Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm): So today I'm joined by Neil Berry, who is head of Global ABM and DBM for FSI at Atos. Neil, thanks for joining us today.
Neil Berry (Atos): No problem.
Declan (strategicabm): So Neil, we've also had a quick chat before this interview - a few weeks ago actually now. And we were talking about your history and where you've come from.
But looking at your profile, you're a through and through 'ABMer' with more than 10 years of experience in this field. What attracted you to this field originally?
Neil (Atos): Well, I mean I'm not a classically trained marketer to put it politely. So I actually started off in ABM because my background is essential, I was an Oracle Database Apps Developer, at a big technology company.
And I was on an account at the time, and I essentially pushed to get onto a graduate scheme and said, here is something I really want to do, I really want to get involved in marketing and the Account Manager knew and found out and he said, "Look we're trying this whole new thing I don't know if it's going to be any use to you but it's called Account-based Marketing, do you fancy helping us out?"
So kind of went from there really, and 10, 11 years on now, yeah, I still have the same passion for it. And I remember going into the whole ABM workshops with the framework, that a lot of us will be familiar with, and the things that where it all started and I was bright-eyed, bushy tailed 24 year old at the time, who is going to travel and go to all these different places and really experience truly what Account business strategy is about.
And that's where I kind of got the bug and I think most people in ABM, if you do get the bug you tend to not ever lose it and yeah, that's where it came from.
Declan (strategicabm): And I would say, for a lot of people ABM is a relatively new thing but it actually has been around for a lot longer. Now what changes have you seen then over the course of the last 10 years or so?
Neil (Atos): Well, there have been so many, the last year or so has been immensely huge for change.
But when I actually looked back at those first ABM workshops, the nice thing is that when we were doing them, the ethos of ABM hasn't changed a great deal and I think that's what's made it really popular and quite successful is the way that people want to engage and want to do ABM.
That sort of thing that kind of never waivers. And most people stay pretty true to it.
The things that have changed, I would say, it's now become its own ecosystem, it's become its own kind of way of working and its own little world and the nice thing about it is, everybody's in the community to make it the best that they can.
I think one of the other biggest changes is the raft of technologies and creative suites and tools and everything that's coming out now is ABM-focused and targeted. And, we can debate at length as to how much that is actually an ABM tool, but...we're all going to want to use them, we're all going to want to engage with these tools and the help and support that is now available for ABM is what's making it successful.
Declan (strategicabm): Yeah. I think I definitely agree with you there. We were talking earlier about Bev Burgess, who kind of coined the phrase back in 2003-2004 and I don't think she expected back then almost 16, 17 years ago that it would be what it is today, but it's definitely grown from strength to strength.
So let's just talk a little bit about the ABM program that you're running there at Atos. Can you give us a little insight into that?
Neil (Atos): Yeah. I mean we're very much focused on kind of driving a lot about growth through the classic 3Rs. We're, we're all measuring ourselves on those 'Rs' and back to Bev's point, it's all about focusing on '3Rs' to make sure you're making those gains.
But at Atos, there's something I always try to do, is just we really try to keep it simple. So we are focusing heavily on looking at the Ones-to-ones [ABM], we're looking at being able to engage with our client executives, support them and just really focus on their growth and make it really simple for them to engage with marketing, and give them the tools and capability to do more than they have done before.
I have been really focusing on our customers, making sure that they've got that personalized engagement, making sure they're feeling like they're getting the best of Atos.
Because that's what ABM should do - is giving you the best of the organization at the doorstep of the customer.
Declan (strategicabm): Yeah and the focus there is primarily One-to-one at Atos. Can you give us a flavor of a success story or what do you think kind of 'moves the dial' in terms of One-to-one ABM? What are you seeing actually, what kind of strategies do you think actually are worth investing most in?
Neil (Atos): I mean, for me One-to-one has always been... Because that's where I started, right? It was always One-to-one. Even when I went into Industry Marketing, I kind of looked at it and went - "but why are we not really focusing on the customer"?
So One-to-one's always been a massive passion of mine and I kind of believe that if you take the definition of ABM - treating that market, treating that account as a market, in its own right. That's what it really comes down to.
So yeah, when we talk about it, we talk about returns and ROI and 'traditional' Marketing, which is something that, like I said, I'm not particularly well-trained in, it focuses on those classical terms of MQLs and CQLs, Demand Gen, that's just not really what we kind of focus on is really elevating their CEO conversations and it really helps in the sales journey, sales teams to really embark on the right journeys
I mean, so some of the best challenges I've had have actually come from the most difficult engagements.
