Two Truths. And a Lie. (Reflections from the ABM Innovation Tour)

I’m winded. Like most digital marketing teams, our team faced the challenge of solving for the wrecking ball-sized hole that COVID-19 created in our pipeline plan. You know the story: budgets and in-person marketing channels—vanished, just like that. The once coveted, high-touch in-person, invite-only, VVIP engagements are now a thing of antiquity, and we are now living in a world of “virtual” events. Goodbye (for now), in-person ABM Innovation Summit, and hello, virtual ABM Innovation Tour.

So did you get the two truths and the lie?

Truth 1.

COVID-19 created a wrecking ball-sized hole in our pipeline plan. What was once a concrete second-half plan, in large part informed by the successes of previous quarters, is now a concrete second-half plan in large part informed by the ambiguity of the future. The truth is, ambiguity is the new normal, and marketers have to get comfortable living within the realm of ambiguity, at least for a while.

As we look into the future, it’s essential to keep a few things top of mind: the second quarter, our pivot to The ABM Innovation Tour, and how we plan to keep our ABM innovation on the digital road.

Truth 2.

All (digital) roads lead to ABM. For those of us who live and breathe ABM, we’ve always known that. What’s more, ABM as a category, strategy, and technology has shifted significantly among B2B marketers from being perceived as a nice-to-have to a strategic must-have.

(Some quick ABM adoption data from the 2020 ABM Market Research Study)

  • Forty-three percent of companies named Sales and Marketing alignment as their top priority for ABM in 2020.
  • B2B firms see a 40 percent year-over-year increase in ABM budgets from 2019 to 2020.
  • The highest-performing companies reported involving more of their Marketing team in the unifying efforts, channels, and tactics.

Make no mistake: Turning our annual in-person ABM Innovation Summit into a multi-date, summer-long online event was no cakewalk. Doubling-down on digital was something that we had to do too.

The cancellation of our annual tent pole event was a bummer. The ABM Innovation Summit was a yearly in-person celebration of our ABM community, including thought leaders and practitioners. It was an event that Demandbase looked forward to hosting because it created a unique opportunity for us to educate, learn from, and engage with our B2B industry peers and partners. It was also a revenue-generating event that our Sales org and leadership teams alike rallied behind.

Driven by the desire to keep our ABM community engaged, motivated by the opportunity to be creative and innovative, and determined to meet or exceed our pipeline goal, we created The ABM Innovation Tour.

The Lie.

Let’s start with a bit more truth before we reveal the lie. Everything that happened to us as B2B marketers happened to every marketer, at a global scale. As more and more companies shift from traditional B2B Marketing strategies to digital-only Marketing strategies, the world wide web has narrowed, and it’s feeling a bit like the Hunger Games. Our prospects are overwhelmed, underwhelmed, and probably having a hard time by now differentiating the value of all the “virtual” events that keep popping up in their inboxes and social feeds.

Now the lie.

We are not living in a world of “virtual” events. We are living in a world of more digital engagement. We marketers have to buck the trend and understand that this is both a challenge and an opportunity. We have to resist all the spectacular vernacular and give our audience what they want: digital experiences that engage, educate, delight, and provide value. Some may argue that the buyer’s journey is more complex now. I am arguing here that it is not complex at all—our prospects are either purchasing, or they’re not. We marketers have to lean into our intent data, leverage our engagement metrics to inform next steps, and go all-in on digital. And with the launch of the ABM Innovation Tour, we at Demandbase did just that.

A pie chart showing engagement by channel in 2020.

Engagement by Channel: Content delivered through digital channels is working.

Channel Performance Chart for Q1 and A2 2020 shows webinars lead by far

The Double Down: Webinar engagement across Q1 and Q2 is on top. So let’s double down.

And with that in mind, we created the ABM Innovation Tour as a digital engagement experience optimized to:

  • Guide the (newly minted) buyer’s journey.
  • Educate, inspire, and connect with our ABM community.
  • Spotlight and celebrate our customer success stories.
  • Share our product vision and innovation.
  • Collaborate with our partners.

The Digital Road Ahead

The truth is, we all are still learning, iterating, and optimizing. We haven’t cracked the code on anything yet in this strange, new reality. Nevertheless, we are always listening to our audience. We are always paying attention to the data, and we are always leveraging the data to make the best decisions for our internal and external stakeholders. Plainly put, there were things we learned from the first stop of the tour that informed how we later optimized the audience experience at the last stop of the tour. So, if there is any advice to be taken away from all this, it would be these three things:

  1. Always be learning.
  2. Focus on the truths and the things that matter most.
  3. Everything is ambiguous. Seize the opportunity, and create something awesome!

ABM Innovation Tour Bus ImageAnd now, a quick rundown of what you may have seen and what you may have missed.

 

These sessions were packed full of provocative predictions, insights on the evolution of marketing automation and Account-Based Marketing and what that means for the (yes) shrinking market as buying dynamics shift and ABM targeting strategies transition from table stakes to high stakes.

So, what are you and your team doing to get ready for the next generation of B2B?

Check out the on-demand content today and learn more.

Engagement and personalization are all about the audience’s experience. Adrian Chang, Sr. Director of Customer Engagement at Informatica, said it best during his session:

What’s at the heart of all account-based digital experiences is “coordination from Sales and Marketing for highly valuable, personalized experiences across all functions, to drive engagement and conversion at a targeted set of accounts.”

Catch Adrian Chang on the second stop of the tour to learn more about Informatica’s Path to Personalization at Scale, and hear from other B2B experts on how to optimize your digital experiences for maximum impact.

EEK! According to Craig Rosenberg, Chief Analyst and Co-Founder at TOPO, your target market just shifted/shrank. But, that’s not a bad thing.

His keynote explains why this is a “good” thing and how Sales and Marketing teams alike can leverage this paradigm shift for better opportunities, bigger deal sizes, and shorter sales cycles (and more P.I.E.S.).

Check out Craig Rosenberg’s keynote!

Mirror, mirror, on the wall. We all need a little time to reflect. Be sure to take a look at this tour stop so that you can truly dig deep and reflect on the measurement and data that matters.

Are you and your team the most measured of them all? Or are you getting caught up in vanity metrics. . . .?

Learn about KPMG’s “aha” moments, how to define your KPIs, and give your ABM programs the fairy tale endings that they deserve!

Senior Marketing Programs Manager, Demandbase

I believe that every engagement strategy—no matter the organization or industry—has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Much like a courtship, you have to WOO, then WOW, in order to WIN your customers.