How ABM Powers Growth and Better Buyer Experiences

In this session, Iron Horse and Demandbase partnered up to discuss ROI for ABM today, fueled by data from our State of Enterprise B2B Technology Marketing benchmark report. | Originally aired at the ON24 Checkpoint Summit on August 24, 2022.

Rather read the transcript of the session?


Key takeaways.


Alignment is a must for ABM.

True ABM requires a strong foundation built out of alignment between marketing and sales.



ABM measurement requires the right metrics.

To meet and exceed goals and objectives, teams need account-focused metrics, not lead-based metrics.


Buyer experiences must be unified.

A high-quality, streamlined buyer experience will guide and accelerate the customer journey.


Account based marketing is critical to B2B growth. 3 out of 4 of your peers are focused on optimizing their ABM program or initiating an ABM program over the next 12 months.

Jay Famico • Chief Research Officer, Iron Horse


Jay Famico • Chief Research Officer, Iron Horse

Jay is a recognized thought leader in B2B marketing who focuses on helping companies gain maximum value from their investments in marketing technology. He’s given hundreds of presentations and written dozens of articles about demand generation, lead management, demand modeling, and technology strategy.

Sandra Freeman
Sandra Freeman • VP, Strategic Marketing, Demandbase

Sandra Freeman is VP of Strategic Marketing at Demandbase, focused on engaging and driving revenue impact in key segments including MidMarket, Expansion and Partner Marketing.  Sandra is driven to create synergies through ABX + demandgen, partners + programs, and data + creativity for amazing results. Her personal mantra is #MakeItHappen and favorite things include family time, wine with friends, sailing and traveling.

Episode Transcript

Jay Famico: B2B marketing. B2B marketing's all about driving and stimulating demand to one's prospect base. In doing so, we're also highly engaged, highly aligned with our coworkers, the quota bearing sales reps. What we're doing in working with them is we're engaging that buying unit, because we're selling to organizations. We're not selling to an individual. Now, as B2B marketers, in addition to doing that, we're also getting a lot of emails from marketing technology and service providers on a daily basis. Now, of the emails that I'm receiving, they're very heavily oriented to ABM, because ABM is actually possible now, whereas it was aspirational 10, 15 years ago. The technology has caught up, the integrations between the vendors, what we're able to provide for, from the media side, is night and day difference from where it was a decade ago.

Jay Famico: This is also why ON24, Demandbase, and Iron Horse wanted to drill into ABM. We didn't want to look at the hyperbole of aspirationally what account-based marketing is and what we could consider. We wanted to understand how our peers are providing for account-based marketing. We wanted to do a quantitative study, and that's what we're going to present to you today. Over the next 18 minutes, what we hope to share is tell you a little bit about the study and why we focused on the particular set of individuals we did. We're going to either challenge or reaffirm your current vantage point on account-based marketing. We're going to highlight some of the challenges your peer set's currently facing and how they're addressing it. We're also going to then drill into ABM measurement.

Jay Famico: As we started unearthing the data from the survey, this is something that very much stood out to Sandra and myself, and throughout the presentation, we're also going to try to tie it back to key actionable takeaways and key actionable things you should do, from the survey results.

Jay Famico: Now, in terms of who we focused on, we focused exclusively on B2B enterprise software companies, enterprise being minimum $100 million in revenue. From a seniority perspective, three out of four of the respondents were vice president or higher. Industry, again, all software, all high tech, all B2B. Why does this focus matter? Well, marketing for B2B is fundamentally different than selling toothpaste to consumers. And, even if we look within B2B, the way that you do campaign planning, the tactics that work, how you allocate marketing budget, is very much different when you're doing it for a high tech or a software organization, than what you would see in a large manufacturer or a business services company. When we're going through all of the survey results, keep that in mind.