Because when you get that breakthrough, if you're on an account that you look at and go, "God this is going to be really tough." When you get that breakthrough and you get that relationship built and you really start seeing the change that's going on and actually one of the best examples I've had was actually when I was an Account Comms person, which at the time that was what it was, it wasn't ABM. It was really looking at how we communicate and engage with that customer in a better way. That relationship is probably still one I hold quite dear to my heart.
I've got a good friend of mine, he's still at the company that we were doing ABM with. I've run marathons to raise money for his son and the relationships we built from the work that we were doing there is what made that really special.
And actually as a Marketer to get directly involved with the customer; normally we're kind of hidden back a little bit. So it's nice to get that direct engagement with customers and really help the Account teams through.
The relationship got so good at the point, I was like literally sat opposite the CIO on a weekly basis and having regular casual conversations that the Sales teams just weren't getting because I was there and I was part of their team as much as I was part of our own.
But I've seen so many different things that have worked. Everything from Virtual Reality experiences all the way through to just simple DMs [Direct Mails] that just landed so well that the customers, when we reached out to them or their PA, they can't really say no, that's great - they read what we did and that for me, that's the bit, like I say, that bug that you get from ABM, that's where that will always come back to.
Declan (strategicabm): So it's actually making that connection, that emotional connection with an individual ultimately because although your target is in the account, you're actually trying to influence and engage other people.
Neil (Atos): Yeah, exactly, yeah. We always say that people buy from people and ABM is a massive testament to that because as much of it is about getting our.. with the right sales guys in the right... Giving them the right sales guys the right tools that they're comfortable with, to speak to the right people in the right way. So it will always come down to that.
Declan (strategicabm): And if we could talk about ABM Lite or One-to-few ABM. If you look at some of the definitions out there, they talk about ABM Lite is 10 to 15% personalization, do you concur with that kind of definition or do you see it differently?
Neil (Atos): Yeah. I think there's so many variations out there now and so we run a reasonably blended approach at Atos. Where we'll use things like cluster, we'll use ABM Lite, we'll use Strategic ABM.
But it's about what's right for the account at the end of the day. If we wanted to do a cluster then yeah, we would probably use some of that 10 to 15% personalization, we want to use ABM Lite, it would be done in a slightly different way.
But yeah, for me that 10 to 15% personalization is a great way of reusing content and reusing things and just being smart with what you've got. If you've got something that is 90% relevant to your customer, you don't then need to completely reinvent the wheel. You can do something intelligent with it and provide that to a client that will look at it and go, “They've made this just for me."
You're not duping them, you're giving them extra added value in that 10 to 15%, that 10% of added value can actually add up to a lot more than you could really think.
Declan (strategicabm): Yeah. And going down the pyramids that we are all very familiar with to One-to-many ABM.
Neil (Atos): Yeah.
Declan (strategicabm): Having talked to you a little bit about this before, you've got some quite strong views around One-to-many.
Neil (Atos): Yeah.
Declan (strategicabm): Do you want to share a couple of those views with us?
Neil (Atos): Yeah sure. I wrote a blog on this because... And I really enjoy writing the blogs and I'll come to that later.
But for me, there's so many and it's back to my point earlier, as much as it's an enabler, that there are so many tools and agencies and people out there that we can call upon them. It's great that they are there, but by the same token, as a Marketer we're getting blindsided by so many different things. And everybody's saying what ABM is, and that they are ABM and they do ABM. And actually we're kind of sat there looking at this and going, how do we map what you're doing to my strategic ABM program?
And a lot of the time, there's not an answer for that. It's actually, well, actually we need about 20-30 accounts, we need 50-60 accounts to really deliver on the benefits that you need.
And for me, that's just good Industry Marketing. It's not ABM. We go back to the basics of treating the account as a market in its own right, like say earlier.
That for me is ABM. If you treat an account as a market in its own right, that's where you'll be looking at their audience, their internalists, their demographics, their core messages, their core strategies, the things they need, the challenges that they've got.
If you're doing that to 50 to 60 accounts, you can't get the depth and level of insight and intent and data and understanding, and really put yourself into the shoes of those 50 to 60 customers, unless you've got 30 to 40 members of staff.
If you've got that - great. But most of us just don't have that capacity to really focus on it.
So One-to-many for me is fine. I think it's just maybe using it as a new term for Industry Marketing.
But for me that's exactly what it is, it's really looking at it and saying I understand your industry, we've got some answers for you, how can we help?
