Demand generation marketing (engaging prospects) and account-based marketing (nurturing target accounts on a 1:1 level) are an incredibly powerful combination. Yet these approaches are rarely considered as strategies that work hand in hand.
Join us as we explore this topic with our guest, Kristina Jaramillo, president of Personal ABM, to dig in on how to move high potential prospects through the buyer journey after they raise their hand by tailoring and personalizing their experience through more personalized nurturing.
Listen now to learn ABM techniques that can be combined with your demand generation efforts to create a powerful combination that helps improve your potential to close large, lucrative deals.
01:12 What is ABM and how is it different from demand generation?
07:05 Why ABM programs underperform
09:43 Why it’s important to deliver better and more relevant experiences
15:24 ABM technology isn’t necessary for successful ABM implementation
18:59 ABM and demand generation can optimize each other’s functions
22:12 Why demand generation is key for successful ABM implementation
22:18 Why targeting the right accounts is important to ABM success
23:27 Prioritizing leads based on activities and intent triggers
Hey, everybody. It’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You’re listening to Demand Gen Fix, the podcast where our team of growth moders and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation and why we believe it’s the key to long term sustainable growth, especially in the HR tech industry.
Hi, everybody. Welcome to the Demand Gen Fix with GrowthMode Marketing. We’re happy to have you back listening again today. We are super excited because we have a special guest with us today. Her name is Christina and we will be talking about ABM account based marketing. This is something that has gained a lot of steam over the past several years as companies pivot their marketing strategies to drive more revenue with named accounts.
But there are so many different definitions out there for ABM, so it makes it kind of confusing on exactly what that is and how it actually fits in with demand generation strategies and how to make sure it’s truly effective to drive higher growth. So in this episode of the Demand Gen Fix, we’re going to look at how to leverage demand generation plus ABM to bring opportunities in the door and move them through the sales pipeline to closed one.
As I said, we’ve invited a special guest on the episode to provide some additional perspective on this topic. Christina Jaramillo, president of Personal ABM. Welcome to the podcast Christina.
Thank you for having me ladies. I’m looking forward to it.
So let’s start with the basics. What is ABM and how is it different from demand generation?
So ABM is one of those things that has a hundred different definitions. At least every time I talk to someone they have a different spin on it. But to me it’s about speaking to accounts and speaking to specific moments within those accounts. I think of it as understanding large named accounts. You understand their strategic priorities, they’re inconsidered gaps, the impacts on their business, where demand gen sometimes is campaign based, who’s focusing maybe on educating the market, or shaping a category depending on how they’re doing it.
And with ABM you’re thinking about specific named accounts, I’m going to repeat that one a lot, but you’re thinking at it from different perspectives. You’re thinking at it from the sales perspective, maybe even customer successes perspective. And you’re thinking about the interactions across the buyer’s journey; the customer lifecycle. And from what I’ve experienced, demand gen fixes pipeline issues. But I think ABM should be about marketing source revenue as a relationship has already begun. So basically think of it as demand gen is filling that funnel and then ABM is helping take it the next step. So they definitely have to work hand in hand and one doesn’t necessarily work as well without the other. And another thing I’ve noticed that the difference between the two is demand gen is pursuit led might be focusing on a company’s agenda, what they’re trying to sell, what they’re trying to gain awareness for whereas ABM is customer led. So you’re trying to solve recipient specific problems. You’re showing all these gaps and impacts, like I said.
So how is it going to impact their strategic vision? From my point of view, I think it’s very, very hard to go past the personalization of a industry, a persona, or a pain point. Our area of expertise is the one to one. So we’re working with accounts that are higher value, more complicated, maybe more decision makers in the buying committee. And typically the value of the accounts that we’re working at, they’re potentially six to seven figures. So that’s why we focus on the one to one.
The insights that we can gain out from the one to one. You can apply to the one to few and one to many, and even your demand gen campaigns because you’re going to get more relevant and it’s going to resonate better after trial and error, kind of, with the one to one approach.
That totally makes sense. So how can you tell the difference between a demand generation motion and an ABM motion?
