July 13, 2023

Spearfishing with ABM

Once you go ABM, there’s no going back. That’s the sentiment that our CMO guests shared in this episode of Renegade Marketers Unite, and for good reason. Tune in to learn how ABM can transform the revenue engine at B2B organizations, setting marketing up as a key strategic player and enabling personalization at scale. 

CMOs Kevin Sellers of Ping Identity, Laura Beaulieu of LeanLaw, and Ali McCarthy share their experiences standing up and evolving ABM at their firms. As Kevin declared, “ABM done right is spearfishing. You’re not casting the net super broad and sorting through it, you’re really going after specific fish.” 

Don’t miss it! 

And don’t forget to catch the previous episode, also dedicated to ABM: CMO’s Guide to Adopting Account-Based Marketing 

What You’ll Learn 

  • How 3 CMOs evolved ABM programs at their organizations 
  • Why you need clean data for successful ABM 
  • How ABM can redefine the marketing function

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 353 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned 


  • [3:39] Kevin Sellers: Keeping up with Korean 
  • [4:30] Ping Identity’s ABM evolution 
  • [8:18] The 3 things that need to align for ABM to work 
  • [11:23] Orchestrating plays 
  • [13:59] Laura Beaulieu: California Closets 
  • [15:17] LeanLaw’s full funnel ABM 
  • [17:21] How you know ABM is working 
  • [23:31] Ali McCarthy: Shakespeare at Oxford University 
  • [26:07] Standing up ABM in 1 year 
  • [27:04] Bad data, bad ABM 
  • [28:20] ABM redefines the marketing function 
  • [33:31] On CMO Huddles 
  • [36:47] Speed round: Define ABM 
  • [41:45] Budgeting ABM 
  • [43:03] Surprise! Jon Russo talks ABX 
  • [44:12] Why things go wrong 
  • [48:35] Does ABM really drive revenue? 
  • [51:00] Final words of wisdom 

Highlighted Quotes  

“ABM done right is spearfishing. You're not casting the net super broad and sorting through it, you're really going after specific fish.” —@KevinSe51736624 @pingidentity Share on X

“The best marketing in the world is when you deliver value to a prospect.” —@KevinSe51736624 @pingidentity Share on X

“Personalization at scale is always better. If I can deliver value, and I can do it in a way that's personal to you, it's going to cause a different reaction than if it was just a generic outreach.” —@KevinSe51736624 @pingidentity Share on X 

“The ultimate goal of ABM for us is to drive pipeline and revenue. We want them to go from unaware to aware to schedule a demo, ultimately, to buy.” —Laura Beaulieu @LeanLawCo Share on X

“Marketing and sales are the revenue engine. You have to be totally synched on what you're saying, when you're saying it, and who you're saying it to.” —Laura Beaulieu @LeanLawCo Share on X 

“A clean CRM is by far the thing that is going to set you up for either success or failure.” —Laura Beaulieu @LeanLawCo Share on X 

“Once you do it, you will never go to any other role without doing Account-Based Marketing.” —Ali McCarthy Share on X

“ABM is exactly at this intersection of marketing’s purpose in adding value to the firm, and the intent of the firm to grow and drive revenue.” —Ali McCarthy Share on X 

“If you need to accelerate the business and get things moving along a little bit quicker, you can deliver those stories at the moment where they're ready to receive them.” —Ali McCarthy Share on X

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Laura Beaulieu of LeanLaw, Kevin Sellers of Ping Identity, & Ali McCarthy


Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. I’m excited that you’re here to listen to another episode of Renegade Marketers Unite. And if this is your first time listening then welcome. This show is brought to you by CMO Huddles, the only marketing community dedicated to inspiring B2B greatness and that has a logo featuring penguins. Wait, what? Yeah, well, a group of these curious, adaptable, and problem solving birds is called the Huddle. And the B2B marketers at CMO Huddles are all that and more. Huddling together to heat up the coldest job in the C-Suite. And now that CMO Huddles has three membership tiers, we’re ready to inspire B2B greatness at all levels. To learn more, check out cmohuddles.com.

Now before we get to the episode, here’s a shout out to the professionals at Share Your Genius. We started working with him over a year ago to make this show even better and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at shareyourgenius.com and tell her Drew sent you. Okay, let’s get on with today’s episode.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers. Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, the top rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing obsessed individuals.

You’re about to listen to a recording of CMO Huddles Studio, our live show featuring the CMOs of CMO Huddles, a community that’s sharing, caring, and daring each other to greatness every day of the week.

This time we’ve got a conversation with hodlers Laura Beaulieu of Lean Law, Ali McCarthy and Kevin Sellers of Ping Identity on ABCs of ABM. It’s a great conversation. Let’s dive in. I’m your host Drew Neisser live from my home studio in New York City. Account Based Marketing, aka ABM has been around long enough that most B2B marketers are deploying it in one form or another. And while many marketers have overcome the initial challenges of identifying the right accounts, aligning sales and marketing teams, and getting the data quality right, new challenges are emerging. This includes content personalization, scaling and measuring the whole ROI thing. So to get a sense of where ABM is today and how marketers are getting the most out of their efforts, we have three savvy CMOs, who are various stages of their ABM programs, and they’re going to share their wisdom. With that, let’s bring on Kevin Sellers, head of marketing at Ping Identity and star of episodes 11 and 48 of the predecessor of this show, Renegade Marketers live. Hello Kevin. How are you?

Kevin Sellers: Doing well Drew. Thank you.

Drew Neisser: And of course we always like to ask, where are you?

