Supercharge Your ABM with Paid Media 

Sometimes it feels like marketers are from Mars and the audiences they target are from Venus. To truly be effective and see results, marketers need to speak the right language, but how? It starts with quality data. | Originally aired on July 29, 2021

Rather read a transcript of the session?


Key takeaways.


Take advantage of advanced audience capabilities.

Intent data and first-party data are gold mines of information that can accelerate sales opportunities.


Take a data-first approach to personalization.

Reach your audiences with customized content at every part of the funnel using data from your paid media campaigns.


Share all data, everywhere and all of the time.

ABM doesn’t reach its potential without integrated technology and teams. All data points should be logged and used to enable sales.


ABM is not a short burst campaign. It needs to be an ongoing, long strategy.


Episode Transcript

Joe Cantu: All right. So thank you for joining us for today's coffee break. We'll discuss how to supercharge your ABM with paid media. I'm Joe Cantu, director of digital marketing at Iron Horse, and pleased to speak today with Steve Neemic from Tech Target, CRO there, and he'll be explaining a little bit more about Tech Target, but more specifically how he views ABM and what the key components of a successful ABM strategy are.

Joe Cantu: So Steve, I'll hand it over to you. You can give a little intro, and then I think from there, like I mentioned, would love to get your thoughts on, as you have worked with a number of ABM clients at Tech Target, just what do those key components look like, and what are some of those tips and best practices that you look for when you're working with clients?

Steve Niemiec: For sure. Thanks, Joe. And certainly thanks for being here. I love the series that you folks put on. I think it's a really helpful way for folks to digest as well as understand different ways to go to market, and we're certainly excited to have the opportunity to speak with you as well as with all the folks on.

Steve Niemiec: To the question that you raise around ABM, I think this is such an interesting theme, because it's certainly something that is consistently objective that we hear repeatedly across clients today. I am ABM focus, what should we do? Quite frankly, how do I get the most out of this? Oftentimes, I think a lot of our customers, a lot of our partners are thrust in the ABM campaigns and they're really focused on trying to better understand really how do I create sales? How do I create long term opportunities?

Steve Niemiec: And you raise a really, really good question for us to start with, which is what are the foundational things that we at Tech Target believe are really fundamental to creating a core go-to market successful ABM strategy? And we can jump around on these, we can look at them, but when I think about really what makes a successful ABM campaign, the first thing that truly comes to mind for me is that are you as a vendor, as a partner, as a client, are you using the right data to actually go about in target in market accounts? And I think it's a very distinguishable factor to say, it's not just about the accounts, but it's about the accounts that are actually in market today, and how can you as a partner or you as a vendor understand how to essentially prioritize those?

Steve Niemiec: A second point is how do you use media to influence those accounts? When I talk to clients, I often spend a couple minutes and I think about that is how do I act to it? So after I've got an ABM list, then, well, what do I do? How do I ensure that my point of view, my share of voice, that I'm essentially making my message move through the streams?

Steve Niemiec: The third point, which we can certainly spend some time on today is the multiple layers of the buying team. This is something that I think from a seller's perspective, as well as you're seeing some of the more published analyst houses talk about today, it's no longer okay to just market to set personas, or it's no longer to just guess at who you need to reach within these ABM relationships. You, essentially, as a seller and a marketer want to make sure that you're in front of as many prospects within that account as possible.

Steve Niemiec: And then probably the fourth layer, if we got some time to get to it, this is something that we at Tech Target believe is truly fundamental to making ABM successful. It's about how do I get my sellers involved heavily not only in what I'm building as a marketer, but to action on information and to make sure that in the end, the campaigns that I'm building, that my sellers are aware of it, but that they also have the insights and the data to really take action on.

Joe Cantu: Those are great tips, starting points make a ton of sense. So let's actually dig a little bit deeper into your first point around data and coordination of data, especially on the in market side. What does that really look like in terms of leveraging tools like Tech Target and some of the partnerships that y'all have?

Steve Niemiec: For sure. So oftentimes when we're with customers and we're talking through an ABM strategy, they have a defined account list, and that account list has most likely been mobilized either through a sales activity sales focus, or there's a lot of other tools that folks can utilize to use propensity modeling or even their own first party data to really help understand, which accounts do I really want to prioritize over the next six to 12 months?

