How to use Account-Based Marketing to drive enterprise sales

This episode is a discussion about how to use account-based marketing to drive enterprise sales. So if you’re looking to increase the size of your B2B deals, then you’ll really like this episode.

LINKS

You’re listening to The Growth Manifesto Podcast, a Zoom video series brought to you by Webprofits – a digital growth consultancy that helps global and national businesses attract, acquire, and retain customers through digital marketing.

Hosted by Alex Cleanthous.

SHOW NOTES

  • 00:00:45 Bev Burgess’ introduction to the Growth Manifesto Podcast
  • 00:01:59 How do you define Account-Based Marketing or ABM?
  • 00:04:22 Where did the concept for ABM come from?
  • 00:06:12 Bev expounds on how ABM aims to close the gap between sales and marketing and how everything is about client insight
  • 00:08:11 What’s the difference between “Account-Based Marketing” and “Account-Based Engagement”
  • 00:09:25 Who is Account-Based Marketing for?
  • 00:11:33 What should companies take note of first before they start considering ABM?
  • 00:15:01 Bev explains the different kinds of ABM
  • 00:17:54 Where is the best place to begin to give yourself the best possible chance of a successful pilot ABM campaign?
  • 00:20:39 Bev discusses the steps you need to take and how research always comes first when it comes to ABM
  • 00:25:05 Is it better to start with an account you already have engagement with compared to starting cold in terms of ABM?
  • 00:25:59 What would be the best way to start the ABM process with a cold account and how do you know you’ve picked the right company?
  • 00:28:12 How do you conduct the research needed to have a higher chance of success in ABM?
  • 00:36:53 What does the strategy and execution of ABM look like?
  • 00:40:33 Bev talks about having a “surround sound” strategy when it comes to ABM where you cover both social advertising and social connection
  • 00:46:17 Using personalisation, adaptive, and creative messaging to boost your ABM campaign
  • 00:48:07 Bev discusses the best possible channels to do your research for your ABM campaign
  • 00:52:16 How would you go about getting people to opt-in to your campaign so that you can start sending them something?
  • 00:54:00 What are some of the coolest ABM campaigns you’ve seen?
  • 00:57:02 Bev and Alex talk about how ABM is completely customer-centric
  • 00:58:35 Where do you see Account-Based Marketing going in the future?
  • 01:01:20 Bev talks about her book “Executive Engagement Strategies: How to Have Conversations and Develop Relationships that Build B2B Business“
  • 01:03:23 How long should somebody test ABM for their organisation and start to expect a return on the campaign?
  • 01:06:03 Quickfire Questions with Bev
  • 01:08:17 What is one thing you’d like our listeners to do?

TRANSCRIPT

Bev Burgess:

There was a lovely example from KPMG. They were trying to break into an account and reposition themselves as experts in compliance in North America. And, they sent virtual reality headsets, introducing their team who were the experts on compliance. There was an app that went with it. And, they updated the content every week. And, I think it went to about 70 people across this target account. They managed to get the meetings that they wanted and open up the account. And, it was a really successful campaign. So, being creative about how you reach, whether it’s 6, 10, 12, 70 people across an enterprise, is what it’s all about, I think.

Alex Cleanthous:

So, today, we’re talking with Bev Burgess, who’s a consultant, speaker, a senior advisor for the ITSMA, and Manasian and Co, and author of the book, A Practitioner’s Guide to Account-based Marketing. Today, we’ll be talking about account-based marketing. What it is, and how it works, and how you can use it to land enterprise clients. Just quickly, before we get started, make sure to go ahead and hit that subscribe button so that you get the latest episodes as soon as they’re released. Now, let’s get into it. Welcome, Bev.

Bev Burgess:

Thank you very much, Alex, delighted to be here with you.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, fantastic to have you. I’m so excited about this podcast. Because, I first came across account-based marketing a couple of years ago, when we had the challenge of targeting the Fortune 100 for one of our US clients. And, the challenge was that you can’t just target these large enterprises with traditional inbound marketing, it just doesn’t work. So, what can you do? Well, that’s what we’ll be talking about today. And, this is going to be a good one, because, I think, a lot of times you think about marketing, and you think about trying to attract a specific company. And, a lot of people just go about the same thing, right? And, there’s actually this other thing called account-based marketing, right? And, that’s the big topic for today. So, let’s just get straight into it. How do you define account-based marketing or ABM?

Bev Burgess:

Oh, yeah, that’s a great question. So, I first started working in ABM in 2003. And, I haven’t changed the definition since then. So, I think, for me, it’s all about treating individual accounts as markets in their own right. So, if you imagine the scale of some of these accounts, the accounts you mentioned, they’re enormous. They’re bigger than some small countries. So, it makes sense to treat them as you would a market.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, right. So, you’re treating a big company like its own market. So, what does that actually mean? So, what does that mean? Like it has its own strategy? It’s got its own campaigns? Could you just expand on that a bit, please?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, of course. So, I went to university, and I did marketing and business and stuff, and we learn the end-to-end marketing process. So, you start with deciding what you’re trying to achieve, then you scan the landscape, then you decide how you want to segment the market, where you want to be targeting and how you position yourself. And, then you plan your whole marketing campaign, whether it’s 4 P’s, 7 P’s, however many P’s we’re at now. And, you measure how you’re going. We were used to doing that to either industries or geographies, but we weren’t used to doing it into individual accounts. So, really, simply, that’s what account-based marketing is, it’s that end-to-end process that’s applied into an individual account.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah. So, for example, if you wanted to target Coca Cola, Coca Cola would be the account, and that would be the market, and that would be the focus of an entire strategy. Is that right?

Bev Burgess:

That’s it. That’s exactly right. Coca Cola is a fantastic example. It’s huge, it’s complex, got different areas of the business, supply chain, distribution, marketing, and branding. So, there’s lots of places you could go there, depending on what your business is, to grow your business. And, the first thing you got to do is decide, well, what do we do? What do they need? Where should we focus? How do we position ourselves? How do we compete? What do we want to sell? How do we want to help them? So, that sort of company. Global banks, oil companies. These are huge businesses, as you rightly say.

Alex Cleanthous:

We’re going to unpack this in a lot more detail over the next hour or so, yeah. But, I just want to get some of the history. Because, where did the concept for ABM come from?

Bev Burgess:

Well, this is a funny story. I’ve been working with ITSMA since 2001, and I was hosting a dinner in London because we’re a membership organisation. And, the sponsors of the membership come together and they chat about things, challenges they’re facing, what’s going on with their marketing function. They share tips and advice, that sort of stuff. It had, I think, 25 guests at this dinner in Mayfair in London, and I had Dr. Charles Doyle from Accenture on my left and I had a lady from Unisys on my right. Suddenly, they said, “You know what, we’re applying marketers to individual accounts, to work really closely with the account team and open up the account, cross-sell, upsell.”

