On August 8, 2018, I attended The #FlipMyFunnel B2B Sales and Marketing Conference on Account-based Marketing (ABM). The theme this year is ‘Humanizing B2B’. I’ve been to my share of work-related conferences, and always enjoy them. I come home with a notebook filled with notes, scribbles, ideas, questions, and a fresh batch of new people to follow on Twitter and some new LinkedIn connections.
This conference was a bit different for me. I’m new* to the ABM (ABE? ABx? AB?) game, so I was hoping to get a broad overview, learn who some of the practitioners are, and walk away with some specific tactics I could go implement. I batted thee for three!
Kicking It Off: Using Authenticity to Define ABM
SangramVajre (@sangramvajre) keynoted the morning session, helping us focus on a word: authenticity. He reminded us that even though we have the tools to scale, it doesn’t mean that we dehumanize the approach to marketing. This reminds me of one of my early favorite blogs back in the day, Scalable Intimacy, by Mike Troiano. (@MikeTrap) The URL now redirects to his Medium page. And Sangram pushed forth a (perhaps uncomfortable) notion: In B2B, the value of Marketing is defined by Sales.
This left me thinking a little bit all day.
— Alan Belniak (@abelniak) August 8, 2018
Walking The ABM Walk
The next session I attended from Lindsay Becker (@Lindsay_JBecker) and Lisa DeDonato from LogMeIn. They shared their “not perfect, not done, but working” approach to implementing ABM. What I liked was that it was real (or, authentic?): they weren’t on a pedestal, proselytizing. In fact, they even took a step back from their initial implementation to re-group and give it a second go.
Catina Martinez shared her company’s journey with ABM, and even gave us some great nuggets in the slides (below). What I like about this is that it’s a classic nurture path/journey, but it’s the human approach to ABM. There’s a specific element related to the targeted people in the targeted accounts.
Marketing Trends (as defined by LinkedIn) That Can Relate to ABM
Next up, Peter Weinberg (with a stand-out LinkedIn profile description, I must say) shared four trends that he (they) see at LinkedIn as it relates to the ABM space. I was skeptical of this presentation, because I thought it was going to be a sales pitch, and I thought it was going to be a re-hash of data we all knew. I was delighted to be wrong on both accounts.
Peter shared some really insightful … insights … with the crowd. He talked about the free (read: not a pitch) LinkedIn pixel companies can use on their site to validate if the personas they are targeting are indeed the ones they are reaching. He talked about hyper-personalization, and gave an excellent Netflix example (likely not the one you are thinking, if you think, ‘Oh, I know they have an algorithm.’). Next, he talked about how creating ads (ok, so kind of a pitch) directly correlates to content visibility and consumption. And he spoke about this in two ways: through signaling, and through an AI-driven tool to ‘de-construct’ your eBook (as en example) to create thousands (yes, thousands) of ads in a mere 10 seconds.
Finally, he closed with a point I’ve been shouting for a long time – it was great for me personally to see LinkedIn validate this: don’t just target the CxO or VP of __ in an organization. Individual contributors play a far greater role in the purchase decision of technology. They might not sign the check, but they often are the ones bringing ideas to senior managers, and are part and parcel in the decision process.
Marketo’s Not-So-Secret ABM (and LBM?) Secrets
Mike Madden (@mike_p_madden) walked us through how Marketo themselves use ABM. One slide I found particularly interesting in Mike’s presentation were how heavily they factor in the account score when looking at MQL (seemingly incongruous, when you’re talking ABM and LBM). This is where they inject the human element into a scoring model! The other slide I liked was a pure tactic slide: what they do at different buying stages, as it relates to their behavior score. As in, what content they choose to use, based on the stage of the prospect.
Sales and Marketing, Always Feuding
After lunch, there was a Family Feud, pitting marketing against sales (can’t we all just get along?). Some good takes on tactics. I liked this a lot, because it got me to ‘test’ my own knowledge about some of the answers. And I wasn’t far off at all; meaning, some of this stuff, although packaged as ABM, is just good ol’ marketing sense. I also made a new friend, Mario Martinez, Jr., (@M_3jr) CEO and co-founder of Vengreso. We sat and traded notes and answers during the feud. It was good fun, and also a way to learn some new things.
Post-lunch and feud, the sessions were short and fast: 10-minute teardowns of a strategy or tactic or use case. I missed parts of some, as I was in transit between two different rooms. Here are some slides that stuck with me from the sessions I did attend.
Justin Keller (@justinkeller) shared an awesome tactic: social research happy hour. When trying to get intel on a prospect… – er, target – have some fun with it. Share a handful of names out to your team, and go do some classic internet sleuthing. And save it into a Google Doc or some other place than your CRM. Justin and team have a saying (paraphrased): ‘target research like this doesn’t age like wine, it ages like fish’ – so keep it fresh.
Ryan O’Hara (@ryohara) had the best tear-down of them all. Sadly, I took no pictures, because I was soaking it all in. He gave away three-plus tactical, usable, ‘go-do-this-now’ examples of ways to break through the noise. And, he shared results. If you follow Ryan on Twitter and ask nicely, I’ll be he’ll share the slides with you. That’s what I’m hoping.
Dave Gerhardt (@davegerhardt) didn’t directly ABM us. But he talked about the importance of brand. And in commoditized markets, a brand helps you stand out (and at times, it can be the only thing). The best part is that in a mere 10 minutes, he shared stories of why brand matters. And he shared a modern-day take on the ol’ “buyers do two-thirds of their research before visiting your site” – asking LinkedIn, then Twitter, then Facebook, then G2 Crowd, then … oh, and then going to your website. If your brand isn’t strong in all of those places, then you’re already at a disadvantage. This was his closing slide, and the top line really hit home:
The final speakers offered some wisdom on what it takes to transform an LBM-driven organization to an ABM-(ABE? ABx? AB? I dunno)-driven organization. And there were some core lessons, but one powerful one is to get the team on board. It’s a mentality and mindset. That underpins a new culture – perhaps one of the hardest things to implement in a business, irrespective of ABM. And this slide was one of the last photos I took:
Getting Smarter on ABM
I’m thrilled I got to attend the event. I learned a lot of new things, re-connected with old colleagues, met some new friends, and re-ignited my passion to do good marketing. And that’s the * above in my second paragraph. ABM may be a new-ish acronym, and some of the specific tactics are new-ish. But the approach is the framework of good marketing: right message, right offer, right value, right person, right time, right place. Automation plays a role, but relying on it too much makes marketing less human.
I’ve got some reading to do!