Keeping up with ABM: tips from the FlipMyFunnel conference

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I attended my first FlipMyFunnel conference this month, and picked up some fresh insights into Account Based Marketing (ABM).  I’ve explored ABM before— with interviews here and here, for example.  But this event helped me understand how ABM has grown, thrived, and settled itself into an established part of modern B2B thinking.  Launched eight years ago by the digital ad platform company Terminus, #FMF has taken on a life of its own.  Here are some of the many ideas I gleaned.

The opening keynoter was Sangram Vajre, co-founder of Terminus and its chief evangelist.  Vajre is a fluid and engaging speaker, with a lot of pizzazz.  The theme of the conference was “Humanizing B2B,” which leads me into my observations from the day.

  • It’s clear that B2B marketing has been revolutionized by technology—from the Internet itself, to the myriad (nearly 7,000) martech point solutions available these days. While speeding up the process, marketing automation can unfortunately make us less effective.  “Don’t hide behind the technology,” said Vajre.  He recommended that we marketers adopt more personal, meaningful communications vehicles, and he suggested techniques like handwritten notes, and one-to-one video embedded in email.
  • ABM is being adopted widely, but it’s not a replacement for the traditional demand generation funnel. It’s a supplement.  “You need both,” said Vajre.  This reminded me of the longstanding debate about inbound versus outbound in B2B.  How refreshing that the ABM community recognizes that it’s not a matter of one or the other.
  • Sales and marketing must share the same metrics. “We need one scorecard,” said Vajre.  His recommended metric:  the amount of time the teams spend on developing the right customers.

Big ideas came thick and fast for the rest of the day.

  • Think of the customer journey as an “account journey,” said Lindsay Becker and Lisa deDonato form LogMeIn. Track all the touches, inbound and out, at the account level.  So doing, you can not only determine the best touch sequence into an account, but you can also legitimately claim marketing involvement in sales results.  LogMeIn reports that 97% of their opportunities are impacted by marketing.
  • Deliberate communications between marketing and sales is key to success in ABM. Catina Martinez of Pluralsight makes sure to meet weekly with her sales counterparts, to explain their specific roles in upcoming campaigns, and work together on effective account penetration strategies.
  • Go back and look at the search terms that brought in your customers over the prior three, six or nine months, says Mike Madden of Marketo. You’ll be surprised at the breadth of topics people searched on, and you’ll generate great ideas for fresh content to attract more buyers like them.
  • Marketers need to go out on more sales appointments, according to Kristin Novak of National Instruments. She once found herself in a very technical meeting, where she had to ask several questions to get the conversation straight.  On the way out the door, the National Instruments sales rep thanked her, saying he had gained many new insights into the account and its needs thanks to her willingness to step back and probe on the basics.
  • Under the ABM approach, it’s less important to generate form-fills, and more important to build relationships. So Elle Woulfe of PathFactory recommends that, with target accounts, you un-gate your content.  Makes a lot of sense.  [Note to Biznology publisher Mike Moran: remember the argument  you and I had about this some years ago? I’m coming around to your side.]

The FMF exhibit hall offered a trove of clever ways to practice ABM more effectively.  Tchotchke alert: Crazy colored socks were everywhere.

  • Your employees are likely having conversations with more individual prospects in target accounts than may actually get key-entered into your systems. How to capture and leverage this asset?  Have Sigstr keep track of corporate emails at the account level, pulling in fresh contacts to your database as they turn up.  Sigstr will also enable personalized banner ads within your company email signatures for an extra marketing touch.
  • Marketing automation has had the unintended consequence of narrowing our outbound communications options to mostly email. But marketers must find ways to deepen customer relationships via other channels, too. PFL and Sendoso can help. Their tools operate within your CRM system to let marketers and sales reps order up direct mail shipment of collateral, gift boxes, logo merchandise, even food, on a global basis.
  • As getting a sales meeting requires more and more touches, and we seek improved relevance through personalization, the messaging process can become overwhelmingly complex. Conversica offers a nifty way to automate some of the drudgery, by reading customer responses and sending out prearranged messages based on what the customer is actually saying.  With the added benefit of a bit of sales rep supervision: If the next touch is supposed to be a SDR call, the tool can check with the prospect about whether the call ever came in, and schedule it again if needed.

Top quotes of the day:

  • “CRM data ages like fish, not like wine.” —Justin Keller of Sigstr.
  • “The relationships we are trying to build are with humans.” Nikki Nixon, director of FlipMyFunnel.
  • “ABM is hard.”  –Sangram Vajre of Terminus.

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