Kevin Sellers: I’m actually in just outside of Phoenix, Arizona.

Drew Neisser: Well, we did some digging as we always do and of course we noticed that you have a minor in Korean language and literature. Are you still reading in Korean or how is it this these days?

Kevin Sellers: I had the privilege of living in Korea before I went to college to learn the language, just had a great experience came back and decided I wanted to keep it going so completed a minor. Interesting little tidbit about Korean is that the reading of Korean is quite simple. The logic of the alphabet is interesting I could have you read in Korean but the speaking of Korean totally different issue very very difficult language but anyway yeah.

Drew Neisser: Wow.

Kevin Sellers: I like it very much and still can read and write in Korean and sometimes still get a chance to use it at restaurants.

Drew Neisser: All right. Well, you and I have to find a time to eat Korean together.

Kevin Sellers: Let’s do it, New York has wonderful Korean food.

Drew Neisser: We do we have some great stuff. Okay. So you and I were talking the other day about ABM at Ping Identity, give us a sense of where you are in your journey.

Kevin Sellers: You opened it so well because ABM it’s such a broad category. We actually did a really good ABM program about oh, I would say a couple of years ago, but it was primarily aimed at door opening. we targeted very specific accounts and found ways for us to get into the door. We’ve now revamped it to a much more comprehensive ABM program where it’s not just about getting in the door, not just the account identification, but all of the personalization, all of the kind of full funnel engagement of the account working pretty hand in hand with our field team. We’ve just gone live with that last quarter. So that part I would say is relatively immature. But I would say it’s also pretty comprehensive and relatively sophisticated as it relates to ABM implementations, and it’s off to a great start. And the alignment we’re having and the synergy that we’re having with our sales teams is probably a really unique and pretty special part of how this is operating for us. So I’m very encouraged by what we’re seeing with early results.

Drew Neisser: So I want to dig into that. But it’s funny, as you were talking about using door opening, I’m just thinking of Engageo. And that was sort of what that company that John Miller founded that—of course, he’s at DemandBase now—but interesting, that’s what they were really good at. And that was the role. So the evolution from door opening to, which is a part of it, but this is really about identifying the right targets, and just finding a number of ways to sort of engage with them and track it in almost real time. Now, talk a little bit about the alignment that you mentioned, what did it take to get to where you are?

Kevin Sellers: Interestingly, it wasn’t much of a heavy lift, right? If you think of kind of the old traditional model of marketing goes out and does a lot of work to find leads, and you bring him into into the system and the sales team and SDRs kind of work them and then sell, it’s kind of a linear model, right. And that model works. It’s not that it doesn’t work. But it’s not terribly efficient. And it’s tough to scale efficiently. When we went through this process with them, just understanding the fact that we’d be identifying accounts, and we’d be doing very different things, not just bringing leads in but working them through, there’s always been a belief that quality trumps quantity. And so that’s really at the heart of this transformation for us, rather than trying to focus on a massive amount of lead generation, it’s how do we find better quality. And that’s something that the field teams instantly gravitated towards. So that the alignment part of it, I found to be so much more natural than I expected. So that’s been the best part of it. And so more than I’ve ever seen before in my career, there’s a lot of synergy happening, which is good to see.

Drew Neisser: Which is gotta be exciting and gratifying. And what I’m wondering is, I hear you talking about the old model, sales were hunters.

Kevin Sellers: True. That’s the old model. They did. Super nuts. Yep.

Drew Neisser: And what this kind of says to me is—and again, this is where it gets sort of tricky—and you and I have talked about this notion of demand capture versus demand generation. But demand capture is, the folks that are in the market, or possibly in the market and these tools allow you to find intent and identify people. It is such a different mindset than this world of we got to get people just thinking about the category. So what kinds of things are in this program?

When we talk about focus, you could create a list of 100 companies, that’s easy, but how do you sort of align that with folks that are actually in the market for your service?

Kevin Sellers: Yeah, and I think my experience has been, you need three things to align in order for a successful ABM program to really work well. One is you got to have the right people. And that includes some experience that can be internal and external, one or the other, or both. You have to have some expertise, you have to have the right process that’s defined, which includes not just identification of accounts, but including sort of that orchestration of different roles and what we call plays, the plays that we create and execute at a regional level with all of the people. So we defined those roles, we defined those plays against those target accounts. And then the last thing is the tools. You got to have the right tools to be able to do this. And as you talked about demand captured, like we live in a world now where we have the tools that enable us to know what our prospects are doing in pretty detailed ways, both on your own properties and off your properties. So you now have the ability to understand not only what activity is taking place, but what topics what specific issues is a customer or prospect really gravitating towards. So that just makes it so much more efficient for us to know how to engage, personalize that engagement, and then orchestrate that across the different players within Ping to get, I think, a much more efficient result and a much more high quality sort of conversion, capable lead flow.

Drew Neisser: So let’s break that down in terms of people, what kind of expertise are we talking about?

Kevin Sellers: Well, I think a lot of it is some ABM expertise right, understanding what it means to orchestrate a play and what it means to not just go out and try and create brand awareness, but also, how do you personalize and create sort of mid or lower funnel types of content and assets and plays until understanding in some depth the sales process, right. So there’s this notion of brand building and what probably is more traditionally called demand generation, which is really marketing to the segment of the market that’s not currently in the market, right. And that’s an important part of your marketing mix. But when you’re really going for what you referenced as, demand capture, you really have to have people that have a pretty deep knowledge of the sales process, the customer engagement process, customer experience, and in today’s world really has a pretty savvy understanding of just digital and digital marketing itself. Because digital marketing, and what we call digital marketing is kind of really morphing into what I call digital sales, your marketing engine has to be able to both identify, but also in a self serve way, acquire customers. So that’s the change that’s taking place that you need some expertise around that, or it’s going to be a big challenge for it.