Jay Famico: Last thing I want to highlight is the total number of respondents to this survey. In terms of the total number of respondents, there were 393. Why does the number 393 matter? Because, that tells me that we have a 95% degree of confidence with an interval of five. That means, as it relates to this particular audience, high tech B2B organizations, senior level marketer, minimum $100 million of revenue, our data points are highly exacting. There's a lot of trust behind them.

Jay Famico: What did the survey say? Comp-based marketing, it's critical to B2B growth. 73%, three out of four of your peers, are focused on optimizing their ABM program or initiating an ABM program over the upcoming 12 months. Four out of five view ABM as a strategic lever for growth in their organization. Approximately 60%, approximately six out of 10, have been doing ABM for more than two years.

Jay Famico: The reason we wanted to share this with you is to highlight, if you're doing ABM, that's what we're expecting you to do. However, if you're not currently focused on it, this is an area that you really should focus on in the upcoming 12 months, because this is where the vast majority of the industry and your peers are going.

Jay Famico: Now, this is a lot of red. This chart is ordered by the frequency of challenges that your peers are facing in account-based marketing, and it's organized from most frequently cited to least frequently cited. We're showing the degree that they strongly agreed that there was a challenge, or if they agreed, strongly agree being dark red.

Jay Famico: Here's what stood out to me. Lack of technology infrastructure and lack of data availability. That was actually lower than I was expecting, as it comes to account-based marketing. And the reason being is, if you're doing ABM properly, you're not just using one data set. You're not just doing it in marketing, you're doing it across multiple data sets. You're doing it across multiple departments. You're doing it across multiple channels, email, display, social, so on, so forth. And oftentimes, let alone for ABM, but just broad-based marketing in general, that can often be very problematic and very challenging.

Jay Famico: Sandra, when you look at this chart, is there any particular aspect here that calls out to you?

Sandra Freeman: Yeah. Hi everybody, and thanks for having me today, Jay. I just wanted to share that I came from Marketo in my past lives, where we did lots of big demand gen programs. And, then after that, Engagio where it was really, really ABM focused. And at Demandbase, there's a little bit of both. I have larger demand gen programs that are one to many, and then also very focused ABM programs that could be one to one or one to few. So, I think there's place for all, right? There's not just one option.

Sandra Freeman: When it comes to technology, what I'm definitely hearing people say, especially with the economics as it is, is we really have to work smarter, not harder. We have to use what we have in place. We have to think about the different use cases, and are we integrating all of our pieces? Are we doing advertising plus bringing in our chat bot, plus how we're attaching that with our outreach sequences that work with our SDRs? So, to me, that lack of technology is, you probably have a lot of technology, but are you using it well, and is it integrating? And just thinking about those use cases and starting with, what are your biggest challenges? And let's address that, and let's start with that and make sure it is an integrated campaign, is what I was going to share.

Sandra Freeman: So it could be very one to one, or maybe in some cases it could be one to few or one to many, but just using that technology well. I think the second point on the data, ah, data is rough, right? There was the great resignation and now there's a lot of people moving jobs, and so it's like, are you getting to the right people? So really keeping your data clean and having good hygiene there, as well as one thing that we really worry about a lot, is early signals, watching for those early signals. Whether it's using intent or technographics, or just understanding engagement and what people care about, and making sure it's then relevant to them with your sequences and with your followup.

Jay Famico: When I look at this chart, Sandra, when you run a survey, you always go, "Ah, there's a few other questions, I wished I asked." When I look at this chart, the question I wish I asked is, "When you're defining your ABM programs and campaigns, and how you're going to engage those target organizations, at what point in the process is marketing ops or sales ops brought into the conversation?"

Sandra Freeman: Oh, that's a good one. So, I'd say, before you even talk about it. You just definitely need that relationship with your MOPS team, and bring them in early on. They'll have lots of ideas and definitely not after the fact and, "Oh, we already did this. Can you report on it, and tell me how it's all supposed to hook together?" So, definitely having that, building that relationship and being clear upfront how you can make the most of it, right? It's the optimizing. Again, the working smarter, not harder, it's by bringing MOPS in early.

