19. ABM: The WHAT, WHY, and HOW of High-Value Customer Acquisition and Growth | Sara Månsson

Slide Ep. 19: Interview with Sara Månsson

ABM: The WHAT, WHY, and HOW of High-Value Customer Acquisition and Growth

EP19-Sara Mansson

On this week’s episode, we had a chance to sit down and have a conversation with Sara Månsson (Head of Sales Sweden, InZynk) on the topic of account-based marketing (ABM). During the discussion, Sara explains why organizations should plan holistically for ABM from the start, what changes she has seen to ABM as a result of the crisis, and how an ABM strategy drives real revenue for B2B organizations when used the right way.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Steps to measure ABM. [11:54]
  • How organizations should be planning holistically for ABM from the start. [15:08]
  • Using ABM strategy to drive real revenue for B2B organizations. [21:55]

Resources & links mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

SPEAKERS

Christian Klepp, Sara Mansson

Christian Klepp  00:08

Hi, and welcome to the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. I’m your host, Christian Klepp, and one of the founders of EINBLICK Consulting. Our goal is to share inspirational stories, tips and insights from B2B marketers, digital entrepreneurs, and industry experts that will help you think differently, succeed and scale your business.

Christian Klepp  00:29

Alright, Hi, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. I’m your host, Christian Klepp. And today, I’d like to welcome a guest on to our show who comes from a region of Europe known as Scandinavia, or the Nordics. So Sara Mansson. Hej Hej, welcome to the show.

Sara Mansson  00:46

Hej, Christian. Thank you.

Christian Klepp  00:49

Alright, so good to have you on the show. So, why don’t we get this conversation started? And tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Sara Mansson  00:56

Yeah, I will do that. So first of all, thank you so much for having me. I am really thrilled to be here. And so my name is Sara. And I am the head of sales at InZynk. And my main focus is to be part of driving sales in different ways. And I’m also being partly involved in our strategic discussions at InZynk. So that’s what I do.

Christian Klepp  01:24

Okay, fantastic. Sara, tell us some about a current project that you’re working on that you’re you know, that gets you motivated, and that you’re very excited about?

Sara Mansson  01:34

Yeah, so one project that we are working on. And I am super excited about this. Because we are developing a self-service solution, like a platform where our customers can affect and influence the content during the sales process, from start to finish in a way that doesn’t exist today. And we’re in the middle of this developing process right now. So that’s really interesting.

Christian Klepp  02:04

That’s, that’s amazing. So you said influence the content during the sales process? I mean, that sounds like a bit of a game changer to me, right?

Sara Mansson  02:11

Yeah, I think it will be. Because we see the need in the market. And it doesn’t exist today. So it will be really, really interesting to see what we can get out of this.

Christian Klepp  02:24

Well, that’s incredible, and thanks for sharing that. So Sara, let’s talk about your area of expertise, which will be I guess, the highlight of today’s discussion on Account Based Marketing or ABM. All right. So okay, for the benefit of our listeners who are not familiar with this discipline, can you please walk us through what ABM is?

Sara Mansson  02:45

Yes, if you’re working within b2b, and you have long sales cycles with different levels of complexity, the complexity many times comes from the number of people involved in the process, right. So if we put it this way, there’s a company that you believe you can help. And you want to influence the people inside the company. So with ABM, we can help you to do that. And ABM is about targeting the people at specific companies and get them to see messages that you want them to see and develop relationships with them. So you look at ABM long term, with a focus on nurturing, highly targeted accounts that have the best fit for your company. So it’s about relevance, not knocking on everyone’s door. So you focus your time, money and resources on the deals that are most likely to close or bring long term value. So there are a lot of discussions going on about the M in ABM to be seen as misleading, because ABM requires that sales and marketing works together. So they should be synchronized, right?

Christian Klepp  03:59

I mean, that’s, you know, those are really insightful observations. And I’d like to expand on that a little bit more, you know, later in the conversation. But in your professional opinion, why do you think… and you touched on that briefly, but why do you think that ABM is such an important part of what an organization needs to do in order to improve their marketing and overall performance?

Sara Mansson  04:22

Yeah, right. Well, I think ABM is a key factor to succeed in complex b2b. And one of the reasons is that when working with large deals or long sales cycles, there’s normally a lot of different people involved, right? So what you need to do is build consensus at scale. And we know that in many complex deals, the individual salesperson cannot reach all these people. So what you can do is to use the power of marketing to get a broader audience. And it’s not just our own experience. There’s also tons of research showing the superior upsides doing ABM compared not to. So you can find research from its most serious decision, mega deals, etc. And that’s one of the reasons because you need to influence so many people. And as an individual, you have a hard time doing that.