Drew Neisser: And yeah, that was a lot there and I want to get to digital sales. We may get to that later because I totally agree. And onboard, we’re all becoming these self sufficient buying engines, we’re just used to doing it on our own.

When we talk about plays in orchestration, we had a bonus Huddle with Forrester and a lot of the folks were talking about 20, 30, 40 different touches before a sale, how do you create a play that represents that crazy journey that your customers are going through?

Kevin Sellers: Well, part of what we’ve been able to do during this, our targeting, we’ve broken it down to regional and territory levels, right. So as we do that we look at, do we have particular verticals that we want to, within those targets, to go specifically after so we can create the right kinds of content and engagement from a marketing perspective. But then we develop and we work with obviously the STRS around scripting and things that we need to do that will align with that overall message. And then we kind of orchestrate and choreograph what the touch points would be from the field teams. And so a play really is around identifying the specific targets and verticals. So we can do sort of the one to few kind of engagement and personalized where we can. But it also is specifically on exactly what that core message is where those accounts are in their intent cycle, understanding where they are, are they in market? Are they not in market? And that sort of delineates, and allows us to determine, okay, this is gonna go on more personalized play around these topics and in this sort of tech execution. And then others that are not currently in market, we sort of have a different set of content and a different play, if you will, that we work more closely with SDRs on. So we’ve got them, we’ve got these plays, I don’t have the ability to show them here. But we have them sort of scripted out around exactly who’s going to do what and when. And then we we work and use the data on a weekly basis to optimize, what are we seeing? Are these things working, not working? Are we seeing progression? Not progression? What adjustments do we need to make? Do we need more gas here and less gas there? That’s the beauty of it, it gives us the ability now to dial those knobs in real time ways that we’ve never had before. So I think that’s the real positive of where we’re at.

Drew Neisser: Very cool. All right. Well, lots of thoughts that I want to come back to, but we’re going to bring on Laura Beaulieu who is the VP of Marketing at Lean Law. We’ll be back with you in a minute. So welcome, Laura. Hello.

Laura Beaulieu: Hey, how’s it going?

Drew Neisser: Great. Wonderful to see you again.

Laura Beaulieu: So happy to be here.

Drew Neisser: So and where are you this fine day?

Laura Beaulieu: So I’m calling in from the greater Boston area. It is a beautiful day, the sun is shining, it’s Friday. Life is good.

Drew Neisser: Oh, awesome. I hope we’re gonna see you at the Boston lunch Huddle in May. I don’t know if that’s on your calendar or not.

Laura Beaulieu: I have it on the calendar.

Drew Neisser: Excellent. Excellent. Okay. So team did some digging and saw that you worked at California Closets for actually a decade. So first, are you a fend shui, Marie Kondo fan?

Laura Beaulieu: Yes, I was a California Closets for 10 years, and I led marketing in the Northeast region. And I have to tell you, it changed my life, not just the product, but the whole mentality of having custom storage and organization that can kind of bring peace and structure to your life and also fit in with the aesthetic of your home. It just sets the tone for everything right off the bat and it’s the best so yeah, I don’t think I could ever go back.

Drew Neisser: So did you any chic celebrity closets that you were able to sort of peek into as a result of that?

Laura Beaulieu: So for the New England region, we did a lot of closets for professional players. So NBA players from the Celtics, we did a lot of Patriots players. They are giant sized humans and so they need bigger than average storage and they needed those custom storage solutions.

Drew Neisser: Well, all right, well, we’ll just put that in the closet for now. And we’ll get back to ABM. So talk a little bit about your ABM journey at Lean Law.

Laura Beaulieu: Yeah, so ABM for us, it’s a full funnel activity that really supports all of our other marketing initiatives with laser focused targeting and messaging. We’ve been doing it now for about a year and a half. Lean Law as a company is a legal tech challenger to legacy practice management systems. And so one of our key things that we’re working on is brand awareness. And so, brand awareness is one of the three main ways that we use ABM. So for us, it’s going up against these legacy products with deeper pockets and better brand recognition. And so one of the very first initiatives that we wanted to do was to use ABM to insert Lean Law into the conversation for prospects once they start their buying cycle. And we love ABM because it can be so narrow and so focused that the spend can be very efficient.

Drew Neisser: So I’m imagining you’re getting an email list or a list of all of your potential prospects. And you’re finding a way through, whether it’s retargeting or other forms, using display advertising in front of people who are probably in the journey. Is that what we’re talking about?

Laura Beaulieu: Yes, that’s exactly right. So we do that. And then we do top of funnel, which is top of funnel prospecting, combined with cold outbound email for the consideration stage. So our customer buying cycle is pretty long. So it’s 12 to 18 months. And it can be pretty complex, just due to the complexity of the software that they’re buying. A lot of times, they’re already locked into all legacy software with a multi year contract. And so our job is to get in front of them consistently for those 12 to 18 months and say, okay, are they spiking in intent? Are they visiting the website? Are they aware of Lean Law, and that’s really the job of the ABM campaign is to drive them from unaware to aware.

Drew Neisser: And so let’s talk about that. Because in Huddles, awareness comes up in the context of PR, a lot and awareness comes up. But it’s such a difficult notion to sell to the C suite often because it doesn’t feel like the same thing as leads or pipeline or other things like that, that feel closer to a sale. But we know you can’t get to pipeline without awareness, as you would like to. How are you looking at, when you’re using ABM for awareness, how do you get a sense that this is working for you that people are recognizing your brand, that your target’s recognizing your brand?