And, I thought that’s interesting. That’s a new model. I’ve never seen that before. So, in 2003, we did a survey to see, were people shifting to this kind of model. Not many people were, it literally was those two. What did it look like? How were they doing it? And, from their early experiments, we worked with them and put together an approach and a framework. And, it’s developed ever since. So, they were calling it client-centric marketing at Accenture, and the value-adding solution provider programme, or VASP at Unisys, and I thought, well, I quite like client-centric marketing, but we can’t nick that. So, let’s call it account-based marketing. Because actually, that’s what I thought it was.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah. Because, when I was reading your book, and I had a look around online at a lot of different resources, and I kept seeing the ITSM, and then I saw your book, and then I read your book, and your book is fantastic. Anyone who’s listening should absolutely purchase that book. It’s worth 100 times the price of it. But, at first, it seems like it’s a sales function, but it’s called account-based marketing, right? So, there’s an overlap between sales and marketing. Could you just expand on that? Because I know that was like a real aha moment for me.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah. That’s a really good point. And, going back to the definition, if you like, we also think there’s four principles of ABM. And, if you’re not abiding by these principles, then what you’re doing is probably not ABM, it’s probably just sophisticated targeted marketing to a list of accounts. One of those principles is, you partner with sales. I’ve been in marketing for 30 years, and I’ve worked in some companies where there’s been quite a big gap between marketing and sales. And, you get that whole thing of marketing, throwing the leads over and saying, “Well, why aren’t sales following those up,” and sales saying, “What’s this rubbish? Why aren’t you getting me better leads?” And, there’s always been this gap.

ABM is really about closing that gap. So, you do it with sales, it’s in partnership, or with account management, depending on your structure. Everything’s based around client insight. So, it’s not, right, what have I got on the truck that I want to sell? It’s, what does this account need, and how might we be able to help them by combining what we have with what our partners have, and all that stuff. Everything’s tailored and personalised to the individuals you’re marketing to. And, I think really importantly, it’s not about MQLs or SALs or any type of lead. It is about driving revenue, but it’s also about strengthening relationships and building new relationships across the account. And, also positioning your brand, as the go-to, the trusted advisor, the preferred supplier, in that account as well. So, the collaboration with sales is absolutely key, to the point where some companies like Microsoft don’t call it ABM anymore, they call it account-based engagement.

Alex Cleanthous:

That was going to be one of my questions, because I was going to ask you, what’s the difference between account-based marketing and account-based engagement? Or, is it just, really, just a little update for marketing purposes?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think it started off as, ooh, let’s not call this marketing, because it isn’t the traditional marketing that we do. So, we want to position it differently. But, actually, what’s happened is, it’s a whole orchestration around the client. So, account managers, typically, they will try and orchestrate the business around the client, that’s part of their job. And, account-based marketing is supporting them in that endeavour, because it’s not always straightforward. The classic thing, I work a lot with tech companies is, we’re so excited about our tech. And, there’s different silos of tech and different products. And, all we want to do is shout about our tech.

I was talking to someone yesterday who had 40 different product lines, and they were all going into the same types of companies, and they all had marketing campaigns. That’s chaos for the customers. So, this is really about this orchestration piece and taking the voice of the customer, the idea of what the customer actually needs, back into the organisation.

Alex Cleanthous:

And, we’re going to get into that in a bit more detail. We got so many questions. This is a fun interview for me. When does ABM work and when does it not work?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah.

Alex Cleanthous:

Who is it for, essentially? Let’s start with that, who’s it for?

Bev Burgess:

Well, I believe really passionately that it’s for the business. So, when it’s worked best, it’s been a strategic growth initiative. So, after I did that initial dinner and the initial research, I went in to Fujitsu, which I’m sure people will be familiar with on the call, and I was taken into the UK business to try and accelerate their private sector clients because they were very heavily public sector, sort of, federal government, local government, health, that sort of thing. And, as a management team of that business, we decided we would prioritise the accounts we wanted to do business with.

So, we’d shift from reacting to requests for proposals coming in to actually saying, who do we want to do business with? Who do we want to build our future company with? So, we did some account selection work. I facilitated that for the management team. And, then we said, okay, those accounts that are really attractive to us, and we think we stand a good chance in, we’re going to invest account management time, we’re going to invest a commercial time, legal time, HR time, and of course, marketing time. So, it was an investment decision, and the marketing investment to do ABM, on the top accounts, was just part of a broader investment in our strategic growth.

That, for me, is when ABM really flies. It’s when it’s not marketing in a cupboard, designing a campaign and hoping to do something a bit different and throw leads over the wall. It’s, as a business, this is the right strategy for us, and therefore, this is the right marketing strategy.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, I get it, I get it. So, there are companies that are already selling to large enterprise, and there are companies that are starting to move into selling to large enterprise because of the cycle of their business, right? So, now, they’re like, okay, well, we’re at a point where we need the bigger contracts now, right. What’s the minimum size of a company before they should be starting to think about ABM? Or, what’s the minimum size of the marketing and sales team before they should start considering ABM?

Bev Burgess:

Well, I’ve helped, literally, companies with less than 20 employees take an ABM approach, because it’s less about the size of your company, but it’s more about the size of your deal. So, if you’re likely to have individual accounts that could bring you hundreds of 1000s or millions of pounds, dollars, euros, whatever you’re working in, then it’s worth you investing the time to treat them as an individual market.

If you’re selling something that can be bought pretty easily online, and is maybe 5000 pounds, euros, dollars, whatever, ABM doesn’t really make sense. Because, actually, a really sophisticated targeted demand gen campaign would be more efficient. Because, the thing with ABM is, if you are applying a marketer to look at one account, or five accounts or a cluster of 20 accounts, or any combination of those, that’s an expensive resource. So, you got to think about the return on investment. How big is your deal size? What’s your client lifetime value likely to be? And, is that worth putting a person on it or a fifth of a person on it? Or however, you want to judge it. So, I’d encourage people to think about that first.

Alex Cleanthous:

So, just to talk to your point, let’s say that I want to launch an ABM programme, right, and I’ve already got my marketing team and my sales team and I’m not going to try and change the whole world in the first step, because this sounds really cool, I’m really excited, but I’ve tried things before that haven’t really perform. You really just need two people to get started, a salesperson and a marketer, is that what you would suggest? Or, am I just getting it wrong right now?

Bev Burgess:

No, I mean, you’re pretty much on the nail. And, actually, a lot of people, they just start with a pilot. So, they say, right, what’s our deal size, okay, it’s in the 10s of millions, we’ll do a one-to-one. We’ll pilot, maybe, on three accounts. And, they’ll either ask someone who’s got an existing day job, to take those three accounts on and just have a go. So, it’s an experiment at that stage. Or, they might bring someone in to try it or use an agency to try it or consultant or something. But, that piloting stage is really important.

What we’re seeing, actually, through the pandemic, is that even companies that weren’t doing it, we’re doing traditional demand gen. They’re trying to get their demand gen people to even think more in an ABM way, but at scale. So, in the more one-to-many level, which is particularly popular in North America. But, it’s becoming an always on engine for the accounts that matter most. If you’ve got 200 accounts or 2000 accounts, and you know that you want to do business with them, then you’ve got the technology now to be able to monitor those accounts, to target the personas in those accounts you want to work with. And, that can be your demand gen team just working in a different way. So, it comes back to what type of ABM or types or blend, and just giving it a go, experimenting, alongside what you’re doing already, I think.

