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!