Christian Klepp  05:27

Right. Those are really important points that you raised. And, you know, back to what I was saying previously, what kind of a powerful influence ABM does have on the target market and so forth. And I’m sure, you know, being in sales, you probably get this question a lot. And there’s probably potential prospects that you’re talking to out there that are kind of like, I’m not decided yet about whether they should go ahead with ABM or not. What is it that you tell them? If they’re not sure, you know, they come back to you with questions like, oh, Sara, I’m not sure about the old ROI question. And does this justify the investment? And, you know, what kind of returns are we going to get or results will this generate in terms of sales conversion? So how do you address questions like that?

Sara Mansson  06:23

Yeah, so ABM is basically all the activities you’re doing towards a specific account, right? Touch, and how you can measure it. You cannot measure it the same way as you’re measuring, leads conversion, for example. You need to see it from a different angle. So one good way to measure it is like with A/B testing, so if you chose if you choose 10, accounts that sales act on, and then another 10, that they’re also acting them, but towards the first 10, we’re also doing ABM and to the other ones were not. And from that perspective, you can see the difference.

Christian Klepp  07:12

Right. Okay. That’s great. I think if I understood you correctly, and this is clearly I suppose one of the obvious benefits of ABM is that you can measure the results, right? Or like that, or like that book says, you can measure what matters, right. And this is one important aspect of like, you know, why companies should be using ABM.

Sara Mansson  07:37

I would say that it is, in one way, you need to make it measurable. And you need to set KPIs that you can measure. So, yes, and no, I would say but yes, you can measure it, because you can, you can compare, when we do ABM, this happens and when we are not doing it, it doesn’t happen. So you can put those things towards each other. And when you do that, it becomes measurable. So you can measure it like that.

Christian Klepp  08:21

Okay. Right. Sara, I think, you know, the, the next question is probably a massive understatement. But you know, the past couple of months, obviously, have been like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. Like we’re going through a pandemic, and economic crisis. And, you know, this crisis is completely disrupted, several industries across the globe. And, you know, clearly, the world of ABM has been affected by that as well.

Christian Klepp  08:57

So, you know, with regards to that, what kind of changes have you observed or seen in ABM since the start of the pandemic? Talk to us about this, and tell us also what you believe the future trends are for ABM as a result of what’s going on right now.

Sara Mansson  09:17

Well, I think that like you said, we all saw the physical touch points were suddenly gone. And it’s the same for ABM because you could work with tailored events, trade shows, etc. But that’s no longer possible.

So there was also a huge cut in many organizations, marketing budgets, generally. And, of course, we see that effect in ABM as well. So it has become even more focus on digital touch points. So I do believe to answer that question. I think for the future, it will be even more important to support the physical touch points with digital touch. And I think that you will have to create like digital sales persons in like creating messages, banner ads, etc., that will reflect the sales people even more.

Christian Klepp  10:38

Yeah. Well, those are great observations. And I think it’s fair to say that the digital transformation that we’re witnessing right now, that’s probably not going to go away anytime soon. I mean, even if the impersonal events eventually roll back, and who knows when that’s gonna happen. But I think that the digital aspect of it is probably like, the next step, and that is going to be an inevitable part of the future, not just for ABM, but for, you know, a lot of other disciplines as well. Right? Okay. And you brought up a great point with the budgets, but we’re gonna talk about that in a second.

Let’s discuss ABM a bit further. And that’s really just for the benefit of those that wish to implement these tactics as part of their overall approach. Because as you know, as we mentioned earlier, maybe there’s a couple of organizations out there that are still like undecided in terms of whether they wish to proceed with ABM or not.

So how do you assign revenue opportunities that are unique to ABM-generated accounts? And is it possible to prove that an ABM strategy drives real revenue compared to non-ABM initiatives?

Sara Mansson  11:49

Yeah, so what we talked about a bit before, ABM is basically all the activities you’re doing towards specific accounts, right. And one good way to measure it, it is with A/B testing. So you choose these accounts, or sales acts, you choose 10 other accounts, whereas sales also act, but on one of the segments, or the first 10 accounts, you also do ABM so that’s one way to really see the difference. And, you know, what happens if you’re going to talk to everyone, right? You’re going to knock everyone’s door. And half of them cannot even buy from you, you will get a worse hit right? The hit rate will we be not as good as if you knock on the doors to the people who actually can buy to the organizations that wants to talk to you? And so you need to do your disqualification and qualification.

