharing that story to new areas and educating that new area on what Qlik can do for them. So that's really how we kind of help them expand. 

We also have a layer where we really focus on new Executive relationships. So this is not just the Seller, but we leverage our own Qlik executives and we try and align our CFO with the customer's CFO, just to talk about how we use Qlik to manage our finances and then relate that to the customer, establish executive relationships so that they can really start to understand the value prop that we deliver. So that's the way we try and initially expand.

There's a lot more that we do, but we really do kind of align to where have we landed, what is our success story, and how do we penetrate that, move that success story out to other areas of the business. 

Declan (strategicabm) - So you're kind of going deeper into the organization and then going wider as well. 

Nancy (Qlik) - Correct. Yeah, exactly. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, and I think one thing I really liked there was that, and it reminds me of my marketing when I was at business school, talking about the whole kind of bow tie approach versus diamond approach. 

When you have a bow tie, it's just one contact. And obviously, with the diamond approach, you've got multiple people. In the case you mentioned there with your CFO-CFO, CTO-CTO, COO-COO, that kind of approach where you've got multiple contacts within both organizations coming together, right? 

So let's go a bit more into your actual ABM program there. And I understand that you're running all different types of ABM in terms of One-to-one, One-to-few, One-to-many. Can you maybe kind of unpeel a little bit of that for us and tell us a little bit about how they differ, what perhaps you're doing a little bit different in each type of program? 

Nancy (Qlik) - So I have to be really candid with you, this is one of my hot items. I believe Account-based Marketing is truly One-to-one. I believe that's what Account-based Marketing is. One-to-few, it for me is either Horizontal Marketing or Industry Marketing. And One-to-many is just really good B2B Marketing, right?

So for me, true Account-based Marketing is creating a unique message, a unique value prop that is aligned to the customer's opportunities and challenges and how Qlik can support them in addressing those opportunities and challenges and creating unique content and getting into that organization one-to-one with that unique story. So that for me is One-to-one. 

And we do that for a small set of accounts here at Qlik, where that customer experience is highly tailored, highly focused on who they are, and is really driven to help them support goals.

One-to-few, we really think about how if I can deliver, for example, a line of business campaign, so talk about how Qlik can solve issues and help drive opportunities in Finance. Again, we'll use that as an example. Why does that have to be just in my top customers? I can run that across all my customers. So I think about line of business campaigns and industry campaigns as that One-to-few ABM. So the story is more relevant to who the target is. It's not unique like One-to-one is, but it's more relevant. It's about who they are, how they can use Qlik within their part of the business. 

And then One-to-many ABM is really just about scale. Some people confuse that with personalization. That's not ABM. It really is about trying to find that relevant message, whether that's in a particular territory or within, again, the industry or the use case and driving that message out beyond a unique set of accounts. So that's the way I think about it. 

For me, true Account-based Marketing is One-to-one. Unique value prop into that account, really, really meaningful message to the customer, the account, but also the individual you're targeting. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I mean, it's a very good definition actually and I'm writing literally a blog which we're publishing tonight around this very subject. So it kind of aligns very closely to what you're saying in terms of hyper-personalization at the One-to-one level, vertical-industry at the One-to-few, and then you can run One-to-many at a persona level or the kind of business challenge level at the One-to-many, but then you can touch Total Addressable Market, your clusters, and then your obviously most important, most valuable accounts. 

Let's just then talk about that kind of One-to-one approach then, because obviously insight is a huge part of the success of a One-to-one ABM program, right? And I know that the insights that you do there is really kind of move the dial in terms of the success of your programs. Can you talk to us a little bit about that in terms of why do you see this as such a worthwhile investment kind of commissioning insights? And then what do you get from the insights to actually inform your campaigns? 

Nancy (Qlik) - So this is something that we actually really put a process around this year, where we're using third-party, we're using information that the Seller has and the Customer Success Manager has, and then the ABMer has from previous years that they've been engaged. 

