ABM FOUNDATIONS: Strategies for Highly Effective ABM Programs
Marketers have been trying to humanize their digital approach since before 2016, and yet most are still far from the finish line, while others haven’t even started training for the race. | Originally aired on January 25, 2022
The buyer's journey must be unified.
All platforms should be connected, sharing data across touchpoints and enabling more cohesive conversations with accounts.
Content is the best competitive advantage.
Your content should act as your secret sauce, and that’s only possible if content is created around a well-defined ideal customer profile.
Success metrics require proper attribution.
Every touchpoint should yield data and all of those insights should be attributed to account journeys for better sales conversations.
“You have to choose the places to meet your audience, [specifically], where they want you to meet them."
Uzair Dada: Hello, everybody. And welcome to our Coffee Break today. We're super excited. I'm Uzair Dada, I'm the founder and CEO of Iron Horse. Really excited to have an amazing guest with us, Stephanie Stahl, who's the GM at Content Marketing Institute. If you guys don't know about them, you should. If you are a marketer, you probably do. But if you don't, then you're missing out. So please go visit them, check them out, it's awesome stuff.
Uzair Dada: It's going to be a really fun conversation. We want to sort of talk about all the good things that are happening. We want to talk about sort of how to humanize what we do and kind of layer in kind of what we are doing on the ABM side. And today, Stephanie and I are going to go back and forth. But before we start, we sort of wanted to share some interesting tidbits about each other. So I asked Stephanie what she knows, and I think one of the cool facts that I got from her was that she's been at CMI, at Informa tech, for 30 years. That's incredible.
Uzair Dada: And her claim to fame is that she probably knows everyone in the publishing and media world. So if you're looking to talk to someone, Stephanie is your gal. You got to go there. My sort of little tidbit is, I did a Spotify wrapped, you guys probably all listen to Spotify. And at the end of the year, we were all doing it with our family. And just as a background, I live in a household of three women, two teenage daughters and my wife. And so when I looked at my playlist, the two things that were on top of my playlist were Harry Styles and Silk Sonic. So, you can see I'm very current with what's happening with my kids. So anyway, that's my little interesting fact about me.
Stephanie Stahl: I'm impressed, Uzair. I'm impressed. I think Harry Styles is at the top of mine too, for the round.
Uzair Dada: I love Harry style. So hopefully we'll get to go see him at some point. But yeah, it's pretty awesome. So I wanted to sort of start by sort of just some interesting observations. I was doing some thinking before this, for this event, and kind of came across some interesting facts. One was, McKinsey did a recent B2B sales study, it was published in December, 2021. And they said that over the last five years, the number of channels that customers and prospects are using to engage with buyers has gone from five in 2016 to 7.5 in 2019 to 10 different channels in 2021. Incredible. Absolutely incredible.
Uzair Dada: Second, Forester B2B buyer study in 2021 said the number of touch points since COVID increased from 17 before COVID, this is March of not 2019 to 27 in 2021. I mean, those are absolutely crazy. We all talk about it, but the factual numbers are just insane. So, in this world where we are doing account based marketing, in this world where people are doing all things digital. What are you seeing? Let's start by sort of high level. How are you seeing content marketing trends evolve to support the changing dynamic of the buyer?
Stephanie Stahl: First of all, I am really surprised by those numbers. I mean, I guess I shouldn't be, but I am. I am sort of surprised. That's a lot of channels. And of course, what that says to me is, do you know what channels are most important to your existing audience
and your prospects? Do you know? I mean, do you really know which channels are most important? And from a content marketer standpoint, that's so critical. Even without knowing these numbers, that's so critical. Because when you are setting up strategy, you can't just say, "Oh yeah, we're going to be everywhere. We're going to be on every social channel. Let's get on TikTok now. What's the thing called Clubhouse? Whatever happened to that?" Like all of these new things that are coming out, you can't just say, "Oh, we're going to do all of that. We're going to do a newsletter. We're going to do a blog on our website. We've got all our videos on a YouTube channel." You have to be strategic about it. And so I think when I hear numbers like that, it makes that even more critical. You have to choose the places that meet audiences where they want you to meet them. Where are they? And you've got to be on top of that at all times.