So demand gen to me is you’re talking about the organization; you’re maybe creating that category; you’re getting your message as front as many people as possible; you’re getting awareness. So when they are in market, they might buy, or they know about you; you’re top of mind to them. It’s about talking to your audience versus actually with ABM; you’re getting a little bit more relevant. So you’re more focused on what’s going on in the organization and how your solution or product or services can fit into their organization as a target account.
How can it fit into their strategic priorities? How can it impact the business as a whole; impact their customers? And I think that’s where that lineation between ABM and demand gen really is.
Yep, that sounds good. That makes a lot of sense to me. So why do accounts often go dark after engaging with demand generation campaigns?
Many teams are starting ABM. They’re going to maybe define their ICP and then jump into buying tech, or jump into retrofitting whatever they’re already doing when it comes to other initiatives into ABM. But really you need to think about changing go to market motions; changing the interactions and experiences that are being delivered from anyone that’s customer facing or prospect facing, so that’s not just for sales or marketing, it’s everyone.
Buyers will disengage because they’re not resonating with maybe the content that’s going out, or the messaging that’s there. They go silent because a lot of people say it’s the economy. But I think it’s a lot of issues rely on people not being able to make the decision, and we push so much content on them that I think it makes them confused as to make a decision. A better way to do that is to make sure that we are being as relevant as possible so we can tell the account story, not just their industry story, or pain point. We might be targeting the wrong people because now the decision making committees are getting bigger. So you might have to reach out or connect with a CFO that you might not have had to before, or some other department that you haven’t had to connect with. And if your messaging doesn’t hit with them or resonate with them, it’s going to make your account probably go cold. We don’t necessarily have the right content to influence internal buying conversations that are happening when sales isn’t in the room. And a lot of people, I think, are also okay with status quo and it’s very hard to get them to move because change is hard.
But if they’re stuck in between of I have all this information of why I should change this and then you keep pushing more content out and that doesn’t resonate, then it’s kind of hard to decipher what’s going on and they get stuck in the status quo. And I really think ABM is about improving the account experience. So how are we creating that awareness where demand gen really plays? And how are we creating awareness about a new challenge maybe, and what’s possible if they change? How are we educating them to align our solution with their needs?
And how are we influencing or building that case for change with all the buyers and all decision makers and influencers? And then how are we supporting sales to develop that conversation into an opportunity and even progress it through the stages?
One of the things that I saw on your website, Personal ABM, Christina, is that 69% of ABM programs underperform. And I think that’s really interesting because it means not everyone is using ABM in the most impactful way to ensure that accounts don’t go dark after engaging with demand generation programs.
There’s a bunch of different reasons why, we kind of touched on them before, but I think it’s also because they think that ABM is going to solve all their problems, they’re going to adopt it and it’s going to solve your problems in 30 days. You really need to give it at least a quarter, if not six months or longer to see if it’s actually going to change your metrics. A lot of ABM tech companies, let’s face it, have done a really great job of saying that ABM is synonymous with their tech when it really isn’t,always.
If you don’t have good information, or good strategy going into that technology platform, it’s not going to get you the results that you want, and you’re going to have a harder time justifying it for additional spend moving forward. And I think people just kind of get turned off by it, and then abandon it when they don’t get the results they want. And then they go back to marketing as usual, and then say they’re doing account based ads, or advertising, or account based brand awareness and that it’s ABM. That’s,I think, how it gets confusing when people think of demand gen and ABM with being similar, when they’re really one helps the other.
It depends how you define ABM, right? But there are absolutely companies out there that believe they’re doing ABM because they uploaded a named list of accounts to LinkedIn, and now their advertising is going specifically to those accounts. You’re saying, Christina, well ABM is really a one to one. If you step back and think about it, okay, the advertising to the named accounts list is not technically ABM unless that’s a personalized ad for each individual company, right? Which may not be realistic, but there are a lot of other ways that you can create that one to one experience from a marketing standpoint.
So how are the go to market teams failing to lay out a clear path to revenue?
So when I think of this, I think it’s because teams are getting accounts into the pipeline, but then marketing might think that that’s all they have to do is kind of get them into the pipeline and their job’s done, and then sales has to take it the rest of the way. That would be good in an ideal world, but really, I think you have to really pay attention to the fundamentals of revenue. So marketing can and should be impacting sales velocity, stage progression, sales cycle time, deal sizes, win rates, retention and expansion. Because a lot of go to market teams aren’t focusing on accelerating accounts to revenue and how to build relationships across the organization, I think they’re really missing out on a key opportunity.