Steve Niemiec: Something that though that could or potentially be lacking is so after we've defined this account universe, how do I use data or insights that maybe the vendor isn't aware of? So what's fortunate about where we exist within our relationship with vendors is that we see where the research is happening without them. So as an example, we understand people that aren't with them that are potentially researching with the competitor, or we see other members of the buying team that they would want to influence. And so what we refer to our first party data, it's directly observed. It's homegrown. It's known. We understand who the audiences are, but what we're going to do is we can take an account list that a vendor is looking to prioritize, and we can say essentially, two things.

Steve Niemiec: Of your accounts that you're trying to prioritize, let's actually show you, which of those accounts are right now in market so that we can really specifically hone in the messaging. And then there's also this world of what we refer to as lookalike accounts. So for example, I'm a sales leader. Let's say that I have an idea that I want to go after a certain logo, but if there's insights and data that can show me that other logos, or maybe similar looking logos are actually more greenfield, beneficial opportunities for me to influence, that's where I'm also going to want to focus.

Steve Niemiec: So it goes back to using the right information that you have available to make sure that you're defining and honing in on the most appropriate targets at the right point in time.

Joe Cantu: Ton of sense. So then from there, now that we've found the right people, obviously in our relationship, we know a lot of these tools. So display banners, content syndication, things like that. How do you use those tools against those audiences now that we have found the right people?

Steve Niemiec: Sure. Great question. So I think it's really important for vendors as well as for folks to realize ABM isn't just a short burst campaign. ABM needs to be an ongoing, long strategy. And the reason is we approach account list and we might think we've used data to understand where that account is at, but the reality is that the buyer controls how they want to research. And oftentimes, more complex technology decisions will happen with bi cycles of six to nine months. So for you as a vendor, it's really fundamentally important to your point, Joe, that you're always on. That's a really consistent theme that we stress, especially with clients around ensuring that your messaging is accessible as well as found and sent to the accounts that quite frankly you want to prioritize.

Steve Niemiec: I think you hit upon something that's really interesting. It's this notion of continuous engagement. You mentioned many tools. There's certainly different ways to target folks today in an online manner. The best advice that we give clients is how do you harmonize that? Or how do you make sure that's consistently working where the buying team at these accounts is seeing your messaging, but they're also seeing it over a consistent period of time? So this notion of, I think, what is the rule of seven marketing? That somebody needs to see your advertisement seven times in order to actually remember it. Well, when you apply that to ABM, it's a much more defined universe, which is actually beneficial that if you can target your media hyper effectively. Because you can really pinpoint and go after the right relationships at the right time.

Steve Niemiec: So a big suggestion that we always sit with vendors around is let's think about the go to market. Let's think about the account list, but let's think about how we can help coordinate that brand and demand into the actual people that are right now doing the real research. And then look, it gets down to measurement. This is something that I know you and the team do insanely well there. Not everything works out of the gates, and I think it's really important to just acknowledge that. And as partners, we need to be nimble, and we need to understand the messaging that's working. We need to be able to even dial up content. Oftentimes I think the content and the right content that vendors have can be a lost medium that people need to think about. So you're always fighting for mind share specifically with ABM accounts. So the whole synchronization of messaging is something that we believe is extremely important.

Joe Cantu: I couldn't agree more with you there. I know throughout some of the campaigns we've run, really being able to dial in content, especially after we've ran for a while, you may see a piece or two that don't resonate quite as well at any given moment in time. You tweak that piece a little bit or run it with a slightly different audience and see great results, but just the willingness to roll up your sleeves, test new things out. And then of course, making sure that you put the audience first and their needs first. When we can continue to provide value and push our clients to provide new content, new things like that for their target customer, it benefits everyone.

Joe Cantu: And not just the content people generally think of as driving sales, doesn't always have to be asking for the sale tomorrow or asking for really deep engagement. A lot of times it's just letting people know that you're a leader in the space, that you have valuable thoughts, and that you're there to be a resource for them. So absolutely aligned with you there.

Steve Niemiec: Just to riff on that for a second, you bring up a really interesting point around content. Content's insanely hard too. And this is something that I know a lot of organizations really struggle with. So if you can't create it, you lean into resources that can successfully help you do that. You brought up a really great point, which is think about you want to reach as many people as possible. And the reality with ABM is, especially with IT purchases today, there's more folks than ever that you have to touch. And why deals die when they get to the sales layer is if you might have a PO on the final line, but if somebody hasn't heard of you, or if there's somebody else that's been engaged with another vendor, well, you got to make that ground up pretty fast.