Jay Famico: I can associate with-

Sandra Freeman: What do you think?

Jay Famico: I fully agree. Then what made me think of that so serious, when I look at the top one there, difficulty measuring the ROI of ABM. It's, if you define your campaign and how everything will work, and then you go into the technical strategy of it, sometimes you have an inability of slightly modifying the way that the campaign will work, in a way that would actually make it more scalable and more easily measurable.

Sandra Freeman: Yeah. And defining what does success look like? What are we trying to do? It doesn't always mean in a short period, like in a quarter, that you're going to get the deal. But, are you going to engage this deal enough? Are you going to move them along? Are you focusing more on percentages of conversion, or how you're moving them forward? So depending on what you're trying to accomplish with it, working with MOPS on that is very helpful.

Jay Famico: So, it all comes down to this foundational layer, and that's what the next slide we're going to cover is. Rather than red, it's all in green. Green is good. And here's what it's saying. Of the people we surveyed, what percentage of them agreed or strongly agreed about the following statements on account based marketing?

Jay Famico: Marketing and sales should have mutually agreed upon goals and objectives for what ABM is at their organization. Survey said 72% of respondents agreed. What would that be, math wise? That would be, 28% didn't actually agree with that statement.

Jay Famico: Marketing and sales should have an agreement on the types of accounts, or for doing one to one, or one to few ABM, the actual names of those organizations we're trying to target. Survey said 85% of respondents said, "You need to have that. That is core to account based marketing."

Jay Famico: Now, if we think about ABM, there's two motions going on. You have the motions from the quota bearing sales rep or the BDR. You have the motions from the marketer, the marketing manager, and realistically, they should be tethered in a line together. 83% of the respondents said, that is key. A key foundational thing in order to get ABM off the ground.

Jay Famico: And then the last one we probed into is, well, if we know what our goals and objectives are, we should have agreement. This is going through what Sandra said a couple minutes ago, on how those goals and objectives are actually going to be measured. 76%. The iron horse vantage point is an order to do ABM effectively, efficiently, and drive significant business value at it, each of these really should be at a hundred percent. If you're not doing it at a hundred percent on these four foundational elements, you're leaving money on the table, and you're making account based marketing more challenging than it otherwise can and should be.

Jay Famico: Sandra, tell me, you're going to agree, 100%.

Sandra Freeman: Oh, I agree so much. And I guess my two takeaways for really aligning with sales, I think number one is simplify. I saw a slide once with a sales rep and they have so much stuff that they have to worry about. They have to worry about the product, and SDRs, and legal, and all these things, and demos. And, it's there's so much going on. So simplifying as much as you can, making it really clear what their part is in that program. For example, if it's a one on one campaign you're doing, what you need help with from that AE, or SDR, or CSM team. So, I think simplifying is number one, sharing success is another one. And just really explaining back into the team. "Here's what we did. Here's how we move this deal. Here's how we won this deal." It really helps a lot, get people excited about it and be more willing to participate in some of these campaigns and their pieces of it.

Sandra Freeman: And I guess the last would be, one of the things that we do internally is called an ABX standup. Where you bring in, and it can be a pod, it can include your customers facing too. But if on the new business side, usually an AE and SDR in the marketer. And then if it's with customer, you'd bring in your GAD or your CSM. And just really talking about that account and just meeting and connecting and saying, "This is how we're going to move this account forward. And these are the steps." And again, back to simplifying in communicating, just so everybody's on the same page.

Jay Famico: In terms of being on the same page, if I just maybe go over this one more time. In order for ABM to be effective, if I look at these four levels, we have to agree on what our goals and objectives are, what organizations we're trying to engage through ABM, what marketing and sales should be doing, and how we're going to measure it. These core foundational things that are required for ABM, I'd argue are required for any successful marketing program. But unfortunately, the survey says many organizations are short-shrifting ABM initial setup, which ultimately sacrifices some of the potential rewards that it can drive for your organization.