Laura Beaulieu: Yeah, so a lot of times we’re going after a buying committee, right? So it could be three to five people within the law firm that we’re targeting. And ABM has this incredible ability to track these people specifically, it goes after each of their devices, right? So you upload the list of these contacts, and it says, okay, here’s their cell phone, here’s their computer, here’s every single device that they have and so you know that you’re hitting them consistently and you can see those results right in the data.

Drew Neisser: And so do have a frequency sort of modulation where you say, alright, if I’ve gotten them seven times, or six times or 10 times that I’ve done my job?

Laura Beaulieu: Well, it’s gonna be more than that, right. It’s just the biggest thing. So the ultimate goal of ABM for us is to drive pipeline and to drive revenue. So we want them to go from unaware, to aware, to schedule a demo, ultimately to buy. So we are not completely satisfied until they’ve scheduled a demo and that they’re consistently progressing through the funnel. So for us, ABM is really, it’s a full lifecycle campaign. So the third big one that we do is for stalled MQLs, or at risk opportunities. So not just the top of funnel, but also we want to be supporting people as they’re going through the funnel. So it could be people who have attended a demo, and then gone really quiet. And it’s all about reengaging them and sparking interest and providing them downloadable resources in tandem with the other activities that we’re doing. And then for the opportunities campaign, so for this one, you have to work really closely with sales, because a lot of times sales does not want you touching the opportunities, they like to handle that. But for us where we’re seeing this longer buying cycle, it’s really important that we step in there and support them. And so when we look at opportunities, we want to make sure, are they progressing? So have they been sitting in the opportunity stage for more than 30 days? What’s taking so long, what are the considerations? And so we’ve worked really closely with sales to define, one, what’s the objection? Two, can we create content around that? And then three, how do we sync it up to the ABM platform so that we know we can deliver those messages to support their objections. And what we’re doing right now is we’re building out one to many campaigns, specifically focused on reactivating them and getting them reengaged so that sales can kind of take back over.

Drew Neisser: What’s so funny about this is, I can’t say this clear enough, and I’m sure I’m gonna get it. The notion that sales can take it from here is the most antiquated notion and the most untrue notion that exists in marketing and sales right now. I was looking at one Huddler’s journey map, and marketing touched about 90% of the journey. And a lot of that was after the demo, or the proof of concept. It doesn’t stop. So why is it that there’s this perception that oh, we’ll take it from here, would actually work?

Laura Beaulieu: I don’t know. The way that we view it at Lean Law is marketing and sales or the revenue engine, you have to work together and you have to be totally synched on what you’re saying, when you’re saying it, and who you’re saying it to.

Drew Neisser: I think this sort of mimics what Forrester was saying, I think the notion of marketing source leads at this point, we can say goodbye to that too, because it doesn’t matter. Because others marketing source, sales source, marketing stays involved pretty much till the end, and then it’s still involved after the fact. Anyway, how much of this are you doing in house?

Laura Beaulieu: All of it.

Drew Neisser: Okay.

Laura Beaulieu: Yeah.

Drew Neisser: And Kevin talked about the need for really educated people, did you have to bring in people with this expertise, or did you all develop it along the way?

Laura Beaulieu: Yeah, so we’ve been working really hard as a team to develop it along the way. We didn’t have the budget, as a very lean startup, we didn’t have the budget to hire somebody explicitly for ABM, it would have been really nice, to. But it was something that we studied pretty hard and Snowflake is actually one of the companies that we’ve been studying, especially their director of ABM, Hillary Carpio has just been such an incredible resource, everything she posts is pretty much gold. So if you’re looking for a follow on LinkedIn, she’s amazing.

Drew Neisser: I’m curious, what tools are you using? And if you can share?

Laura Beaulieu: Yeah, so we’re using Rollworks right now for the ABM platform.

Drew Neisser: Okay. And that enables you both to do the display advertising and track content?

Laura Beaulieu: Yeah.

Drew Neisser: Awesome. Okay. Is there anything that isn’t working for you right now?

Laura Beaulieu: The thing that we’re tackling right now is the longer buying cycle. So initially, data was a big thing, because you really have to have your CRM 100% synced, especially with your lifecycle stages. So it took us probably six months to get to that point where we were confident in the data, everything was accurate, but now it’s the longer buying cycle. And that’s why we’re building those new campaigns.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s hard. All right. We’ll come back to that because I do want to talk about that with the other CMOs on the call. Okay, but now let’s welcome Ali McCarthy. One of the few CMOs that I know with a PhD and star of episode 28 of Renegade Marketers live. Hello, Ali. Welcome back.

Ali McCarthy: Hi, Drew. Hello, everyone.

Drew Neisser: Or should I call you Dr. McCarthy?

Ali McCarthy: Ali’s fine today.

Drew Neisser: So and where are you today?

Ali McCarthy: I am in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. So about 40 minutes west of Philadelphia.

Drew Neisser: All right. So see, we’re covering the East Coast, West, we’re all over the place here on CMO Huddles Studio. Okay. We talked about your PhD in human behavior. So let’s dig back a little further, I saw that you got your Bachelor of Science, in marketing from Purdue, and that you were an international public relations study abroad program, but there wasn’t mention of where.

Ali McCarthy: So I studied at Oriel College in Oxford University and studied Shakespeare and international PR. So it was great.