Alex Cleanthous:

So, what we’re talking about right now with the one salesperson and the one marketer, is strategic ABM, right. Is that what we’re talking about right now, is that the one-to-one? Could you just explain the different types of ABM just for the listeners? Because, I’m across them, but I think it would be super valuable right now.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, of course. Yeah. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a strategic ABM. So, strategic ABM was also called one-to-one. It’s where, I, as a marketer, work with the account director for Coca Cola, as you just said, and we put together a plan of what we want to achieve in Coca Cola, what we want to sell, and how we’re going to orchestrate sales and marketing tactics, to help us achieve that. So, that is a one-to-one. And, it’s very rare now that you get one marketer focused on one account, it tends to be, you handle five accounts, or so. That’s one-to-one or strategic ABM. But then, because that worked so well, people said, “Well, we want more of that, but we can’t expand our marketing team.”

Alex Cleanthous:

Well, I want more, can we do that times 10?

Bev Burgess:

But, by the way, you’re marketing, you’re seen as a cost, we’re not going to throw loads of extra resources out there. Then, people started scratching their heads and saying, well, how do we stretch this out and cover more accounts? So, we’ve got Coca Cola, but what about other consumer product groups, or big brands or whatever. And, that’s where one-to-few or ABM Lite came out. And, what you’re doing there is, you’re saying, okay, maybe I’ll cluster together 15 consumer product groups, or 15 car companies or 15 banks, or even 15 companies who have something else in common. So, maybe they’re at the start of their digital transformation journey, brought on by the pandemic, maybe.

Because, they have these things in common. I’m going to prepare a plan, and some solutions of how we can help and that orchestrated sales and marketing motion for that group of 15. But, it’s still really customised, really personalised. So, that’s one-to-few, ABM Lite.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yip.

Bev Burgess:

The one-to-many is, okay, we’ve been spraying and praying stuff out, 1000s of accounts across Australia, across Asia, across America, whatever, actually, we’re being a bit silly here. Our ideal customer profile looks like this. Maybe, it’s smaller manufacturers of consumer product groups. And, we’re going to track those companies and track our buyer personas, maybe the CMO, the CEO, the CFO, in those companies. And, when they look like they’re looking for something that we can help them with, then we’ll send a personalised campaign in. But, that’s much more like traditional marketing. So, that’s one-to-many, or, as I call it, programmatic ABM, because it is very much automated, as a process.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, right. Thank you for explaining that. So, where is the place that we’ll get the highest chance of success to begin with? If you’re launching a campaign… Because, I think, for a lot of the audience out there, they would not be executing on their account-based marketing strategies. It’s simple, but it’s advanced at the same time, right. A lot of people will be, I think, listening to this for the first time, they may have heard it, they’re probably not executing on it, right? I would say about 99%, right. So, to those people, how or where is the best place to begin to give yourself the best possible chance of a successful pilot?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, you’re going to hate me, because I’m going to say it depends.

Alex Cleanthous:

Depends, yeah, that’s my answer to everything, too, but I’m still going to try to get an answer from you, though.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah.

Alex Cleanthous:

I’m going to try to pin you in a corner, so you can tell me. Little shortcuts, you know.

Bev Burgess:

Let’s think about this, because unless you’ve got a really sophisticated MarTech infrastructure, where you’ve got really good data, you can access third-party data, you can spot intent signals, you can personalise content going out. Not everybody has that sophisticated MarTech, and you really need that for one-to-many or programmatic ABM. Let’s assume you haven’t got that. So, we’ll just put that to one side.

Alex Cleanthous:

Put it aside, yeah.

Bev Burgess:

Put that to the side. If you’ve got really large deal sizes, and you can justify the investment of someone’s time, even a day or week on ABM, then you either want to start with a one-to-one pilot, maybe in three accounts, because it doesn’t always work the first time. So, spread your risk and do ABM on three accounts, choose three. And, this is where the choice is really important. Maybe, we’ll come back to that.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, we will.,

Bev Burgess:

Or you might want to say, well, I’m going to try one-to-few. Actually, we’re seeing a lot of people trying one-to-few, first now. So, particularly, industry marketers or regional marketers, they might say, okay, I’ll just cluster together five important retailers in my geography or they might say, let’s go after family businesses in this particular geography as a cluster, because they’ve got similar issues. So, then you try, maybe one, maybe three clusters. Because, the theory is, that you spend the same amount of time… If you can justify one-to-one, then maybe that’s a day a week per account. If it’s more one-to-few, you might do a day a week per cluster. And, if you can put half of someone’s… maybe it’s a field marketer, in one of the countries across Asia PAC. So, maybe you say, well, one day a week, I want you to focus on either an account or a cluster. And, that’s where I would start.

Alex Cleanthous:

Okay. So, what you’re saying is that, for that day, that day a week, that’s the marketers time now, right? Because, sales, I’m assuming, can always engage, right? So, for sales, it’s easier to adapt a little bit because they’re getting warmer conversations that are more friendly, right? But, from the marketers perspective then, that day, they’re spending the whole day doing what? I was going to suggest a few things, but I’d rather hear you tell me what it is.

Bev Burgess:

Sure. We should say, it may not be, Mondays, I do ABM, Tuesdays, I do events, Wednesdays… It won’t work like that. But, let’s say it’s eight hours across the week. So, a couple of hours a day, you’re working on an account.

Alex Cleanthous:

Okay, that’s good to know.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, that makes sense. So, first thing to do is, decide the account. Well, actually, the first thing to do is, make sure it’s the right thing for your business, and that you’ve got your sales people bought in and your business leaders bought in and your CMO, if you aren’t the CMO. And, they’re saying, yeah, we want to try it. So, that’s the first thing, to get people on board.

Then you say, well, which account? That goes back to what I was talking about, the process we did at Fujitsu is, where is there a real possibility for growth? So, you want an account where you know you can grow. Either you’re breaking in or you’re cross-selling, upselling, or there’s a big deal. And, where are we potentially competitively strong? So, you don’t want to go choose an account that’s locked out with a competitive for the next five years, that’s pointless. So, you need to think about, well, where could we actually play and win.

But, the third lens on this is, and where there’s an account director who wants to play or a salesperson that wants to engage with us and work try something different. Because, where I’ve seen ABM fail is, where we think, yeah, this is a great account. And, the account director says, I don’t need your help, thanks. Or, they say, yeah, I need your help, but then they’re too busy to involve you at all. So, you need to be working on-

Alex Cleanthous:

Is that at the client side, or is that on our side?

Bev Burgess:

No, internally.

Alex Cleanthous:

Oh, internally. Okay, yeah. Our team being too busy, to being, yeah, I’m fine right now. I actually got it. Yeah.

Bev Burgess:

Because, if you think about it, you need that time. So, the first thing you do as a marketer, once you’ve agreed the account or the cluster, you’ve got to do your research. So, you’ve got to understand, what have we done so far with this account or these accounts? Where are we today? What sort of projects we’ll be selling them? Is it profitable? Do we have a good reputation? All that sort of stuff. Then, you need to think about, okay, what’s happening in their world? You almost imagine you’re the marketer in those accounts or in the account, and you’ve got to think about, okay, what trends are impacting my business? What might actually ruin my business? What’s a big opportunity out there for my business? And, this is in the account now. And, what do I need to do? Where do I need to spend some money to make sure my business thrives?