Stephanie Stahl: And our latest research, we do an annual budgets and benchmark study each year, and not that there's anything good to say about a pandemic. But in terms of sort of, awakening, we sort of say, awakening the sleeping giant that is content marketing. A lot of companies realized over the past couple of years, just how powerful content can be. And just how powerful humanizing their brand through content can be and how critical that is. And so, we're really impressed with the growth that's expected in 2022, in content marketing, both B2B and B2C. And around things like building community and the types of formats that are being used. That again, humanize what we do when we try to build up our sales prospects.
Uzair Dada: So if you think humanizing, I think that's a good conversation. With the advent of ABM, with the advent of number of touches increasing. We, as marketers, feel compelled to do more. We, as marketers, are compelled to send a lot more touches. We often do those touches independent of our sales colleagues. A good example, I've seen, I started a marketing process, went to a developer website, signed up for something. And then probably had maybe 10 or 12 touches within a week's period, it was insane. But at the same time, I had six or eight sales touches going on at the same time.
Uzair Dada: So marketing was not informing sales. And it was just a lot of information. There were things that were involved like information that I had asked for. But then there was so much information that I didn't request and was not relevant to me. So in this new world of humanize and from a content perspective, both content, you should be sharing, but also how you talk to someone,what are you seeing? What sort of trends are you seeing? What are you advising your customers?
Stephanie Stahl: Yeah. I mean, I don't think this will surprise you. But when we look at, what is the anticipated biggest investment this year among B2B marketers, it's video.
Stephanie Stahl: And it's because ... I mean, can you imagine, Uzair, if we were having this conversation audio only and we couldn't see each other, the audience couldn't see us. I mean, I know some podcasting is like that. But if we're having this conversation in this channel,
It's great to see each other. It's great to have a conversation over coffee!
Stephanie Stahl: And it's great to have the audience here with us. And so that doesn't surprise me that video is up there. Also in the top five though, of where B2B marketers are making investments is in social media management and community building. For all the reasons that I think we've experienced in our personal lives over the past few years. People have, they sort of crave the idea of being around like-minded people. And so, I mean, there's a community group for almost anything you can imagine. Whether it's on Facebook or Slack or wherever.
Stephanie Stahl: So I think if we look at how our personal lives have changed since we've kind of been stuck at home a lot. I think as businesses, we need to be thinking in those same terms. And a lot of brands are and that's great. That's fantastic. It's all part of humanizing what we do.
Uzair Dada: I think community is such an interesting space that everyone talks about, but people are afraid of. It's sort of, I've heard companies and brands say, I'm afraid because I don't want my brand to be called ugly in that environment. I don't want to have that conversation. But it's also a conversation that is a really amazing place to learn.
Uzair Dada: And one of the things that I'm seeing that, especially when you're thinking about technology marketing, for anything that even specific in ABM is that the power of peer generated content and user generated content is amazing. It's sort of moving away from chest beating to really helping and evangelizing and educating. And if you do it right, advocating. Because your users become your fans and enthusiasts, and then become your advocate. So have you seen anything interesting from a UGC perspective or community based content perspective that stands out?
Stephanie Stahl: Well, I agree with you, 100%. It is extremely powerful content. And I would urge brands not to be afraid. Not to be afraid of the negative that could come, could seep into a community. But people generally, they like to be part of something that they're interested in. They like to be part of something with their peers. They like to share ideas. And if you are giving them great content and a great reason and a great community, a great reason to be there. They're going to advocate for you. I've seen cases where in a group, in a community group, somebody says something that's negative. Before the company PR team can get together and say, "Oh my gosh, how do we respond to this? What do we do?" The community's already taken care of it.
Stephanie Stahl: So if you can lean on your community to do that for you and say, "Well, no, no, no. You're misinformed about that. Or we don't agree with that." Or whatever, that's the best thing that could possibly happen.
Uzair Dada: Yeah, some of the stuff we've done that's been kind of cool has been helping people use community to build user stories. We did something for a customer where we actually filmed, it was in the gaming space and they were a game developer. But they were a musician. So we actually filmed their story because they used to work in a record store. So we filmed their story inside a record store. It's very authentic and developers loved it because you were sort of again, humanizing who they are. They are a developer by day, but they're a musician by the evening or as a hobby. So to me, sort of bridging that gap and making it more authentic, it becomes so cool. So those are pretty awesome trends.