They’re not paying attention to the struggling moments that their buyers are going through, the reframes that they have to make, and we need to make buyers uncomfortable in what they’re doing right now. So either if they’re using another solution or if they have no solution, we need to make them uncomfortable in that so that they are comfortable to make a decision to work with us. Otherwise there’s no reason to change.
There’s no reason to adopt a new solution. They’ll get stuck in status quo or they’ll just say, we’re good with the way things are. But I really think that if we focus on each of the digital, social, email or live interactions that we’re having with our targeted accounts across the buyer’s journey and their lifecycle, and we deliver better experiences, more personal and relevant experiences, it’s going to make it easier for sales to engage, and then when they become a client for customer success teams to engage later as well, because you’ve kind of set them up to have this better experience and you’re delivering a more relevant message to them.
I think it’s also important for go to market teams to recognize that the buying process is complex and it’s not typically going to be a straightforward, linear decision within companies, especially if you’re selling an enterprise level software in the HR tech space or any other technology industry where it’s a very big purchase for the organization, right? And that means lots of people are involved in the evaluation decision.
I feel like Gartner had some statistics that I saw at one point that was like, the average sales now takes 23 people. That’s a lot of freaking people in an organization, right? And there’s lots of moving parts ,so processes can go up, down, forward, backwards things where it’s like, I thought we already got over this hurdle. And then, oh, surprise, new CEO comes in the door and he wants to weigh in.
Oh, and now the CFO is out on vacation for three weeks. There’s just all these factors that play into the equation, especially when it’s a really big considered purchase. So there’s lots of opportunities for decisions to get sidelined or off track. And I think as sales and marketing organizations are looking at how do we lay a clear path to revenue, you’ve got to take that into account and you’ve got to be able to work all of the angles and triangulate that data, especially from an ABM program standpoint.
You’re not just marketing to one person in that organization, you’re building up this experience across all 23 influencers and decision makers that are involved in that journey because they each get to weigh in and have a stake in the game.
Yeah, it really sounds like there’s a lot of strategy involved in that to try and make sure that this is really relevant to the people that you’re talking to. You really have to be thinking through all of that so that they care and then it doesn’t just get sidelined and off track. So let’s look at an example of how a company was leaving demand generation engaged buyers hanging halfway through the journey.
This is one of my favorite happy story, but sad too, because they left us because they got acquired by a bigger firm. So Leadership at a UK, ITSM firm, was trying to create a new category. And for them, I know it’s going to sound very technical if people aren’t very technical, but I promise it’ll make sense. It’s called, or it was called Capacity Planning as a Service. So basically what they were trying to do is create this new category, become an international player. They were competing against VMware.
They did some research and found that they had to break out of a niche, which happened to be a financial niche that they were serving. They needed to create demand for new products, a new category, new market. So they brought in a PR firm to drive awareness for the new category. To even build the category. They invested in intent platforms, like six sense. They were using demandbase for their ABM tech. So they were able to drive awareness, get pipeline growth, create this new category.
But they were having issues with limited stage progression and revenue improvement. What was happening is they were trying to retrofit the processes they had in place, in their case was a lead technology, and they were trying to retrofit into what already existed with their ABM reporting and approach, when they really needed to build a foundation for stronger revenue growth with ABM. They had a handoff between the go to market at customer facing teams versus a handshake with Stale. So with that handshake there was alignment that was missing and orchestration across both departments. And they were missing the fact that ABM should change the sales process, the motions, and if sales isn’t really bought into the account based approach, it’s really going to be that much harder to get it over the finish line. And this particular organization also didn’t have the content to support ABM because it wasn’t relevant to specific organizations they were going after. It was really, again, brand awareness. They didn’t have the content to support the conversations that they weren’t in on. So after they had a meeting with the prospective client and they went back to meet with their internal stakeholders, they didn’t have content to kind of initiate or move that selling conversation forward.
