Is account-based marketing right for your company?
With this highly-targeted strategy, you can convert more high-value accounts—and waste less time, money, and energy on prospects that aren’t ideal.
Carol Eversen, partner and CMO at Chief Outsiders, is here to share her expertise on account-based marketing.
Carol is a high-impact marketing leader who defines and executes strategies for companies navigating transformation and seeking to grow.
In this episode, she’ll break down how you can use account-based marketing to secure new customers and create new markets for growth.
She’ll also discuss:
- Why sales and marketing alignment is crucial
- The benefits of account-based marketing in 2023
- How companies can decide which ABM program is the right fit
- Strategies to measure ABM results
Mentioned in this episode:
Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is Account-Based Marketing. Here to speak with me as Carol Eversen, who is the partner and CMO at Chief Outsiders, the leading fractional cmo firm that helps CEOs accelerate growth for development and disciplined execution of well-crafted growth plans.
Carol is the high-impact marketing leader who defines and execute strategies for companies navigating transformation and seeking to grow. She is adept at building and executing marketing strategies and tactics to secure new customers, expand revenues from existing customers and create new markets for growth. Carol, welcome to the show.
Carol Eversen: Thank you, Steffen. It’s great to be here. Thank you,
Steffen: Carol, before we start talking about Account-Based Marketing, I’d love to learn a little bit more about you. Tell our listeners about how you got started in your career, and what about you to become or to work at Chief Outsiders?
Carol: Well, it’s interesting, I started my career in sales, believe it or not. I was in sales for five years in the industrial sector. So I was selling to corporations, working for AT&T. And I spent my formative years at AT&T, MasterCard, LexisNexis, all big companies, big jobs, large teams, big budgets, and learning how to do things really, really well. I proactively shifted from that around 2012 to small mid market, I had a pre revenue stint, and, you know, really did a big push in digital. In fact, in one role, I was running marketing for lawyers.com, and for other law firm marketing solutions. That was my first digital job.
And I basically went from, you know, kindergarten to grad school in digital in two years in that role, because we were using digital marketing to market digital marketing solutions that we were delivering for clients. I think since then, you know, I moved from a variety of industries, and mostly in media marketing solutions, marketing services, digital marketing solutions, and ultimately made the shift in the pivot to consulting.
I was a single consultant for about six months, it was so lonely. I really hated being a solo consultant, and ran into Chief Outsiders. And it’s been great since then, because there are 120 of us from all different industries. And it’s just really exciting to work with a group of pros that are just so good as the folks at Chief Outsiders. From consumer to B2B, if there’s an industry, we have at least a couple people that have worked in it, and just so many people to learn from.
Steffen: Interesting. Now, today, I want to talk about Account-Based Marketing, or ABM. Let’s start off with what is Account-Based Marketing?
Carol: I love talking about this, because it’s interesting. The two of us are working on an ebook on this topic. And actually, one of the things that we’ve been talking about is the fact that so many vendors of technology services define Account-Based Marketing or ABX, account-based everything in the terms that their solution delivers. So they tend, if you talk to different companies, they’ll define ABM a different way based on their technology and their service. So really, you have to take a step back and boil it down. And really, it’s about targeting specific accounts or groups of accounts. I think we’ve all heard one to one, one too few, one to many.
We’ve all heard that you can do account-based land or expand. So that’s all true. And I think the key is to just take a step back and say, what am I trying to accomplish. I’m trying to increase revenues from large accounts, or target accounts. I’m trying to be more efficient. And I’m trying to make sure that our business is delivering, that the marketing department is delivering what the business needs in terms of the business strategy. So if you look at it that way, it’s just simply smart marketing against very specific groups of accounts.
Steffen: So it’s basically a company sitting down and saying, okay, what are the companies that we want to work with in the future and they create, I don’t know, that Top 100, Top 200 you know, target account lists, and that’s basically what the marketing department will target, will work on.
Carol: Yes, that’s true. And I think the other aspect of it is, it’s not just the marketing department, even though we say we call it Account-Based Marketing. I think that’s why there’s been a pivot toward calling it account-based everything, but it’s really about getting all the different functions of the organization together to do jointly go after a group of accounts. It can be, you know, for a large company, it could be a few 1000 clients that you’re trying to target, or it can be 10.
When I worked at MasterCard, there are only 72 banks that mattered. And you know, the sale could be a billion-dollar sale. So you’re going to work together as a team for two years to win that debit portfolio from Bank of America or whichever bank it is that the company like MasterCard, or Visa is going after, because you have to. Like that’s how the companies survive.
