ANA – Building Your ABM Marketing-to-Sales Playbook

laurie.pngThis was one of the most practical events I can remember.   My colleagues in the audience were as impressed and took notes 🙂

Laurie Beasley gave us an overview of a “Meeting Maker” campaign, several versions marketers can consider, and shared nuances of the “craft.”

The audience debated (sometimes passionately) typical assumptions, which may change with time.

Some of the most curious discussion points:

Young people do not open direct mail!  Yes, they do…  15 – 35 years old is the most attentive audience.

“Stick DM into a box…  the more it looks like an Amazon box… the better!

Phone touch is the most productive.

Trend – Marketing is reporting to sales.  Cisco just hired a person on top of CMO to be the head of marketing and sales.

Brief for the campaign…  sometimes not very useful if filled out by marketing.  Sales information is much more useful.  Tip – start from sales and validate with marketing.

Premium use: are you worrying that people respond because they just want the premium?  No need to worry (based on experience).

Best performing gift in Asia – crystal wine glasses (selling software).

Cost per demo: $1K – $2K

If your offer cannot be communicated in 10 words – scrap it.

Campaigns that do not run well are run by inside sales.  If needed, pick just a rep or two.

Even if we do not believe that anybody is answering their phones…  average response rate on tele-prospecting is going up!





Excellent presentation!

Book – Blue Ocean Shift


Excellent book!  As the Blue Ocean Strategy volume before it, the book is full of interesting examples.  This book also describes the process a company can use to shift its business to a “blue ocean” of customer value and reduced competition.

Blue Ocean Shift is possible in a variety of business areas (b-to-b and b-to-c), nonprofits, and even government institutions.


Examples of Blue Ocean Shift in different industries:

Citizen M hotel: a hotel targeted to a specific segment of travelers with a unique balance of services and price to delight its customers.






actifry.PNGActifry: how to create a better fryer?  Frying requires oil and customers perceived fried products as unhealthy; plus the danger of hot oil and oil disposal. Actifry created a new market and held market leadership thanks to timely secured patents.

maestro.pngMaestro for the masses: expansion of classical music to a new audience (people who normally do not listen to classical music); inclusion more accessible pieces into concerts and moving concerts to stadiums, which can accommodate a larger audience.

Malaysia‘s Community Rehabilitation Program: the program reduced the cost of isolating petty criminals (re-purposed unused military bases), isolated petty criminals from hardened criminals, and transferred the program to the rehabilitation objective rather than incarceration.  The prisoners had more contact with their families, learned marketable skills, and earned money during their incarceration.  The recidivism rate is a fraction of a “typical” prison system while costs are lower.

Excellent book!

Book – The Culture Code


This is one of the best books about the organizational culture I enjoyed.  Fascinating stories and useful examples expand the topic into a world of human nature.

The book starts with a “marshmallow challenge” highlighting the success of kindergarteners compared to business students and CEOs.  “Kindergartners succeed not because they are smarter, but because they work in a smarter way.”  Business students are engaged in status management, what distracts their attention from the task.

Culture is a set of living relationships working towards a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do.”

The doing of culture is synthesized in three critical skills.

  1. Build safety—“explores how signals of connection generate bonds of belonging and identity.”
  2. Share vulnerability—“explains how habits of mutual risk drive trusting cooperation.”
  3. Establish purpose—“tells how narratives create shared goals and values.”
New York Journal of Books

The book includes many examples of experiments and successful/unsuccessful cultures.