They were defining their ACP, but they weren’t also segmenting them or cheering them to see how they should be interacting with them. They were treating all opportunities the same, whether they were six figure deals or five figure deals. They were giving everyone the same attention, same focus, same approach to a matter because they didn’t have the tier system in place. They were really getting them in contact or prospects into the funnel but not progressing. So when we switched everything to kind of do the opposite of what they were doing, we were able to progress deal sizes and deals and then they did get acquired by a larger firm.
So again, that was good for them. Maybe not great for you, but a good story, regardless.
So Christina, one of the things you mentioned was that they were using a couple different technology solutions. When you look at ABM programs, is it necessary to have a technology stack to be able to do ABM well?
Not at all. I actually think the opposite. A lot of people are tech driven, so they’ll do that first and then adopt ABM. Whereas, I think you need to put out the foundation and all the pieces of that actual ABM strategy first, and then once you’ve kind of honed it in and gotten it to be as good as you can, obviously, it’s never going to be perfect because it’s always evolving, then you can put in the tech to amplify it. But if you are adopting tech first and then trying to do the strategy as you’re implementing, I think it just makes it a very costly mistake time wise and energy.
And then it’s hard to justify the spend because I know a lot of these tech platforms are very complicated, and they’re very expensive, and they require a lot of work. So I prefer not to have ABM tech platforms as the first thing that the organization that we’re working with is the first thing that they have decided to do ABM with. I like that they help me figure out where I should go and function, or where I should put my attention and account wise. But it’s not necessary to have I’ve had the gamut of people that have the technology and some that don’t, and they’re working just as well.
So you want your strategy to fit into the tech and not try to strategize to fit the tech.
That’s a really great point because we see it too on the demand generation side where they will come in and they will be like, so I have this intent data platform, and I have this marketing automation, and I have this video analytics platform, and they’ll name off like 57 things and it’s like, how are you using them?
And it’s like you are spending a ton of money and you have no strategy behind how to get the most out of those tools. And I totally agree with you, Christina, like, get the foundational things correct and running well before you worry about making a big investment in technology because so many companies and so many marketers go down that path because they think to do this well, we need this. I mean, we’ve even had clients come to us and they’re like, we’ve identified our ideal customer profile. We know we want to do ABM campaigns; tell us what technologies we need. And we’re like, hold the horses.
I’m like, The ABM technology is very expensive. I don’t think we need to go there yet. And they’re like, So you’re telling us we can’t affor? It’s like, no, no, that’s not what I said at all. What I said was let’s take a step back and understand why you think you need that when you don’t even have a strategy yet, and they think it’s so common.
You might not be ready. You might be a year or two away from it, and then you might even figure out that we can do this in other ways that might not need that platform. Maybe I need tools for intent, or for technographic data to give me a little bit of an insight, but I don’t necessarily need a behemoth of an ABM tech that’s just going to amplify my strategy that really needs a little work.
And I get it. There’s some really cool marketing technologies out there that you see what they can do and you’re like, ooh, game changer, let’s bring it on, and you go spend all this money. But at the end of the day, I think about something you said in one of our conversations previously, Christina, like, okay, intent data is great, but other people are using the exact same intent data as you are. If you have the same trigger and you don’t have a strategy behind it, you’re all reaching out to the exact same companies.
You sound like everyone else, right? Because all you’re doing is looking at those triggers and being like boo XYZ must be in market time to hop on that ship and start doing ABM.
So we’ve talked a lot about ABM and demand gen and how they are different. I think now we should talk about how can we use them together to be successful.
So definitely they work hand in hand. A good ABM program definitely needs demand gen fueling it. But I really think they could optimize each other’s functions. So ABM should not necessarily just pushing out messaging, it gives you greater relevance to your demand gen function. A lot of companies will do that lovely spray and pray with demand gen. But ABM can get you a little more relevant, a little more on point with your messaging.
And so those lessons that you can learn from that one to one, ABM, those interactions, you can use that info to inform and change strategy that you’re using with your demand gen. So again, like I mentioned this earlier, ABM shouldn’t be about sourcing the pipeline, that’s demand gen’s function. ABM should be how are we going to drive stronger stage progression? How are we going to accelerate sales cycles? How are we going to move those slower moving accounts through that buying journey, or reverse no positions, or even get a larger deal size.