Steffen: Yeah. And I think another point that I think is really important is that you are able to target depending on also what solution you’re using individuals or individual groups within that organization that is on your target list. And if you’re doing your job, right, you have different messages for the people of different departments. You might have to engage with procurement, because they make the final decision. But then you have the people that actually are using your solution. So your message to them will be different than to the procurement team.
Carol: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Knowing the buying committee is is one of the key aspects of ABM. And by the way, that’s why sales and marketing have to work together on this very, very tightly. Because you’re dealing with the buying committee. I remember working on a project once with a to-be named bank when I was at HNW which offered a distributed marketing automation platform for the financial services market. And we had 22 people on the buying committee. When you have 22 people on the buying committee, you know, they’re all coming at it from different perspectives. Everybody has the role that they’re playing, there actually were 18.
But because their sales cycle was six months long, a couple of positions actually turned over. So I had to deal with 22 people after some of the turnovers. But procurement had thoughts, legal had thoughts, IT had thoughts, security had thoughts, sales had thoughts, corporate marketing cared about certain things. You know, field marketing cared about different things. And as you lined up all those players, everybody had veto power. So you have to understand what each player in the buying committee is looking for. And make sure you’re proactively getting in front of them and not just waiting until they have an objection.
Steffen: Yeah, yep. You talked about sales and marketing, alignment. Now, in general, it is really important that sales and marketing are aligned when it comes to, you know, generating leads for our business, for example. Why is it important to execute ABM to be coordinated between those two disciplines? Is there anything in addition to the normal thoughts on why sales and marketing have to be aligned?
Carol: Well, I think the only thing is, it’s like a dance. You have to orchestrate the show that you’re producing, because there are so many players, and they all have different perspectives. And one salesperson is going to really struggle to hit all those players and get proactively in front of them. Maybe not even know who all the players are that are going to be involved. So marketing can provide some of that air cover to the different personas. And really focus on helping the personas have some awareness of the brand, have you know, a positive perception.
For example, if you’re doing content marketing, you might do a piece about I’m going to try and think of a just a theoretical example, content marketing platforms and security and data privacy. And you’re trying to target in that scenario, you would be targeting the roles of data privacy, IT, security, InfoSec, so that those players all take a look at your materials, well in advance potentially, of when it’s time for them to weigh in and make a decision about whether or not they’re they’re in line with, you know, the proposal that’s on the table. You want to preempt that. You don’t want to be defensively answering objections after the fact.
Steffen: Yeah, that makes sense. I also think that it’s important for the alignment for the coordination is to share feedback from the sales side, because, you know, the marketing side can create content and even if sales says, you know, what, we need this kind of content to inform or educate the target audience. We still don’t know we, marketing, still doesn’t know whether the content resonated well, right.
Or if we need to adjust something. That the messaging in first place you know, hit home. Did the content then that was shared, whether it’s the white paper or some some other information, an ebook, for example, help to move people from kind of the awareness stage, to consideration stage, to kind of the action stage. Would you agree with that?
Carol: I would agree. I’d take it even a step further. And I would say that where it has been most successful for me and where I have seen the best results, not only did we get the feedback from sales, but I would, for example, pull in a panel of the best salespeople in an enterprise sales organization, lay out a plan, and let them know what we’re thinking about and get their feedback and also find the holes. What are we missing? What else do we need that we haven’t thought of? And so it’s not just like feedback after the fact. But it’s input at the front end.
Steffen: Yeah, that makes sense. Why, Carol, why would a company actually create an ABM program? I mean, there’s, I’m being a little bit cynical here. But there are digital marketing solutions out there that allow me to target really well. Why do I need to create a list of X amount of companies that I want to engage with, and I want to want to have as customers in 2023, for example?
Carol: That one’s easy. It’s all dependent upon the business goals. Everything that I do, especially when it comes to ABM is what are we trying to accomplish as a business? And therefore, do we or don’t we need or want Account Based Marketing? There’s a little more that I’ll talk about in a moment about, you know, sales complexity versus go-to-market maturity. But, you know, as a starting point that the key question is, what are the goals of the business and what’s the role marketing can play?
Example, you know, maybe digital performance is declining. Sometimes over time, paid search might decline. Maybe you’ve historically had, you know, really strong reliance on review sites like G2, Crowd and Capterra and some of the others and you’re seeing that your costs are going up and up and up as more people are bidding on it, and you’re struggling to get an ROI. Or maybe your company is having a struggle with your annual recurring revenue.