  • In a rainy day, a stranger is asking a person to borrow his/her cell phone.  If the stranger starts with “I am so sorry about the rain…” the probability to receive the phone increases over 400%.  The phrase suggests that it is a safe place to connect.
  • A call center (one of “the best companies to work for” in India) wanted to increase retention. A group of new employees received an additional hour of onboarding where they could connect with the company as individuals.  Employees in this group also received a sweatshirt not only with the company logo, but also with the employee name next to the logo.  This group was less likely to leave the company months after the onboarding they could not always recall.
  • Another call center hoped to increase productivity.  The group of employees was contacting university alumni and asking for donations.  The typical rejection rate was over 90%; the work was tedious.  The productivity increased (in the number of calls completed and $$ collected) after the employees heard from the students who benefited from their efforts.  The experiment started with a letter from a student describing how the scholarship changed his life and proceeded with 5 minutes meetings with other students, who received the scholarship.
  • Two different types of objectives require different approaches: a culture built for efficiency and a culture built for creativity.
    • Efficiency (restaurant) implies a clear set of “rules of thumb,” where each person knows what the correct “answer” is, and each person empowered to take needed actions.
    • Creativity (Disney, Pixar) requires a collaborative organization, which encourages to “create something new” and assumes multiple iterations of the process.  (Disney studio has been reorganized to achieve better results with the same employees, who discovered that their rules of engagement changed.)

Team performance is driven by 5 measurable factors:

  1. Everyone in the group talks and listens in a roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short
  2. Members maintain a high level of eye-contact and their conversations and gestures are energetic
  3. Members communicate directly to one another, not just with the team leader
  4. Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team
  5. Members periodically break, go explore outside the team and bring information back to share with the others

Webinar Nerd – Connection with Sales

webinar nerd.pngAn interesting point had been discussed during one of ON24 webinars featuring a successful client – connection with sales.  Degreed (ON24 client) tries to connect with sales organization as much as possible, and the webinar program is part of the effort.  After each webinar, Degreed marketing provides a pre-defined package to the sales organization, which includes a link to the webinar recording, key takeaways, and a sample of follow-up email.

Sales organization is also involved in the generation of webinar topics, and a monthly debrief about the webinar program performance.   

webinar follow up.PNG

The more sales were involved, the better we have got

Some webinars could be beneficial for customers; these webinars are added to the calendars of relevant account executives to make sure “we did not know!!”  complaint does not appear after the webinar.

Popular webinars include a partner and a customer.

Degreed marketing usually takes 6 weeks to promote a webinar.

2018 – State of Email and Email Benchmark Reports

Two recent reports approached email marketing from two different angles: technology implications and brand implications.  Both highlighted mobile views and gave recommendations for marketers to adapt…


IBM released email benchmark report, but the most interesting comment was related to brand.

As more and more consumers view their email messages on mobile devices, we might need to view an email as an ad, which may not be designed to get a click but to remind the target audience about the brand.  In this case… it might be quite acceptable to send more emails.

As the report is based primarily on the consumer data, I wonder if this approach can be entertained for the b-to-b audience. However, the topic of sending too many emails or not enough emails is now discussed more frequently.  Microsoft did an interesting email frequency test, which suggested that more email messages could be accepted and appreciated by the most profitable segments.

Brand and frequency discussion is interesting (and rather unexpected) industry development.


Canada does see higher email activity, what is attributed to regulations.  However, the difference between US and Canada is not as dramatic as I expected.

device.PNGDifference in device usage across regions seem to persist.


Litmus reviewed email world from a more technical perspective.

  • 3% of email users still click on “view online” option
  • Marketers are less likely to use separate content for mobile and desktop version to increase efficiency (is this trend alluding to potential “over-segmentation” we can hear in the industry more frequently now?)
  • Image scaling for retina display – one-third of marketers use this approach
  • New trend started in 2017: Gmail and Yahoo are giving “unsubscribe suggestions,” which, if successful, can spread to other areas


Interesting: email designers are concentrating on interactive experiences.  Maybe email truly moving into the category of an ad?  🙂

How ON24 Drives Demand With Webinars

ON24 shared a thoughtful approach on how webinars can be used throughout the sales cycle.  ON24 also shared the data to compare attendance of different webinar types.


Interesting: Customer Spotlights (what can be a good example of a useful case study) generate more registrants than vertical content.  This relationship might be different for other companies; a webinar platform might be used quite similarly across verticals.


Immediate translation is a very reasonable approach.




Interesting: ON24 does weekly demo webinars, which are also promoted by sales organization in their communications to prospects.


ON24 ran only one Sales References webinar so far, and it may not be suitable for industries with less forthcoming customers, but the concept is perfect for the specific stage in the sales cycle.


