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Cultural Imperatives for Success with Account-Based Marketing

Olin Hyde

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Account-Based Marketing: First we'll define it, and then we'll talk about the mindset and culture of organizations that are successful at it, all with our special guest for the evening Anamika Gupta, Head of ABM for Fujitsu America.LeadCrunch[ai] uses artificial intelligence to drastically improve the performance of B2B demand generation campaigns through account-based "lookalike" modeling. Click the link for more information. https://leadcrunch.com/solutions/

Posted by LeadCrunch on Friday, February 22, 2019

In this episode of the Green & Greene Show, the LeadCrunch B2B podcast, two seasoned marketing experts talk with Anamika Gupta about cultural imperatives for success with account-based marketing.

Hosts: J. David Green and Jonathan Greene

Guest(s): Anamika Gupta, Head of Account Based Marketing at Fujitsui America

Topic: Account-Based Marketing

Key words/phrases: Account-Based Marketing

Duration: 30 minutes



The Need for Sales and Marketing Collaboration in Account-Based Marketing

The Importance of Goal Alignment between Sales and Marketing

Common Misconceptions about Account-Based Marketing

Account-Based Marketing as a Cultural Imperative

Sales and Marketing Alignment within Account-Based Marketing

Winning a Huge Deal with Account-Base Marketing: a Case Study


Podcast Transcript


[0:00:02.7] ANNOUNCER:Live, from deep in the heart of Galveston, Texas all the way to the gleaming shores of Jacksonville, Florida, it’s the Green & Greene Show. Here are your hosts, Dave Green and Jonathan Greene, ready to unlock the mysteries of scaling demand gen. The Green & Greene show is brought to you by LeadCrunch, which has reimagined how to find B2B customers at scale.


[0:00:24.9]JG:It’s the Green & Greene Show. I’m Jonathan Greene. As always, I’m here with my mentor, partner-in-crime, Sith Lord, J. David Green. How are you doing, sir?

[0:00:33.4]DG:I’m fantastic. Thanks.

[0:00:35.9]JG:Good. I’m so glad to have with us today Anamika Gupta. She’s the Head of Account-Based Marketing at Fujitsu America. She’s getting ready to take us to school on account-based marketing, and I’m super excited. Welcome to the show, ma’am. Do you want to take a few minutes and tell us about your situation and where you’re coming from?

[0:00:54.6]AG:Absolutely. Thanks for having me here.


[0:00:57.2]AG:I head account-based marketing for Fujitsu. In terms of my background, I have done various facets of marketing, starting from horizontal marketing, geographical marketing, to vertical marketing, partner marketing. I have seen all the facets of marketing. As I was saying to Dave earlier, it makes all the sense to do ABM at this point in time, because of the journey we are in with our customer and how they are experiencing some of these sellers selling them, either it’s IT services or made anything, even in B2B or B2C. ABM makes total sense about it, because it brings everything together. Yeah, that’s about my quick background.

[0:01:46.2]JG:Great. One of the things that’s perhaps personally annoying to me about account-based marketing is that people seem to think that they know what it is. Then when you press in a little bit, they very candidly do not know what it is. Perhaps, maybe we should start there. Would you like to walk us through a common-sense framework for defining what is and what is not account-based marketing?

[0:02:09.9]AG:Sure. I’ll take I’ll take a quick peek there. Account-based marketing is, in my view, an approach; it’s a long-term strategic approach. There are a couple of words I’m going to highlight here. It’s a long-term strategic approach that requires marketing and sales very clearly. There are two components of it, which is marketing and sales to work as partners to achieve one common goal. That goal is to open the door into the accounts they’re going after, or to deepen engagements. These are done into high-growth accounts.

When I say strategic approach, this is not simply a campaign, or a tactic, which is done one time, but this is a business strategy which connects you with your client. You think through the pain they are going through, and then you define what you need to take into your clients. That’s one about the strategic approaches.

The Need for Sales and Marketing Collaboration in Account-Based Marketing

When I say sales and marketing collaboration, that truly means that they’re partners in crime together. If sales is talking to their client in a corridor, and this is a conversation which one of the clients just updated sales, “Hey, you know what? John just moved into a new role,” that’s an absolute important piece of news that your marketing partner should know.

Once sales comes back, they need to ensure that they come and tell their marketing partner that there’s been a change in the organization, or there would be a change in the organization, maybe not the rather larger reorg, but there’s even the smaller change of John will bring to some other role, which is going to impact our entire campaign. You’re going to change your strategy, who you’re going to reach out to.