For example, I have seen in some companies, the leads that come in from paid search sometimes are not as high value as the leads that come through a longer stream of nurturing that includes paid search, but also includes touches, like content syndication, etc, and could pull in the different roles from an ABM perspective. So maybe what you’re trying to do is just drive up your annual recurring revenue. You might also have a, you know and this is a big one, a complex buying cycle.
So perhaps one of the goals of the business is to increase velocity. Because if I can increase sales velocity, we can close more deals, close them faster, you can get more productivity out of not just marketing, but out of your sales organization. Or you might even find a situation where, and I’ve seen this where the lower end of the market has been penetrated, so all of the easier sales have been, you know, they’ve been brought in.
And the market chairs high in that low end of the market, and the company needs to go to the next level and take it up to the next level of company and that’s going to be a different sales cycle. So they need to look at Account Based Marketing. So those and other business reasons are why you would take a step back and say, okay, we need to look at this differently than what we’ve done in the past.
Steffen: Now, before talking about why or how a company should decide what type of ABM program is best for them, what type of ABM programs exists? Can you talk about that, please?
Carol: Yeah, I know we talked about one-to-one, one to few, one-to-many, but I’ve been working, as I mentioned earlier with one of my peers at Chief Outsiders and we’re looking at it as you know, kind of a two by two matrix where you have go to market maturity of the of the marketing team on one side, and you know, the solution value and the complexity on the other side. And we’ve basically broken it up into, you know, high touch account centric, high touch high tech account centric, high tech scaled ABM, and then no ABM at all.
And again, it’s all based on, you know, if you have a very immature marketing organization from a tech perspective, you know, it’s very limited and reactive and you have very low dollar values, high volume of prospects, and short contracts one or two decision-makers, there’s no real reason to execute ABM. On the flip side, if you have the same small dollar value deals, high prospect volume, short contracts, one or two decision-makers, but a very mature tech savvy marketing team, there are many, many ways you can leverage technology very effectively across the digital channels to enable a highly effective one to many type of ABM programs.
And I’ll throw in another one. One that I’ve personally been engaged in deeply is high touch account centric. When you don’t necessarily leverage technology as much as you’re leveraging the building of relationships on a more in depth level. And I’ll go back to what I was mentioning earlier with MasterCard. When you have a billion-dollar deal on the table, you’re going to have custom webinars, custom landing pages, very intense digital campaigns around those.
But you’re also going to have, you know, events. Maybe customer events, custom dinners, and you’re going to be back and forth with the sales organization trying to orchestrate the best possible way to get in front of all of the buyers in the buying committee. So to me, that’s high touch account centric, but without throwing in the tech, which is the last segment.
Steffen: There are a number of platforms out there that can be used for Account Based Marketing. LinkedIn, in a normal form is a good tool where you could do that. You can find the companies that you have on your target list, you can find the decision-makers, and you can run your ad campaign on that. So that definitely is a channel that can do that. Then there are companies like 6sense, demand based, terms, etcetera.
What are the differences between those platforms? And when a company starts to embark on the ABM journey, is it better to start off with a system that has potentially less features, but is easier to use, compared to using something that has lots of bells and whistles, but it might complicate the process of setting things up and running it?
Carol: I totally agree with crawl, walk, run in this. And you know, when I think about the approach that you would take to launch, it’s a couple of things. One is crawl, walk, run, and the other is where’s the sales team? Where’s their mind? Where’s their level of sophistication, because you need to function with both. So I would agree, I think the tech that you can use can be overwhelming, or you can use pieces of technology and put them together in a way that makes sense.
So for example, you can use intent tools to really understand which companies are at what stage in the buying process. And then go to a tool like a zoom info or whatever to get contact information, or even LinkedIn to get contact information at the account level and target them. Or you can go with 6sense. And you can build a model on your website, and you can take it to the nth degree and really get the maximum value and I’m picking 6sense, I’m not saying them.
Any of the intent based platform, you can take it to the extent that you’re pulling everything you can out of that. And that’s that’s a good round two, or three. But it’s not necessary for a round one. Again, I think if you start with what am I trying to accomplish? Not what’s the tech, but what am I trying to accomplish? I have these buyers, I have these messages, I need to communicate to these buyers. I need to find these types of personas within these companies. And I need to get the message to them.
And I want to do it in a way that it’s surrounding the buying committee prior to sales trying to push through a sale. And I’m interacting with sales and going back and forth handing them you know different contacts within the company. All of that should drive what your technology decision is, not what’s the platform. People get hung up on the platform because platform providers spend a lot of time telling you how to do ABM on their platform. And don’t start there. Start with what are you trying to accomplish and then look for the tools that let you accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish.
