ABM in practice: Conrad Mills interview - Enigma Marketing Services
ABM in practice: Conrad Mills interview

With 15 years’ experience in delivering measurable results across all aspects of the marketing mix, Conrad Mills is familiar with the outlook that underpins account based marketing (ABM). He talks to Enigma about the benefits and challenges of implementing ABM at Xerox Europe.

With 15 years’ experience in delivering measurable results across all aspects of the marketing mix, Conrad Mills is familiar with the philosophy that underpins account-based marketing (ABM). He talks to Enigma about the benefits and challenges of implementing ABM at Xerox Europe.

What’s your role and how is ABM playing a part?

I’m General Manager, Enterprise Marketing at Xerox Europe, and I focus on the services we sell directly to large enterprises – this is where our ABM activity is focused. We currently sell to around 7,500 organisations across western Europe, and we segment those organisations into a retention target (a customer entering the last 18 months of a contract), a development target (a current customer in the early stage of a contract that we can sell additional services to) or an acquisition target (a brand-new customer).

What are your ABM plans for this year?

We’re rolling out two separate programmes in western Europe. The first is focused on the acquisition targets where we can see the greatest potential; we’re in the process of selecting the most appropriate accounts. The other is focused on current customers where we see opportunity to cross- and up-sell, and again, it’s crucial we select the right accounts. We’ve already got some sort of relationship with those organisations, but we want it to be stronger.

How important is internal communication for ABM?

It must be a two-way conversation between the sales and marketing teams. You need close alignment to ensure the best results, and the account teams need to make sure the right accounts are being selected. Communication is key from the outset – everyone needs to understand exactly what you’re doing, and agree to whatever follow-up processes are put in place.

Tell us about recent projects where this has been put into practice.

We ran some activity into the UK financial services sector last year where all relevant teams were involved right at the outset – they helped with some of the message development, they understood exactly what communications were going out and when, we had weekly calls with the sales director and the whole account, and they followed up immediately on all the relevant opportunities. We can easily track that project because the sales team inputted all the data we’ve asked for into Salesforce. It worked very well as a pilot for the approach we want to take this year, and was relatively easy to manage when it was a single sector in a single country.
What challenges are you facing?

We’re trying to scale the above-mentioned project up into multiple sectors and multiple countries. Logistically this will be far more complex as there will obviously be far more people involved.

Another challenge is around account selection – we’ve got 7,500 accounts and around 3,000 of those are acquisition targets who we want to sell to directly but we’re currently doing no business with. We need to put a process in place to select the most appropriate accounts from the 3,000. I’m currently looking at technology that could help us do that, but we also need to make sure the sales team are involved in the process and that we deploy any technology wisely.

We also struggle to continue to track the benefits from the initial ABM activity. In the short time after a campaign we can identify opportunities or meetings that have arisen, but in 18 or 24 months’ time we need to make sure that we’re continuing to engage with these original contacts and continue to nurture them. It can be challenging to associate future opportunities with the original ABM programme.

Do you think technology is the answer to account selection?

It needs to be a mixture of automation and human judgement when it comes to account selection. I want to use technology to reduce the accounts we have down to a more manageable number – from 1,500 to 200, for example – and then work with the sales team to select the appropriate accounts from a much smaller universe. Some of the new technologies that we’re looking at are Lattice and Demandbase – I’ve heard a lot of talk about using account selection technology in general along with mixed reports from people who have deployed it, so it’s an ongoing project.

What results have you got from ABM?

Ultimately ABM programmes are measured on what they deliver in terms of pipeline and signed business – that’s ultimately what we’re looking for. The financial services sector pilot that we ran 2016/2017 has hit the target we set for it, and we’re still nurturing some of the contacts we got from that, so it’s been a good start.

We’ve also seen some good results from social selling. We used a sales GM as a ‘figurehead’ for the campaign, getting them to author some content that was then shared online, and it has worked well both in terms of raising the GM’s profile and increasing reader engagement. It’s also helped us to grow the network of contacts we can engage with in the future, and will work well when we roll out to multiple sectors and countries in the future.

What’s your main advice for people starting the ABM journey?

Be very rigorous around account selection and use the tools available to you to help with that. It’ll help you look at the state of relationships inside accounts, the size of the addressable market, how the competition is positioned and other factors that you should consider before putting accounts forward for ABM. But it’s important to make sure they are used rigorously.

For ABM to work, it’s crucial to have a clear account selection process in place, ensure the sales and marketing teams are fully integrated, and understand where responsibilities lie within your processes. Data is also key – make sure you’ve identified the right people to talk to and sign the order – and have a clear understanding of how you’re going to measure the impact of the activity.

Marcus Hiles
By Marcus Hiles

Whether you need assistance with an ABM campaign, to improve engagement with channel partners or to take content marketing to the next level, just get in touch.

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