Listen to the podcast, “How to Align with Sales

That sales and marketing collaboration and continuous communication is absolutely essential for ABM. Earlier in the days when we used to do marketing, it used to be, as I see it, like a triangle. Imagine there’s a triangle and you divide the triangle in between, half and half. You can divide the triangle in half where the marketing comes here and the sales starts.

The Importance of Goal Alignment between Sales and Marketing

Now, in ABM, it’s not about that. The half-and-half goes across the horizontal. Marketing continues towards the goal, sales towards the goal. There’s just one goal they’re working towards. That’s how I look into ABM. This is about opening doors and engagement, basically, understanding what you’re going after. First of all, you need to understand your client pain points, but it may not be necessary that you can do everything possible in your client organization. You need to understand your capability. What is that you can bring as value to your client? Then, carve out what your strategy looks like and where you need to go to deepen your engagements or open the doors. That’s where ABM comes into the picture now.

When I say ABM is a long-term strategic approach bringing sales and marketing together, that means it brings out multiple things together. It could be your horizontal marketing, your demand gen marketing, your strategic marketing, your partner marketing. Everything comes together to that, because your common goal is to make sure a client understands that there’s somebody who understands their pain.

[0:05:45.8]JG:Great. Let me approach that. Let’s try to skin that cat from a different direction real quick. Tell me about what account-based marketing is not. What are some of the most common misconceptions that you encounter around the topic? If you could quickly dispel some of those, I think that would be very beneficial for our listeners.

Common Misconceptions about Account-Based Marketing

[0:06:06.5]AG:That’s an interesting point, actually. I would say, at least in the area today, ABM has become such a big buzzword just like digital transformation, just like days before, it was predictive analytics or big data. It’s just that hot buzzword in the market. Everybody wants to say, “Hey, I’m doing ABM!” ABM, in a true sense, as I just described is making sure that you understand the client pain point and bring what is needed.

In my point of view, if you just customize a piece of brochure for your client and take it to them, that’s not ABM. It’s one thing, one-and-done. That’s not ABM. ABM is also not about just doing an e-mail campaign of maybe I run an e-mail campaign for the next two or three weeks and then I’m done because the client is going to respond back to me with that particular belief. That’s not ABM.

Again, ABM is a journey. It takes you from A to B. You’re going to spend some time understanding the client, finding out what you need to do, and then go and execute it and then do this again. It’s like a cycle. It continues. It never ends if that is a strategic account. That’s what I would say is ABM, and that’s what is not ABM.

[0:07:31.6]JG:Interesting. Let me take a stab at it as a layman and then, David and Anamika, I’d love for both of you to have an opportunity to correct what I’m about to say here, because I’m going to mess this up, but it’s okay.

Am I in the realm of reasonability to say that account-based marketing is a strategically coherent set of initiatives designed to move all the decision-makers necessary to make a purchase decision on a given account through the various stages of consumer psychology, to the point that they are ready to actually buy? Is that a fair assessment, David? What do you think?

[0:08:10.6]DG:Well, I think that Anamika made a really great point about a journey. Certainly, a purchase is a journey. With a lot of large accounts, it’s the first step in a longer journey of ongoing purchase and collaboration with that client. Anamika, you said something that really resonates with me. You talked a little bit about the need for the right cultural perspective to bring to this.

Obviously, there’s content and there’s messaging and targeting and all the elements of demand generation that you’re bringing into focus on this. The mindset and the culture you’re trying to develop around this I thought was really important for people to understand, in order to execute. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Account-Based Marketing as a Cultural Imperative

[0:09:07.4]AG:You make a very good point, Dave. Yes. In my mind, ABM is a culture. It’s just a mindset. What it entails to is that it’s not just one ABM leader or ABM manager who is responsible of carrying out ABM functions or ABM initiatives, it’s the entire organization.

The ABM leader needs to be an orchestrator who brings out multiple different functions within the organization to work together for one strategic client who you identified, saying, “This is my high-growth account. This is where I need to be focused.” This is where 80% of your revenue is going to come from. It’s a very good thing. Eighty percent of the business comes from 20% of your clients. When you identify that 20% of the clients, you need bring your organization and say, “This is where my focus will be,” and you need to bring everybody together.

That changes the mindset itself. It needs to be having sales go ahead and just keep pounding on to the client and say, “You have bought this. Now you’re going to buy into this.” Or, “I am into IT right now. Now you need to move into business.” Is that just sales activity? I wouldn’t say. It’s more about sales and marketing. Who’s trying to build that ecosystem of force to reach out to the client will be, in my mind, the sales team, the leadership team, the partner marketing.