Steffen: Great point. When you when you run your ABM program, like any any marketing program, you invest money, which means you need to measure what the investment yields. What do you measure, or how do you measure results of an ABM program? Because thinking about it, it’s literally media activities across the entire funnel, right. You will have awareness activities, you will have consideration activities and you will also have actions to lower funnel activities. How do you, how do you measure across the funnel and make sure that the program works and that you also can fine tune the program to maximize your return on advertising spend?
Carol: So I always start with booked revenue and work my way back. Because to me, the most important thing that you ultimately have to show is that you delivered revenue in partnership with sales. So start there and then kind of work your way backwards. And from my perspective, it’s pretty straightforward. You will need to look at things, and there are certain things that aren’t part of the conversion funnel but are really important. Sales velocity. You can track that and Salesforce, or whatever CRM system that you have or sales support system that you have.
So track sales velocity improvement. That’s a big one for enterprise sales. Win rate. Big one for enterprise sales. Deal size. On expansion, you want to look at your net retention rate. So any of those endgame metrics are really key. But now when you take a step back up, you’re going to look at engagement and try and get a sense of engagement. Maybe you have a scoring model on engagement that tells you this many things that happen equals engagement. This many contacts per account, that are downloading material, etc, equals a measure of engagement.
Every company is different, but you would want to make sure that you’re looking at your engagement metrics. And then up above that, at the top of the funnel, is really your basic core metrics by channel. That’s how I’d look at it. I’m sure others might look at it a little bit differently. But I’ve always found that that reverse thought process gets me connected directly to what at the end of the day is what we care about, which is the booked revenues.
Steffen: Now, a second ago, we talked about some of the platforms that can be used for ABM. What other types of technologies support ABM?
Carol: I would say, a couple. One, intent tools, obviously. We talked about that a moment ago, I just think they’re key and there are many different platforms out there. Some are for really large companies. And there are others that are intended for small and mid-sized companies. I just saw one scenario, which is for streaming services, which is account-based advertising, with Mountain. And there are companies like Mountain that are beginning to allow you to do you know, advertising with account-based lists and with roles.
Granted you’re advertising into the household, as opposed to at the individual level. But nonetheless, it’s delivered in the household. Content marketing, I think is a good one. Content marketing is more for just nurturing people through the process more so that it’s not the equivalent of say paid search, which is going to give you people that are ready to buy now potentially. But it’s good for hitting that surround sound and getting all of those supporting decision makers within the process.
And then there are standalone ABM platforms like Demand Basic. They’ll give you account intelligence, they’ll include intent data, they’re going to give you some support with identifying the personas in the company and getting to individuals. And they’ll also offer engagement and personalization support. Personalization is pretty key. And especially when you’re doing more of a one-to-many type of thing, it’s really key to have a platform that can help you do that.
Then, of course, you’ve got events, webinars, On24, zoom, etcetera. And gifting platforms like Sendoso and Alice. And finally, you know, companies that do web personalization, such as drafts, and custom landing pages. So that me is the list of tools that typically we’d look at. And you wouldn’t, again, to your point earlier, you wouldn’t jump in with all of those, you would pick the ones that are going to help deliver against the business challenge that you’re trying to tackle.
Steffen: It’s still a wide list or a big list to choose from at the end of the day, even if you just decide to go with one, right.
Carol: Right. Right. Exactly. And again, it depends on your challenge. Is your challenge identifying prospects that are accounts that have a shot at being successful? Then I’d say by all means go with intent. Is your challenge, I need to hit this big broad list of decision makers because this is a very distributed decision, then you’re going to look more at things like you know, the advertising that you can do, as well as content marketing. And then there’s one I didn’t even really talk about and should have, which is trigger based marketing can be really, really key.
And by that what I mean is if you have an ability to identify what causes your company to win when you’re in the middle of a sales cycle. So for example, if I know that when there’s an IPO, my company sells successfully to companies that are going through an IPO. Then any tools that I can identify that tell me quickly, this is a list of companies going through an IPO next month, I will, and especially if they happen to be on my target list or I get immediate information about that IPO activity that happens, then I’m going to be able to get to that target account faster than someone that maybe didn’t realize it happened and they wait and they read it in a journal or something like that.
And that’s probably a bad example. But if you can think through what is it that causes my company to win? What scenario, what situation, what is happening with my clients that causes my company to win and automate or feed on that, then you’re going to be in a position to hit the companies within your target list that are the highest priority. Not just because they’re searching on the website which is great from an intent perspective, but because a real, impactful situation has happened, that sets me up to be able to win.