But we went to a third party this year to really look at the particular account and understand what's happening in their industry, how they sit in their industry, with regards to particular success factors, again, really documenting their opportunities and actually focusing a lot on their hurdles to success. And so this third party brings this information to us and it's amazing that when you bring that information and layer it over what you already know or think you know, in some cases, think you know, it really can help form a single set of goals that the entire organization is centered around. 

Because I look about last year, last year, we had a Strategic Account Plan from the Seller. We had a Customer Success Plan from Customer Success for the same account. And we had an Account-based Marketing Plan for the same account. So there were three plans that everybody was going off and doing good work. 

What this intelligence brings together are those three factors and everyone then really aligns and establishes, what are the goals of our organization, in general? What are we all trying to accomplish? So we established a single set of goals for that company. And from there, the Customer Success Plan is driven out, the Strategic Selling Plan is driven out, and the Account-based Marketing Plan is driven out. 

And so we're constantly looking and revising those plans, but we're ensuring that we're always marching towards those goals that we've established as the single source of focus on what we're going to do in this account this year. 

Declan (strategicabm) - So would you say that the insights that you do are kind of uncovering nuggets that you can use then and deploy as part of your campaign messaging, your content strategy? 

Nancy (Qlik) - Exactly what we do. So once we establish those goals, we then take those insights and we actually develop content around them. Whether it's an infographic or it's a white paper, or some kind of thought leadership content. We actually use the investigative information that is delivered to us to inform and to ensure that the message we're delivering makes complete sense to that target in that account. 

Declan (strategicabm) - So it's kind of the classic 'show me you know me' that the account is clearly seeing that you know them better than perhaps they even know themselves. 

Nancy (Qlik) - Right, and it's not being just delivered through the Account-based Marketing programs. The Seller is now onboard and going to be consistent with the message, the Customer Success Manager is on board and is going to be consistent with the message. So we look, we have become a fully aligned organization with all the resources that we want to bring to bear to drive that share of wallet. We're very consistently delivering a message to support that process. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, it sounds like you've got a lot of the kind of the key parts all lined up and everything seems to be aligned and working wonderfully there for you. 

Talking about ABM and you mentioned there about you've got a very clear opinion about One-to-one versus One-to-few versus One-to-many. I think you've also got a very strong opinion around ABM tech vendors as well. When we were talking before, we were chatting around this area. I'd love to hear your thoughts about how you see - 'cause obviously, there's been such an investment in ABM tech over the course of the last few years - and there's a myriad of ABM tech out there and people don't know what to buy, what to use, and there's an awful lot of talk. Tell us what you think about this? 

Nancy (Qlik) - So if you asked any of my current ABM tech stack partners here at Qlik, they would tell me that Nancy Harlan likes to break glass. So I challenge my ABM partners to make sure that they're actually able to efficiently and effectively deliver One-to-one ABM. 

I will give you an example. And I want to be really clear. We have a great relationship with LinkedIn, and we are doing amazing One-to-one ABM using LinkedIn. But it was really hard to actually make that happen because traditionally when you're doing display or targeted advertising in any way, there's the traditional, they have to have a big volume of universe in order to get the impressions in order to bring you down to the funnel. 

And I had to kind of upset the apple cart and say, don't use those old metrics. I don't want to be looking at a huge universe. I want to look at one account. And so I want to be able to attack one account with one-to-one display ads to really drive engagement. And that ad is completely unique to that customer. And sometimes, can be unique to the individual I'm targeting. So trying to get the ABM platform vendors, or vendors who deliver ABM, to really consider how they're going to deliver One-to-one is really, really important. 

We have used Demandbase, we use 6sense for both display, and it really comes down to when you're looking at ABM platform partners, you need to make sure that they're able to efficiently and effectively deliver One-to-one, because One-to-few, One-to-many is just B2B marketing. It's not really, again, my passion, One-to-one, which is ABM. 

So we've had great experiences. I see the tech partners actually getting there. I see both Demandbase and 6sense have made huge investments in really trying to get me to the point where I can deliver One-to-one very efficiently and effectively. So really pleased with both those partnerships and how they have evolved. But in the process, I've made them uncomfortable because I really wanted to do One-to-one, not One-to-few and One-to-many. 