Steve Niemiec: So you bring up this whole interest in here around content. To your point, make sure that you have content that's mapped to the funnel, but that's able to reach people as they want to move through their process. With ABM, you don't want to make assumptions that I've got this single point of piece of content, it's going to fit this mid funnel or lower funnel, because in the end, you're really going to be missing out on the full ecosystem of all buyers that can really influence as well as attract.

Joe Cantu: Yeah. That is a great point. I know in our work with our ABM clients, we actually have calls with some of these sales teams consistently to go through what engagement they're seeing within the platform, how they're reaching out to people, and we'll very consistently see that in buying X system, there could be five other teams that are involved that you would never think would have guidance or say in that process. But they're actually the people that kick off the research process or have ton of say in it to get it across the finish line, like you said.

Joe Cantu: So I guess to go on that, I know how we approach it, but how do you really guide people on, like you said, going deep and going wide? How have you seen people use things like the content, things like the precision targeting to achieve both points?

Steve Niemiec: Yeah, it's tough. Let's just be fair, especially with an ABM sphere and a universe that you're trying to figure out. I've got this set list and how do I make the fastest amount of inroads as possible? And that's the goal where you want to stand up a successful content strategy, a brand effort, an integrated campaign, but in the end, it gets down to, in reality, you got to create outcomes. I often say to vendors, we got to remember that accounts don't buy people. It's a really, really fundamental aspect.

Steve Niemiec: So if you take that approach and you focus on the people first, just to the conversation we had around content, that's great. But as a seller, I often approach things from my view, which is sales, marketing, but what am I looking for? I'm looking for the right people. Now, I think where folks sometimes get very tripped up on with ABM is they think that they should approach an account with a specific person owner, or they think that they should approach an account because he or she has this certain title and you hit the nail in the head, which is the reality with IT specific purchases today, they're multiply functioned, there's multiple stakeholders. Each person approaches a research or a solution with their lane. And you as a vendor, you got to play in all of those lanes.

Steve Niemiec: So what we often talk about at Tech Target is that focus on the user activity as being the best precursor to actually helping you identify where a project's at. So to give you a very practical example, you might have someone that looks great on paper based off of title or persona that your sales guy or gales say, "Hey, they're an A+ prospect for me." And look, we want sellers in your market to get to that person. Don't get me wrong. But in the end though, if there's a user at that account, maybe doesn't fit that exact persona or profile, but he or she has been downloading 10 pieces of content on your topics as a seller, I would always say favor that activity. Because the activity at the account is the best actual precursor to a project.

Steve Niemiec: So I'm a really big believer that for vendors today, a big aspect to ABM is to critically realize that the buying team dynamic is vary variable. And single point engagements at accounts are always a starting line, but it's not the full picture. My sellers deal with this when they go through their sales process, and they're talking with folks in accounts. When deals have to get decided, there's multiple stakeholders.

Steve Niemiec: So our approach to ABM is to say, "Hey, we know who's right now researching. I know the people that within the last 90 days have been downloading content on your topics. They've been looking at vendors, they've been reading and researching. We know how long they've been spending time on that topic. Let us start with those people. Let's market to those people. Let's make sure that those people understand your message." Because when the decision gets made, to your point, you got to move that purchase order to the next stage move it down the table. Those are the people that are actually really making the recommendation.

Joe Cantu: Yeah, then that makes a ton of sense. We always tell our clients about our anecdotal experiences. There's so many times where one of us actually kicks off the buying process or something like that for a tool we may use, and seller may not think of us as somebody that would make the purchasing decision, but we actually are. So great point there.

Joe Cantu: I think so much of what we've talked about really just has to do with alignment. So just making sure that everyone understands that what the goals of the ABM strategy are and that it isn't going to be something that happens overnight. We generally try to say, we're aligning things a little bit more tightly for you to know what to go after, but there's still a ton of things, ton of noise and other things going on.

Joe Cantu: What have been some of the tips or best practices you've seen as far as getting that alignment between marketing and actual sales on goals for ABM?

Steve Niemiec: Not easy. And as a chief revenue officer, I can attest to that.

Joe Cantu: That's why I left it to you.

Steve Niemiec: It's not an easy thing. Look, sales is rigid. They're tough, but if they truly understand the goals, the focus, and you as a marketer have them bought in early in the process and they understand the campaign components, my general belief is successful sales leaders, they'll rally with that. Because sales professionals, they want quality. They want information. They want things that allow them the further action. And I think the whole sales aspect, it's really like when people think ABM, it's this really big foundational layer that I think a lot of vendors miss on. Because oftentimes, maybe to your point, they're executing in a silo, they've got marketing KPIs around reach and frequency and conversion and pipeline progression, but in the end, let's go back to what I shared, accounts don't buy, people do. You need people at those accounts to action on what you've got.