Stephanie Stahl: I love that. Our head of strategy, Robert Rose, he often talks about there's “the brand story.”
Stephanie Stahl: What's your brand about? What's the history? And then there's “the brand's stories.”
Stephanie Stahl: What are those stories? People want to know those stories. They care about your brand story. But they want to know those stories.
Stephanie Stahl: And that's a great way to build empathy, to build trust. It's memorable content. That's what I always say to people, you don't need a ton of content.
Stephanie Stahl: You need great content. You need memorable content. And for every really great piece of content out there, there's a lot of not so great content.
Uzair Dada: You're talking about not so great content, I think that's a good dovetailing to another thing that's sort of near and dear to both our hearts. Is the notion about how do we know things are good? How do we measure? Who is doing it well? You were sharing some stories with me of some of the people you work with. What are you seeing from an analytics perspective and utilizing that to sort of inform what we do and how we do it?
Stephanie Stahl: Yeah, that's a great question. And analytics, you said analytics, I mean, if there was something that this audience is going to take away, you got to be measuring this.
Stephanie Stahl: You’ve got to be measuring this in meaningful ways. I think back to one of my favorite stories is a case study that we did on the Cleveland Clinic. If you're familiar ... I mean, everybody knows the Cleveland Clinic. Well, years ago, I mean, I think like a decade ago, they started a blog, a newsletter, called Health Essentials. And it has grown tremendously over the past 10 years. Their chief content officer there, the head of content marketing, she spoke at Content Marketing World this year, so I've sort of kept pace with how they've grown and it's unbelievable.
Stephanie Stahl: But even way back when they were a few years old and growing and whatnot. Amanda Todorovich, who runs that group said, "We measure everything. And we look at it every single day." Like every single day, they're checking to see what's resonating, what's most engaging, what's being shared, what questions are coming? Anything they could do to measure.
Stephanie Stahl: And it, through the years, has allowed them to make some really good decisions on when to post certain content. I mean, when is the best time to post a piece on nutrition on Facebook? They can tell you. They can tell you what that timeframe is-
Uzair Dada: Pretty awesome.
Stephanie Stahl: But they don't just settle there. They keep studying it so that in case something changes. People are working from home all the time now, they're eating later. So they're not thinking about nutrition at 4:00 PM, they might be thinking ... I'm making this up. But the point being is they're so in tune with how their content performs, that it has helped them grow exponentially. So, I'm in awe really of what they're doing.
Uzair Dada: Yeah. I think one is,that's pretty incredible. And I think one of the things that you sort of alluded to that I think is super important is being able to share those analytics and insights with the joint sales and marketing and content teams.
Uzair Dada: The number of organizations I know of that do something, but then you talk to the creative team or the content team. And they're like, "I have no idea how it did. I have no idea what worked or what didn't work. I'm just a production shop. I'm just churning stuff up." So being able to bridge internal comms within organizations to make sure they know that what you are doing worked or not. I mean, we now have such amazing tools, like you were alluding to, where you can understand what's working or not. And you can make it much more scientific. Which was not possible before. And I think there's so much of a miss in not doing that. And I hope if there's one thing people take away is analyze and share, share, share insights with your teams which I think is super important.
Stephanie Stahl: Absolutely. And that sort of collaboration, communication you're talking about is so critical for sales and marketing. This is not a marketing issue-
Stephanie Stahl: This is a sales and marketing issue. This is something that they have to be working together on. I mean, I know sales and marketing alignment has been talked about for years. But I mean, this is critical. This is critical.
Uzair Dada: So talking about content and talking about sales, since the journey is one journey informs the other, and one part informs the other from marketing to sales. What are you seeing in terms of, we've sort of invented there's new breed of tools and new sales loss, and Outreaches of the world that allow for sales automation. So now instead of marketing automation, you also have sales automation. So it's sequences and you have the advent of chatbots and email bots that are being there, so that sales people don't have to do the simple grunt work of reaching out and researching who they're talking to, so it's automated for them. How is that changing? Is that good? Is that bad? What does that mean?