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Declan (strategicabm) - Well, I'm delighted that you're pushing them because obviously, that's also a frustration for many people out there, including ourselves as an agency, is this kind of, obviously the tech vendors have come along and their message has been, hey, you can target thousands or tens of thousands of accounts, which clearly is not, it's kind of putting an ABM filter on something which is not ABM. 

Nancy (Qlik) - ABM is the shiny penny right now, right? Everybody wants to do ABM. It's the talk in Marketing. And I think it's confusing because, and I have peers that'll tell me that I'm wrong, but I believe true Account-based Marketing is One-to-one. And One-to-few, again, is Industry or Vertical marketing. And One-to-many is just really good targeted B2B marketing. That's my perspective. 

Declan (strategicabm) - No, it's a fair position and I think it's something that a lot of Let's talk ABM guests have spoken to before, hold a very similar opinion to yourself actually. And I think the evolution of ABM obviously evolved from One-to-one, 20 odd years ago. And even you could probably look even back further how Key Account Management and Key Account Marketing then obviously moved into Account-based Marketing. 

And I remember when I interviewed Bev Burgess, who obviously coined the phrase back in 2003 I think it was, after having dinner with Accenture and Unisys, I think it was. And even she says, it all started like this, and obviously, now technology has allowed it to become such a much bigger thing, but you've lost some of the essence along the way, right?

Let's talk a bit about people. I know that you mentioned before to me that trying to find the right kind of people to work in ABM can be quite difficult. And I have the same struggle myself actually in trying to find the right people. But what do you think makes a good ABMer? What are the right characteristics and traits? 

Nancy (Qlik) - I think I shared this with you in our last conversation, but the first half of my career, I was a Seller. I sold for IBM and Siemens. And when I came into Marketing and then came to Qlik to start the Key Account, which is now the Global ABM program, I took my passion and my understanding, and my appreciation for Sales when I developed the ABM program here.

I think one of the key things that an ABMer has to have is, it would be great if they've sold before, that they "carried the bag" so that they can really appreciate what a Seller's daily life is like. But if they haven't, they have to really have that passion to get to be in front of the customer, understand the customer, work with the customer. There has to be that fundamental passion. 

So I think about the skills of being able to write. You've got to be able to create a message, and you've got to be able to tweak that message based on who you're talking to. And then for us, our ABM programs run the gamut from display and social targeting to email, direct mail, events, both virtual and on-site. You have to have that good fundamental marketing experience, traditional Field Marketing experience, to be able to execute all those types of different elements. 

So it is a unique person. I've had some great people join my team who have a Field Marketing background, but they really were passionate about being integrated into the customer experience. I've had people join my team who have a Field Marketing background who were great executors of events, but couldn't write and really were uncomfortable writing. 

So you've got to find that perfect person, that perfect Marketer who is passionate about being integrated into the sales cycle, passionate about being customer-facing, and also has the fundamental skills of writing and planning, and execution of marketing tactics. So it's not easy to find. You have to really find the right person. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, it's funny you say that, 'cause I remember that early this week, I think Sangram Vajre over at Terminus did a post asking for what is required of an ABMer and I kind of joined in and added a few comments and it kind of spurred a lot of interest from people. 

And I remember our conversation earlier, Nancy, that I come from a sales background as well, and I've eaten the bad meals. I've missed the last plane home. I've cried sitting there at an airport, having lost a deal. And I think ABM is such a heavily commercial strategy that you need the sales guys to have confidence in you. You need to build that trust, but you also need to have that commercial acumen to know what's going to work, right? 

Nancy (Qlik) - I tell my ABMers that they need to approach their accounts like they're the CMO from Qlik. So they need to really be the be-all-end-all from messaging, to strategy, to deploying tactics. They own that from Qlik into those accounts. They have to have the CMO hat on. They just do in order to make sure that they're really doing their job completely. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I definitely agree with you. So I think that commercial acumen, that kind of full marketing set from A to Z and I think a few other guests that I've asked a very similar question to, they've said that curiosity, that you need to kind of always be asking questions about the company that you're targeting, the industries that you're working with.