Drew Neisser: All right. Okay. So let’s talk about your thinking about ABM and how that’s matured over the last few years. And it’s interesting to hear. I got to hear what Kevin is doing, and so forth. So where does your approach fit in relative to what you’ve heard so far?

Ali McCarthy: So what was interesting about my journey with ABM was that I had been looking at it for years, but I hadn’t actually modified the group to actually begin to execute it. And then at my last firm, they were like, look, we want this stood up within about a year or so. And so I was like, great, I’ve been wanting to do this for so long. So it was like, challenge accepted. And so I was really excited to take on that journey. And you had asked about which tools folks are using so we were actually using 6sense and to their credit, they brought us up to speed from a maturity perspective, very fast. Now we have a really talented team, so they were able to do the work and together, we were able to stand it up and get it going. But I would say for folks that are still figuring out where they want to go, and I think both Kevin and Laura mentioned this, there’s this notion of one to one, one to few, one to many, demands in there, brands in there. So I think not getting caught up of where exactly is the beginning and end of Account Based Marketing, but understanding that at your firm, it can be defined to what you need it to be. And it will give you the insights that you need to grow your firm. So if you haven’t gotten there, you may not be as excited at the challenge that I was. But I would say fear not, because it allows you to go to places and gives you the insights and I’m telling you, once you do it, you will never go to any other role without doing Account Based Marketing, I am changed forever.

Drew Neisser: That’s amazing. Once you go ABM, you don’t go back. So did it take all 12 months to stand it up?

Ali McCarthy: Well think about it, so I am a believer that your CRM is the shining star of your marketing tech stack. Right. And I think Laura mentioned that and Kevin mentioned that in some respects that the technology all needs to be integrated for it to work. So we already had our CRM in place, obviously, but we needed to make sure any of the satellite technologies that we were using, so whether it was Account Based Marketing, or the Chatbot, or anything else, everything was flowing through the CRM, and that was our single source of truth. And so we needed to do a little bit of work on the tech side to make that happen. You did need a clean CRM to start it out and then from that point on, you can start to incorporate it into what you’re doing.

Drew Neisser: A couple of thoughts. And I can’t emphasize this enough, but it’s come up now, is bad data, bad ABM, it’s just not going to work. And I remember the old rule. So years ago, there was this thing called direct marketing. And direct marketing, those that were inside of that world had a sort of basic formula. 60% of the success was the data, or your list, 30% was the offer and 10% was a creative. And in many ways that hasn’t changed that much. If the data is bad, forget about it, right. And that could be also not just the fact that you have bad data is that you perhaps defined your target wrong, you could simply say this is our ideal customer profile, when in fact, it’s not.

Ali McCarthy: Well, and I think ideal client profiles, we had eight of them, right. And it ranged from not only your specific buyers that you were trying to go after, but you can do ABM for partner marketing. You can do ABM in different parts of the business with existing clients if you want to cross sell upsell. So again, I think once you start to buy into—it’s almost like a philosophy, if you will—then you start to see how can I incorporate that across the whole of my business and not just demand gen.

Drew Neisser: We got a lot of enthusiasm here, you’ve now done it, you’ve stood this up, what was the most exciting part about it?

Ali McCarthy: So when it actually started to come into the development phase, and kind of visualizing the strategy that we were going to put in place, and I was kind of working through where we were going to start and what we were going to do and timelines and everything, you discover quickly that it is exactly at this intersection of the purpose of what marketing adds value to the firm and the intent of the firm to grow and drive revenue. And when you decide that’s where marketing sits anyway, and it’s doing things that we would have already done. And it’s also very aligned with why we want to win from a business perspective. And so from that point, it just allowed you to redefine, I think we had talked about metrics and things of that nature and where marketing explicitly tied to revenue of the firm. I feel like some of the challenges that I had prior to implementing this type of philosophy into the marketing group. I think we were looking at metrics, maybe I don’t know how to say it, maybe I was further out? And I wasn’t tied so close to revenue. And it gave me that confidence that I was like, look, you can’t decouple us anymore. We’re not just a cost center. Here we are and here’s how we’re adding value to revenue.

Drew Neisser: Amen. I want you to repeat that initial bit about the intersection because I think it was really profound. I didn’t get all the pieces exactly right. It’s pretty simple but very profound. Can you say it again?

Ali McCarthy: So the purpose of marketing, where we as a group, the purpose that we add value to the firm, and the intersection of where the firm wants to win in the business, ABM meets us in that space. So marketing’s purpose is, we’re the storytellers. We’re trying to get the values of the firm out to the market so that we can capture and bring folks in and be a magnet, if you will. And the firm wants to grow, right? We want to have employees, we want to win in the business, we want to succeed in our space. And I think what ABM does is it sort of sits right in that intersection of saying, we’re going to help you storytell to the people that you want to attract. And I think that to me was like, “Oh, my goodness, I’ll never go anywhere again. This is so great.”

Drew Neisser: Thank you for dissecting that a little bit more. Because I think it would be easy to forget the story part of ABM and just think well, we have eight targets within eight different profiles. And within that there are different roles, and all we have to do is message to each of them a specific thing that they need and life will be good. The ABM part of that messaging feels very rational, story is not. So help me and the listeners get from story to the actual execution within ABM.

Ali McCarthy: So what I think for folks that do ABM marketing—I’ll be preaching to the choir now—for the folks that are not quite there or might be confused, so the great thing about when you fully commit to an ABM model, you begin to gather these insights from the folks that you want to target. And you can actually action items on them. And so the storytelling becomes bespoke to who you are, where you are, and what you want. And when you start to align your message to the person you sort of are meeting them where they’re at. And I think that is what allows ABM to not only grow and accelerate your pipeline, but also allow you to increase the win rate or decrease your deal time. So if you need to accelerate the business and get things moving along a little bit quicker, you can deliver those stories at the moment, where they’re ready to receive them. And I think that to me, made it so intuitive to what I was doing already and what I wanted to do.