Steve Niemiec: So I think sales teams successfully, and this is where we see the most success with ABM campaigns. Marketing's grinding the gears. I used this analogy before. They're fighting the air war while the sellers are in the field winning the land war. And in the end, sellers need to understand the campaigns. They need to have a seat at the table with respect to the targets. But marketing needs to just make sure though that a seller just doesn't get a lead. And this is something that we do foundationally very different here is that I might be able to provide you a lead or a contact or a point of contact, but what do you and sales care about? You want to know, how do I approach that person? What has he or she been downloaded within the last couple days so that I can actually sound educated when I do my outreach? How can I make sure as a seller that I get my point across fast to make sure that I'm driving influence into that account? I'm also utilizing my time appropriately.

Steve Niemiec: Things that I even talk to my sales teams when we build our ABM campaigns is guessing doesn't work. If you're a seller today, and you're guessing at names to call, or you're trying to just willy nilly dial into accounts, believe me, there's another vendor out there that's leveraging some level of data or input to create an advantage. So get your sellers involved early, make sure they understand what you're trying to accomplish, but then feed them, not just with leads, feed them with insights about the account and about the people that allows them to do their job. And if you can really do that successfully, you're going to create some pretty fast opportunities.

Joe Cantu: Yeah, I agree. And that's where we've seen a lot of success in our relationships. Compliance is just having that ability to say here's what's working not, here's what's not, but also being able to work with the teams of our clients, their sales teams individually so we can actually tell them like, "Hey, here's the piece of content that they downloaded. Here's what we think is the best next step." And using those learnings across different sales teams, flowing that up to marketing, like you said, and then we know as we run campaigns, here's the next piece of content we need. We're running a campaign against this audience, we know we're going to need this. And it's a really beautiful thing to see that flywheel start to operate where you're getting everyone aligned, but you're also able to align content, media spend, other things along with that as well.

Steve Niemiec: Yeah. Let's be fair. All sales people are very vocal.

Joe Cantu: Exactly.

Steve Niemiec: My sellers included, probably myself included. So when they see something that works, well, they rally with it. And I know just through your experience and just us talking about ABM prior, I know this is something that Iron Horse really believes in. It's a foundational layer where you guys, gals dig in and get the sellers to understand how to be successful. And my hat's off to you on that, because I think that it's something that is truly allows well, not the theme of our coffee talk, it allows people to supercharge their outcomes. And that's something that I think that marketing and all quite frankly, sales professionals should pay attention to. Because what you want to do is you want to get a couple sellers to have some quick successes and then you continue to grow with it. You continue to refine your model. And that's something that I've certainly leaned into, and it's something I know you and the team do as well.

Joe Cantu: Yeah. Yeah. Just really taking that crawl, walk around approach. Even with our programs, things we've worked on, we've scaled up. We've started off with smaller teams. We started off with smaller programs. And then as we've built that success, because to your point, if we fail, sales people will definitely let everyone know about it. Making sure that we do have proven things to really just to share that success internally, but also learnings that we can build off of for media and things like that.

Joe Cantu: So, yeah. Again, couldn't agree with you more there. So I think that actually wraps up our time for the coffee break, but I did just want to thank you again, Steve, for participating with us. I learned a lot, really valued our partnership. So thank you. And if there's any last parting words or things you want to grace us with, feel free to have at it.

Steve Niemiec: You're putting me on the spot. No, certainly right. We're equally as excited to be here. I think that ABM is a foundational layer that exists for all clients today. I've read upwards of 85% of vendors today have ABM specific campaigns. And if it's not today, there's certainly going to be a lot of excitement about it in the future. Just focus on the right accounts. Don't make assumptions, but focus on the right accounts and utilize data to guide you towards that decision. Then you got to activate. It's put together the right campaign, integrated campaign with holistic messaging to influence the multiple layers of the account. And that's both from a content standpoint, as well as from an execution strategy standpoint.

Steve Niemiec: And then, you got to roll up your sleeves with your sales teams. And if you do those four things, I think oftentimes vendors will be well pressed to see some really nice results that come out all the time. I want to thank you for being here, and hopefully the folks that are on found this helpful.

Joe Cantu: All right. Thank you, Steve. And thank you everyone who joined.

Steve Niemiec: Thanks, Joe.