If you look at demand gen marketing, every company sees demand gen in a different way. There’s some called fuel marketing managers, some of them call it horizontal and vertical marketing together as they’re going out. Your analyst relation team, your social media team, your vendor ecosystem. Who are you going to bring together to make sure of what you’re building and taking out to the client? That’s your ops team, your strategic deal marketing team, and most importantly, market intelligence team. All of these come together to build that ecosystem, who you can go to and make sure you’re reaching out to the client, being more knowledgeable and being relevant at the right time to the right person. In my mind, it’s more like a mindset and a culture within the organization.

Listen to the Podcast, “How to Develop Service Level Agreements between Sales and Marketing”

[0:11:29.4]JG:When you encounter organizations that don’t have the right mind or right culture for ABM, what are some of the common shortfalls or shortcomings that you encounter and what do you think we can do to sidestep those and prepare ourselves?

[0:11:49.8]AG:I would say education and keep educating. Every organization is at different stages in where their ABM program is. Some of them have not even started. Some of them just started. Some of them are saying they’re ABM 2.0. It’s in a different maturity level. Wherever the organization is, there’s always a level where you need to keep educating the folks to get to the next level. If they have not started, it needs to be starting about what is ABM, why you should be doing ABM, where your business is coming from right now, where your marketing budget should be moving, from which bucket to which bucket, why it should move. Show value

Then, if you move from ABM to ABM 1.2, then if you’re doing a strategic ABM, should you be thinking about the blending approach? Basically, the point is that you need to keep educating your sales folks and your organization team. Who is part of that ecosystem?

I do that quite often in my organization. In my past organization, I used to have monthly newsletter. I used to have ABM Friday digest. I also do quarterly ABM calls by bringing an outside speaker to come in and speak, because sometimes you also need inside information, but it also is like, “What is the outside organization thinking? Where they are going with this information.”

You bring in a speaker from outside to see what he can bring. For example, recently we brought one of the external speakers to speak on my ABM quarterly call with the entire leadership team and the sales team. He presented one of the success stories from the other organization about how they moved from just got a mail to ABM 2.0. It showed the value that that organization was able to leverage, or was able to provide to the sales team with the numbers he brought in.

That really opened the eyes of my sales person. “Oh, this is amazing.” We need to find the opportunity of keeping the communication line open and educating the sales folks and your organization team.


[0:14:19.0]DG:Yeah. The sales organization is often, for a lot of B2B marketers, the bane of their existence. They take a lot of slings and arrows from the sales organization. Obviously, with ABM—you touched on this earlier—it really takes a lot of alignment. I wonder if you can speak a little bit to how you go about getting the alignment with sales, so that you’re going on the journey together?

Sales and Marketing Alignment within Account-Based Marketing

[0:14:51.0]AG:Aligning with sales is definitely not an easy task. You know how busy they are and what exactly can go wrong any time of the day with them. Because of them being busy, it’s not going to be easy.

There are a couple of factors to look into. First of all, make sure that, when you are engaging sales into your ABM efforts, you need to plan along with them. Do not leave them behind. Even if they are busy, how can they make sure that they can give time to you, or to marketing in general? Once they start seeing the value and they see that the things which you’re going to do will help them sell more, that’s when they start giving you the time.

You need to take that journey with your sales. If you take that journey with sales, in the process, you’re going to gain their trust and their partnership commitment to you. It is very important to take that journey, first of all, internally with your sales team and make sure you’re taking them along with you in your journey. That is one thing: plan around their busy time.

I’m going to say, if there is some success in your account, make sure that you’re sharing the success with them. Even if it’s your campaign, even it’s something you might have done yourself, or it was just completely your idea from end-to-end, that doesn’t mean that it was your success. It was a success with your sales team, because if they wouldn’t have approved it, if they wouldn’t have taken it to the client, it wouldn’t have been a successful campaign. Make sure that you share that success with your sales team.

Get the eBook “How to Win the Love of Sales “

Make sure you give them the credit, because ABM is one of the things that is very closely connected with the leadership team. Sales looks to you to make sure that they have their presence, or they are seen successful in front of the leadership team in the organization as well. Make sure to do that.

The other thing, which is very important for the sales and marketing alignment, is to ensure that you know what the success looks like. If you’re running a campaign, make sure that you know what the output of this campaign will be, and both of you agree to that output. If you’re not, if there’s a different expectation of sales and there’s a different expectation of marketing, there’s a clash.