Drew Neisser: Interesting, we’re talking about the intersection, as you describe it, someone who is showing that I need this now, you’re able to say I’ve got this now. And I’ll just pushed back a little bit, there is a risk in all of this, that you’re slicing up your brand to the point that it’s 1000 different things to 1000 different people.

Ali McCarthy: Well, I think that’s the balance, right? So you don’t ever stop doing your demand gen and your brand gen efforts. But if I’m looking to be laser focused on a set of accounts, that are my tier one accounts, then no, all of that is absolutely purposeful. So that would be the one to one ABM model. The one to many will have more generalized messaging going out.

Drew Neisser: Okay. All right. I think I got it but we’re gonna keep going with this.

Let’s bring all the Huddlers back because I want to talk about CMO Huddles, which is what brought us all together. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an exclusive community of over 100 highly effective B2B CMOs who share, care, and dare each other to greatness. One CMO described Huddles as a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session. And given how hard things are getting out there who doesn’t need a little reassurance that they’re not alone? Everything about CMO Huddles is designed to be a force multiplier helping you to make faster better and more informed decisions. And since no CMO can outwork this crazy job, CMO Huddles is here to help you outsmart it. So Kevin, Ali, Laura, are you on the therapy side or the executive workshop side? And I’m wondering, as you think about that, if you could share a specific example, maybe of how CMO Huddles might have helped you in your role.

Laura Beaulieu: I would say both for sure. It’s so incredibly validating to be in a room, a virtual room, with all these other CMOs, who are in the same position that you are and I love how you break it into business stages Drew, it’s so helpful to be in a similar size company range. One example for me was last year in Q3 when everything kind of dropped and pipeline dropped for everybody across the board, it was so validating to hear that it wasn’t just your company but it was like the 40 to 50% of the room. And I was able to take that back to my leadership team and say, “Hey, this isn’t just an us problem, this is a nationwide problem.” And it was just hugely helpful that it wasn’t just impacting us, but impacting everybody else and to have those insights, you know, you’re not going to get that anywhere else.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, amazing. Thank you for that, Kevin, anything?

Kevin Sellers: Most definitely both. Because look, we’re always looking for understanding. All CMOs have particular strengths and particular weaknesses, right. And so the opportunity to engage, and you’ve connected me with some experts in areas that I’m not as strong in. And that’s been super awesome, because we’ve not only covered those topics in a Huddle, it’s also led to private connections, where I’ve been able to go deeper with that individual and kind of glean some insights around that topic that I felt I needed help with. But the therapy is like, of course, because this is a hard job. It’s like just understanding that you’re not alone, understanding that your challenges are not totally unique, and that others are going through the same things gives you a chance to learn more and partly not feel so bad about how things are going if they’re not going well. But the other part of it is to just find a place where you can find some solutions. I think it’s definitely both and it just depends on the time of day and cycle you’re in.

Drew Neisser: Love it. All right, and Ali, anything to add?

Ali McCarthy: I would echo it is both for sure. And I think for me what was helpful was early on, I hadn’t worked at a SaaS firm before, so you immediately connected me with some folks that helped me get into a comfort zone. But also on the account base side. There were some folks that were really helpful, and pivotal for our success. So thank you.

Drew Neisser: I love it. I love it. All right.

Well, let’s get back to ABM. And it’s interesting, I think we can all define it. But I’m curious in our speed round here, and we’ll start with you Ali, define ABM.

Ali McCarthy: So in my mind, it is definitely targeting specific companies in our database and being able to give them target messages, but also being able to identify those that are ready to buy.

Drew Neisser: Okay, and Laura.

Laura Beaulieu: Yeah, same ABM for us is focused on the target account list. But it’s also something that works in tandem with your other marketing initiatives. It’s not something that works in a silo by itself, you really have to be doing all the other marketing activities, and it’s more of a supportive layer, but it gives you those key data insights, that tells you what’s working.

Drew Neisser: Interesting, Kevin, anything more on that?

Kevin Sellers: Yeah, the analogy I use is, as I mentioned earlier, what I’d call the older model of marketing was, the equivalent of casting the net into the broad ocean, pulling it up, and sorting through a massive amount of fish. ABM done right is spearfishing. And you’re not casting the net super broad and sorting through, you’re really going out for specific fish. And I think,  also the other piece of this, is that it’s no longer top of funnel only kind of marketing it as a full funnel through conversion through sale. And even by the way, you deploy ABM to existing accounts for upsell cross sell opportunities. So it’s, it becomes a complete interconnect with the customer journey.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. And so, in my mind, as you stretch it all the way through to customer marketing and partner marketing, it feels like we’re getting to a place where this is very personal, right, and you have data that you know about an individual based on what you’ve tracked so far. And in theory, that data just keeps getting richer and richer through the journey, that you then are able to know this customer and communicate to them in a way that continues to add value. Is that a fair assumption? Because there’s a lot of conversation, you can look at this as a tactic. And as a percent, but it feels like it’s a philosophy, well, almost more than anything else, and a commitment to delivering value. Because I’m guessing that you can’t make these conversions, you can’t progress them, if they’re a certain stage in the process, and you deliver the information they can’t use, or they don’t want, you missed. So it’s about delivering value in the moment. Is that fair? And I guess the challenge is, how do you know what that value is?

