How 2017 Is Shaping Our 2018 Plans: 5 B2B Marketers Share Key Lessons

A few friends and I are planning a long-overdue girl’s trip for May 2018, and last week I sent a panicked group text, “Can we please finalize dates?! Who’s in charge of reservations? Here’s the link for a shared itinerary in Google sheets!” My friends teasingly reminded me the trip was still a good six months away but complied with my requests/demands because they know my marketing brain is often operating a few months or quarters in the future. Thankfully, the flawless execution of our past trips have established an excellent precedent for cooperation.

The need to strategize for maximum value, plan far in advance, aim for perfection, scrutinize the fine print, and strive for continued improvements (yes, even with vacations) are the occupational hazards of a B2B marketer. I was reminded of this fact when I started getting called into prospect meetings over the past summer. My account executives were noticing a pattern of hesitation with some of our key personas – marketing technology decision makers. There was a small but noticeable group, who were expressing uncertainty in committing to buying decisions before they finalized their 2018 plans. My role in these meetings was to share my own experience with Account-Based Marketing and to communicate how it was positively impacting my current results and future planning. If I had to sum up my own 2017 marketing learnings in one sentence, it would be: “The best time to start ABM was yesterday, the next best time is today.”

During these meetings, I noticed there were a few trending pain points marketers were looking to address in 2018:

  • Rocky /lukewarm relationship with Sales
  • Sneaky suspicion that a large percentage of marketing work ended up as wasted effort
  • Influx of data that provided very little actionable insight
  • Realization that interactions with browsers vs. buyers consumed precious resources but yielded low returns

In many cases, an account-based approach, focused on the targets most likely to buy is THE answer to address and solve many of the aforementioned challenges. Our upcoming certifications, taking place in Toronto and New York provide the fundamental knowledge necessary to confidently launch or improve an ABM strategy within an organization. The goal of these December classes is to set attendees up on a strong path to success in 2018.

In the meantime, here are a few of the important marketing lessons our certification partners learned in 2017:

One Size DOES NOT Fit All
ABM is an important part of our approach with clients. In some instances, they need to rely heavily on our expertise as they’re still building their in-house knowledge. On one side of the spectrum, we partner with accounts that are extremely large and multi-faceted and require a truly customized approach. For others, it’s more of a scale game, driven by intent or other data and mass personalization. There’s no one cookie-cutter approach that works for everyone. But no matter the size or complexity of the organization, there’s one universal truth. The longer you practice an account-based approach, the better your results. Our clients are eliminating the noise from non-buyers and gaining laser-like precision in targeting accounts that are the most likely to purchase – adding a lot of momentum to the entire sales and marketing engine. So in 2018, you will see us recommending ABM, early and often.

Tom Stein, President of BMA NYC, Chairman and Chief Client Officer of global B2B agency Stein IAS

It’s Not That Different (Than What You’ve Already Been Doing)
We’ve spent a lot of 2017 helping clients think about their account-based approach to pipeline marketing as an overlay to their existing lead generation and nurturing strategy, not a rebuild or entirely new initiative.

ABM should complement the other segment-based marketing initiatives that you’re already planning and executing. Create a higher level of campaign relevance and customization for target accounts that you want to engage in a more powerful, thoughtful way than the rest of your target market(s).

And most important, don’t try to do it all right away. Start small, start sooner rather than later and improve incrementally as you scale your ABM strategy.

Nolin LeChasseur, CMO, Brainrider

Metrics Matter Most
In 2017, we really dug into marketing performance by program and assigned discrete campaign categories to ALL field marketing activities. These categories like VIP Dinners, Sporting Events, Workshops, Roadshows, etc. are also hard-wired into our budgeting, CRM and attribution dashboards. Our team obsessively monitors the data and can easily and quickly monitor efficacy, which eliminates the guesswork of quarterly and annual planning. We have a solid path forward of understanding must-have programs, allowing us some bandwidth for experimentation with new ideas.

Jessica Fewless, VP, ABM Strategy, Field & Channel Marketing, Demandbase

Build a Solid Foundation
Three quick things…

  1. The second half of 2017 was all about laying the foundation for our ABM efforts. While this process-driven work is not the most flashy part of ABM, we’re excited to have the tools and workflows in place to set us up to start executing and scaling our ABM programs.
  2. One key piece of our ABM foundation is direct mail. We implemented a direct mail platform (Sendoso) that integrates with Salesforce for ease of use and tracking, and have been running as many tests as possible with small groups of BDRs. We’re hoping to find a few winning direct mail plays to roll out across the entire BDR team very soon.
  3. Meeting other marketers who are executing world-class ABM programs and learning from them is at the top of my team’s wish list as we wrap up 2017.

Tara Robertson, Director of Revenue Marketing, Uberflip

If you and your team are ready to apply an ABM lens to your most stubborn sales and marketing challenges, we invite you to join one of our upcoming certification classes in Toronto or New York and utilize code DBABMHALF for a 50% discount off the list price of $349.

Finally, how have some of your 2017 learnings impacting 2018 planning? Share your tips with me on Twitter @B2BABM