Marketing in itself is such a fast-moving discipline that every day you wake up and there's something new and it's like if you kind of look through LinkedIn, you're thinking, God, that's amazing, I want to learn that, or that's a new thing I want to try. So you've got to constantly, it's almost like being a kind of laboratory scientist in a funny kind of way. 

Nancy (Qlik) - And you have to be data-literate, right? I mean, a lot of our platforms now, you've got to be comfortable getting in, reading and understanding data and then actioning that data. 

That's what I live in Qlik. I have a dashboard up every day and I'm looking at data associated with our accounts and making sure that when we see trends when we see intent, that we're reacting and we're engaging based on what we're reading in the data. So you have to be data-literate as well. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, and just one more point around that, I think something that makes Marketers a little bit uncomfortable is revenue and tying back what they do to an actual real number. I think Marketers are very happy talking about leads and MQLs and SQLs and even talking about pipeline, but actually giving you the hard number of this campaign delivered this much money, which normally is beyond a lot of Marketers. 

And I think ABM strips away, there's nowhere to hide, right?

Nancy (Qlik) - Yeah, and I will tell you that that's one of the ways we measure here at Qlik our ABM programs. We actually look at, I call it I have a quota 'cause of my sales background. Sales don't like me to say that because I really don't have a quota. So we have an orders goal that we look at for each account and we aggregate that and we track it and we make sure that we're exceeding at minimum 20% of what the initial account focus was for the year. We're always trying to grow that at least 20%. 

And so, it's a different perspective from a Marketing person. We do focus on for, and we do look at Marketing-qualified. And we are as always showing to make sure that we have net new responders, we're measuring all of those typical Marketing things, but we do drive towards a number. 

Especially as you get into the second half of the year, you'll see my Marketers look at data and say, these are where my biggest opportunities are. I'm going to double down to make sure we have a theme, we make sure the big deal happens and make sure it's as big as it can be. That's our team mantra. 

Declan (strategicabm) - That's a good mantra to have actually. And I remember I was talking to Marlowe Fenne who's head of ABM over, I think you know Marlowe, over at FireEye. And he had a great quote when I was speaking to him, saying that when the Sales guys have their quarterly review and the top three sales accounts are the same as the top three ABM accounts, then he says you know you're doing something right, right? 

Nancy (Qlik) - Absolutely. One of the biggest challenges we go through every year is selecting the accounts. Two things there. One is, you need to go into developing your ABM account list along with Sales and Customer Success that you're all aligned on where are the top opportunities? Where do we have the biggest share of wallet to capture? 

And then the second thing is you need to make sure it's not just ABM that you're targeting those accounts, but you're targeting your best Sellers on those accounts, you're targeting your Customer Success teams on those accounts. You're bringing your most technical support people to those accounts. 

It really is a family that's approaching to really drive that to your wallet. It's not just ABM on its own. 

Declan (strategicabm) - No, it's a team sport. It's a team sport and there's lots of players and the coach and the owners and everyone, there's a whole bunch of people involved, right? 

Just a couple more questions to finish off with, Nancy. Let's talk about the building blocks of ABM. Account selection, intent data, the account experience, the kind of campaign strategy. Where would you say you spend most of your time there at Qlik? 

Nancy (Qlik) - So for me, it's more now that I'm a true leader. I don't have accounts anymore personally. There are many years that I did just to grow the span, but I have a Centre of Excellence. I have individuals who are highly technical Marketers that are great writers as well that really run kind of what we call our always-on programs. 

So these are things like getting the display in market and the social in market, running line of business campaigns across the segments, doing some of the programs that can, the champion nurture programs and things like that. So they kind of run that for me. And then each of the ABMers really focus on the planning, the strategy, the content, and the execution. 

My ABMers, we're trying with the Centre of Excellence to offload some of the technical aspects and the managing of the ABM platform partners, the tech partners, and getting them really just 100% focused on strategy, messaging, and execution. 