Once you’ve done that analysis, then with that background information, you can engage with the sales team and the account directors. They may have some of that information already. So, they may have an account plan that says, here’s what’s going on in the account, here’s what we want to sell them. Then, you start talking about what are we trying to achieve? What do we want to take in, and who do we need to reach? So, that insight piece all comes first. And, typically, depending on how good the account plan is, or what access you have to insight and market intelligence and so on… you can do it on public data, but you might have other sources in your business. That’s going to take you the first two or three weeks. You might even want to interview people in the account.

So, we recommend, if you can, interview the account team, if there’s an account team, interview the people delivering into those accounts, if it’s an existing customer, if not, you might even want to interview people in the account, or their customers to get you some real clarity as to what’s going on. So, research comes first. So, that’s what you do first, and then-

Alex Cleanthous:

So-

Bev Burgess:

Sorry.

Alex Cleanthous:

And, then?

Bev Burgess:

And, then it’s about workshopping together, what are we going to do? What do we want to sell? What do we want to achieve? How do we want to be positioned in this account or cluster? And, that’s all your marketing toolkit. So, you’ve got some brand positioning, you’ve got some messaging to sort out, you’ve got value propositions to work out and then you’ve got the whole tactics, how do we reach people online and offline? And, of course, it’s mostly online these days.

Alex Cleanthous:

So, I’m going to ask you very specific questions. And, they might seem simple, but that’s just how I think. So, I like to break it down. So, is it better… I’m sorry, because I just like these black and white questions, right, but, is it better to start with an account where you already have an engagement versus to go cold?

Bev Burgess:

Yes, it is, it’s much easier for your pilot, because you can find out more information. So, what you’re trying to do is, find out what’s going on in the account? Where are they spending money? What are their plans? Where do they need help? It’s much easier to get that insight, if you’ve got people already engaged in the account. They may only know their bit from who they’re working with, and you can build out around that. But, if you don’t have any engagement, you’re going in blind, and you’re just basing it on desk research or customer interviews, really.

Alex Cleanthous:

Okay. And, that’s my next question now, because I think a lot of the excitement for me around account-based marketing was, hey, I want to work with this big brand. There’s an approach now that will give me a higher chance of them answering our call, and having a conversation and that conversation actually being helpful for them, so that they like us, than otherwise, right. But, like what you said, it’s cold, right? So, if it’s cold, what would you suggest is the best way to get that started, that process? And, then to make sure that you’ve picked the right company, that you don’t spend the next six months on the wrong company?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah. What I’ve seen people do really successfully is, where they’ve sold a particular solution… There’s one example, into a publisher, for example, that was switching from the whole printed world to the digital world. And, they sold a solution to his publisher. They know that publishers like that one, have the same issue, they’re just at different stages in their switch to digital publishing. So, what you would do there is, you’d say, well, we could work with these five other publishers, where are they on their journey, and are any of them at a similar point to this one that we’ve just helped. If they are, we’re going to just go in and say, we understand that you’re facing this issue, we understand that so far, you’ve got 10% of your publishing online, we can accelerate that and help you get to 80% within the next two years, here’s how we’ve done it for publisher A.

Alex Cleanthous:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Bev Burgess:

Let’s have a conversation. So, to do that, what you’re doing is, looking at, have they got issues in common? Who would we have to get in front of? Then, you’re understanding those people. And, honestly, you can go to the detail of, are they visual people? Do they like numbers? Are they word people? So, what you present them is how they want to receive information. And, then you’ve got a very thought through proposition to a very targeted person. And, that’s how I’ve seen people break into new companies through, often, a one-to-few type of approach.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, right. In your book, you talk about, to map the stakeholders and the decision units, right? How do you do that when you don’t know a company yet inside out?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah.

Alex Cleanthous:

And, how do you do it… To me, personally, I find, the biggest challenge is this first part deciding on the company? Like, if it’s an existing client, yeah, I got it. If it’s similar to my current client, that’s also helpful. But then, if it’s not, and then you have to go out there, or you want to go out there, and you want to do knock some doors and win, how do you ensure that you don’t make the wrong decision, which will then hurt the whole pilot? Because, you may not have companies where it fits to have account-based marketing approach. So, what you want to do is, you want to start to attract other ones. How do you conduct that research to ensure that you have a high chance of success?

Bev Burgess:

Well, as you say, you got to choose the right companies in the first place. And, that goes back to that combination of, what’s going to make them attractive to us? So, have they got needs that we can actually serve, is the other thing that we could actually compete there? How big are they? What issues are they facing? So, there is a model, it’s called a directional policy matrix. It was developed by McKinsey for GE, and you can apply that to decide which accounts and that’s how we did it. It’s in the book. It’s too complicated for a podcast.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, no, don’t, please don’t.

Bev Burgess:

I won’t.

Alex Cleanthous:

We don’t want to lose them at this point.

Bev Burgess:

No. But, it is that decision of, okay, there’s potential in the account and we think we could be in a good position. That we’re not locked out from competitors. We’ve got a different point of view. We’ve got evidence and proof points around our capabilities. So, you’ve got to go through that sort of thinking.

Alex Cleanthous:

Got it. You just got to be good enough, right, at that point and to conduct the right research.

Bev Burgess:

Exactly. And, then it is the legwork, it’s the research. A lot of this is public information. So, depending on what level you sell at with your particular solutions. But, you start on the company’s own web pages, because if it’s a public company, they will publish their strategy. And, they will say, on the investor pages, these are the issues we’re facing, this is how we plan to transform the company or to grow the company over the next few years, here are our strategic initiatives.

And, often you can look at one of those strategic initiatives and say, we can help with that and we’re really well placed to help with that initiative. Then, it’s a case of saying, who owns that initiative in that company. Because, you know that they’re going to be given a job. The CEO’s going to say, right, Alex, I want you to sort out our supply chain issues, you’ve got two years, here’s 2 million quid or whatever it is, go and sort it out. And, so then it’s about really understanding you. What your objectives are, how you like to engage with suppliers, whether you’re on social media, what things you follow, what you’re interested in, and looking for an angle to engage.

Alex Cleanthous:

Okay, and you’re searching for that angle. This is, I guess, where my original question around stakeholders and decision units, right, because these larger organisations have multiple people in the process, right? So, I guess, how do you go about conducting that research in the beginning? Is it just LinkedIn stuff, and just seeing what they’re posting? Because, they don’t want to talk to you to, to have an interview to tell you how to sell to them. It’s like, how do you go about actually just getting that insight?

Bev Burgess:

Well, let’s come back to that, because I have used interviews in the past.

Alex Cleanthous:

You have.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, absolutely, and it is amazing. So, particularly on new companies, we’ve done an interview where we’ve given to charity, or even existing companies. You can get through to people and say, “Look, can we have 20 minutes of your time, we really respect you as a business, you’re an important client,” if they’re an existing client. “We want to make sure we’re investing in the right areas to help you in the future. Can we just ask you four or five questions?” If you’re going to go that route, you really have to do your homework before you have the interview. Because actually, that interview is part of the ABM processes. It’s part of positioning you in their mind, so you don’t want to look a complete Wally. So, you’ve got to do your research beforehand. So, sometimes you can get an interview. That’s possible. And, I’ve used that a lot.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yes, we’ve done that, too, by the way, we offered an amount of money, I think, it was 250 for half an hour or something like that. It was an Amazon gift card, or something for shopping or whatever. And, it was surprising. It took a bit of follow-up still, but they said yes. And, they spent time and they gave us so much information. And, it was like, wow, that was pretty awesome. This is actually a sales tactic right now, because I’m interviewing you, but I’m getting the information I need to engage with your company and, obviously, be a bit tactful, and you can’t just be like a steak knife salesperson, right?