Jay Famico: Now, in terms of optimizing ABM, you need to be able to measure ABM. And the key thing I want to highlight for you, before I go in and show you the numbers is, we isolated this chart solely to those individuals, those survey respondents that strongly agreed. Strongly agreed that ABM is a significant part of their growth strategy. Survey said, one out of two review marketing qualified accounts, MQAs, on a daily or a weekly basis. Now, MQAs that's a primary determinant of success, as it relates to ABM initiatives. I would've liked to have seen this number be higher toward a hundred percent.

Jay Famico: Now the interesting corollary though, is we asked a second question, "How frequently are you measuring lead qualification or marketing qualified leads?" And these same individuals that say, "ABM is a significant part of our growth strategy," three out of four are measuring MQLs on a daily or a weekly basis. Now that's 75% number? That's not concerning for me, because realistically in most organizations, you're doing ABM motions and ABM programs alongside your broad-based marketing. But if you look at the disconnect, roughly 25% more frequently looking at MQLS on a daily or weekly basis, to me that highlights a measurement issue.

Jay Famico: The measurement issue that's highlighting is two things. First, if you're evaluating your ABM programs through MQLS, you're incorrectly diagnosing opportunities for improvement. You're also missing the ability to understand what's working well, and what can be modified. The other one though is, it's setting your entire executive team to thinking and evaluating ABM programs, just like they evaluate all of the broad-based demand generation programs. And, it's two different sets of metrics. It's basically trying to do the same math with half of your numbers in the metric system, and the other half in the US system. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison. You're comparing, not even apples to oranges, you're comparing apples to hotdogs.

Sandra Freeman: Apples to hot dogs.

Jay Famico: First thing that came to my mind.

Sandra Freeman: I like it. I like it. So Jay, what I was thinking about, there's certain companies that maybe they have a really fast sales cycle. I know a demand-based customer, that in the first three months was able to shorten the sales cycle from 30 days to 11 days, with what they were doing in their ABM program. That's not typical. Most companies have a lot longer sales cycle. So, I think being able to show quicker wins when your deal's not going to close for six months or nine months, you have to show progress along the way. So, I wanted to throw these measurements out, which is engagement. Making sure you're engaging those accounts and the right people at those accounts. Both known engagement, they're on your site, and anonymous engagement. And watching for signals about what they care about, and being able to then provide them the right relevant messaging. So I think engagement's definitely important.

Sandra Freeman: Conversion by stage is something I definitely look at, understanding from awareness to whatever your measure, whether it's MQL or MQA, and then how it's moving along through the pipe, right? Did you open an opportunity? Did the opportunities get stuck? What's the conversion rates? So just watching that, all along your funnel and saying, "Okay, this is where we're having trouble. So let's put our effort here, and let's think of programs here to drive that and improve that conversion, and always watching those conversion rates." If you're just always optimizing throughout the journey, and can create programs then to fix things when you have problems there.

Sandra Freeman: Definitely, velocity. Looking at velocity from all those different stages and where you can speed it up, so you can move that number along. And then of course, deal size and thinking about where are we going to put more resources on certain deals. Whether it's renewals or new business, and where you're worth the extra effort, the extra campaign, the extra workshop, sending out an executive, whatever it is. Having that de deal size requirement, and then working that, and then it'll pay off on the back end.

Sandra Freeman: And then, the big one that everybody always wants to know is ROI. And I just wanted to share just from some internal things that we do at Demandbase that really helps, is we look at the early indicators. All the programs that are feeding into all those early numbers. Do we have enough moving in? And then, looking at each stage and being able to say, "What is the cost versus the conversion?" And being able to say by different channels, what's working, and then optimizing those channels, sharing that with other program managers, so that everybody's really aware of that.

