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How Conversational Marketing Makes ABM Magic

Here at Qualified, we believe in the power of real-time conversations. But we don’t just sell the power of Conversational Marketing to our customers–we like to drink our own champagne! Our platform is a key part of our ABM strategy as well.

In our Qualified on Qualified blog series, we share our best practices to help Conversational Marketing practitioners optimize their own sales and marketing efforts. 

Today’s post welcomes back Sarah McConnell, Qualified’s Head of Demand Generation, who shares how Qualified uses ABM–specifically, a target account strategy–in conjunction with Conversational Marketing.

Here’s what Sarah had to share:

Q: How do you define ABM?

A: Account-based marketing, or ABM, has various definitions depending on who you ask. It’s become a bit of a buzzword. In my mind, ABM means adopting a mindset within your company that a majority of your marketing and sales efforts should be laser-focused on specific accounts that your team has decided are the best fit for your company—in other words, the most qualified. If an action isn’t going to bring in business from those accounts, it is deprioritized.

Broad-based marketing vs Account-based marketing

Q: Why did you decide to use an ABM strategy at Qualified?

A: We know ABM strategies work and we expect them to pay dividends in the future. When I was interviewing for my current role, the founders shared that there are specific types of companies that find the most value from our product. For example, if you don’t use Salesforce, Qualified really isn’t the Conversational tool for you. 

So we knew who we needed to target, but hadn’t yet strategized campaigns or spend from the ground up to serve those accounts. It was clear we needed a better way to target these qualified prospects. We recognized that we needed work swiftly and nimbly to get an ABM solution up and running to stay on top of our revenue generation game.

Q: How does Conversational Marketing fit into your ABM program?

A: I used to be in a role where I tried to do ABM without Conversational Marketing. It was a challenge because we would put a lot of resources (and money!) into reaching our target accounts, but when a visitor from a target account clicked one of our ads and came to our site, I was simply crossing my fingers and hoping my landing page would convert that visitor into a lead. Like most websites, the only way to convert that visitor into a lead was through a form fill. It felt like a black hole. 

Our ABM metrics showed that we had great penetration to our target accounts–they were clicking our ads and coming to our website–but I had minimal leads to show for it and even less attributable pipeline. This was the impetus for getting a Conversational Marketing tool.

Without Conversational Marketing, you lack the ability to convert target accounts quickly. If they’re really interested, you want to give them a fast track to ask questions. When left to their own devices on your website, they might bounce and never come back. Or worse, visit a competitor's site who does have Conversational Marketing and get into a sales cycle with them before you even knew that potential lead existed.

By integrating Conversational Marketing with our ABM strategy, we’re not only able to market to target accounts, but we can actually start conversations with prospects that are likely to convert.

Q: How have you set up the back-end systems to create an ABM program?

A: Many enterprises have an ABM vendor of some kind, such as 6Sense or Demandbase, that will do a lot of the heavy lifting for the team, like alerts, reporting, and helping with strategy. But even if you don’t have one of these systems you can still start shifting to ABM. 

Regardless of ABM vendor, we encourage our customers to make sure their ABM strategy is well integrated with Salesforce, so when it comes time for reporting, all your data lives within Salesforce - your source of truth. Specifically, we recommend adding a custom field onto the Salesforce Account that signifies which tier the account belongs to within your ABM program. This way you can manage a large list of accounts, but place the real VIPs (those that will benefit your business the most) in a specific tier. After all, you can’t prioritize 13,000 accounts! 
At Qualified, we segmented our targets based on firmographic and technographic data, which includes information such as geography and company size. Then we tiered them out by company size and gave a corresponding name to each tier—more on that below. We put a custom field into Salesforce that specifies the tier and pushes this information into Qualified through our deep Salesforce integration. This way, when someone visits our site, our team can quickly see the ABM tier and prioritize their outreach accordingly (tip: check out our Conversational ABM ebook for a bunch of outreach strategies for target accounts).

Q: How have you set up your tiers for Target Accounts?

Every company is a little bit different in how they set up their tiers. Some might not need tiers because they will home in on a very small number of accounts, like no more than 20. At Qualified, we are expanding our market, so we have a much larger list of accounts we want to reach out to. This is where tiers come into play. 