Hmmm….  Though every marketing organization seems to be creating videos for a specific account, a webinar is a similar idea – and it might be easier to produce than a video (in some cases).


MeritDirect Technology Marketing Exchange


Remarkably practical event!  Both sessions and networking portions sparked ideas for the future, questioned status quo, and offered useful tips to apply tomorrow.

Marketers discussed industry trends: ABM and Intent Data.  A rather unexpected (for me) “new trend” resonated through a couple of presentations: application of ABM to existing customers. 


MeritDirect case study

One of MeritDirect clients had a very niche market, where every potential customer has been probably touched already through a variety of channels.  MeritDirect team was able to analyze existing customers:

  • Some large organizations could potentially buy more products/services company offered
  • A limited number of contacts were known at each account

Approach: expand sales to existing customers (using ABM methodology)

  • Identify accounts who could potentially buy more
  • Define target persona in these organizations

The target persona was matched with data available in MeritDirect database, what allowed the company to purchase needed contacts.  The company executed direct mail and email campaign.  Campaign creative emphasized that promoted products and services were already purchased by other parts of the organization.

Ensuring that the recipient knew that the Supplier was already an approved vendor for their business provided the confidence and necessary protocols that many buyers in B2B environments need in order to make substantial purchases from a vendor.

The program was started with a limited test (one brand) and later expanded to several brands and $300,000 inclusive of data and production expenses.  The revenue directly attributed to the program was substantial: the company received $81 in return for every dollar invested.

Given the average tenure of a person at the same job within the same company, B2B marketers, particularly those who focus on the mid to large sized universe, need to target potential replacement contacts from reliable sources…  Additionally, there are often several different departments or divisions witin a company that may have a need for your product or service and be authorized to make or influence purchases.  Having captured a purchase from one department increases the affinity of other departments to also become customers.

(More MeritDirect case studies)


sap.PNG“You should select ABM approach, which fits your company’s strategy.”

SAP started with “one to few” ABM: the company selected 6 industries and 5-6 accounts in each industry.  SAP selected existing customers with additional purchasing potential.

  • First step – research: what would be interesting for this account?
  • Sales feedback was the most important (sales approve all creative)
  • Campaigns are designed based on the intent signals


1:1 approach: assets are built for the company, including their brand colors.

1:Few approach: assets are built for the group of companies (starting with a specific one); 80% is static, but 20% of the asset creative is changed based on a specific company.  For example, if Oil and Gas industry video for a specific account shows off-shore drilling, and the other target company does not have off-shore operations, this section of the video is replaced with an appropriate alternative.

“Anything we do for Toyota is in Japanese.”

“When we do a video, we also create a hard copy version for sales to use as a leave behind (or in any other way).”

SAP works with a very strong agency, which can digest all internal research and come up with the campaign strategy.  

“Many vendors will claim to do a lot of things, but if you are global, make sure your vendors have global reach.”

How do you get sales to review assets?  Go deep!  Who is selling?  It is most likely a person “in the trenches,” not necessarily sales leadership, would be your best contact.  Connect with these people, and they will be happy to help – and will be using your materials.

It takes a certain type of salesperson to use the materials.  Present 5 asset concepts to sales, they select some, build selected assets.  The process takes about 6 months.

SAP has approximately 375 different assets for 6 industries for 40 accounts.

What is the topic of ABM assets?  Not solutions.  “Thought leadership staff.  We describe what could be – it allows the salesperson to use the material to sell what he/she needs.”

It has to be about the customer: how can they do “x” better.  “Our purpose is to help our customers to help their customers, so all our lives improve.” At SAP, our purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.

“Ton of research.”  We need to know enough to tweak 20% of the asset.

  • report.PNGIndustry research (agency)
  • account research
  • internal account plan review
  • stakeholder mapping

Research also helps to get traction with the sales team.  “Account deep dive” is delivered for sales – a hefty PPT with invaluable account information.  Sales management is happy: “it saves my guys two months of work!”

How do you measure consumption of the assets delivered to sales?