Declan (strategicabm): Yeah. Interesting point. I think we're seeing that... You mentioned earlier actually that if you can blend your ABM programs, One-to-few, One-to-one, even give it some air cover with some One-to-many, as you said, into that kind of vertical or that group of companies that for whatever reason you've got, a solution that can meet their needs. That's fine. But it's the blended approach really that will actually deliver the goods more than anything.
ABM. A lot of people say it's just Marketing, if Sales don't get involved, it's just good Marketing. This kind of Sales and Marketing alignment is actually crucial for an ABM program to be successful.
What are you seeing there at Atos in terms of how you're working with the Sales teams?
Neil (Atos): So, first thing for me - the Sales and Marketing culture at Atos is probably one of the best if not the best that I've been a part of. Which makes it so much easier.
Everybody's up for doing something new and trying to be more personalized to the customer and giving them focus and support in the sales paths to make that account growth, and that's fantastic.
That helps me to no end and because when we look at what we do, it's all about the growth, it's all about the focus. And our CEO now talks about being completely client centric and customer obsessed, all the stuff that the Sales guys spoke about for years, but actually now they're getting that kind of extra level with Marketing support. They really do engage with it really well.
And I kind of try, and for me personally, I've always built pretty positive relationships with Sales guys. I don't know why.
I don't think there's any kind of secret sauce to it. I think it's just the case of really getting to know them, not just at a professional level but as a personal level as well. And open yourself up to them because at the end of the day, they are Sales guys, right? They are built on creating relationships. If you come in as a closed book, they'll kind of go wrong. I can't really work with you, I need to have that open conversation.
Yeah. They're a fantastic bunch. And I do agree. I think ABM cannot be done without Sales. As much as we can try, it will never be as successful in my opinion. And Sales guys will love to see what Marketing can bring to the table.
Declan (strategicabm): And if we talk about the kind of building blocks of a successful ABM strategy: ICP, Account selection, value proposition, account experience, et cetera, where do you spend most of your time there at Atos?
Neil (Atos): Well, I mean, for me personally, a lot of it is done on things like Account selection and kind of evolving that process. And that's where I spend quite a lot of time.
But when it comes to that kind of real execution of ABM and the things that we're trying to deliver, for me that's when we really look at things like these foundational assets that want to come to. That's where we spend quite a lot of our time.
It's things like the value prop evolving from the framework, getting that into campaigns and giving the Account team everything they need to just get started and begin delivering.
So that's where a lot of that upfront investment is made. And then the execution then essentially is an ongoing rolling engagement and support with the Sales guys. So we always try and make sure we bring something to them.
Declan (strategicabm): Yeah. And where would you say others perhaps fail to invest?
Neil (Atos): I don’t know, I mean, they don't, there's not many people I would say that go out there and fail to invest. I'm not a kind of good judge for that one because everybody's doing their own thing, everybody's still learning about ABM.
So I think most people look at it and they will say, "Well, I'll invest in this bit at this point in time." And actually going back to the point around the tools and technology of ABM and what's available to you. I think where people invest the most is probably looking at it and going well, "I'm going to invest in this tool." "I'm going to use this." "I'm going to really push for it."
And actually stopping and being able to take stock of where your tech stacks are, how that's going to integrate into all the other campaigns that you're doing. Actually how am I going to get that reuse value out of it around the content that we've got.
That I think is where people actually, maybe fail to invest, or maybe overinvest, and they over promise and then go, "I should be taking that back." "I'm going to try this one instead." "I'm going to try this one later."
It's a little bit like a sweet shop, right? We could go in and if we had infinite budget, you could go in and try every other thing. And actually until you find the perfect route for you as an organization and your customers, that will always be a pain point.
Declan (strategicabm): Yeah, I think we're definitely seeing that when companies have too much technology, particularly in Marketing and in ABM, in particular, it's hard then to actually look at the technology stack and actually work out where you're going right and where you're going wrong.
And actually sometimes if you strip it down to the bare basics and build up from that foundation you've got a better chance of getting things right.
Talking about getting things right. You're responsible there at Atos, Neil, for the ABM Center of Excellence. Can you talk us through what that looks like and what you're trying to achieve there?
Neil (Atos): Yeah, of course. So our COE is... And I'm assuming that most COE's probably in a similar vein. But we want to make it as accessible and as engaging in as much of a community as we can.
So we have kind of our industry peers, we've kind of reorganized ourselves to be really industry-focused and customer-focused, which is a huge help for ABM.
But the Center of Excellence is really about bringing that group of people together to share best practice, make sure that we're all kind of along the same lines.