Sorry, qualify. Thank you. You need to disqualify and qualify correctly. And on the question about whether ABM is the reason for the effect or not. It depends on who you are asking. And the transparency you’re having towards each other – You and your client. Because was it sales? was it ABM? You know, many times sales would probably say that they did it. And marketing will be sure that it was them, but the truth probably lies somewhere in between, right, because it’s a combination. They are both needed.

Christian Klepp  13:45

Okay. Well, I mean, thanks for sharing that. And I think if I understood, what you’ve been explaining the past couple of minutes correctly, is that also ABM is perhaps one of those, shall we say, methods or initiatives that will help to create alignment between, you know, sales and marketing, which is, you know, it’s always the key challenge in organizations. So always to get these two groups to work together. Instead of against each other.

Sara Mansson  14:15

Yes, definitely. I mean, we’re trying to do the same thing.

Christian Klepp  14:20

Well, yeah, I mean, essentially, everyone’s on the same team.

Sara Mansson  14:22

Right.

Christian Klepp  14:24

Okay. Yeah that’s excellent.

Christian Klepp  14:27

Hey, it’s Christian Klepp here. We’ll get back to the episode in a second. But first, is your brand struggling to cut through the noise? Are you trying to find more effective ways to reach your target audience and boost sales? Are you trying to pivot your business? If so, book a call with EINBLICK Consulting Our experienced consultants will work with you to help your b2b business to succeed and scale. Go to www.einblick.co for more information.

Christian Klepp  14:56

So how do you think organizations should be planning holistically for ABM from the start, including such things as like, third party technology recommendations?

Sara Mansson  15:08

Yeah. Okay. So first of all, I would say don’t go all in from start, you should start small. Because I believe in creating something that is scalable to be sustainable over time, you know.

Christian Klepp  15:24

Yeah.

Sara Mansson  15:24

And the best way to implement that is by starting small. So specifically, especially if you, your organization doesn’t have experience from working like this before, because then it’s also about, you know, changing a behavior, right. So typically, get one of your top salespeople on board, start by focusing on very few of his or her accounts. So if you have a lot of ABM experience, or lots of in house resources, there are many great tools out there, you know, you have full stack ABM platforms, you have instant data providers like Bombora, or Salesforce for CRM, or inbound, you know, but if you don’t have a lot of experience or resources, you should find someone that can help you do it, at least in the very beginning, so that you can, you know, grow successively, and have someone holding your hand while doing it. Because if you are going to do this in house, it will take resources, and it will take time.

Christian Klepp  16:40

Indeed. Definitely great advice. And, you know, you brought up a couple of great points on, you know, for example, if I understood what you were saying correctly, is that, you know, no amount of technology or third party platform is going to make your ABM campaign successful. If you don’t have the right approach in place, and you don’t have the right team in place that understands, first of all, how this is implemented, how this all works together, because, you know, basically ABM is an ecosystem, right? You have to understand how the ecosystem works first, right. And I think the other piece of advice, which you brought up a couple of times, which I think is really gold is start small. Start small, test, iterate, and then add on progressively as opposed to just going in all the way, starting big. And then, you’re not sure what the outcome was gonna be.

Sara Mansson  17:43

No, exactly. And many times, if you’re just going all in, it will end with. Okay, we withdraw this initiative. Yeah, we’re going back to, to our old patterns, you know. Because it, it was overwhelming. And so when you are changing something, you should start small. So yeah, definitely.

Christian Klepp  18:10

Yeah. No, that’s a great insight. Sara, we talked about this earlier, but you know, obviously, the current crisis has disrupted the global economy. And if I may say, so, it’s sent shockwaves through several industries. And you also brought it up in a previous answer about, like, you know, clients that you’ve been interacting with, or prospects that you’ve been communicating with, that I’ve told you like, Hey, listen, Sara, we’d love to implement this. But, you know, due to the ongoing situation, our budgets have either been reduced or taken away. But somehow we’re still expected to deliver the same results, or maybe even like, higher results than we did last year. Is there something you can do to help us? So what kind of advice have you been giving these clients who have seen their budgets reduced or taken away from them?

Sara Mansson  19:04

Yeah. Well, I would say, we never recommend to cut the marketing budget totally. But that’s our saying, but I would say to them that for marketing to stay very close to sales, you know, really focused on what could make a difference here and now. What’s important for us, as an organization right now, like, eliminate the risk from ongoing processes, you know, by helping them answer the questions their potential clients are wondering about with tailored messages, like especially the ones that’s in a deal closing phase, you know. So, that’s super important. And also, don’t forget the existing accounts, so stay close to them, talk to them, make sure that they feel secure. You know, it’s been very unstable, and a lack of the feeling of safety and security. And what you really should do is stay close to this existing clients and make them feel secure that you are holding their hand, you’re doing this together, you’re not leaving them. So, that’s something I’ve been talking about.