  • At first, just talking with the sales organization and matching assets to the pipeline
  • Then, tracking digital metrics “from the right company”
  • The plan is to create a portal for easier access and better metrics

At the start of the ABM in any company, executives should not expect significant results in the first two years.  Executives must support the initiative and understand timelines.

Does SAP follow Demand Unit Waterfall process?  Not exactly.  The company is paying attention to the developments, however.


Campaigns do not dictate ABM focus and can run rather independently.  Materials and research generated as part of the ABM program, however, can be used wider.  Asset re-use: “If this issue is important for selected accounts, it will be important for others.”

ABM program owner regularly creates a slide with good results generated by the program, which is also approved by sales before it can be shared across the organization 🙂

Using Intent Data

lenovo.PNGMost organization have internal intent data; this insight is not enough.  External intent data is critical for an understanding of prospects’ behavior.

  • Pull closed won opportunities from your database
  • Check what they were researching 6 to 12 months before purchase (niche terms are better)
  • Check these terms currently; prepare content aligned to these terms

Interesting: Lenovo is evaluating campaigns feasibility based on an algorithm (how many contacts are needed to reach the desired goal).  The current program is run for 40,000 accounts.


Intent data is also used for campaign evaluations: if nobody is searching for the topic to be promoted, the campaign may not make sense.

Lessons learned:

  • Content is still king
  • Intenet generated increased engagement, conversion, and efficiency for 33% of cost reduction
  • 14% Increase of SQL to Won conversion

Targeting and testing

microsoft.PNGHow do you build personas?  Microsoft (b-to-c part of the business) has a wealth of purchasing data for analysis and experimentation.  After this session, lessons learned on the consumer audience seem to be highly applicable to b-to-b business…  as we are still selling to people.  🙂

Microsoft was trying to understand who was interested when, trying to align seasonal content to a specific customer persona.

Based on the purchasing data, the entire database was grouped into several clusters.


Some of the clusters were more active at the time when other clusters were not.  Almost all clusters were paying attention during the holiday season.

Clusters could also help to choose a better approach based on the test results.

For example, marketers tested “storytelling” approach.  The entire target audience received three versions of the same email: one email version was formatted as a story, another one had some elements of the story, and the last version concentrated on the facts: “cut to the chase.”


Marketers discovered that different approaches to the “storytelling” appealed to different personas.  Each version had its own fans.

Do we create 3 versions of each email?  No!  But we create the best version for the most important cluster for this message.

Another test tried to determine if the “computer on the beach” was enough, or specks and, potentially, lifestyle images, would increase the purchasing.


Again, different approaches appealed to different personas.

The most interesting and controversial test discussed during the conference was the frequency test.  During one otherwise uneventful month, select groups of people received a different number of emails, ranging from a “normal” 2 to 3 messages per week to 5 messages per week, and even 7.


The result gave marketers enough data to answer questions from colleagues and executives, who either suggested to cut down the number of email communications or asked to send just one more message to promote “their product.”

Marketers discovered that some personas increased their spend in response to a rather high number of email messages.  In some cases, the rate of unsubscribes went up, but the additional revenue generated well compensated for the slight increase in unsubscribes.

Marketers now use this insight to make decisions about sending an additional email to a specific persona or not.  The number of regular emails has not been permanently expanded 🙂

There is also a concept of “over-segmentation.”  Over-segmentation will limit your revenue.

Microsoft has dedicated resources to approach testing strategically and execute chosen strategies.

Other interesting points from the event:

“Wall Street likes recurring revenue; many public companies try to switch to subscription.”

Evolution of preferred tools associated with company growth:

  • Small companies prefer self-service tools, as they are lacking budgets
  • Medium-size businesses use more managed services and likely to outsource tasks, as budgets can now accommodate it
  • Large organizations often take their critical functions in-house, become more interested in self-service tools again and, at this point, tend to change vendors

Technology Marketing Exchange gave its attendees many interesting ideas.  All of us, who attended the event, will be sharing and discussing these ideas for weeks to come.

Excellent event!  Thank you, MeritDirect!