Stephanie Stahl: Yeah, that's a really good question. I mean, I'm a big fan of automation. Sure. Anything that can make our lives easier. But we can't forget the importance of the humans behind it. Chat bots are great if they can answer your question. If they can't answer your question, then you need to be able to get to a live person to answer that question. And I think that's where a lot of brands kind of have a gap. And all that does is frustrates a prospective buyer, frustrates so much. And you might not have a second chance. That's the thing with any of this. You may not get a second chance these days with all of the available tools, with all of the available content that you can get your hands on to help you make a decision. Rarely are there second chances. So I don't know, how do you feel about chatbots?
Uzair Dada: Yeah, I mean, I like them a lot if you use them to extend and assist someone in doing what they're doing. Often search doesn't help them to get to information and chatbots allow for better indexing and sorting and getting to the information people are seeking faster. I don't think it's a one and done deal, but I think the integration with the human part is a must have.
Uzair Dada: And the conversion rates are still small, but if I'm converting one to 2% at the high end eight to 10% of the people that are coming in and helping them get further in whatever they were there for, I'm all for it. And people were like, "Well, it doesn't do well." I'm like, "Well, if it did it for 1% of the people, you're 1% further ahead that you were not before." So I think there's a place for it where I think we're getting lazy in some ways as we're just taking the tool and we're turning the lights on.
Stephanie Stahl: Yeah. Well, just like we were saying, that you have to kind of constantly look at the analytics around the content that you're putting out there. Same thing with this. I mean, you have to constantly look at it, evaluate it, improve it, that sort of thing. Otherwise, you're automating frustration. Nobody wants that-
Uzair Dada: Factory settings are just factory settings. You need to do something with it.
Stephanie Stahl: Yeah. Yes. Exactly.
Uzair Dada: I think that's a super important one. And I think the other place and this is a good bridge to ABM and bringing it all together. To me, what is amazing now is the advent of amazing intent data. As a content marketer, as a content creator, I think it's a gold mine. Between what you have, as the Cleveland Clinic example of what's working where for whom. But you now also have, what are people searching for based on platforms like Six Senses and Terminus and DemandBases of the world. You have amazing data of who is looking at your company products and your competitor's product from TrustRadius and Capterra and G2s of the world.
Uzair Dada: You have all the social insights and community insights. So, when I think of those 10 channel number that we said, it's not hard to get to 10 if you start just thinking about where you go look at stuff, when you and I are looking at stuff, right?
Stephanie Stahl: It's true.
Uzair Dada: It’s not hard. And I think what is hard is those things are not being pulled in to grab a comprehensive account dossier view of what people are looking at. And what I hate more than anything else is when I'm in a sales cycle and when I've done all my work and I expect you to know it. And I get to the person, they're starting at ground zero.
Uzair Dada: And they have to go through their script, they have to go through their four calls with me. Even though I'm ready for a demo to make a decision, they need to ask me 10 questions.
Uzair Dada: And so, it's our role collectively as sales and marketing teams and growth teams per se, to really make sure we're sharing that insight so that the conversation continues, the conversation across an account is unified. And I think to me, more than anything else with all the new stuff that's been added, that causes a lot of frustration and friction. I don't know, what do you think?
Stephanie Stahl: Yeah, absolutely. And I think if there's one thing I would say as we come to a close too, is that it's up to marketing and sales to do the hard work.
Stephanie Stahl: It's up to them to figure out their personas, know the person, you have to get that right. It's up to you to get that right. To utilize your first party data. Is there anything more valuable these days than first party data?
Stephanie Stahl: Match that up with the intent data that you're talking about and all these other services that we can tap into. It's the only way we're going to be able to get to personalization at scale, to be honest.
Uzair Dada: Well, hope you guys enjoyed the session today. Stephanie, thank you so much for your time. I learned a lot. Hopefully you guys did. And this is a near and dear topic to us. So reach out to us if you have any questions and thank you for your time.
Stephanie Stahl: Bye everybody. Thanks, Uzair.
Uzair Dada: Thank you.
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