Bev Burgess:

Exactly.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, okay.

Bev Burgess:

So, if it’s an existing client, I think I’ve positioned the interview to say, you’re really important to us, we want to invest in the right areas, can I just talk to you about what’s going on with you and your future goals? If it’s a new client, then a benchmarking survey is often a really good way. So, let’s say you’re doing cluster ABM, and you’ve got 15 banks that you’re trying to get into, asking whoever it is in the bank, whether it’s the Retail Managing Director, or whatever it is, or someone in their team, can you give me 20 minutes, because we’re doing a gift to get around this issue, which we think is important for banks like yours, and then we’ll send you a summary of the results, if you give us that 20 minutes.

What’s really odd is, during a pandemic, people have been more willing to give their time, they’re sitting at home, like we are now. And, they’ll jump on a call for 20 minutes. And, that’s fantastic. Then, the conversation has started. So, if you think about, we’re really trying to start conversations, that’s the way to do it. How you find out who they are, that can be tough. In some countries, in APAC, in particular, it can be really difficult because people aren’t as open on social media. So, in North America, in the UK, parts of Europe, India, people are very open on social media. But, countries like Germany, Japan, it can be quite difficult to find-

Alex Cleanthous:

Singapore is similar, too. It’s not all on LinkedIn, now what do I do?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah. Then, you start doing some digging. So, there might be someone in your organisation that’s worked with them before, either in this company that they’re at now or previous companies. So, you can literally say, we’re trying to find our way into HSBC, we want to find someone in Singapore, in HSBC, that we could talk to you about this. Do you know anyone? Do you know anyone who might know anyone? Then, if it’s not a social network, it’s an old-fashioned network, I’m afraid, you have to start tapping into.

Alex Cleanthous:

Sure. I think that’s a great point, because, I guess, as a marketer, I can do a lot of things online. And, with this level of engagement, with these larger accounts, you just going to have to put in a lot of legwork, right, like a lot of sweat equity, to just make sure that you can pull it all together, right? It’s a tonne of work to close a deal that’s worth a couple million dollars per year or something, right? It’s not just going to happen, because you’re searching on LinkedIn, and you’re just putting together personas and then trying to hope that, that’s going to be enough. Is that right?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, that’s right. The legwork’s important. And, even if you have the tech, we said, well, most people won’t have that… Even if you have it, you’ve still got to say, these are the accounts we care about. So, you’ve still got to go through that process of which ones matter and so on. You’ve still got to think about, well, which roles and personas are important, and then have some way or some tech service of identifying those people, and then have a way of reaching them. We’ve had GDPR over here in Europe, which means, increasingly, unless someone’s opted in to receive your stuff, you can’t email them.

So, the whole marketing automation systems that rely on email, really tricky now. So, social media, LinkedIn, all those sort of channels become more important, and also finding people when they’re searching on third-party websites, like information sites, and so on. So, there’s tech to help you, but if you haven’t got that tech, it’s legwork.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah. Okay, so we have now decided on the company, we have done stakeholder research, we now have an understanding about the landscape, right, just for that particular account/market, right? Then, account-based marketing starts, right? What does it look like? How does it now start to be executed? What does the strategy look like? What does execution look like?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, well, again, thinking about one-to-one, let’s start there first. If you’ve got an account manager who’s a real sales board, so they just like doing the big sales, and then passing off the actual delivery of it to someone else, they’ll probably have an idea of what are the big things we’re going to be going after next. So, your plan might start by just checking that that sensible, doing some sense checking around their plan, and then building a marketing plan to support them. If you’ve got somebody that is an account director, who’s more service delivery mentality, so not good at spotting the big opportunities, then the first thing you’re going to do is, work with them to say, we think these are big opportunities, basically. Let’s check that, which ones should we be going after?

We tend to think of them as plays. So, we think, okay, these are the imperatives and the initiatives that are going on, either, an account or a cluster, what plays could we make? So, think of that in terms of a solution? Is it this product, this service, this solution, this combination of stuff? That’s what we want to take in? And, you might have two or three of those, it might not be just one simple one. So, then, I think the first thing you have to think about is, how do we want to be positioned? What’s our messaging? Let’s go back to that HSBC example. Some people will create a visual identity that is a blend of HSBC and their own, for example. They’ll create some messaging that plays on HSBC’s messaging, at a brand level and their own.

So, they might create something visually, that reflects how they want to be positioned over the next two or three years on that account. Even if they don’t do that, well, what they’ve got to do, is some messaging. So, what’s the overall proposition of your company into HSBC? What do you want to be famous for? And, then beneath that, these individual players you’ve identified, these solutions you want to take in and sell, how do they link to that message, that hero message? Then, you’re building value propositions as well.

So, let’s say I want to sell cybersecurity into HSBC. All right, who you selling it to? What do they care about? What are the benefits of your solution and how are you different? You really need to think about that and put that into a value prop. You’ll probably tweak the value prop for each individual person. Now, that’s what salespeople have always done. They’ve always taken the marketing, generic product messaging or whatever, and tweaked it a bit. And, we’ve got really annoyed with them because they’ve been messing with our PowerPoints and stuff. But, it makes sense. If you’re going in to talk to a particular person, you’re going to try and speak in their language and hit their hot buttons. That’s what you need to then do.

So, the next thing is really about messaging, once you’ve decided what you want to achieve. Then, we get to the bit that all the marketers go, yeah, thank God, I know how to do this. It’s, what combination of activities? Are you going to run a webinar? Are you going to do a piece of research? Are you sending out some direct marketing to someone? Are you doing a social media campaign? What things are you going to combine to help your sales and account teams go in and sell those solutions?

Alex Cleanthous:

Just on that point, yeah, that’s great. From a marketing perspective now, that last part that we all, in quotations, right, because the amount of people that are within the audience is so small, it’s smaller than the custom audiences, which you can target on social media advertising, right, so I think a lot of people would think, I can just target these companies because of the size of company and position and all that. But actually, the audience size is too small to run any advertising through social networks directly, right. So, the examples which you gave are more engaging with them individually. Yeah. But, you’re contacting them, like inviting them on to the webinar. And, you’re offering them research reports, but, it’s through the social connection, it’s not through social advertising. Is that right to say or wrong to say?

Bev Burgess:

It’s a combination. Yeah. So, you might want some surround sound. So, there’s a lovely example of a professional service firm that was trying to sell a particular solution. I think it was to a large oil and gas company. And, they sent their team in and they got a meeting for this person, they positioned this person as the expert in something. And, as soon as they left the building, the client went on LinkedIn and looked at the person’s profile, and there was nothing to do with the issue they’re supposed to be known for. And, also, as they’re on social media sort of, trawling, they’re getting ads from other people related to that keyword, which is the solution they were going to buy.

