How to Drive ABM Transformation in Your Organization

Transformation doesn’t happen by itself.

Just because you’ve become convinced of the benefit of account-based marketing, it doesn’t mean everyone else in the company will be on board.

You’ll have executives to persuade, teams to align, and terminology to circulate.

In other words, if you want ABM transformation...you have to drive it.

As I’ve been talking to marketing leaders who have adopted ABM, they’ve faced the problems I described above.

They’ve driven (and are driving) ABM transformation in their organizations in various ways. Some have had an easier time than others.

Check out these 12 responses to the question, “How are you driving ABM transformation in your organization?”

These firsthand experiences will help you overcome the challenge of organization-wide ABM adoption.

1) Andy Zimmerman, Chief Marketing Officer at Evergage

For Andy, the foremost way to drive ABM transformation is to have a staff member dedicated to it.

The woman who fulfills that role for Evergage is a former BDR, which Andy thinks is a really important aspect of her background. She’s been on the phone starting conversations, so she understands the sales process and challenges.

She’s made the move from the prospecting world to the marketing world, and she’ll be a key liaison between sales and marketing.

Several companies are repurposing people for ABM roles but not necessarily dedicating people to them. Andy felt that if they were to going to do ABM right, they needed someone focused on it.

The other necessary ingredient for ABM transformation is buy-in across the executive team in sales and marketing. A lot of the leads generated in marketing don’t lead to conversions, and salespeople say they’re not good.

This is a great opportunity for marketing to step up, ask what type of leads sales wants, and go after them.

2) Rishi Dave, Chief Marketing Officer at Dun & Bradstreet

Rishi and his team are driving ABM by starting with data and analytics in order to pick the right set of accounts.

Obviously, they need to have a clean, integrated, comprehensive view of the customers that they have and the prospects they want to target.

They build analytics on top of that view to make sure that in real-time they’re prioritizing the right set of accounts for the right set of solutions that they provide.

They do this in a number of ways, including predictive analytics, lookalike modeling (taking successful accounts and finding similar ones), and working with the sales team to get qualitative data in addition to quantitative.

3) Ashley Nuzum, Marketing Manager at PrecisionLender

It took a couple of quarters, but the biggest transition for for PrecisionLender’s marketing team was how directly they work with their sales team.

Before they changed their go-to-market strategy, they had a heavily events-based strategy, going to a lot of industry conferences and getting business cards that they would pass over the fence to sales. From that point it felt like marketing was done.

But now Ashley’s team is defining their ideal customer profile with sales. This isn’t only from their current clients; it’s also where they want to be as a company in the next five to ten years.

Once that’s defined, they work with sales to cherry-pick from a large target bucket.

4) Peter Isaacson, Chief Marketing Officer at Demandbase

Over the last 2-3 years, Peter has seen the market move very quickly from a bunch of people kicking the tires on ABM to saying, “Tell me a little more,” to saying “We’re actually implementing ABM. We want to improve our performance and get more sophisticated.”

This has transformed marketing organizations from one person doing a part-time investigation of ABM to having a few people throughout the organization collaborating to execute the strategy.

So for Peter, the way to drive transformation is to add the right people. More and more, the expectation is that everyone in the marketing department has a role in ABM.

5) Andres Botero, Chief Marketing Officer at Aria Systems

Andres spent all last year laying out the foundation for ABM and deploying Engagio.

As time has passed and the people and mindset are ready to go, they’re trying to do everything through the lens of ABM. Much less traditional and volume-based marketing.

To ensure transformation, they establish quarterly ABM objectives. Everyone in the organization is aligned to those specific objectives.

6) Tracy Eiler, Chief Marketing Officer at InsideView

How is ABM driven?

“From the top,” Tracy said.

“It’s a key initiative for me as CMO. I talk about it in our leadership meetings; it’s our number one initiative. I’m using engagement measures, regularly talking about progress in meetings, and so on.”

7) Keith Nealon, CEO at Vyze

At first, Vyze didn’t have an ideal customer profile.

So step one for Keith was defining that, then figuring out how to use ABM to target those accounts.

It was always a question of focus. They needed to identify ideal customers, then get focused on them and understand their pain points. Not just at an account level but at a persona level.

Then Keith’s job was to get their organization internally to understand why those accounts were the ideal customer.

8) Jessica Cross, Head of Customer Lifecycle at AdRoll

Before Jessica even started at the company, AdRoll had already focused on driving top quality accounts. That was already part of the culture, so there wasn’t much transformation required.

They have made the move away from doing pure demand generation, though.

Instead, they’ve shifted to comprehensive digital, direct mail, and sales outreach campaigns on their target accounts.

9) Peter Herbert, VP Marketing at Terminus

Prior to joining Terminus, one of the most important things Peter emphasized to his team is that marketing should be the champions of ABM.

Their role is to help sales become as efficient and successful as possible.

In his former role, Peter’s team viewed their account-based initiative as transformation that they were leading within the organization.

10) Pat Morrissey, CMO at Altify

Altify is trying to take a much more strategic view of the world, moving all reps in all geographies to a named account basis.

That’s one of the challenges of transformation. People like the idea of transformation, but when you say to the reps, “We’re going to take your territory down to x number of accounts,” it starts to get uncomfortable.

This has required Pat’s team to work more hands-on not just with sales leaders but with the reps themselves to understand their view of accounts, territories, and what’s important.

11) Joe Quinn, Section Manager, Account Based Marketing, Americas at National Instruments

National Instruments started doing ABM about nine years ago. They built a business proposal to say that the work they were doing on accounts was the most fruitful.

One necessary transformation was figuring out how to build a business case around a formal account-based marketing plan. That was their first phase of ABM transformation.

Nine years later, they have a sales organization that’s investing a lot more in account management. The company has also taken steps in order to tier their customers.

So the transformation was how to take this ABM function, which for the past five years was about giving love to a book of accounts, to actually building in a strategic program that’s aligned to the tiering of their customers and to the account management evolution of their Salesforce.

12) Keith Alsheimer, Chief Marketing Officer at EnterpriseDB

We asked Keith how he drove ABM in his org, and his answer was straightforward.

“It’s tough sledding, honestly,” he said. “I did a lot of research, got the executive team bought in, and got the communication changed in the organization to an account structure, which was very difficult. Then there’s this learning process you go through as you’re doing it.

“You can’t flip a switch and have it out there. You’re evolving as you go. But ultimately, the thing that makes the most difference is showing people. When people see it, they get it. Trying to describe it to them is too hard.”

Conclusion

If there’s a theme here, it seems to be that ABM must be driven from the top. If executives aren’t bought in, transformation has no chance.

Once executives are bought in, be extremely intentional about spending time with the people that will be on the front lines of your strategy. Start conversations, and be ready to answer a lot of questions.

When you consistently communicate the vision and strategy to your team, you’ll see a culture-shifting transformation that drives revenue.

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James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast agency for B2B brands. He’s a contributor for the Huffington Post & Business Insider, and he also co-hosts a top-ranked podcast according to Forbes: B2B Growth.

When James isn’t interviewing the smartest minds in B2B marketing, he’s drinking Cherry Coke Zero, eating Swedish Fish, and hanging out with the most incredible woman on the planet (that he somehow talked into marrying him).

Thinking about launching a podcast for your B2B brand? Here’s a 26-step process that will explain exactly how to do it.

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