ABM Playbook

Hyper-targeted ABM advertising

In this episode of Let's Talk ABM, we speak to Riaz Kanani, CEO of Radiate B2B on how data - and hyper-personalisation - drives successful ABM programmes.

Date published: Date modified: 2021-01-15 strategicabm 550 60

Riaz Kanani
CEO, Radiate B2B

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Riaz Kanani

Riaz is CEO and Founder of Radiate B2B, an Account-based Marketing and Advertising platform. A serial entrepreneur and creator of technology business, RIaz has over twenty years of experience of working at the cutting edge of technology and marketing.

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 Strategic IC brand and sharing our clients’ ABM success stories.

In this webinar you will learn:

  • How data drives successful ABM programmes  
  • The role of Radiate B2B in your ABM tech stack 
  • Hyper-personalisation and advertising 
  • How sales and marketing together make a formidable team
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Hyper-targeted ABM advertising

The full transcript

Declan (Strategic IC) Thank you, Riaz, for joining us this morning. Riaz, you're the CEO and Founder, or Co-Founder, of Radiate B2B. Tell us a little bit about Radiate B2B, and what your position is in the market.

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Yeah, sure, so, first really good to be here, thank you for inviting me. We are an ABM sales and marketing platform. We primarily work at the top end of the funnel, but can work right the way through. We target specific companies with advertising, across the internet, right down to the persona, and location. And that obviously allows, within an ABM strategy, to proactively reach companies that you couldn't normally reach. And then we tie all that together with data to basically start to predict which companies you should be talking to next.

Declan (Strategic IC) Okay, well we'll get into that a bit deeper in a moment, but just, you know, we're living through quite extraordinary times at the moment. What have you learned over the last few weeks with your business, obviously on a business level, but also perhaps on a personal level as well?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Yeah, it's interesting, from a business standpoint you've got a certain group of companies at either end of the spectrum, who, you know, it's very obvious that they need to stop advertising, and stop investing, because of where they happen to be as a business today. And likewise, at the other extreme, you've got companies that are clearly able, they've got the bandwidth, they've got the war chest, to be able to really go out and attack the market, and so are investing more in advertising.

The tricky part is the bit in the middle. And when you're in that middle spot, you've got to basically be brave, and make decisions, and those decisions are going to be very difficult. But what we're seeing across the board is advertising spend, across the whole market, is down, but a lot of that is B2C, in the B2B space, what we're seeing is the sort of early winners in markets, or the companies that are leading, are able to really take a larger share of market voice. Because the cost of delivering this advertising is down, as people have left, so supply is, you know, much higher, and demand is lower.

And so in some ways, there's opportunity, and like all things, when there is change there is opportunity, but you just have to work out what's right for your business. So yeah, interesting conversations that we've been having as a result of the last few weeks.

Declan (Strategic IC) Yeah.

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Personally, so I handle all the commercial side of the business today. But I'm not a salesperson. My background is very much marketing and operations. And whenever, I used to manage services teams, and the like, so, you know, I'm very used to, not quite at the same level obviously today, but very used to crises where, you know, a products rolled out, and it's not quite delivered what you're supposed to deliver, and you're, you know, basically putting out fires everywhere. And I'm quite pragmatic, and quite calm, and so when this all happened, for me, I fell back on that natural approach and sort of looked at, okay, so what are we going to do?

In the sales world, that doesn't quite work, because actually you have to realise,  and you have to factor in, what's happening on the other side. You know, it's not your internal team that you're trying to gather the troops, and marshal, and keep calm, and take action. How you communicate to external companies is actually really important. And me, being super pragmatic, said "Right this is what we're going to do, this is how we're going to solve it." listening to where the company's going, and then trying to figure it out.

If the person receiving that message isn't ready to receive that message, you've got to hold back. And so, for me, you know, I had to really learn. I've got great sales advisors who were warning me of all this, and sort of coaching me on what I should be thinking about, and how to approach that. But yeah, yeah.