And actually, some people who are in certain industries doing ABM on their own, and certain people have got a team of people and they're all built just in a way that brings us all together and says, "Look we're all going through the same stuff, don't worry about it." "Let's make sure we're doing the right thing for the customer, if there are any challenges or, maybe a Sales guy just isn't quite getting it, how can we bring that in?" "How did you do that?" "How did we get the successes on that account?"
That's the bit that the Center of Excellence is really built on at the moment. And what I would like to get out of it eventually is for it to literally be that core best practice team where we can come together and be able to operate as that central function and then essentially celebrating all those wins, all the little things that we kind of celebrate on a day-to-day basis that maybe you wouldn't normally celebrate with your own specific team, you celebrate within the COE, which is pretty cool.
Declan (strategicabm): And we were talking about this earlier actually, before we did the recording that you've written some really good articles on LinkedIn, particularly focused around ABM challenges.
Tell us about what you've learned from putting down your innermost thoughts.
Neil (Atos): I tell you what? I'd recommend it to anyone. I've never been a massive writer, and I think most people that know me when you read my blogs, you probably read it in my voice because it's just me, that's just the natural way to write.
I find it really therapeutic because a lot of people talk about... You see a lot of the promotion of the success of ABM and you see a lot of really positive talks about it.
But I actually, I kind of looked at it when we all have these challenges, we all have these problems still. And for me, it's that release to be able to say to the network I've got and say, "This is what we're going through."
And actually, if you have got that challenge, don't worry about it because there are other things that you can do, and there's new ways of being able to build your program and engage with your customers, and work with your Sales teams".
I've actually got a little bit of withdrawal actually because I've not done them for a while now, so I need to... I'm thinking my next one's going to potentially be on the relationships with Sales, which could be a touchy subject, but yeah, hopefully it'll be done in the right way, so it'll be fine.
Declan (strategicabm): I'm sure it'll be a great article. And just the last question, actually, Neil. What advice would you give to any company, either starting their ABM journey or they're in the first few months they're looking at it, thinking, are we doing this right? What are the kind of main things that you would say to anybody looking at ABM?
Neil (Atos): Yeah. Okay. That's a pretty significant question. Okay.
If I look back actually, so I had an organization that I worked for quite a while back now, and I think when I went in, I went in reasonably naive and thought we'll just do ABM because that's what it's all about.
It was quite rough actually. You know, starting off reasonably young and trying to get our ABM program off the ground. But if I look at it from their perspective, they were a reasonably small company and they kind of... Well, they're still tech based.
But, essentially what I think I've learned since then is that you really need to look at just keeping it simple, because that's what makes people truly understand what ABM is about. If you go in with a really over-complicated, loads of technical marketing jargon about all the things we're going to do, it generally just confuses people and doesn't get them engaged.
So if you can keep it simple, that's going to really help. It's simple in terms of being accessible to accounts for salespeople to understand it, but also for wider Marketing community people to go, "Okay, yeah, right, I see where you're going, and now I know how to engage with you in that particular way."
So I think simplicity is point one. The other would be investment. It's not just financially, but I mean, if you've got the right organizations to back you and you've got enough depth in that organization to deliver some really key deliverables for ABM, then you're in a good position, right?
But the investment really is the time and really kind of getting there, getting people bought into it because that's where I think I spent probably the first couple of months really kind of speaking to the Leadership team, speaking to Accounts team, speaking to Sales leaders, speaking to Industry leaders, speaking to regional leaders and just so explaining what it's all about.
And why they should really be involved in it. Do they want to engage? Do they not want to engage? And really you've got to run ABM in a bit of a 'if you don't want it' then 'you don't get it' really kind of mentality because you've got to be sensible about how you're investing your time as well.
So I think that identifying of investment and where you need to get that investment from is a massive part of that. So a lot of it is all in the prep work. Yeah.
I think the last one is probably more around being able to constantly push the program. We all get guilty of kind of sitting there and going well, it's running, we're moving things, things are happening, which is great, but actually there's always marginal gains. There's always improvements that can be made.
So I think having that constant push for your program and the drive to make it really work and stand out is probably something I would say is the final thing. Because without that drive, you won't get the investment anyway. Without that kind of simplicity, you wouldn't be able to make it easy for people to push and drive the program along with you. So it all kind of has to be brought into each other.
Declan (strategicabm): Neil, fantastic advice. Great way to finish off this interview, this chat today. Thank you so much for your time and wish you every success for everything that's going to be happening at Atos on your ABM program.
Neil (Atos): Brilliant. Thanks. I really appreciate it.
Declan (strategicabm): Thanks Neil. Take care.