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When building an ABM program there is one adage that resonates more than most: don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.
It is easy to get caught up in planning what your perfect program should look like and mapping your process, but there comes a point when things just need to get done.
It is better to accept you’re not going to get it right the first time and build in a culture of breaking things down and building back better. Living proof of this can be found at Google Cloud.
As Akriti Gupta, Google Cloud’s Global Head of Account-based Marketing, explained in a keynote speech with her colleague Pagely Tucker at ITSMA’s Marketing Vision 2021, a culture of experimentation is critical to success.
“We first set up our ABM program in early 2020,” she said. “And it didn’t go well. We rushed into execution and didn’t get the results we hoped for. That caused us to rethink the whole program and we launched again in June 2021 with our version 2.0.
“This time we built in some foundations that were missing before. One of our main aims is to support our sales teams and our customers. We also wanted to start small, create the right structure, create the right frameworks and methodology, create the right ways of reporting, and to become as successful internally as we are useful for customers externally.”
But how to balance that cautious approach at an organization with the culture of developing new innovation and products at speed?
“We adopted an approach of what I would call strategic overcommunication,” added Tucker, who is Head of Strategic Account Marketing and Account Based Programs, North America & Global Initiatives. “We set clear expectations so that everybody involved in this process knew we wouldn’t deliver pipeline or revenue overnight. Instead, we were very clear about what impact people could expect, and when, and we set our metrics to measure progress along the way.
“The metrics that we used the first time around were great for demand generation, but we discovered that ABM needed to be measured differently.
“We took the approach that we would create KPIs that we would share with a sales partner, then we tracked in chunks to make sure we recorded our early wins. At the beginning of the process, we measured increasing engagement or the number of C-level engagements, then, as the process moved on, we measured the number of meetings arranged and then finally we could measure revenue. We developed an account engagement model measuring deal velocity and compared that to a baseline from before ABM began.”
Measurement is critical – as Tucker added: “If you can’t measure ABM then you shouldn’t be doing it.” – but just as critical was communication targeted at all stakeholders but particularly those within Google Cloud’s sales organization. The idea was to get sales buy-in both at the very top but also with day-to-day partners in the field.
“We did this by sharing our ABM frameworks with sales leaders and getting a commitment from them that they would be fully involved,” said Gupta. “Each industry lead then presented that ABM framework and approach to their team, so everyone was on the same page and had expectations set on role, involvement, their responsibility, and so on.
“There are no short cuts here. It is imperative to get exec buy-in and to evangelize to sales teams as much as you possibly can. Patience is required because, to Pagely’s point, the revenue metric comes at the very end of this long process – we want to focus first on building robust relationships to set us all up for success.”
It is about going on this journey together and constantly testing what works before scaling, as Tucker explained: “ABM is constantly evolving, and the most important thing is not to over commit.
“We have the frameworks in place now, and have a good measurement model, but we need to be cautious about expanding until we know for sure we have all the elements needed to succeed.
“If you can’t deliver, you lose the trust of the sales team, so we need to be cautious about what to commit to before we have the pieces in place.”
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This content was drawn from the Experts Explain: ABM session at the ITSMA Marketing Vision 2021 conference. The full recording of this and all sessions are available on demand at no cost for ITSMA members and for a minimal fee for non-members. This blog post was originally posted on the momentum site.
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