Kevin Sellers: I think you hit on something really important. The best marketing in the world is when you can deliver value to a prospect. How many of us have been the target of an ABM campaign? I know I have multiple times. Done well, it’s impressive, because there’s value there, there’s personalization there. So when somebody’s done enough work to say they understand, and by the way, because again, the tools exist. A lot of times people will know enough about me to where they can actually personalize it, but it’s meaningful. I think about it differently than if it was just a generic email or some generic outreach. So the notion of personalization at scale is always better. So if I can deliver value, and I can do it in a way that’s personal to you, it’s going to cause a different reaction than if it was just a generic outreach. So the challenge then is, how do you do it at scale? It’s easy to do it in small numbers, right? When we first started a couple years ago, we picked 100 accounts. And we did all these things for 100 accounts, it was great. It worked awesome. But it was not scalable. So getting it to a scale is one of the big challenges you have is you want to expand that target list. But the point comes back to, personal always wins. It’s always better than non personal. It’s a function of how you do it.

Drew Neisser: And I’m imagining that at this moment, there’s going to be this quantum leap ,because of AI and the ability to do this on a personalized level, that didn’t exist three months ago. I’m just guessing that’s going to happen. And it’s going to be revolutionary to how ABM works. Are you seeing any of that? I would think that a 6sense might be already on that.

Ali McCarthy: Oh, yeah, there’s already engagement tools that we can tap into that are leveraging AI to be able to streamline the whole personalization process. So it’s learning. The model will now accept AI, and you can start to infuse that across your marketing efforts.

Drew Neisser: And so it won’t be “Hey, I think this CFO is going to be interested in ROI.” I think it’s going to be able to look at the track record of the CFO, where they worked before, all of this and do so much analysis for you. Kind of scary and kind of cool at the same time. I just want to get a sense for people listening, if you were to say that ABM is a part of your budget, is it 50%? Is it 25%? Is it 75%? And I know there’s a lot of components of ABM, but when you look at it as part of what you do—because let’s we can say PR is not ABM. Right, Laura, when you look at it as a percentage of your budget, more than half less than half?

Laura Beaulieu: No, no, it’s actually not a big percentage, I would say it’s 10 to 15% of the total budget.

Drew Neisser: Interesting, okay, then Ali without revealing any confidential things, scale it for us. Give me a sense.

Ali McCarthy: So the tools itself can get pricey over time. It depends how much you’re connecting. But again, going back to a well organized marketing tech stack so that everything’s flowing through your CRM, it’s just pieces of different technologies that you’re using to execute a full ABM campaign. So I think just to pull it apart and separate it, you’re right, PR may not be functions of that, but it’s feeding some of the things that we’re talking about in ABM. So I think that you kind of look at it as a necessary evil, just like the CRM is.

Drew Neisser: Very cool. We have a surprise guest that I want to bring in Joh Russo, who happens to be an expert on ABM. We haven’t done this before. Hey, Jon.

Jon Russo: Hey Drew, nice to see you.

Drew Neisser: Nice to see you too. And have you been listening in?

Jon Russo: I have been listening to the entire conversation.

Drew Neisser: Awesome. Okay, so where did we go wrong?

Jon Russo: I think it was a terrific conversation. Just by way of introduction, my name is Jon Russo, I’m the founder of B2B Fusion. And we spent a fair amount of time in the account base world. If you go back about five years ago, we did about a third of what was done Engageo’s implementations for their customer base over a span of two years and saw literally hundreds of implementations and the reporting side of ABX. We’ll call it ABX. And kind of the best practices and pitfalls. So and prior to that I’ve been a recovering CMO for 10 plus years in public and private companies. So I’ve kind of seen the best of both worlds. But right now, we’re really chartered to help others on their account based journey. So it’s fascinating to listen, some of these journeys, including Ali, who was a former client of ours, so great to see her as well.

Drew Neisser: So I’m curious, and this was a question for the whole group. When things go well, and Jon hold off on this one, but when things don’t go, Well, what’s typically the problem? Kevin, Ali, Laura, do you want to weigh in on that?

Kevin Sellers: Yeah, I think if you’re doing ABM, right, you’re coordinated across all the touch points. And the worst thing that can happen is if the left arm doesn’t know what the right arm is doing, and there’s an engagement that happens with a customer, imagine you’ve probably seen this before. I’ve seen it many times in my personal life where you receive some sort of outreach or communication, and then the follow up is completely disjointed or disconnected from whatever that was, right? You can immediately destroy the experience if there’s not a sense of coordination and real focus. So I think that’s part of the challenge is that it’s theory adequately so great when you look at it on paper. And in practice, it’s really hard. There’s old habits, and there’s power struggles, there’s all kinds of issues that you have to get through. But having that level of coordination so that the communication and the engagement is crisp, and choreographed, is so essential. And that’s where I’ve seen breakdowns happen.

Ali McCarthy: I would echo the technology will do what it’s supposed to do, it’s humans that might make it messy along the way. But I do think I would echo Kevin’s comments that alignment, and then the trust factor, right, we can come in and pitch a great program and say marketing’s gonna do all these things. But then there needs to be that level, reciprocal trust by the sales team, the service team, the different groups that we might be taking over some of the comms for to be able to make sure that it is a seamless journey.

Laura Beaulieu: I’ll start, a little bit at the beginning of the journey is having a clean CRM, that is by far the thing that is going to set you up for either success or failure. If you don’t have a clean CRM, and your team isn’t using the fields, the way that they’re supposed to, or the way that you’re intending to use them, that is going to just throw you off the rails pretty quickly. So having that alignment and agreement in terms of what’s going to be updated, which things are we using, and just making sure that it’s 100% accurate, is what’s going to set you up for success.