Steffen: Carol, before we come to the end of today’s podcast episode, can you share an example of a successful ABM program?
Carol: Sure, I could talk about a couple. One is, kind of that like back to the idea of crawl, walk, run. A couple of these are really simplistic, but they were highly impactful. When I was working at LexisNexis, we were selling law firm marketing solutions to small law. And there was a major litigation firm that we really wanted badly. It was on on national in, in New York, and they were very successful. And they had big budgets, and they weren’t spending any money with us. And we kept trying to get to them. Failed, kept trying and trying and trying and just could not get these people to pay attention to us. It was two brothers.
So we did very basic research, we looked on Facebook, we researched these people, we found out, and frankly, one of the guys on my team did all this. I shouldn’t take credit for it, he’s amazing. Found out that they were really huge New York Rangers fans. So we put together a package. We got Binder and Binder, so I just gave their name, jerseys on, you know, hockey jerseys for them and put those into a box with tickets to a game. And we had someone actually physically deliver it because we didn’t want this to just go off and sit on an admin’s desk.
And so they waited for them to come in in the morning, handed them the box, told them who they were, said, we hope you enjoy it. We’d love to meet with you at some point, but just we’ve been following you and we’re really interested in what you do. We end up with a $600,000 sale. So that to me, and that was because we were very focused on who they are. Very low tech, very, very low tech.
Another example of working at MasterCard, we had a very large client that had a very large airline card portfolio. And they were really concerned about the point balances and the financial implications of those point balances. So we built an entire story for them, about a day in the life of one of their card holders, and took them through this entire visualization of exactly what happened to them. We did research, we really understood their target market and walked them right through everything that could happen.
And needless to say, it went really, really well. So those are low tech ways. And then there are others like content sydication, I won’t get into the details. But I’ve used companies like netline, very successfully to surround sound, the buying committee with different content assets for different players, to get them to the point that they’re part of, they’re on board when the deal comes to them.
Steffen: Some really great examples. It’s interesting, because I sometimes have conversations with individuals in the in the b2b space, and it’s like, well, you know, our target market is so small, I can literally call them up. So I don’t need to do advertising or I don’t need to do ABM in this case, right? And I was like, well, yes, but you know, what the advertising and the ABM part does, it’s warming up your prospects. It’s introducing them to your company to what you’re doing. You are just one person have many of you call them.
Even if you leave a voice message, you’re just one of many that calls the same person. But if you are able to, to what you did, for example, with the jerseys, right? That’s something so personalized, that immediately sticks with that person. And then they’re much more inclined to accepting a phone call accepting a meeting, than if you’re just one of many that leaves a voice message, for example.
Carol: Absolutely. And the other thing is, who’s to say that you’re leaving the voice message with the real buyer?
Carol: You know, there are different buyers, there’s the functional buyer, there’s the economic buyer, you don’t know who’s the real decision maker, until you’re deep into that conversation. It could be who you think it is, and maybe not. If you’re surrounding all of the potential buyers and the different roles with messages that matter to them, you’re setting the stage up for that company to be prime for your conversation.
And for even if the buyer, the end buyer, the final user that’s the buyer or the approver doesn’t hear from you, you might find other partners or other players in that ecosystem, you know, encouraging them to talk to you. So when it’s a high ticket item and you’ve got the tech-savviness to be able to put a program in place it’d be silly not to from a digital perspective for sure.
Steffen: Yeah. When you say high ticket item is there is there an amount where you say you know what, I’m just making this up. If your lifetime value or your client’s lifetime value of the of their service or the product is plus $10,000, that’s definitely worth it, or is it hard to kind of throw a number out there?
Carol: It’s a little hard. I’ve tended to look more in the $80,000 to $100,000 is when you would go with more of a program that I would consider high value with a lot of personalization. And a lot of you know, surrounding the decision to buying committee. But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a really great low dollar value $5,000, $10,000 contract value, opportunity for target list using a one-to-many type of campaign for sure.
Steffen: Perfect. Carol, thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your knowledge on Account Based Marketing. Really enjoyed our conversation. How can people get in touch if they want to learn more about you and/or Chief Outsiders?
Carol: Well, Chief Outsiders is chiefoutsiders.com and we have all of our profiles there. And just really quickly, my numbers 908-419-7622. And my email is ceversen with all e’s, no o. So c e v e r s e n @chiefoutsiders.com.
Steffen: And we leave that information in the show notes as well. Thanks, everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphony Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.
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