Many shiny objects never emerge from the initial frothiness of their introduction. But it’s clear that 2016’s fascination with account-based marketing (ABM) is here to stay. It’s also clear that the B2B industry’s leading companies and executives have been busy operationalizing ABM’s key components, giving them a head-start already in 2017.
Last week I caught up with Lars Nilsson, vice president of global inside sales for Cloudera, as well as Meagen Eisenberg, chief marketing officer for MongoDB, to talk about what ABM and marketing technology mean to them in 2017, what’s new and has changed since last year, and how they’re planning to focus, and execute, in the months ahead.
Both Lars and Meagen will join me as speakers at the upcoming Revenue Summit in San Francisco, March 7-8.
Matt: What stands out to you so far in 2017 about how sales & marketing have changed? Internal or external conditions, increasingly complex buyers, whatever. In other words, how have you already had to adjust to the market to drive results for your business?
Lars: Feels like “Account Based” Marketing AND Sales has become the conversation centerpiece around both technology and process. Those not doing it yet are now been bombarded with all the vendors saying they do it and are left scratching their heads on just how to start and whom to help them get there. ICP and Persona based marketing are must have strategies today for any marketing organization, so getting into the same room with sales and deciding together those targets will matter huge in FY’17. What I would also love to see in FY’17 is an official “re-definition” of the MQL. Serious Decisions came up with the term in their now famous lead “waterfall”. The definition back then was largely left up to Marketing organizations and they often lumped in any lead/inbound inquiry/registration from any program, event, website regardless of disposition. IMO, Buying intent has to be some part of the qualifier or else we will continue to Eloqua-and-SDR-to-death our leads and drive more opt-outs than opt-ins.
Meagen: The channels of communications get more and more crowded every day. While we are addicted to our mobile devices, we are also easily distracted and hard to captivate longer than a few seconds. I think the availability of AI tools across the marketing and sales stack will help companies innovate and obtain a competitive advantage in 2017 and beyond. The recent development in sales tools levering AI to better manage sales process and productivity is a direction we want to be headed in. We are looking at tools like Nexd.ai and People.ai.
Matt: Talk about the best practices you’ve employed internally to drive greater results by integrating cross-departmental efforts more successfully? Sales and marketing, but even beyond that.
Meagen: Our best practices align around our sales and marketing partnership and include: 1. Building our models together based on SiriusDecisions best practices (funnel, scoring, personas, messaging, sales enablement), 2. Habitual communication – weekly if not daily, and 3. Transparency in results that are all sitting on a pretty sophisticated tech stack. I think we have over 25 tools between the two departments.
Lars: In 2015 and 2016, we pioneered Account Based Sales Development at Cloudera and drove significant increases in pipeline build, but we did it without MQL’s or marketing in the conversation. Today, Sales is sharing our best practices around ABSD and Marketing is sharing their best practices around ABM and together we are tuning an ABS&M engine that should drive even better results. Beyond just sharing best practices between demand gen and sales development org’s, we also re-aligning Field Marketing resources and programs to a more account based approach hoping for increased %’s of relevant personas in the accounts we care about.
Matt: How important is it to operate marketing as a profit center? What have you done to change the conversation, reporting dashboards and more to increase impact and perception of marketing at the c-suite and board level?
Lars: I don’t know if I see marketing carrying their own discreet quota for closing business in the near term for B2B Enterprise Technology sales, but I do see Marketing sharing a growing % of the # and cutting back on programs and events that don’t drive awareness to the account targets and buyers that matter.
Meagen: Operating marketing as a profit center is important for acquiring budget and headcount. If you can show cost/economics to acquire customers and high sourcing of pipeline and revenue attributed to marketing spend, you can gain the attention of the CRO and CFO.
Lars, what’s different this year vs last year in how you’re managing and driving results from your inside sales team?
Lars: We’ve double-clicked on our own Account Based Sales Development processes and included more technology to help us find more relevant targets. By deploying these Account Based Intelligence tools, SDR’s are guided to where accounts are in essence “raising their hands” for us to reach out. Demandbase Sales Accelerator‘s SFDC plugin provides daily intelligence on page visits to our website, segmented on an account-by-account basis. We can see traffic trends on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis, reverse engineer the personas interested in our content, and reach out to them. We’re also taking advantage of our own Hadoop technology to join “buyer intent” data from Bombora with Salesforce.com account data in Tableau.
This helps us understand potential buyer intent by tracking keyword searches inside any of our target accounts. SDRs can segment by the Account Managers and territories they are responsible for, and strategize with the account team how to hunt down accounts. The amazing thing is these are tools that are owned by our Marketing team that our SDRs are leveraging. How about that? Combine the two and we can often tell when a potential prospect has a “surging” interest in Cloudera and many of the products and solutions we sell. I have not been this excited since Garth Moulton and Jim Fowler founded Jigsaw (now Data.com) and sales reps gained free and broad scale access to buyer personas for the first time.
Matt: Meagen, how has your martech strategy shifted over the past 12-18 months? New categories or needs that have emerged as key to your stack and/or results?
Meagen: Social has been big for us – and we love the tools recently launched on finding influencers by Insightpool. We are looking more into account-based marketing tools. We already have Demandbase heavily deployed on the site. But we are piloting and checking out tools like ZenIQ, Terminus and Engagio. And Conversica looks interesting to liven up and qualify our lower scored leads. And I already mentioned the sales process and productivity tools.
Matt: Why is it so important to have an event like Revenue Summit that brings both sales & marketing leaders together in one place?
Lars: The usual best practice sharing, connecting with like professionals and understanding that were all in the this together. Growing any company is fricken’ hard an you will always need a leg up and it events like these that provide a friendly and fun environment to do it in
Meagen: The success of a marketing organization and more specifically the CMO to lead marketing, is the relationship between marketing and sales and the CRO and CMO. If those two departments are not closely aligned and working through all the hand-offs, conversions and bottlenecks every week, I would seriously look at replacing the leaders. The CEO should demand and encourage a strong partnership. In B2B businesses, the health and future of a company is in the predictability of the revenue and pipeline being generated.
Matt: What do you most look forward to at an event like Revenue Summit? Content, networking, strategic vs tactical ideas, etc?
Meagen: I love the networking side and learning about best practices and technologies other companies are deploying.
Lars: Networking and listening to learnings from both failures and successes from speakers onstage.