Kyndryl: The born first ABM business

  • 07 Dec 2023

Alisha Lyndon

During a recent ABM podcast, I spoke with Andrew Fitzgerald, Kyndryl’s Vice President of Global Account-Based Marketing, about the thinking behind this, and Andrew was very straight when explaining the reasoning.

“It’s no secret when Kyndryl spun out from IBM we were a declining business unit, and we weren’t making profit. The way to fix that, at least in the short to medium term, was about taking our existing base of accounts, and particularly those key accounts that are really going to make the difference for us, and figure out how we serve and grow them profitably. In that kind of a context, where you’re in a big, complex services business with relatively few high-value customers, ABM makes absolute sense.”

ABM makes sense and has become increasingly significant for many B2B marketers. In our 2023 Global State of Account-Based Marketing study, 66% of companies said they will increase ABM spend in 2024 and 81% reported higher ROI from ABM programs than other marketing initiatives. But it isn’t easy to get ABM right. Especially when the context for delivery is constantly changing: from market conditions and competition to tactics and tools, and – most of all – customer needs. So, when I asked Andrew about how he was measuring and evaluating the success of ABM, he explained that at Kyndryl, it comes down to one thing.

“Success for us is very clear. It’s about account growth. It’s not about MQL, or SQL, or marketing attribution or any of that stuff, which I’m really pleased about. We tried to leave all that behind. All of our efforts are devoted to working with our customer partners, who are the people who run our biggest accounts, their leadership teams and the people serving that customer.”

A classical view of ABM

Andrew’s teams adopt a classical view of ABM and it’s one which is largely based on Momentum ITSMA’s approach and training. So, that means understanding the account, figuring out what the growth play and value proposition is for each one of those customers, and then driving a plan that aims to deliver it. The impact this has had is now reverberating throughout the organization. Effectively, the size of the program has doubled because Andrew has been able to demonstrate the difference it makes as well as the return on investment it delivers. So, what happens next? Well, Andrew has a clear picture about where he’s taking the program.

“The past six months or so have really been about trying to figure out how we grow the program, making sure that we do a better job of picking the right accounts and learning lessons from the ones that didn’t work last year because of course, not all of them do. So, we’ve invested quite a lot of time into making sure that we’re able to scale.

“We’re also trying to innovate within the model we have. This is often the fun part – how can we execute different creative strategies? One of my favorites is something that we did last year with one of our accounts in the UK. It was a very different kind of marketing activity for us, and not one we’d ever really executed before. We laid on a crisis simulation, with actors playing the part of journalists. We said your system has been hacked, your infrastructure is down, so what’s going to happen? And it was a very real exercise, which resulted in some fantastic conversations afterwards to go forward with that particular account.”

I love that, not just because of the creative thinking but also the value exchange that Andrew’s providing to the customer to say actually, if this did happen, let’s think it through. You’re not just pushing a solution or a particular service offering.

Rewinding back two years, I asked Andrew what advice he would give himself today on how to effectively mobilize the rest of the organization behind priority accounts. He summed it up by saying: “If I were starting again, I’d say you need to be realistic that it isn’t always just about ABM, that there are other things that need to be done and sometimes you needed to be a patient. You need to find a balance between the need for speed and the need to be able to show results.”

Listen to the podcast here. If you’d like to discuss your ABM strategy to supercharge strategic client growth in 2024, please get in touch with me: alisha.lyndon@momentumitsma.com.

As organizations embed account-based strategies company-wide, Kyndryl is a rare example of a business that has embraced this approach from the outset.

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Alisha Lyndon