Declan (Strategic IC) So linked to that, Riaz, there's obviously a lot of talk on LinkedIn, et cetera, about maybe now isn't the right time to sell.

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Yeah

Declan (Strategic IC) And that's kind of, looking to what you just said now, but what's your take on that? Is now a time to be selling? Or what's your approach?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) So, I think, like all things, the definition of the word sell, there's a spectrum, right. Picking up the phone and going "Look, we've got this amazing product that you should go and look at." You know, isn't going to work right now. Listening, and understanding the customer is going to work, and if you'd asked me before this crisis how you should be selling, anyway, to companies, I would say the same thing. You need to be listening to your prospect, you need to be understanding of what their problems are, and then tailoring your messaging, and how you position what you have, as a value proposition on that specific business.

So in some ways, that hasn't changed. Obviously the length of the sales process is probably going to elongate, because there's a lot more change, and therefore how you fit in, and how you work, is different. But I do see an awful lot of companies, on LinkedIn especially, talking about oh now is not the time to sell. I don't really agree with that, I think the way you go about it should be very nuanced, and very careful, but we're all here to, you know, work, and to make the world go round. And the world doesn't go round if we all stop doing business.

Declan (Strategic IC) Correct, yeah, I'm of the same opinion as you. Of course we have to be sensitive to what's going on, and obviously not use this as any type of sales or marketing opportunity, but just, you know, talk to people, continue to have those conversations. It may not be the time to purchase, but it's definitely time to have those conversations, and just to see where people are. And I think people will be grateful for those conversations as we're all sitting home, we're all continuing to work, albeit through rather extraordinary circumstances. 

So let's talk a little bit about ABM and data, right. Because I think this is a hot topic for you. Talk to us about, how do you see data impacting ABM?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) So I came at this indirectly, so the idea of building Radiate came out of this because of data. The amount of data that is now available to B2B companies, both first party, and third party, is huge, compared to previous times. And so it's critical.

ABM, for me, you know, it's been around for decades, but for me the reason ABM is getting all the hype that it gets today is not because suddenly someone shone a light on this theory from decades ago. It's because someone turned a light on how we can use data to scale ABM, and make it available to a much larger part of the market. And then we run those challenges, but we wouldn't be in business if it wasn't a challenge. You know, if it was easy, it would happen overnight, and off we go. It's never like that.

Declan (Strategic IC) Yeah, and so give us, can you give us a use case of how you're seeing data being deployed across ABM programmes?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Yeah, I mean, commonly one of the big ones is IP data. If you go back, several years ago, I looked at it, probably, god it must have been 2013, 2014, I guess, and then accuracy rate was 20-30%. It was dire.

Declan (Strategic IC) Yeah.

Riaz (Radiate B2B) And I dismissed it completely at that point. Three or four years ago, as I was looking at it, you could clearly see the data quality had increased significantly. And we were getting somewhere between 60 and 70, maybe even 80% match rates. And that suddenly allows you to build on top of it. And that's the big, that's one of the big changes, obviously, in the ABM world, is suddenly now, we can build infrastructure on top of this data, that we know is accurate, and we can make decisions off of that.

In our case, we're actually able to close the loop, because when we advertise to a company, we can identify location, we can start to actually sanity check the data that we're using, and quickly switch off if there is any issue. Which, I would say today, actually we manage usually to get up to the 80% match rates, so.

Declan (Strategic IC) And what about in terms of the contents, and messaging strategy? I mean, how does the data inform those?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Right, so you know, once you can identify the company, you can then start to identify, obviously vertical, you can start to identify where it sits inside your, you know, we think about, with our clients, their total addressable market, and within that the different ICPs that come together to create it. And so suddenly you're able to know immediately, well how important is this business to me? And therefore, based on that answer, do we trigger extra investment in marketing towards that business. Do we pull in sales?

And that's going back to what I was talking about, introducing Radiate, right at the beginning. We think of ourselves as a sales and marketing platform, not just a marketing platform, because ABM, obviously you need sales and marketing alignment, but there is a huge overlap in this, between the two groups, and they have to work together to make this work, with all this data.

