Back in March, as I was getting ready to come back from maternity leave, I was offered the chance to embark on a new and exciting career journey: piloting Account-Based Marketing for the Thales CPL EMEA region. Coming from a field marketing role, this felt like a bit of a shift, but I knew we had done some early ABM experiments over the last 2 years with good success, so it was an exciting challenge.
There was one thing that was clear to me from the very beginning: there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ABM. For example, ABM within a start-up, where you build the foundation of the Go-To-Market strategy around ABM principles with an integrated tech stack, versus a much more traditional tech company where driving change is not as easy due to legacy systems and minimal integrations. And even within a company, the route to ABM success in EMEA would most probably be different from that in the Americas or APAC.
Now I am a little further down the line, I thought I would share my seven top tips to achieve Account Based Marketing Success.
1. Getting up-to-speed on all things ABM
Before jumping in with both feet, I spent a fair amount of time getting up-to-speed on the ABX world. I completed some online training including the as the Demandbase One Foundation Certification. I also did some background reading (I highly recommend “No spam. No forms. No cold calls” and “ABM is B2B”). I also listened to some great podcasts (“Let’s talk ABM” is a great place to start).
2. Understanding what ABM should be for Thales
The next phase was defining what ABM should be for Thales. We are a large company, with an engineering mind-set, a traditional approach to GTM, and a large solutions portfolio. The challenge is to change the status quo and drive the adoption of an account-based mind-set across the organization at large, in order to give the best frictionless, meaningful and useful experience to accounts we should engage with.
To understand what ABM should be for Thales, we ran internal workshops to define the Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) we would focus on. Mapping out the best ABM approach for each of our customer profiles and product lines has been an important exercise to understand how to start, whether it is up-selling the installed base, changing the perception of our brand, or going after net new business opportunities to refresh our pipeline.
3. Drive the internal mind-shift
Another key piece of a successful AMB strategy needs to be a strong relationship between sales and marketing.
Initially, we started on boarding our senior leadership. then we moved to sales directors. Following that, we ran dedicated workshops with each sales team to present our overarching strategy, get their buy-in and make sure they know about the new tools we have been on boarding to help them.
Our marketing function also needs to change -making the leap from measuring MQLs to measuring account progression requires all of us to dramatically change our mind-set.
All teams want to be the first to benefit from ABM but satisfying every team was not realistic. We needed to set priorities, select the best ABM programs carefully, test the strategy and then scale.
4. Optimizing our tech-stack
Our starting point was a very traditional lead-gen approach to GTM, with a tech stack that was aligned to our lead-gen objectives and processes. When we started our ABM journey, we also mapped the gaps in our existing tech stack to deliver an integrated and automated approach. Choosing the best tools, deciding who will be using them, addressing the technology integrations, aligning requirements with the extended global marketing teams in Americas and APAC to make sure we are building a comprehensive tech stack that would work worldwide, on boarding the extended sales organization on those tools and making sure they use it – that is a journey in itself!
Here is where we are today on our tech journey, we are making good progress and we have now on boarded several tools:
- Demandbase is at the foundation of our ABM strategy. That's where we monitor accounts' intent and engagement, where we drive the account selection process and the targeted ad process, and where we refine and automate our campaigns to make sure we address the right account at the right time with the right message
- Drift chatbot has been on boarded before we started the ABM journey but is now a key piece of the process for ABM playbooks optimization
- Vidyard has been rolled out with the sales team and integrated into the outbound cadences as we strongly believe a 2-minutes video can go a long way
- Other tools we are currently selecting include website personalization, a content experience platform to scale up the personalization efforts, a direct mail/gifting option, and more.
5. Build the internal processes around account selection
An efficient Account-Based strategy always starts with account selection, that is the cornerstone of ABM done right.
We started by reviewing our account lists and, and then checked them against Demandbase to assess intent, engagement and enrich the data. We quickly came to realise that more often than not, we were not focusing on the accounts we should be selling to but rather on the accounts we wanted to sell to. We launched in stealth-automated reports from Demandbase with dynamic lists of accounts showing intent and engagement against specific keywords sets to our sales leaders.
With the ability to bring this new intelligence to our sales teams, marketing now has a place at the table when it comes to account selection. We are now documenting all the processes every step of the way to ensure full marketing and sales alignment: who should be our target accounts and why - with a data-driven process. We have made strong progress by agreeing on who the ICP is for each line of business, the intent and engagement data we should use to inform the selection process, as well as mapping data to our CRM.
6. Elaborate unique Value Propositions
As we document our ABM vision, strategy, processes, etc., we also wanted to quickly pilot some early campaigns. Those campaigns serve as the foundation of our strategy and are key to our learning process.
Our first ABM campaigns had two objectives:
1/ Elevate our brand positioning around our complete security offering.
We adopted a 1-to-many approach, targeting the EMEA Top 500 accounts. We needed a value proposition that would resonate with most of the accounts, regardless of their size, origin, or industry. We crafted a unique campaign, moving away from fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) that are often at the core of any cybersecurity messaging. Instead, we wanted to talk about the positive business outcomes for our customers – security empowers you to do great stuff.
2/ Extending the value of our unique data protection platform - CipherTrust, to drive the adoption of other parts of the platform that our customers are not using yet.
We started with an always-on 1-to-Many and 1-to-Few campaign geared towards building awareness within the target account group. We then clustered the account list further into smaller groups based on intent, engagement, and firmographics to move them along their buying journey
7. Launch, assess and refine our first ABM campaigns
Once our ABM vision and strategy was clear, our priorities defined, our target account groups selected, and our unique value proposition in place, it was then time for campaign planning and execution. Since both campaigns were focussed on awareness, we put a lot of focus around targeted messaging to our account lists with a multi-touch, multi-channel approach.
We are already able to assess the first results. At this stage, we can only look at early-stage indicators such as CTR, engagement, and accounts being lifted to the next funnel stage and it is very encouraging so far. The Demandbase CTR is 3 to 4 times higher than the industry average. And the 2 campaigns have driven 200 new accounts to visit our website (vs the previous month) - that's about 20% of the target account list that are now engaging on our website again. And, most importantly, we have been able to make a positive impact on the accounts' progression in their journey: the number of accounts sitting in the MQA stage has doubled since the launch of the campaigns.
All of those are great indicators. We will have to wait a few more weeks to assess the real impact in terms of velocity, conversion, and pipeline contribution.
What’s next for us?
This is where our journey begins, there is so much more for us to discover, test, learn, and optimize. So many mistakes, successes, and learnings ahead of us for sure, that will help us refine and scale our strategy.
Stay tuned, I will keep sharing insights from my journey!