#B2BMX: NLA Recap: As ABM Strategies Advance, Alignment & Personalization Enter The Spotlight

Published: June 15, 2022

Virtual events are alive and well — and perhaps there’s no better example than Demand Gen Report’s annual B2B Marketing Exchange: Next Level ABM event. Through an event that featured an impressive speaker line-up from the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, Forrester, McKinsey and more, thousands of B2B marketers learned how to enhance, resuscitate or even begin their ABM journeys.

#B2BMX: NLA featured dozens of sessions tailored by skill level — beginner, intermediate, expert and advanced — to help marketers of all ABM expertise feel comfortable. If you missed the event (and don’t worry if you did — it’s on-demand now!), here’s just a sampling of the expert advice and takeaways attendees received.

Tapping Into Loyalty & Trust To Promote Account Engagement

In the past, a customer’s path was predictable and static — meaning marketers could more easily understand how to align activities to the journey. In the customer-empowered economy, however, the buyer’s journey has shifted. Oracle’s VP of Marketing Heike Neumann and 90octane’s Partner Jim Grinney discussed the importance of building trust in their session, “Atomized Journey: Buyer Engagement Is A Limitless Road.”

“Trust is the focal point for every program that we create, because from our perspective, companies aren’t going to make large investments in a product or a solution unless they trust the company that they’re buying from,” said Grinney. “If you step back and look at the science of building trust when it comes to collaborative relationships, the four most common elements needed to develop trust are competence, reliability, integrity and empathy.”

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To help generate that trust, Miri Rodriguez, Author and Chief Storyteller for Microsoft, focused on leveraging personalized brand experiences to build a relationship in her opening keynote, “Storytelling For Specific Target Audiences.”

“Content is no longer king — it’s now about using experiences to bring content to life and creating places to help people connect and interact with brands differently,” explained Rodriguez. “We do that through storytelling. And lot of people think, ‘Well, I’m just going to tell a story’ — and that’s wrong. The idea of brand storytelling is to create an experience to consistently connect with audiences so they stay loyal to the brand.”

Rodriguez explained that storytelling is less of a singular content piece and more of a long-term play organizations should use to tell their brand’s story to engage audiences and help them better understand their companies. For example, Rodriguez pointed to the new group of buyers rising through the generational ranks. She explained Gen Z and Gen Alpha are thinking beyond the product or service and also want to know a brand’s core values and how these values translate into their business.

Gong’s Corinna Owens backed up this point in her session, “Intentional Outreach: How To Build Community With Best Fit Accounts,” which cited Salesforce research that found 90% of customers said the experience a company provides matters just as much as the product or service.

Being that “the brand is not just telling the story by itself; there are partners and there’s an army of storytellers that you can build,” according to Rodriguez, it’s important that companies build a community with their best-fit accounts to better understand their needs and what they’re looking for.

To that end, Owens shared several ways throughout her presentation on how to build a community with accounts, including the importance of engaging buyers where they are online, connecting long-term clients with new ones to discuss product usages and matching target personas with internal company personas for a more relatable connection.

How To Tighten The Lens On Sales & Marketing Alignment

Customers are sending anonymous buying signals all the time — and sales teams must be able to predict the buyer’s journey so they can execute the right campaigns across every channel and never miss a revenue moment.

Throughout their presentation, “Never Miss A Revenue Moment,” 6sense’s Latane Conant and Forrester’s Kerry Cunningham discussed the integral role technology plays in uncovering anonymous signals to target and engage previously unknown accounts.

“I like to call ABM the great invisible revenue moment machine, because that’s what it generates,” explained Cunningham. “If you’re doing ABM today, and you don’t have the right infrastructure in place, you’re going to be generating all of these revenue moments, but they’re going to be completely invisible to you.”

Conant added that marketers are operating in a “dark funnel,” as they typically only capture 1% of all the buying signals. She continued that this is due to marketers’ heavy reliance on the marketing automation platform… but traditionally, those solutions were made for the known — not the unknown.

To that end, B2BFusion’s Jon Russo and Aite-Novarica Group’s Megan Heuer introduced the idea of a “revenue engine” that encompasses strong alignment among sales, marketing and customer success in their breakout session, “40 Calls & Counting: Lessons From A Year Of Conversations With Revenue Leaders.” The pair explained that they’re seeing a trend of marketers thinking more holistically about their tech stack integrations and data sharing, which naturally lends to an increased alignment as shared processes break down silos. 

This alignment is especially important in the face of omnichannel buying journey preferences and the “consumerization of B2B,” said McKinsey’s Julia McClatchy in her fireside chat session, “The Future of Sales.” She shared various pieces of McKinsey benchmark data, which found that:

  • 72% of B2B companies that sell across seven or more channels grew faster than their peers;
  • 80% indicated that performance guarantees were a must-have; and
  • Companies that offered tailored outreach and 1:1 personalization were 1.7X more likely to have gained market share.

“Personalization is a key to growth,” McClatchy explained. “Tailoring online and offline outreach is now the de-facto way of engaging across channels — and the holy grail of personalization is tailoring an interaction to a market of one. But that requires much greater prowess in terms of data and analytics to understand segments and analyze behavioral, transactional and engagement trends.”

Taking ABM Strategies To The Next Level

Throughout the series, the experts emphasized that ABM is all about building an optimized, personal buying journey for target accounts at scale. It is a holistic program that aligns teams to create precise, highly personalized customer buying journey experiences that deliver efficiency, velocity and growth.

According to Business Online’s Rob Griffin in his keynote, “Advanced ABM: How To Achieve Next Gen ABM,” the three pillars that are essential for driving advanced ABM are:

  • Expertise,
  • Empathy; and
  • Bold action.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to helping create that new pipeline and accelerate the pipeline,” explained Griffin. “If it’s not doing those two things, you’re not doing ABM right.”

To that end, Griffin cited Forrester and ITSMA statistics that show there’s 97% higher ROI when incorporating ABM than any other marketing technique, and 87% of ABM initiatives outperform other marketing investments. In fact, he explained 84% of ABM marketers saw an improvement in reputation and increased engagement with the brand and the business.

However, Griffin added that marketers tend to get lost in the complexity of ABM and the endless amounts of data, so they must ensure they’re aligned with revenue, sales and marketing to understand where a buyer is in their journey to ensure a smooth handoff.

“The challenge is that there’s so much data, intent signals and technology, it’s hard to decide where to focus,” said Griffin. “How do you prioritize your resources because we don’t have unlimited bodies, expertise or budgets. You have to really prioritize where your best opportunity is to win as a marketer and rally behind that from a sales, RevOps and marketing perspective.”

Agreeing with that notion of alignment was Talkdesk’s Kim Roman in her session, “Lead-Based Metrics vs. ABM Goals: Creating A Hybrid Environment In The Middle.”

She explained that ABM is actually a strategic approach and not an individual tactic — it’s where marketing and sales become a single affair. It creates a direct dialogue between a buyer and a seller and builds those dialogues into valuable relationships. It’s personal, relevant, interactive and measurable; it’s a process of alignment and prioritization and marketers need to find the right balance to increase campaign success.

“Having a strong relationship with the sales team and providing them with education and training will not only ensure that they understand the different programs you have running, but they know how to identify the actions that they need to take either from MQL is coming in from dimension or accounts with engagement through ABM,” said Roman. “And we all know that the more personalized the content and messaging are, the better your campaign will perform.”

For more insights from B2BMX: NLA check out the event now on-demand!

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