Sandra Freeman: For example, chat's been great for us. Web chat is really working well, and making sure you have that in your different programs and that when, if you're doing one to few on a certain vertical, you address that and you are sharing a different conversation in your chat with that group of people, and they can convert more and get more meetings that way. But just looking all across, both from, do I have enough engagement? Is it moving pipe, and what is influencing and closing deals, and looking at across all programs. And I typically, find that there is a good mix. You have to mix it up. You just can't do a webinar a day, for example. It's lower cost, but you got to mix it up and have different types of engagement to keep the deals moving.

Sandra Freeman: So, I do have some examples, I thought we'd share. Make it come to life. These are more ad-specific examples. But when I think about campaigns, I do consider ads to warm up. I call it warm and swarm your accounts, but also of course, your email sequences. What are you doing for social? What are you doing with your SDRs? What are you doing with gifting and bringing in executives, et cetera. But I have three examples, a one to one, a one to few, and a one to many. And these are all real examples.

Sandra Freeman: So the first one, a one to one, if you had a big account in this case, a very personalized landing page for an account. And in your advertising, we added a persona filter to this one account, and in a week had 280 clicks into that personalized page. So, this example was from last week. I was just excited about it because you can then on that page, have very specific offers to that account. They're getting the right case studies, they're getting the right assets. And, it's one way to engage and improve that account through the deal cycle.

Sandra Freeman: A one to few example, this is one I did for a customer cross sell. It was about 500 accounts and we targeted customers with an ad campaign. And in two weeks actually, we had 1500 new visitors to the site. So I was very excited about that, because I've done a lot of email in my life. You're not going to get 1500 people come clicking on your emails. It's just harder and harder to get through emails. So you just do have to have that balanced, multiple types of channels to engage folks. But this is a true story. It was a 55% lift over the previous month, against that list of accounts.

Sandra Freeman: And then one to many, so this is not your ABM, only one to one campaign, but we looked at our advertising. There was a decrease in budget. We wanted to optimize it. We actually even had more accounts added in, and by adding on some additional intent filters, and being able to then follow up based on intent and sequences, we had just a big bump in traffic in July. Couldn't believe it. I thought, "What? July, that's an awful month." So I think from the one to many side, using your advertising, using your strategy with your different tiers, where you're going to put more money into the tiers that you want to drive more engagement with, it's really working. So, just wanted to share those three options or three ideas. But as well, adding on the integrated touch points as well. Okay. So, we're wrapping it up, right, Jay?

Jay Famico: Yep. It's how quickly these calls go.

Sandra Freeman: Yeah. So, I think the key takeaways we wanted to share and just jump in as well, is definitely having your goals and your objective set, making sure you understand, what does success look like? Whether that's engaging this one account, whether it's unsticking an account that's stuck, whether it's a new vertical you're trying to drive into, whether it's, we're trying to go up market. What are your key objectives, your goals? And, sharing that with sales and marketing, and CS as well, so everybody knows what's going on and there's no surprises. And it takes a lot of work to communicate all that. It does, but just keep sharing your success stories.

Sandra Freeman: Let's see, understanding your day to day roles. Definitely that's important, so everybody knows what their actions are. I think that ABX stand ups are really helpful here. And meeting with your team and saying, "Okay, you're going to review this one to one landing pages," or, "Let's run this messaging by you, that we're going to use against account X. We think they care about greenfield accounts. Let's add that. Let's focus on that." And then measuring, working with MOPS, bringing MOPS early, as we talked about, they're the superstars. And we can bring our creativity and our execution, and here's how we want to achieve all these different goals. But MOPS alongside you will definitely help.

Jay Famico: Yeah. MOPS makes it scalable. And many times they'll also come by and say, "Did you think of this, you could also consider?" And outside of making the program more scalable, it can also make it more impactful to the targeted organizations.

Sandra Freeman: Yeah, exactly. Okay. So we're wrapping it up. Want to thank everybody for coming, and let us know if you have any questions. We're here to help on questions that you might have.