Declan (Strategic IC) And talking about that kind of sales and marketing alignment, how do you see, what makes a great ABM programme, or a successful ABM programme?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) There's some prerequisites, right. Sales and marketing alignment is one of them. You will waste an awful lot of money on an ABM programme, if you're doing it just on the marketing side of the world. You won't be able to scale very far, if you just do it on the sales side of the work. So you need both to make this work. You need alignment around metrics.

Back ten years ago, when we were building Silverpop's B2B solution, we had, you know, MQLs, SQLs, and they were one thing, right. You could barely put a piece of paper between the two of them. But as every year has gone by, that's diverged, and diverged, and diverged.

For an ABM programme to work, you've got to get aligned, it doesn't necessarily, usually isn't, MQL and an SQL anymore, it's usually about what are the milestones in that buyer's process that we want to get an account to, and there's agreement across that between sales and marketing. So that, those are some of the prerequisites, you need things like ICPs, you've got to understand your market. You need to understand the stakeholders that are involved. So there's some leg work around research.

I'm not of the view, and maybe that's controversial, that you throw lots and lots of money at research, at the very top of your, you know, when you're starting out your ABM programme. My view is you spend a small amount of money on research, to get enough information about the key prospects, or your key companies that you really want to win, but you only start to invest as you go through various trigger points.

And so, as someone starts to show buying intent, then you might trigger a much deeper dive into okay, so what's happening with the company? What's changed? You know, where do we fit in? Doing that at the start of the programme, by the time some of these companies get into the buying phase, it's all wasted money.

Declan (Strategic IC) And have you seen any trends with regards to the different types of programmes, in terms of one-to-many, one-to-few, one-to-watch, strategic ABM, et cetera. What are you seeing in the market at the moment?

Riaz (Strategic IC) Yeah, so we've seen a shift, the UK's an interesting space, because there's an awful lot of one-to-one thought leaders, in the UK. And one-to-one is important, but for most companies one-to-one is very difficult to achieve at scale. It's too expensive.

So you might do that with a small number of companies, but a lot of companies are investing more and more in one-to-few, and that's scaling up quite a large amount, so that increases with more and more clusters.

But the big thing that we always see, with our clients, is normally, when we start our conversations with them, they think of them as three siloed structures, and they're absolutely not. You might decide upfront that a company is valuable enough that they sit in a one-to-few category. So that sort of defines a level of investment. You might decide upfront, that they sit in a one-to-one, because they are, you know, say a seven figure contract, for example.

But the one-to-many is actually a bucket of everybody, that you use to promote up to a one-to-few, or one-to-many, depending on insight, whatever that happens to be, right.

Declan (Strategic IC) And would you see, you mentioned promoting, or promotion, would you also see accounts being demoted as well?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Yes, absolutely right. Yeah, we see this on the advertising side quite a lot. So, with our midsize, with our clients that are targeting midsize companies, you're spending five, maybe ten pounds a month in ad spend, for the larger ones it could be £50, it could be £100. And obviously what happens at some point, in the process, is a sales person will pick up the phone and have a conversation with one of those accounts, and you'll realise that they're not in market for 12 months, they're not in market for two years. Depending on the company, you might therefore decide to pull back.

Now that pull back could mean you demote to one-to-many, it could be that you actually put them in, we don't think of the world as being a series of campaigns, you might have specific campaigns for specific parts of the pipeline, but we also have a long tail campaign that continuously runs, over 12 months, and you drop those companies in, you might not advertise to them every single day of the year, but you might do short bursts over three months, over 12 months, sort of thing, and that keeps them aware.

You know, what you're doing is making sure you have the largest share of market voice for that particular company, than any of your competitors.

Declan (Strategic IC) So it's almost like an always on, in a sense, right?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Yeah.