So, I think you need that surround sound piece as well. And, we’ve seen people do pretty successful online campaigns, where they have the IP address of the person they’re trying to target or they’ve managed to get details because they had some gated content, or whatever it is. So, they recognise you, when you’re going to partner websites or their own website, and they serve up information that may encourage you then to come on and register for a webinar or ask to meet an expert or whatever. So, I think there is definitely a role for the social and digital advertising, even if you’re targeting six people, if you can identify them.

Alex Cleanthous:

But then, because you can’t actually just advertise, I think… This is on LinkedIn, right, which is where I think’s the best data that everyone can access, right? I think the minimum audience size, like 100, maybe 200 people, so you can get six, but then, should I run campaigns targeting that company, and all the senior people in that company? Or, within an audience size so that they’re getting to know my brand. I saw some examples of account-based marketing, in inverted commas, because I’m not quite sure how good it was, but where one company got a billboard outside of the building of another company and said, hey… I say for example, Coca Cola, and we wanted to do business with you or something like that, right? So, everyone would have been talking about it, right? Is that kind of, that surround sound thing that you’re talking about?

Bev Burgess:

It is exactly. And, actually, when there are specific deals and opportunities coming up, let’s say you’re the outsider, and you’re trying to break in and people are, well, I’ve never heard of this company, I’ve seen… We’ve done it at Fujitsu as well, where we’ve literally understood somebody’s journey to work. And, this one story, I think, it was in Germany, where the journey to the office, when we all travel to offices, there were loads and loads of billboards bought just along that journey for that key decision maker, because it made sense. And, suddenly the decision makers saying, these people are everywhere. it’s just on that journey to work. You can be really creative.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah.

Bev Burgess:

The one thing I would say about the decision makers is, if you imagine a dartboard, I don’t know if that translates but hopefully it will, and you’ve got the bullseye in the middle and then you’ve got a circle and then you’ve got the outer sort of, ring, what we think about is, the bull’s eyes are the people who will make the decision or authorise the decision and you absolutely have to be building relationships with them. But, there will be some significant influences around them. And, they could be members of their staff. They could be their peers in different companies that they phone up and say, have you ever heard of this company, this supplier. They could be other consultants. They could be third-party advisors advising on the deal or whatever.

So, you need to know who they are and, as a marketer, you’re getting into these audiences now, and what messages you need to extend to different audiences. But then, the outer ring, that stuff like, people that listen to your podcast, someone might be influenced by your podcast, or bloggers. So, you need to be thinking about, if it’s important enough, certainly at a one-to-one, what’s my strategy for influencing and communicating each of those three rings of influence, if you like? So, that’s where something like a LinkedIn campaign might make sense.

But, what I’ve seen people do, if they have the technology, so things like demand base, you can literally recognise someone coming to your website and show them more appropriate images. You can even recognise them as coming from Coca Cola, or HSBC and show them the messaging that you want to.

Alex Cleanthous:

And, that’s personalization now, isn’t it? That’s that personalization thing that this is all about, isn’t it? This is all about being personal. But, this is a way to use a tech to help with that customization process, right. If you notice someone has come from HSBC, they’re on the site, you made sure that the site can adapt its messaging, depending on the account that’s on the site?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah.

Bev Burgess:

And, you could just something simple like, if they’re coming from HSBC, you have banking relevant images, and you tailor the content a little bit. If you’re also targeting Toyota, they might come to the site, and you’ve got automotive industries, and you’re tailoring the content a bit. They might both be buying cybersecurity, but you’re showing them relevant contextual images, and you’ve got that personalised bit, even if it’s just personalised to the company.

So, we’ve seen a lot of people doing things like that. And, that’s one part, one tactic in your campaign. But, you might also be sending these people something. There was a lovely example from KPMG, they were trying to break into an account and reposition themselves as experts in compliance in North America. They sent virtual reality headsets, introducing their team who were the experts on compliance. There was an app that went with it, and they updated the content every week. And, I think it went to about 70 people across this target account. And, they managed to get the meetings that they wanted and opened up the account. It was a really successful campaign. So, being creative about how you reach, whether it’s 6, 10, 12, 70 people across an enterprise, is what it’s all about, I think.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. Before I mentioned that I like LinkedIn, is that the best one for the simplest way to start? Or, is it Facebook? Is it search? Is it neither? Is it something different? What would you advise, because I’m not the expert? I’ve just learned from you and I’ve been applying on my marketing to overlay it, but it’s not simple, right? So, yes, what would you advise is the best channels?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah. Well, there’s a lovely lady called Dorothea Gosling, who works for DXC Technology out of Germany and Switzerland. And, she describes LinkedIn as the best kept business database in the world. So, it’s going to be better than your database, because everyone’s trying to keep up their own data. It’s such a good database. So, in the main, it’s a good place to start. But, there may be companies that don’t use LinkedIn, or countries that don’t use LinkedIn. So, again, it depends a little bit, but, of all of them, that’s my go to, I must admit.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, sure. Okay. I wish I had the name now. There are companies out there where, they cost 1000s a month, but they will give you all the contact information just for specific organisations. I forget what it’s called. I’m sorry, I’m covering my mouth on the podcast. I forget what it’s called. But, they have this tool where you instal the toolbar, and it will give you access to 10 people’s contact information, right? Everyone instals it, but part of the terms and conditions in the service, basically, is, they can read all your emails. So, what they do is, that they scrape the footer signatures and they have the date stamps and they get all the contact information from that. And, then you have their emails. Now, can you email them or not? I don’t know. Can you call them or not? I’m not sure. But, is that kind of tool something which is advised or not?

Bev Burgess:

It’s something that is sold, let’s put it that way.

Alex Cleanthous:

I’m sure of that, because they’re trying to sell me right now. So, I’m just asking you. I’ve got a couple of reasons for asking that.

Bev Burgess:

Well, I’m going to go back to Dorothea Gosling, who I just mentioned, re LinkedIn. And, she’s been working in ABM. She’s got a great global programme running. And, we had a discussion last October, at ICS’ amazing marketing vision conference. And, I loved what she said. She said, “Increasingly, we’ve got to market with respect.” I get it, I’m sure you get it. Because, I work with ITSMA, it’s an American company, but I’m in the UK, I get so much spam email that is, hi, do you need a cleaning company? Hi, do you want to buy a list? Hi, can I come and do a computer backup with you? That is illegal. I have not opted in. But, because I’m working for an American company, they think it’s okay to… So, I’m hitting unsubscribed the whole time. And, actually, I find that disrespectful, especially when it gets to, and this is what Dorothea said, actually, the second email, oh, you must have missed my first one.

Alex Cleanthous:

I know.