Declan (strategicabm) - And is that working well for you now? 

Nancy (Qlik) - It is. I'd like to have more people in my Centre of Excellence. I think we could do more faster, but I do have great people there and there's always more demand for Account-based Marketers in region. And it really comes down to being able to show value. 

And so that's one of the things that we're looking to do next year is grow the COE, but also grow the number of ABMers - 'feet on the street', if you will, to have the impact on more accounts.

Declan (strategicabm) - And just out of curiosity, what's the opinion within the business, within the C-suite of Qlik, about ABM? I mean, you talked about the feet on the street, what's the word on the street about ABM in your organization? 

Nancy (Qlik) - Well, I guess really good. I was selected to go to President's Club this year, which I think is an indicator that they value not me, but my team and how they are delivering and making an impact, how they're partnering with the Seller and with the customer success organization. I think that there's a true appreciation of really, really the partnership, the internal partnership to help drive success. 

So I think that's one thing. And I also know that our customers talk about, oh, Megan and Michelle, and the customers don't know that they're Account-based Marketers, they're part of the team, right? And they're part of the Qlik team that comes to help them drive success and accelerate ROI. So internally, there's a great deal of respect and admiration, as well as I think more importantly from the customers as well, that they appreciate the support and the engagement that we're doing to help ensure their success with Qlik. 

Declan (strategicabm) - I love that last point, Nancy, about how the customers are seeing your people as in effect helping them to do their job and to be better at what they do really, right? 

Nancy (Qlik) - Absolutely. We fundamentally believe that the more people who are using Qlik on a daily basis, the better that account, that customer is going to be successful. And so we want to help them get Qlik out. We want to help them get Qlik using as much as possible. We want to make sure that we're helping educate, overcome fear. 

So we actually have a program here at Qlik called Qlik Infusion, and all it is is ABM with a customer champion sponsoring it. So we develop a strategy, a plan, a message alongside the customer to deploy ABM tactics to drive success. So we offer Qlik Infusion proactively to those top customers. And if we can get them to join us, it just makes our job so much easier. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Just a couple of questions just to finish off with now. What would you say is the hardest thing about ABM? 

Nancy (Qlik) - I'd say for us, consistent account selection. So we're a data and analytics company, but every year we go through this process of looking at the account list. And best practice, in my view, is the accounts stay consistent for three years, and you only have about 20% that fall out every year. We have regions at Qlik that we're really consistent and we are doing best practice, but there are some other regions where we've had sales turnover where the account list gets looked at and changes out. And unless I have time, I really can't make the true impact that ABM can deliver unless I have time with that account. 

So that's one of the biggest challenges every year we go through. I'm excited that we are completely aligned with our new sales executive and we're prioritizing, and we're focusing our account list for next year. And he is a full proponent of, we need more time. It can't be a year and done, or six months and done. It has to be truly looking at this is the account for the next three years. 

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So that's the biggest challenge, but I'm feeling really positive about it right now. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Great. And just the very last question. What advice would you give anyone out there who's either looking to start ABM because they haven't started yet, they've maybe come from Demand Gen or they've come from other disciplines and they're looking to launch an ABM program in their company, or perhaps they're kind of in the early stages of ABM and not everything is working quite right. What kind of advice would you give them?

Nancy (Qlik) - Find the Sellers who get it. Find two or three, and partner with them and drive their success. Do everything you can to help them deliver that account, deliver that order, and make it as big as it can be. You will find that once you do that for one or two or three, the word gets out and then those naysayers or those Sellers that kind of stay in the background will start to come up and say, can you help me too? 

So start small, focus on a couple of reps who get it, and partner with them and they'll spread your story for you. I had one individual who, when I first started with my initial 50 accounts, this one woman partnered with me and she's an extremely successful Seller and she really helped me establish the program. So I highly recommend that strategy. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Great advice to finish off on, Nancy. Thank you so much for being so generous with your time today and all the very best for the future. 

Nancy (Qlik) - Thank you so much for the opportunity to chat. I appreciate it. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Thank you.