Declan (Strategic IC) And what trends are you seeing? What are you seeing, changing in this year, with regards to ABM?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) So this year, I think it's really, I think this whole COVID-19 crisis will accelerate a bunch of, a bunch of the prerequisites for ABM. So because we've got this situation where some verticals, some areas are just offline, you have no choice but to go back to your ICPs, and reassess them.

And if your reassessing them, sales guys want to get awareness into very specific niches, and you can't do that by doing a broad marketing campaign, or search campaign, you need to be using tools, whether it's LinkedIn, whether it's someone like ourselves, that can place awareness, right in front of those specific companies.

And obviously that's just step one. Again, once you've started to take these steps, actually what I think that means is that over the course of this year we'll see ABM continue to grow.

Declan (Strategic IC) Yeah.

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Again, forced change, there's nothing like this sort of situation to force people to change the way they do things.

Declan (Strategic IC) Yeah, I think I agree entirely with you there, Riaz. Talking about what's happening at the moment, obviously you're working from home, I'm working from home, everyone is home-based at the moment, all over the world. It's kind of a huge social experiment, in a funny kind of way.

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Yeah, yeah.

Declan (Strategic IC) How is that impacting the work that you guys are doing? How is that impacting your clients? Is it positively, negatively?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Yeah, it's mixed. So for the most part, our clients are targeting enterprise. Now the, early on in this period, the elephant in the room was that we use IPs, we use cookies, but if we're using IP, then how are we going to reach, how are we going to identify somebody, if they're at home, rather than in the office.

And actually, you know, because most of our clients are targeting enterprise, those companies are all using VPNs, security's obviously a prerequisite here, and so when you VPN in, to us as a platform, you look exactly the same as if you're working in the office. And so we're still able to reach those companies just fine. And so in that sense, we're lucky, I guess, compared to some companies.

Declan (Strategic IC) Yeah, and finally, with regards to yourselves, Radiate B2B, has your sales and marketing strategy changed?

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Yeah, for me, I think the world hasn't ended, right, it's changed. And so it isn't a case of we need to drop everything. It also isn't a case of we can continue as before. For me, my challenge is I love to talk about what we do, right, I love to, I've been lucky, and I always have been able to build businesses that I absolutely believe in, and love. And so for me to stop talking about that is actually quite difficult. But there's a lot, there's always been,

ABM is early, and there's always been a lot of education around what is it? How does it fit in? What does this situation mean for ABM? And so a lot of our commentary has been around well what should you be thinking about, what should you do? And a lot of that has been done customer side, so working with data, working with what our clients are seeing, to help them understand, and help them do better in the current environment.

But equally, externally, you know, we've been doing lots of interviews like this, podcasts, webinars, obviously though I think I react earlier to people, in terms of, what's the phrase? An avalanche of webinars, put it that way. I think I got burnt out with webinars about three weeks ago. 

So I now go on very few webinars, from a personal standpoint. But, you know, the messaging has changed, and I think actually today, people should now be thinking about the period after working from home. We are, we know in the UK, we're three weeks away, at least. But I, in my view, is that in three weeks time we'll be opening up little parts of the economy, and that's going to continue to grow. And when that happens, we're going to have the same chaos that we had three or four weeks ago.

And so as companies, as businesses, what we should all be trying to do is to plan for that environment today, flexibly, obviously, so that we can shift and change, based on the environment. But if we don't do that today, then we'll lose time because of the chaos when we do start to come out.

Obviously in Europe, they're already starting to come out. And so that's where my messaging is now focused on, is planning, you know, how should you be planning? What should you be thinking about? What should you be doing? And being ready to pull the trigger, because the companies that are going to reach, someone used the phrase escape velocity to me yesterday, you know, the companies who reach that fastest, are going to be the ones that are planning today, not the ones that are planning once we know for sure that we're coming out.

Declan (Strategic IC) Yeah, well we're in for a very interesting and perhaps a little bit of a bumpy ride over the coming weeks and months, so hope everything works out for yourself there at Radiate B2B, and thank you, Riaz, for your time today.

Riaz (Radiate B2B) Thank you, thank you. Lovely to talk to you.