So demand gen gets basically someone engaged, and ABM will take it to the finish line type of thing. And another thing that we haven’t really spoken about, but this is probably another topic altogether, is that ABM should really also be used for protecting and expanding accounts versus I think demand gen could do that as well. But I think it’s a little harder to get as specific as you would need to for expanding or protecting at risk accounts.
And you can’t really add that personal relevance with the campaign. It’s possible, just really hard. The ABM will let you show the gaps that you uniquely filled for these clients and the impacts and then the current gaps that you see of why they need to continue to stay with you and why they need to evolve.
I think that’s great feedback, Christina. I would also add from the perspective of demand gen, experts look at demand generation as this is how we engage prospects and build that initial credibility and trust, so that they do raise their hand and say, hey look, I’ve been following you guys, I like your content, I’m interested in having that conversation. And then employ ABM to nurture the best prospects through the sales process so they stay engaged.
I think there’s the ability to take the demand gen programs and look at how individuals and prospect companies overall are engaging with your content and prioritizing to identify like these are the companies we’re going to do ABM for. Because I don’t think if you’ve got a high volume of leads that you’re going to necessarily do ABM for every one of those leads. And correct me if I’m wrong there, Christina.
You’re totally right, and it depends on what kind of ABM you wanted to do. The one to one that we do at Personal ABM is only for certain kinds of businesses, but depending what you’re selling, the one to few and one to many might be better for you. So you might be able to do it that way. But if you start with the one on one, like your best customers; your highest value; your most loyal customers; the ones that have expanded with you and grown with you, you can kind of identify those similar traits, and then use them to pull out the accounts you want to do one to one on that have engaged with the demand gen campaigns; have raised their hand and said that they’re ready to talk; have been made well aware of your organization with the use of demand gen.
So that’s why I think that demand gen is key for ABM to be as successful as it can be.
Totally agree. There have been many organizations that have said, we’re going to do ABM, and they come up with their target account list that is like a wish list of fortune 500 companies, for example. That is probably not going to be a real successful ABM campaign because you’re going after cold accounts that have not demonstrated any buying intent or signaled that, hey, we’re in market to look at this solution.
And now you’re going to go and sell them your HR technology or whatever you’re selling that costs a minimum of $500,000 per year and think that you’re going to convince them, I can’t live without this product. I’m going to buy in the next two months. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. But if you prioritize leads based on the activities that they’re doing within your demand generation programs, and you combine with potential intent triggers from intent data and you just kind of look at the big picture, holistically, the goal is to identify the prospects that have the highest likelihood of closing. Right?
And maybe that sounds counterintuitive, you’re like, why would I spend money on the companies that have the highest likelihood of closing? Because they’re already going to close. If, say, your close rate is 50% with your demand gen leap, which it could be 75% with just a bit more nurturing and being very intentional about which accounts you really focus on closing.
This has been a really good conversation, you guys. The key takeaway here is that account based marketing can be very impactful strategy for driving revenue growth, if it’s done well. If you align your demand generation program with your ABM campaigns, selecting the right accounts and getting personal with your marketing, you’ll drive more deals to close one. And Christina, thank you so much for sharing your ABM experience with us today.
Thank you for having me. That was a great conversation.
Yeah, Christina, can you tell us where our listeners can find you?
Oh, I’m always on LinkedIn, but please, if you’re going to invite me to connect, make it a relevant message so that I know why I should connect. But also, personalabm.com is a great resource. There’s tons of ungated, free information from our podcast and case studies, so check that out.
And I hear that you two are going to be hosting a webinar together, coming up?
We do! It’s coming up in a couple of weeks, so we’ve got some planning to do, but yes we do. So we’ll continue the conversation there too.
Alright, great, so that’s scheduled for October 18th, keep an eye out for that and thanks for listening to the Demand Gen Fix.
Thanks for joining us on the Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech workers, brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. We sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe for more perspectives on demand generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus, give us a like, tell your friends, we’ll see you next time.
At GrowthMode, we combine the unique discipline of growth marketing and the evergreen principles of traditional marketing to develop integrated strategies and measurable programs that help businesses drive growth where it matters most to their vision. We help our B2B clients focus on their specific goals and ensure that their investment is aligned with their broader strategic vision.