June 17, 2016

The Middle Ground Between ABM and Inbound

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Tags: Podcast

Adam von Reyn, VP of growth marketing, and Joe Chernov, VP of (regular) marketing at InsightSquared, were recent guests on our podcast, B2B Nation: Smarketing.

In the episode, we discussed:

    • How companies should allocate account-based vs. inbound marketing
    • How content marketing has evolved for ABM
    • The relationship between sales performance analytics and account-based marketing
    • The FlipMyFunnel Festival

Below are some of the highlights from our conversation.*

It’s important to figure out the balance between your ABM and inbound strategies.

“Our strategy is an account-based marketing strategy that is fused with inbound marketing elements. We still have a blog that we use to invest in content that has a wide appeal. But that content is all reverse-engineered based on what our accounts are saying to our reps on the phone. What we learn in the ABM strategy informs our content and inbound strategy, which then, ideally, will reinforce and tighten the circle for reps to pursue their target accounts. The two tend to work together holistically.”

An ABM strategy can help with sales and marketing alignment.

“From the beginning, what we’ve learned is that marketing and sales need to be marching in-step, or none of this is going to work. At the beginning, you develop your target account list. That can’t just come out of the two departments; they need to agree what a target account looks like. In our case, marketing did a lot of the work to source the set of accounts that we thought made up the right ‘target universe.’ Then we went back to sales and had them weigh in on whether we got it right.

“Ultimately, you need both groups saying, ‘This is what a target account looks like,’ so when marketing drives engagement at one of those accounts and it goes over to sales, you significantly reduce the likelihood of rejection. That’s a foundational piece of an ABM strategy, and nothing else is going to work without it.”

It’s important to get the tech stack and infrastructure right.

“We started making significant changes within Salesforce and our marketing automation systems. We aligned everything around account-based workflows so you have the right flow of information and the right visibility into things like engagement at an account level. That worked much better than having a whole bunch of leads that may or may not be associated with the same account. That’s another building block to effectively execute an ABM strategy.”

We started working to support the sales team through creative ABM campaigns.

“We sent energy drinks to the top opportunities that our sales reps were working on right near the end of the year. They were wrapped in the InsightSquared logo, and the messaging was about how we understand what it takes to get through the crunch at the end of the year, so here’s something to help you get through. They then had 20 InsightSquared energy drinks floating all around the sales team. That way when we’re working that account, there’s a lot of awareness there. Campaigns like that were some of the early wins for us.”

ABM won’t make sense for every single company.

“It’s making sense for more and more companies as the technology allows us to better target and narrowcast our campaign execution. I think more companies can run an ABM program, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. For those running an ABM model, being creative and finding a way to get noticed by those accounts is a prerequisite, not a luxury. You simply have to.”

B2B marketers have been fighting a war on the email inbox.

“That’s what’s given rise to all these marketing automation vendors. What happens now when there is a meritocracy of swag and each company is trying to be more creative than what they send? Whoever sends a boring mailer with predictable collateral and no inventive . . . they’re going in the trash can. That’s a much more expensive trashcan than the electronic trash can on your desktop. You’ve got to be more creative and clever in these campaigns, or risk wasting significant resources.”

Executive teams want visibility into the yield of their investment.

“Sales performance analytics gives a very deep analysis of how every component of your sales engine is working, and that comes from the same place as ABM. Companies with well run data need to have both eyes open with every investment they make in sales and marketing. Sales performance analytics helps a company expose all of the efficiencies or inefficiencies in the sales process.

ABM has risen from the need for executive teams to have their marketing be more predictable, and the outcomes of their marketing investments being more predictable. In a purely inbound world, it’s difficult to predict outcomes. You publish content and cross your fingers someone will find it. Crossing your fingers isn’t a strategy. In an ABM model where you are actively pursuing the account, it’s over time going to be much easier to predict what the outcome of a certain sequence should be. The same driving force is leading to ABM and sales performance analytics.”

The FlipMyFunnel Festival was a fantastic event.

“At FlipMyFunnel I discussed certain elements or shortcomings of inbound marketing have given rise to ABM, which elements of inbound marketing continue to add value, and how the two of them coexist and actually be mutually supportive. The larger your addressable market is in terms of the number of logos you purse, the more your model should be weighted toward inbound. The smaller the number of logos produced, the more your model should be weighted towards and ABM strategy and it’s from that simple framework, if I’m selling to the fortune 50, I want to use ABM. If I’m selling it the Fortune 5,000,000, I’m going to be all in on inbound. How can you in the middle, borrow some of the thinking from the top and the bottom to inform your hybrid strategy?”

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B2B Nation: Smarketing is a podcast for B2B sales and marketers, featuring expert opinions and advice on the most important topic customer service in the industry. Check out our other episodes on iTunes, or follow us on Twitter: @B2BNation_Smar.

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*Some excerpts have been paraphrased to enhance readability.