If you attended the Dreamforce extravaganza last fall, you probably heard about the Tesla. It was impossible not to hear the chatter around the San Francisco convention halls about how Apttus was giving away a shiny new car.
So mission accomplished for Apttus in raising its profile at the mammoth Salesforce event — where companies easily can get overlooked at the world’s largest software conference. But Maria Pergolino, senior vice president of global marketing at the quote-to-cash software platform, was hunting more than just brand awareness.
“Every activity we do, we’re trying to appeal to our target accounts,” Pergolino said. “That way you just get more out of your marketing. I’m always thinking about Account-Based Marketing as part of a broader strategy.”
For instance, there’s the Tesla.
Dreamforce is an important event for Apttus. And Pergolino was focused on making sure the company’s keynote session would attract an enthusiastic crowd of ideal customers that filled a huge room seating more than 1,000 people. It was no small challenge. Yes, giving away a car might ensure a packed house. (You had to be present to win the year-long lease of the Tesla.) But that still wouldn’t guarantee attendees were remotely interested in Apttus solutions.
Pergolino got around the problem by transforming the event into a crafty example of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) — the strategy of focusing sales-and-marketing efforts on targets most likely to purchase your product.
The car became the tease to get high-value prospects engaged.
Months in advance of Dreamforce, Apttus began promoting the event to people it most desired as customers. About 3,000 were offered the chance to be in the giveaway. There was one requirement. To be eligible, they had to do a meeting, a demo or attend an Apttus educational session. In other words, they had to show they were serious about Apttus . . . and not just a nice set of wheels.
When the big day arrived, there was a buzz in the air and nearly 1,200 people in the room. Something else was full, too — the Apttus pipeline.
“Yes, people thought we were a hot brand,” Pergolino said. “But the important thing for us was we had a massive amount of pipeline the next quarter from all of those companies who had learned about Apttus. We got our product directly in front of the accounts we wanted. That to me is an awesome, well-executed, target-account strategy.”
Pergolino was talking about Account-Based Marketing before ABM was cool. Today, there are predictions that ABM will be one of the hottest marketing technology categories of 2016. But Pergolino can remember the unfamiliar looks she got while speaking about ABM at a Marketo conference four years ago with marketing expert Matt Heinz, and then two years later at a TOPO event.
“It was something new,” she recalled. “Now we go to a TOPO event and every single marketer is talking about ABM. It has become the thing to do. But I really don’t think it is new. Marketers now are just choosing this as one of the areas where they need to focus more.”
At the same time, Pergolino wonders how many of those marketing teams are looking beyond the hype and actually are employing successful ABM tactics as part of their overall marketing strategy.
“Marketers are very attracted to trends,” she added. “I just don’t see a lot of people thinking about campaigns the way we did with the car. I see them creating target lists and sending direct-mail campaigns to them and so on. But it’s just not coordinated as part of a larger marketing initiative. Too often they’re getting some results and then it just falls flat.”
For Pergolino, ABM always has been part of the puzzle at Apttus. When she joined the company three years ago to essentially create the marketing department, Pergolino sat down with her CEO to build a target list of their most likely buyers.
“That was a big effort deciding what companies we could sell to,” she said. “But it was really important.”
The next step was even more crucial — focusing on that list. Pergolino estimates that perhaps only 30 percent of her team’s marketing activities could be described as ABM. But the key is that Account-Based Marketing is an integral component to everything they do.
For instance at Dreamforce, the important thing for Apttus wasn’t badge scans of people who visited the company’s booth. What mattered was the number of meetings with target accounts that happened away from the trade show floor.
Pergolino thinks about how her team can create more personalized, account-specific content that will help penetrate coveted targets. She looks for ways to get Apttus in front of the right decision-makers in those companies with targeted ads and messaging. And when Apttus recently held a webinar, she didn’t trumpet the fact that about 1,000 people had registered.
“The note that I sent to the rest of the executive team highlighted the people attending who were from brands that we’re interested in,” Pergolino said. “We could talk about prospects who are close to buying. That was more meaningful than just saying, ‘Hey, we had all these people on this webinar.’ Account-Based Marketing is not only great as a tactic, but it’s very easy for the rest of the leadership to understand and get them excited about your marketing.”
ABM is the talking point of the moment. But trends have a way of slowing down, getting eclipsed by other new ideas and eventually disappearing.
Pergolino doesn’t see that happening, though. She believes it’s more likely that ABM matures into a mainstream strategy that has a place in every data-driven marketer’s toolbox.
“I don’t think that it’s a fad that’s going to fade away,” she said. “ABM needs to be part of a marketing mix. And it likely already was part of their mix even before everyone started talking about it.”
Or maybe another way to describe it is that ABM will continue to help put businesses in the driver’s seat.