Bev Burgess:

No, I’m not interested. Now, you could say that’s account-based marketing, particularly one-to-many programmatic. But, I say, it’s disrespectful and it’s not intelligent. And, if ABM is anything, it’s intelligent. It’s doing that homework first and having something relevant and useful to say. So, I think that’s not in the spirit of ABM, but that won’t be a popular view, I’m afraid.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, no. I think there’s two different parts. I think there’s the tools and then how they’re used. Just to your outreach story, because I had one, which was so bad, I actually shared it on LinkedIn. I actually just shared it on my blog. But, it was the third follow-up and they said, “Hey, could you please reply so I can check this off my list?” I’m like. I don’t get angry much, right, but I was like, what the… What’s going on in the world these days? With that being said, some of these, I guess, database is helpful to get contact information? Or, how would you go about just getting that opt in so that you can send them something, because you need to start somewhere? And, how do you get started?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, well, one option is to start using social media. So, if you know what they’re interested in, and you’re commenting on things that they’re interested in, you can start a conversation and follow each other. You can get it going that way. So, that’s a good use of social media, I think, because you’ve got to be relevant for them to want to engage with you. You can buy lists and things. I won’t mention any names, because there’s a bunch of them, but you can give them, here’s the companies, here’s the roles, if you spot somebody that fits this profile, show this ad, and then get them to come through to us, and we’ll then register them and get their permission to engage them. So, that’s another way that you can go about it as well.

So, there’s different approaches, but I think the key thing is, as you say, you can use the tool, but it’s the approach that you take with the tool, that’s the key thing. I don’t know if you look at the Marketoonist. I love the Marketoonist. And, when you were telling your story there, Alex, one of his latest cartoons, it was literally, one email coming in, ignored, another email coming in, ignored, another email coming in. And, this person gets to the sixth one, and they respond and say, oh, look, for God’s sake, go away or something. But, the email that comes back is, thank you for confirming your email address.

Alex Cleanthous:

Oh, that’s awesome.

Bev Burgess:

The Marketoonist, have a look at it. It’s brilliant.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, definitely. It’s certainly highly recommended. You’ve shared quite a lot of tactical stuff, as well as strategic stuff. So, thank you for that. What are some of the coolest campaigns that you’ve seen? You shared before about the VR goggles, or whatever it was, that’s smart. Are there any really, cool, smart campaigns that weren’t so expensive, as having to send 70 VR goggles out with all that type of stuff? But, are there other smart ideas that you’ve seen that you went, hmm, that’s something different, I haven’t thought of that, or, that’s I think it’s cool?

Bev Burgess:

There’s cool tactics, so someone was trying to sell to McDonald’s, so they built a direct mail piece that was basically a Big Mac, and each layer of the Big Mac was a different part of the solution that they could give to McDonald’s. And, they had it delivered and all that sort of stuff. So, that was pretty cool it and it was a physical thing, right on what the client understood, speaking in their language, if you like. Oh, gosh, there’s a lovely one from, I think it was SAP, who couldn’t hold their usual Golf Day, for example, so they asked the people in their key accounts to film themselves taking a golf swing. And, then they got them on a Zoom call where a golf pro analysed the golf swing, and gave them some feedback. That was pretty cool. It didn’t cost a lot, it was a golf pro, their time, really. And, that wasn’t into one account, that was into a range of important accounts, trying to engage a more exec level, if you like.

There’s all sorts of stuff. Curating custom eBooks and providing assets that salespeople can customise for their accounts. So, if you are doing a cluster, and you’ve created all the content, but then the salesperson can use something like follows, to really create a very custom publication for one of their stakeholders, that’s developed and been pretty cool recently as well.

Alex Cleanthous:

So, there’s a lot of customization, isn’t there, in account-based marketing, right? There’s a lot of high-value touch points, where you really want to stand out and be seen as quality and like, oh, wow, they did that? I would definitely have a conversation. I’m so impressed with that. Yeah, that’s worth a conversation at least. And, then, at least, that’s the foot in the door. But, that can also be used to grow the relationship, hey, we already have them as a client, they’re in our top 10, let’s send them something to really expand that account.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah. Yeah, exactly right. You’ve got to stand out, it’s the same… And, actually, as more and more people do account-based marketing, your account-based marketing has got to be more creative. Because, if everyone is doing some personalization, how are you going to go beyond that?

Alex Cleanthous:

It’s funny now, I think, with all that happened in 2020, and with the contraction and expansion, everyone’s scared, and then opening and so on, and then closing and so on, so it’s that customer-centric approach is the key for all marketing now, right? Yeah, if you sell electrical services, sure, right, that’s a search campaign on Google, right. But, if you sell anything, that is a process and that takes time to make a decision on, and there’s a contract of some sort, and it’s selling two businesses, that customer-centric approach is the cost of entry. And, when account-based marketing seems to do is, it takes the customer-centric approach, and really focuses on a few customers. Yeah? Is that the best way to say that?

Bev Burgess:

That’s a nice way of saying it, yeah, it is completely customer-centric. The companies that have been doing it a while, they’re scaling that customer-centric. Either they’re putting more people on it, or they’re using the technology that’s available. Or, in the case of Microsoft in North America, they’re seeing their account-based marketing team as an incubator for great new creative marketing ideas. So, they do it on a few accounts, and they share the tactics out to the wider marketing team to use. So, it is a really good source of customer-centric innovation, if you like.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, great. And, there’s a couple more points left, but where do you see account-based marketing going in the future? Obviously, it’s come so far in the last 20 years with all the tech and the platforms and everything. Where’s it going next?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, this is a really tough one. I need to get the crystal ball out.

Alex Cleanthous:

You wrote the book on it, so if someone’s going to crystal ball it, it’s going to be you.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, I’m going to do it, okay. What we are seeing is, more and more people are embedding their programmes, and it becomes business as usual, the way we do marketing. Or, the way we do the bits of marketing that sit under brand, or around product development, solution development, and so on. So, I think, the way that you do industry marketing, that’s increasingly, these three companies in the industry, we’ll treat as one-to-one accounts, then we’ve got a couple of clusters of different issue-led groups. And, then we’ve got a more programmatic, always on, going out to the rest of the companies we want to do business with in that industry.

So, where industry marketing used to be, well, I’ll go to this retail show, and then I’ll have a retail roundtable. It’s becoming even more intelligent and sophisticated. So, I think ABM is influencing that. I think the one-to-many programmatic is influencing demand gen campaigns, whether they’re horizontal, out to a particular type or, therefore, a particular type of solution. So, as I sit here, I think there’s no sign of interest in ABM stopping. I think it is continuing to shape the way that we do B2B marketing, outside of the more umbrella branding campaigns or whatever.

Bev Burgess:

So, even that, even the way we do branding, I think branding, how we want to be perceived in an individual account and getting our brand preference up, ABM is a great way of doing that as well. So, I see it continuing to shape the way we do B2B marketing.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, and I think for people that are thinking that, well, this is probably something I should do, but not just yet. Your competitors that do this are going to eat your lunch, they just are, because it’s so much better for the customer. It’s so much more customer-centric than just some outreach and some Facebook ads or some LinkedIn ads or whatever that you want to be doing and some outbounding without all the marketing support. So, this is something we’re investing pretty heavily, and it’s something which takes a bit of time to get there. It takes a bit of time for you to, actually… because, there’s so many parts, there’s so many moving parts, you know.

Alex Cleanthous:

So, yeah, no, this has really been really good. Now, you have a new book coming out, called Executive Engagement Strategies, How to Have Conversations and Develop Relationships That Build A B2B Business.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah. I was going to ask you, how is that different to the account-based marketing book?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah.

