As content marketing became all the rage, Nick Bhavsar sometimes would joke that he was a little confused about all the buzz. Back in the day, didn’t content marketing just used to be known as . . . writing?
Today, he’s feeling something similar about Account-Based Marketing. New phrase, old concept.
“I think what most people dance around is that it’s really just a fancy way of saying enterprise marketing and sales,” said Bhavsar, the director of demand generation at Spiceworks. “Sure, it’s far more detailed and advanced now. But I don’t know if it’s a revolutionary approach to business. A whole bunch of vendors out there have latched on this as the term du jour.”
They know all about being pioneers at Spiceworks. The Austin, Texas company is credited for launching the first social network in the IT industry. When it comes to ABM, though, Spiceworks is less interested about being at the forefront of a hot trend that continues to generate lots of hype. Instead, the company is a great example of a business that has thought hard about the best way Account-Based Marketing can be incorporated into an overall marketing strategy.
For Spiceworks, ABM is a tool — but not the entire toolbox.
A year ago, the company already was growing quickly. As Co-founder Scott Abel explained in a video on the firm’s website: “We’ve become the most trusted marketplace for IT products and services on the planet.” Helping fuel that success was a focus on using the marketing engine to drive deeper, more meaningful strategic relationships with marketing professionals — who have become Spiceworks’ primary customer.
The Spiceworks team also began noticing something really interesting. Like many businesses with an enterprise marketing and sales model, a subset of customers represented a large share of revenue. ABM, they decided, might present an opportunity.
“As we got started, we felt that the term ‘Account-Based Marketing’ was getting misused a lot,” Bhavsar said. “There are a lot of different ways to describe it.”
In fact, research company ITSMA — which is credited with coining the phrase — believes there are three distinct versions of ABM. But as Bhavsar noted, there can be a lot of confusion. So, looking for guidance, Spiceworks turned to another leading ABM proponent, SiriusDecisions, to help craft a program tailored specifically for its business. The SiriusDecisions’ model calls for premium accounts to get the full ABM treatment where sales and marketing teams are aligned to personalize the buyer’s journey as much as possible.
“The ABM strategies you deploy are very different,” Bhavsar said. “But regardless of the strategy, you can’t just be thinking about the number of leads. You have to be thinking about the people inside those accounts.”
Spiceworks added Maria Wright, an experienced ABM marketer, to oversee the orchestration of marketing to ABM accounts. Predictive analytics helps guide Spiceworks to the right prospects that hold the greatest growth potential. Then, sales, marketing and product work collaboratively on establishing deep relationships within those companies.
“It’s about understanding the accounts’ pain points and aligning your value proposition to help alleviate those pain points throughout the buyer’s journey within the buying center you are targeting,” said Wright, a senior account marketing manager. “Once we’ve done that, we’re strategic in getting to the right people at the right time with insights and content that’s valuable and will help them meet their marketing goals.”
ABM, she concluded, allows Spiceworks to create highly customized campaigns that ensure key decision-makers are getting the most relevant information.
“For us, Account-Based Marketing is where you just don’t have a salesperson focused on the specifics of that account, but also a marketing person who is doing the actual execution of programs,” Bhavsar added. “But as you start looking at other accounts and the level of scale grows you can’t necessarily think about each individual account as its own set of strategies. So you’re looking for groupings of things based on segmentation like geography. Then, that last bucket we consider is largely top-of-funnel where you’re trying to reach the new people you can help most.”
And the Spiceworks approach of focusing on accounts stretches across all of their marketing efforts. For instance, leads are not used as a success metric. Let’s say, Bhavsar said, Spiceworks gets 500 badge scans at a trade show. What’s much more interesting to them is not that number of leads, but rather what happens to those people downstream. How many convert? How much pipeline is created? How many deals ultimately close and — most importantly — how much revenue is generated? The company also looks at the long-term relationship that’s created, how it can be grown and what impact it may have down the road.
“So our goals when we come back from a trade show is: ‘How many dollars will this influence?’” he explained. “This allows you to let go of activity-based metrics — ‘I got 500 leads’ — and you start to focus on business metrics.”
By the way, Bhavsar sees that as strong marketing, not an ABM strategy. But it’s also clear that Account-Based Marketing is having an impact on the bottom line.
“The best tacit endorsement I can give is that we’re going to be growing the number of people here who are going to be driving ABM,” he added.
In other words, success breeds more success.
Main image courtesy of Adam Selwood
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