In our recent ABM podcast, we talked with Pooja Golechha, Senior Manager Partner and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) at Pega, about winning strategies in partner ABM.
Merging the boundaries between ABM and partner marketing means creating joint programmes that get to the heart of client needs to drive growth. It is a win-win for everybody, but how can you ensure success?
Unity from day one
In a technology business, multiple teams and stakeholders are involved in a partner ABM program – everyone from the internal marketing and alliance teams to external consulting and system integrator partners. Pooja says it’s crucial they “work as one team” from the beginning of the sales cycle.
To do this effectively, they must align on their target clients, the challenges they’re solving, the stakeholders to engage, and – crucially – joint messaging. If this isn’t done effectively, she warns, you risk confusing clients.
“It is so we offer end-to-end transformation support and act as a true partner, rather than go separately with different messages and leave it to the client to figure it out,” Pooja says.
Aligning properly means understanding your overall partner strategy or, as Pooja puts it, to “come out of the marketing silo”. This means carefully considering which partners are most suitable for a joint marketing approach. Factors may include their industry, how much of your resource is already dedicated to them, previous joint success, and more.
Partner selection “isn’t a marketing decision or an alliance decision”, Pooja says. It’s a “one-team strategy” where sales, marketing, and alliance teams join forces.
Let partner ABM programs grow naturally
Considering the complexity of most sales, marketing, and partner ecosystems, it can be hard to know where to start. Pooja suggests starting with your overall business objectives. What are your key accounts? What are you trying to achieve? Which areas do you want to grow or strengthen? With that knowledge, you’ll have a better idea of the partners that could help.
Next, you bring in alliance teams to ensure you engage with the right stakeholders – remembering that each partner may have thousands of employees. Partners are “like an ABM in themselves,” Pooja adds, so using the right resources from your company “to get that conversation going at an appropriate level is really important”.
With a foundation set, you must work with the partner to understand client needs. This doesn’t happen overnight. It requires patience and long-term thinking, rather than just jumping on the next short-term opportunity that comes to mind.
Pooja recommends regular cadence meetings between account teams and partners to brainstorm client challenges. “ABM is like a sponge. You need to absorb the insight that you need about your client to be able to create an effective ABM program.”
“ABM starts right there when you’re gathering all this information sitting with your partners. Eventually, you’ll come to a point where you filter down areas where you think you can go jointly to the client” and create a “strong joint story.”
ABM isn’t just a process, it’s creative. Pooja says it’s an “art of using all information, whether it from alliances or even industry marketing, product marketing, or content teams”. Everything should flow naturally for that creativity to bloom. That needs all key stakeholders working together as one team.
Education is everything
Achieving successful unity isn’t easy. It takes buy-in from all stakeholders – not just ABMers – which can be challenge. That is why Pooja suggests internal education.
“It’s not just the responsibility or ownership of the ABMer to be involved right from the start. You need to educate account teams or extended team on the role you’re here to play.”
People who only work with clients may not be familiar with ABM, so asking them to suddenly work with an entire ecosystem may sound confusing. For that reason, Pooja suggests to “start small”.
Her approach is to “first educate the team on fundamentals, such as what is your company’s partner strategy? What type of partners? Also, what is the difference between marketing to, marketing with, and marketing through? That clarifies the demand gen versus ABM bit”.
Once the wider team understands ABM – and your function as an ABMer – you can start participating and bringing a “different voice to the table” that involves “really wearing the customer hat and asking the right questions”.
That is the essence of ABM. Being client-first and ensuring every marketing initiative is directed at the account’s real needs. You can apply this approach to almost any form of marketing – especially, as Pooja demonstrates, to partner marketing.
Listen to the podcast here. If you’d like to discuss your partner ABM strategy, please get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org.