Drew Neisser: And I’ve heard some CMO say, “We won’t let sales touch the CRM, because they tend to not do it very well.” But so we’ve heard two things, very clean data, and a team commitment to the process. Jon, anything else when things go wrong, what’s the issue?

Jon Russo: I was gonna say that exact same thing, process and data. And if you don’t get those right, you get a lot of inefficiency. So inefficiency on the spend of martech, inefficiency on the hiring, inefficiency on the focus. So I don’t think I would add anything else to what we’ve already heard.

Drew Neisser: And so on this question of percent of budget, Ali mentioned it was a relatively small part of their budget, in terms of your clients Jon, in some cases, can somebody spend 90% of their budget effectively on ABM?

Jon Russo: Yeah, typically, where you see that is in a very defined target market, like healthcare, US healthcare, for example, where there’s three or 400 healthcare systems, there you’re almost all in on ABM, because we’re account based experience, and that it’s a very focused target market, versus say, a more greenfield opportunity, a SaaS security company that’s growing. It’s a little bit different there, because you might have demand gen, as well as account base. So there can be different motions, depending on the type of company that you’re dealing with.

Drew Neisser: Right. That makes sense. Again, if your target is small, you may not be using the tools. And so Ali, you did mention that the tech spending can be a lot. So I’m imagining because one of the questions from an audience was the budget as tech resources and spend, I’m imagining, that’s going to start to get up beyond the 10 to 15%.

Ali McCarthy: Well, and to layer on top of it when you’re doing experiences, right, and ABM or ABX, as you might call it Jon, will include potentially things like events and/or bespoke advertising aligning to that account. So again, you are going to spend advertising dollars anyway, and you were going to do events anyway, this just sort of directs those dollars, to me, in a meaningful way. So that’s why I said it’s hard, yes, the technology is a component, but you’re actually infusing some of the things you would already be doing into your Account Based Marketing.

Drew Neisser: And so just to sort of wrap up, and we’re talking about ABM and ABX, because it works, right, and when I say it works, it is actually solving the age old question of, is marketing driving revenue. And so you can track marketing efforts to revenue through ABM, is that categorically true? Are we talking about a 95% success rate with ABM?

Jon Russo: Yeah, great question. Let’s go back to what you were earlier saying about, is it true that ABX produces either better revenue or quicker results than non ABX type solutions? I would say from our data that we’ve seen with our clients, absolutely, yes. It takes a fair amount of process though, which you heard throughout the hour here, to get to that stage. So you’re not going to start there day one. And that’s where I think a lot of executives that are not marketers kind of get lost on. They think it’s just an easy button, you just press it and boom, you go. If you lay in the foundational work, the process work, the reporting, and you can compare and contrast the ABX treatment to the non ABX treatment, you can absolutely see the numbers prove itself out on higher ARR and shorter velocity in terms of the ABX versus the non ABX. In terms of confidence level, it really depends on the maturity of the company. You got to be committed. I can’t stress that enough where we’ve seen companies that kind of half go in on it, you can’t go half in on this kind of go to market motion. It’s a commitment to get there. For the companies that commit there, yeah, you do get the 95%. For the ones that are not committed, you’re not going to get to the destination. So there’s no real clear percentage, but you really got to be committed to that outcome.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s obviously probably true for almost any marketing effort, but more true for this. So the ground work, I mean, Ali you mentioned 12 months, Jon, is that a typical time to get everything working?

Jon Russo: Yeah, it’s really a function of the size of your sales organization, your SDRs. But I would say on average, 12 months is probably a good benchmark with kind of milestones along the way. So you’re not like fireworks at the end of 12 months, it’s every 30 days, this is what to expect. So yeah, I do think realistically to be hitting on some cylinders really well, it’s going to take a 12 month effort.

Drew Neisser: All right, real quick, because we’re running out of time. Final words of wisdom for other B2B CMOs on tackling ABM. First up. Let’s go with Laura.

Laura Beaulieu: Yeah. So I would say if you really want to make sure that your sales team is engaged, make sure that you’re delivering high quality MQLs. So when we started, we were delivering any type of intense spike. And that very quickly led to sales burnout. And so you want to make sure that you’re not serving them until they’re ready, you want to keep nurturing them.

Drew Neisser: Nurture until they’re ready. Okay, Ali.

Ali McCarthy: I would just say embrace ABM and allow it to drive the reputation and relationships and revenue within the firm.

Drew Neisser: Love it. And Kevin?

Kevin Sellers: Great, put me last so they take all the goods comments.

Drew Neisser: I know you can handle it.

Kevin Sellers: No, I look, I think what’s awesome about it is it doesn’t preclude creativity and innovation. In fact, in many ways, it allows you to do some things and test and experiment on smaller groups of accounts. So I love it because it’s super focused, it’s very efficient, the data is awesome, and the data is your best friend. But it also still allows you to innovate and create things in smaller batches. That is the heart of why we love marketing is the ability to be creative. So it doesn’t preclude that. So keep the innovation engine going.

Drew Neisser: I love that and that’s a perfect place to wrap things up. Thank you, Kevin, Laura, Ali, and our special guest last minute guest Jon Russo. You’re all great sports. Thank you, audience for staying with us.

To hear more conversations like this one and submit your own questions while we’re live. Join us on the next CMO Huddles Studio. We stream to my LinkedIn profile, that’s Drew Neisser, every other week.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out renegade.com. I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!