Basically, if you are not agreeing to the success, which is agreed by both sales and marketing and the folks into the ecosystem I talked about, then you cannot say your campaign is a success. Make sure that we get onto the same platform in terms of what the success looks like.

Be transparent. As you take the ABM journey, the first thing first with sales is you need to be very, very transparent. You need to be true to yourself, true to what you’re doing. There could be some of the factors. I’m going to spend some time talking to you about one of the examples I would like to share here. If I’m working with the sales team, you can say that you just met this client. I think you talked about, for example, Digital Annealer is one of the biggest topics within Fujitsu right now.

If we had a discussion around Digital Annealer and we need to educate the client around Digital Annealer, you need to work with the sales to ensure that he knows that this is the time frame it will take for you to educate your client. This is what the campaign will look like. This much time we will need from you, because he needs to also concur on to what’s going out in terms of the messaging.

This is the time we will need your commitment on. This is what the budget looks like. Again, investment in every company works in a different way of how the ABM investment works. Sometimes it’s the sales organization, sometimes it’s the marketing organization. You need to be clear where the investment is coming from, whether sales understands that. Then, be transparent into that entire journey with sales. If you are transparent and true, it will actually help you in that journey which you take from the sales and marketing and building that trust.

The other thing is you need to honor what sales says. If they say, “Okay, do not reach out to this contact,” make sure you’re not. Make sure you understand who is the client we are going after, why he wants to talk to this particular guy. In my mind, we need to work collaboratively with the sales to understand who we are going after and why we are going after them. There could be some of the things sales doesn’t know, so we need to bring in the secondary research and say, “Hey, I think we missed this. What do you think about it?”

We need sales’ concurrence there. We need sales to say, “Yes, I think we missed that. I think we need to bring this person on board, as well, into our campaign.” You need to make sure that sales and marketing are agreeing to who this is going out to, why this is going out to them. Make sure they’re on board with that.

Yeah. I think some of those things, in my mind, are absolutely important for sales and marketing.

[0:20:19.6]DG:I heard you say that you had a case study you wanted to share. I think that would be fantastic.

Winning a Huge Deal with Account-Base Marketing: a Case Study

[0:20:24.3]AG:Yeah, absolutely. In fact, this is one of my best ABM case studies I can share. I might not name the client here, but this is for a large insurance company. This insurance company was our client for the past quite a few years. Again, this is an example I’m bringing from my past experience. This is a client who was with the organization with a couple of years.

This was a sponsored event by that particular organization who I was with earlier. The sales guy is sitting in that meeting and the client is talking about rolling out a multi-million-dollar RFP and they’d never considered us at that particular point. The sales guy is sitting in that meeting room with them. It’s our sponsored event, but still, because there could be multiple factors that they didn’t know this, but they never knew, “This IT organization can help me in this particular transformation.”

It was more about brand awareness. They knew that these guys are amazing testing guys. They can do great testing work. Just give them anything and they’ll just do it the best. They didn’t know that they can do anything beyond this. This was a digital transformation RFP.

The guy didn’t say anything during the meeting. He just came back and said, “Anamika, this is what the scenario is.” We said, “Okay, we probably need our industry leader to come together.” Again, this is where the ecosystem comes in. We brought in the industry leader. We brought in the salesperson. Because this was a digital transformation, we brought in the services SME to be part of our meeting as well, and marketing, to talk about that what we needed to do, because we have at least four months before this RFP is going to roll out. They’re not even thinking of including us.

We took at least three months to prepare ourselves, deciding what we need to do from now until before the first month of the rolling out of the RFP. We prepared a couple of things. They don’t know anything, that we do this. We need to be making sure that we prepare them, or we talk about more like a brand awareness for this IT organization.

We looked at this is our account. We know what challenges they’re facing. We had a sales person go in and actually pick up personas. Why? We needed to know what challenges they’re facing. We spent time understanding the persona. We picked up three key personas from the client and we built up a video.

This video was not about, “Hey, we do this, we do that, or we can actually deliver this.” It’s not about we, we, we. It’s about, “Hey, you have been our client for this many number of years.” We started the video with that, and we said, “Okay, this is your first persona.” That first persona was the first challenge they were facing. We said, “Okay, this is the first persona; this is the solution.” “This is fair, the IT organization we have been using can help.” That’s where you bring the facts and the second persona, and this is the solution. Here’s the third persona; this is the solution, and you stop right there.