Alex Cleanthous:

It sounds similar to me.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah. No. And, it is. That came out, actually, in March this year… Sorry, last year, 2020. So, the reason I wrote that was because I saw people that had ABM programmes, so O2 in the UK, Adobe, they had also started exec engagement programmes, partly because they realised that, even when they’re doing ABM, they’re increasingly, commonly needing to get to a senior level in the organisation. And, why wouldn’t you engage execs? Because they have a budget that they don’t always share. So, they’ve got access to budget, they can speed up solutions, and they help you shape your solution, so it’s right for their business. So, they are key. We’re seeing more and more people trying to get up to that level.

So, again, I saw this trend, I thought, okay, let’s try and capture this. ITSMA has researched how execs want to engage for, God, about 20 years now. And, so we brought all of that thinking together into this book on how you decide which execs, how you decide what they’re interested in, and what they want to hear about, and then how you build your executive engagement activities around those two things. And, actually, the biggest challenge is a bit like ABM, is getting lined up internally to do it, and getting your execs and your account managers and your subject matter experts in front of the executives that matter for the future of your business, really.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, I think that’s such a fabulous point, and that is on my list to read. I have a big list. Your first book was so amazing. The hardest place to begin with ABM is internally, it’s changing mindset, it’s changing process, it’s changing how you think about things. And, it’s investing in something that is a bit more long-term, right? On that point, how long should somebody test the pilot, or account-based marketing, just for their organisation? Once the research has been done, and the strategy has been set, now the campaign’s started, how long should you expect the return to start to see something?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah, that’s a great question. When we look at metrics, three months is short-term. So, you might not see increases in revenue or anything in three months, depends on your sales cycle. But, you might see some leading indicators. You might see new meetings being set up with people you hadn’t reached before, or increased interest in what you have to say about a particular area. So, getting those leading indicators is important. Your account team and your sales team might also notice that they’re getting a better relationship with marketing and what marketing is doing is more helpful for them. So that internal feedback.

In six months, you could be getting requests for proofs of concept or invitations to pitch for staff. So, you’re looking opportunity pipeline, certainly there, if not within three. But, it’s really, you should be running thinking of a year, testing it for the year, improving the case in the year, because that’s when you really start to see results. Sorry if this sounds awful, but, really, best results kick in after a year. The longer you do this, when you’ve got a programme embedded, we see the outcomes that people are getting, double, once they’ve been going, and they’ve got a programming embedded. That can take two or three years, so that’s when you really start.

Alex Cleanthous:

That continues to roll on after that. So, as long as you’re continuing to start something every three months, then after a year, then every three months, it should be starting to hit. But, I do like your point on the leading indicators thing, right? If it’s just silence, okay, maybe that’s a warning. You should have some leading indicators, right? Like to say, okay, we’re on the right path.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah. And, the key thing is getting agreement on those with your salespeople, with your account directors. And, when you start to see those coming through, that keeps the momentum and keeps them interested and keeps them on board. Because, we know salespeople get bored really quickly. If they’re not seeing anything, they’ll go on to the next thing. You’ve got to really understand what’s in it for them and show them the results as well.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, fantastic. I’ve got a few quickfire questions that I’d like to ask at the end of every podcast. Let’s start with those and then we’ll wrap it up shortly after that. So, number one, and it’s five questions, what book has had the biggest impact on your success?

Bev Burgess:

Oh, wow, that’s a really-

Alex Cleanthous:

It’s going to be like those ones. Yeah, it’s going to be random things like that. Yeah.

Bev Burgess:

Okay. I really like Kenichi Ohmae, who wrote The Mind Of The Strategist, and it’s a while ago now. I loved that book. And, it was at this stage of my career where it just set a whole load of light bulbs off, about strategy and business.

Alex Cleanthous:

Oh, great. And, I’ve heard a lot of strategy books, but I haven’t heard of that one. Thank you. Number two, what’s your number one piece of advice for hiring awesome people?

Bev Burgess:

Don’t be afraid to hire people who aren’t like you.

Alex Cleanthous:

Hmm. That’s a good one. That’s a hard one. That takes experience.

Bev Burgess:

That is really hard.

Alex Cleanthous:

That takes a lifetime.

Bev Burgess:

Yeah.

Alex Cleanthous:

Cool. Number three, what’s your best time management or productivity tip?

Bev Burgess:

Yeah.

I wouldn’t say I’m brilliant at this. Honestly, all I do is, I say what’s urgent, and what can I do later? And, I put all the stuff that I’ve got to do into those two lists.

Alex Cleanthous:

Okay, good. Number four, what’s the best piece of business advice that you’ve received?

Bev Burgess:

The best piece of business advice I’ve received is, do something that you actually believe in, because if you believe in it, then you’re not faking anything, you’re authentic, you’re genuine. I think that’s why, after 17 years or something, I’m still doing ABM because I really believe in it.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, great. And, number five, this is a way easier one, how do you relax after a crazy day in the office or the home office now?

Bev Burgess:

I’m a gardener and a horticulturalist. So, I just get my hands in the soil, basically.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah, great. I can see your plants behind you, they look great. They look very green and very well looked after. You’ll see I don’t have any plants. I kill cactus’s, but that’s just because I don’t focus on it. Thank you so much for those answers. Now, if there’s one thing that you want our listeners to do, like some site to go, some book to buy, some place to check out, what would you like them to do? Or, where should they go?

Bev Burgess:

I think, go to itsma.com. Because, there is such a lot of great information there. It’s not all member content. So, there’s a lot of stuff that you can see without being a member. It will just give you one idea that you can apply into your job. And, you’re investing in yourself. You’re learning. So, that’s all good.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah. And, it’s certainly something I can highly recommend. I think, I landed on the ITSMA website first because I was looking around for account-based marketing, and I saw the charts and all that. Everything led back to the ITSMA website. Every time I went to account-based marketing, all the references went back there again, and then I found your book. So, on top of that, I would highly recommend that if you’re interested in account-based marketing, check out Bev Burgess’ book, Practical Guide to Account-Based Marketing. It explains everything, step by step. Not as friendly as this conversation right now, but this is a good intro.

Alex Cleanthous:

And, that book, I bought that book for everybody that was working on that account and had to target these Fortune 100 companies and it opened up all our minds. And, these are seasoned marketers that have been doing this stuff for 15, 20 years, hadn’t heard of it, could easily apply it, wasn’t that simple, obviously, but it really changed how we thought about all marketing after that. It’s very, very highly recommended.

Alex Cleanthous:

Bev, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I got to ask you all the questions that I had. I hope that the people that are listening, have found the value of account-based marketing through this podcast. But, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today and have a good evening, morning. Morning or evening?

Bev Burgess:

Morning.

Alex Cleanthous:

Have a good morning.

Bev Burgess:

Morning, yes.

Alex Cleanthous:

I’m evening. I should have known that, it’s obvious. Thanks so much, Bev. Speak to you soon.

Bev Burgess:

It’s been a pleasure. It’s been really good fun. Thanks.

Alex Cleanthous:

Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the Growth Manifesto Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes. For more episodes, please visit growthmanifesto.coms/podcast. If you need help driving growth for your company, please get in touch with us at webprofits.io.

Adrian Clark

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