In our case, we have about 30,000 accounts that we think fit our Ideal Customer Profile, or ICP, based on those firmographic and technographic data points I mentioned previously. Once we had all these accounts, we grouped them by company size using the same groupings Kraig (our co-founder and former Salesforce CMO) and his team used when they were at Salesforce to divide and prioritize these accounts.

We pair each of these with the MarTech tool that the company is using. For example, we might have a Pardot Diamond Account or a Marketo Gold Account.

The goal here is for our sales team to quickly recognize when a diamond or gold account visits the website. Then when there’s an influx of traffic to the site, it’s clear to the sales team who should get prioritized. When a diamond or gold account comes along, reps can start a conversation and create a VIP experience. That means a rep can connect with them by name, tailor the conversation to the company needs, and ask hyper-relevant, real-time questions to personalize the visitor’s experience. 

A Diamond account arrives at the site, greeted by the relevant sales rep

Q: What happens when a target account arrives on the Qualified website?

A: Qualified uses reverse IP address technology to identify each website visitor. We then match that person to account information Salesforce. From there we can instantly surface the ABM tier and account owner in the Qualified  platform. If a visitor arrives on the site and they match a company in our Salesforce instance, SDRs on the console hear a voice alert that says “Hot, hot– Marketo Diamond is on the site. It is [COMPANY NAME].” It will also create a desktop and Slack alert that say the same thing. 

It helps our sales team to know when they should jump in and start having those time-sensitive conversations.

Slack alert to sales reps, indicating that their target account is on the site

Q: What results has Qualified seen from implementing an ABM strategy?

A: When pipeline comes from target accounts, I know that we’re bringing in only qualified prospects, which will mean better deals. Our SDR team isn’t wasting time, and we reach our pipeline numbers faster. 

So, before launching our ABM program, 55% of pipeline came from accounts who are now on our ABM target account list. Since launch, 70% of pipeline is from target accounts in just three months. This speaks to improved alignment on marketing and sales efforts, plus much more targeted marketing and advertising campaigns. My goal is to get that number closer to 80-90% next year. 

Additionally, 62% of our prior closed won revenue from before we started our ABM strategy came from accounts who are now on our ABM target account list. Since launching, it is now up to 85% of revenue from that account list. This tells me the accounts on our list are the right accounts, and they are converting faster for a higher ASP. 

When I first started, we didn't have much of an ABM strategy, so the sales team and marketing team weren't aligned. We now have a weekly pipeline council meeting where we go over all the opportunities that were opened for the week and say, "How is it going? Where did they come from? Are they a good fit? Are they a bad fit?"

These questions used to be hard to answer, and even harder for the team to agree on. Now, we have so much more clarity into our targets. We simply say, “This opportunity is a Marketo Diamond” and everyone from sales to marketing to the executive team knows that is a great opportunity.

Q: What advice would you offer to other leaders looking to optimize an ABM program?

A: There are a lot of ways to optimize an ABM program, but here are my top pieces of advice:

  • Set up your back-end system. It's one thing to have a target account list that lives within your ABM platform. If you have a more mature ABM strategy, this is probably the situation you’re in. But making sure that you have a way to quickly see that information in Salesforce is still necessary. This will help you report on ABM efforts right in your system of record. It is a really low-lift, high-return initiative. 
  • Align your marketing and sales teams. As far as ABM advice goes, we hear this one a lot. But for your ABM strategy to be really effective, it has to be an ongoing, prioritized effort. It can be easy to gather stakeholders early on, all agree on the direction of your ABM strategy and then go your separate ways. But in high-growth companies, strategic direction can shift quickly. It is really important to have weekly or bi-weekly meetings with the practitioners on your team (those in sales and marketing who are hands-on in tactics every day) and at least monthly meetings with executive stakeholders to show results and make sure they are still aligned on strategy.
  • Complement your strategy with Conversational Marketing. If you're putting time and money into an ABM strategy your whole company is aligned around this, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your efforts. Having the ability to see a target account the moment they land on your website—and subsequently roll out the red carpet—will truly be a game changer for your results.


If you want to get more guidance and inspiration for creating ABM magic, check out our Conversational ABM Playbook.

Posted on
January 26, 2021
by
Corinne

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