Christian Klepp  20:32

That’s a great answer because, you know, I think at the end of the day, what has come out of this crisis as in fact that, you know…And regardless of whether you’re, you know, you’re an ABM or you’re in another marketing discipline, you have to look at this with a different set of eyes or a different mindset, right, because this is an unprecedented situation. And I think it really is about like, Okay, how can we reach out to our customers and continue to serve them and help us, you know, get through this crisis together?

Sara Mansson  21:06

Exactly. Because if you are there for them now, they will stay, because they feel safe with you.

Christian Klepp  21:14

Exactly. That’s fantastic. Sara, onto my next question, and I love asking this one because the answers are usually quite interesting and engaging. There are a few commonly held beliefs or you can also call it conventional wisdoms across different fields of marketing or marketing disciplines. And I’m sure there are some as well in the field of ABM. So talk to us about one such belief that you strongly disagree with.

Sara Mansson  21:55

Yeah. All right. So like we talked about before, ABM can be many things, of course. And I’m not saying that everyone does, but it’s pretty common that marketing are working with leads, and it’s less common to support pipeline. So what I am saying is that, it’s pretty common to use ABM to pave the way. And I wouldn’t say that I strongly disagree. But I do believe that we can make a big difference and get the best effect by supporting all the way. So I mean, you can use it for just parts of the sales cycle. But then again, your content should be very tailored for that specific phase. So if you’re choosing specific phases, I think that there’s better phases to pick than the very beginning. Because in the very beginning, you do have a lot of great tools for lead generation, you know, they’re not as applicable for like a deal closing phase as ABM.

So that’s what I want to disagree when, if I’m going to disagree, yeah. So you can use it for many different phases. But I would say that, if you want the effect, you should use it all the way to support pipeline through different phases with the tailored messages, etc.

Christian Klepp  23:32

Okay. Well, that’s an incredibly interesting one. So, okay, now we are going from that, like, from these conventional wisdoms, that you probably, let’s say you don’t completely disagree with them, but let’s just say you have a different opinion about them. I think it’s a fair assumption. So we go from that to what is the one thing that you believe people should start doing? And one thing that you think people should stop doing when it comes to ABM?

Sara Mansson  24:10

All right, I believe people should start to really match the content towards the sales and the buyer’s journey. Because buyer’s journey is not the exact same as sales journey, right? Don’t look at it from inside out, tapering the content towards different roles, both formal and informal stakeholders, and I mean, most of them which you will never even meet or talk to. So try to see it from both perspectives, because different individuals looks at it differently. So answer the questions they’re thinking about. And stop doing when it comes to ABM. Well, I think you should stop looking at ABM as a marketing activity. So you know, it’s not just marketing.

Christian Klepp  25:10

Yeah. Right. Yeah, those are such great observations. And I think you brought up a good point, you know, when you talked about buyer’s journey, or you know, you can call them customer journey mapping. You mentioned it in the previous in the previous answers, and it’s amazing. Even some of the companies that we talked to, it’s amazing how, you know, we, at the end of the discussion, we then determined that the clients team has, in fact, not developed, you know, the ideal customer profile, or customer journey map. And, in fact, that I’m sure this is the same, you know, with some of the accounts that you’ve been talking to, but if they have, chances are the ideal customer profile, and those, the customer journey maps have changed in the past six months, because of what’s going on, right?

Sara Mansson  26:07

Yeah, I know, you really need to be more aware, you need to really focus. So where can we make an impact? Who fits us the best? And where can we make an impact for them? So you really need to find that.

Christian Klepp  26:31

Exactly. Great. I mean, Sara, this has been such a great session. Thanks so much for coming on and sharing. So what’s the best way for people out there to connect with you?

Sara Mansson  26:42

Yes, Christian, thank you, again, for having me. So it’s been a pleasure talking to you here in this session. And if you want to get in contact with me, I would say the easiest way is to just drop a connection request on LinkedIn. So I’m Sara Mansson. And you can search for Sara Mansson InZynk if you want to find me, and that would be the very easiest way.

Christian Klepp  27:08

Okay, fantastic. You know, Sara, I think we covered a lot of ground today in terms of ABM and what b2b companies need to do in order to navigate through these turbulent times. So, you know, thanks again, and I wish you all the best. Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Sara Mansson  27:25

Thanks, Christian. Likewise.

Christian Klepp  27:27

All right. Take care.

Sara Mansson  27:28

Take care.

Christian Klepp  27:31

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. To learn more about what we do here EINBLICK, please visit our website at www.einblick.co. And be sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.