Basically, it kept the client glued and saying, “Oh, my God. Absolutely. This is exactly what I’m facing. This is my challenge.” Then they understood the solution. Towards the end, they said, “We just don’t do this, we do this.” This was a two-minute video. It was about the client, naming the client, naming their challenges, speaking in their language, which glued them in.

Then there was a second video, which was not just about what we deliver, but it was also about our commitment. We brought in our leadership team onto the video. This was less than 60-second video, because we don’t want to overdo things. We just brought in two or three leaders to say, “We are committed to doing this for you for these reasons.” We brought in the leadership commitment

We made a series of three videos. The third video was about a 90-second video. We actually went to our service center in our facility, and we talked to the people on the floor. They were actually featured in the video saying how excited they would be to get this client on board and why and how they’re working with the other clients, without naming them

This was the series of videos we created. Then, we said this is a pre-RFP phase. Nobody’s going to spend money. Neither I nor the client was going to spend money to come and see my service center in this region. It’s a digital world. Why can’t we bring the service center to the client? We did virtual reality. We did a 360-degree video of our two facilities, and we shipped them, co-branded Google Cardboard.

It was a Google Cardboard, and then we just packaged that into a nice FedEx box with a nice cover letter. The cover letter was more about short and sweet, why we are sending this and why we think that this is valuable to you, with a QR code at the bottom which brings everything together. When you scan the QR code, it takes you to the microsite. There was a microsite built for it as well, which brings in the white paper, your videos, your SMEs, your Twitter feeds everything in together. It’s an on-demand link for you to go through what the IT organization does

We packaged the Google Cardboard. By the way, I missed a coffee table book. We created a coffee table book as well, which was a nice coffee table book with everything about this particular client and the challenges they’re facing and the digital transformation story. This was very, very customized content for this audience. Then we packaged them, and we shipped them together to just 25 decision-makers. That’s it. The client was bought.

Again, this was done to ensure that we are not setting ourselves as a noise-maker. We are setting ourselves as a thought leader. This entire campaign, the way we structured it, the way we packaged it and the way we delivered it to the client, really set that tone for us. I think that’s exactly what ABM is

Again, you did this, but you’re not going to stop now. ABM continues, because now, from there on, we focused on what was the reaction of the client, and then what we planned for after that is what is ABM. That’s where I was going. It’s key. It’s a cycle. It continues until your client buys, and then, again, you start a cycle of understanding what they need, why they need, and how we deliver. Then the cycle starts again. That is ABM.

[0:28:02.6]DG:Before we go, we’re coming to the end of the time together, I wonder if you could share one thought. You’ve obviously been on a journey. What’s one thing that you learned that really surprised you about ABM which you didn’t know when you were starting out? There have probably been many, but what really stands out in your mind as something you wish you had known from the outset

[0:28:27.2]AG:I would definitely say the collaboration between sales and marketing. I thought it would be an easy journey, but it’s not. You definitely need a structured approach of engaging the sales.

[0:28:42.7]JG:That’s a great point. That actually goes really well with what we’ve been talking about for the last couple of weeks. We’ve been pretty heavy on sales and marketing alignment here. I’m glad to see that this is a natural segue from that into perhaps a more advanced marketing topic.

Listen, Anamika, we are exceptionally grateful that you spent your time talking to us about this. You’re obviously a wealth of knowledge. Thank you very much for being with us today

If you folks have any follow-up questions or anything else that you’d want to know that we haven’t covered, feel free to drop them in the comments and who knows? Maybe we’ll do another episode, because she’s so brilliant. We’re foolish not to. Perhaps we’ll have you back and answer some follow-up questions or talk in deeper terms about perhaps the tactical level, or whatever. Lots of things we can do here. Thank you again for your time. We really appreciate it. That’s going to be about it, unless you have any parting thoughts, Dave?

[0:29:41.7]DG:I have no parting thoughts. I just want to say thank you. It was fantastic, all the things that you had to share, Anamika.

[0:29:49.6]JG:All right.

[0:29:49.5]AG:Thank you.

[0:29:51.5]JG:I’m going to play that funky music and we’ll catch you guys next time.


[0:29:52.3]ANNOUNCER:Thank you for tuning into the Green & Greene show by LeadCrunch. Green & Greene think differently about B2B and want to start a movement to transform demand gen. If you have ideas for topics or would like to be a guest, send an e-mail to David.Green@leadcrunch.ai. If you’d like to find more customers, visit our website to talk to one of our demand gen guides. www.leadcrunch.com.