The Latest from the ABM Experts
February 13, 2020
Hexagon Xalt’s Account-Based Marketing Strategy
How Hexagon Xalt Uses ABM to Drive Pipeline and Strengthen Their Brand
Hexagon Xalt, a division of Hexagon AB, is a Fortune Global 2000 company whose mission is to help manufacturing, construction, aggregate, and material handling businesses adapt to digital market environments and improve their operations by fully leveraging IoT data.
Their Executive Director of Sales Operations, Kim Brown, recently joined us on a webinar to share her ABM story and explain how she got corporate buy-in on transitioning to an account-based model.
We shared a few highlights below.
Kim’s First Experience with ABM
Before its acquisition by Hexagon AB, Kim led the sales team at Catavolt, a start-up that helped businesses within the healthcare, construction, and manufacturing industries accelerate their digital transformation by providing revolutionary digital solutions with disruptive technologies.
They were experimenting with ABM as a more efficient way to win new logos faster in order to build a sustainable pipeline and take up more space in the market.
They made the decision to focus their initial account-based efforts on the manufacturing industry, where they felt they had a firmer understanding of the space and could build a program with longevity.
Much like most anyone’s first ABM program, it was a learning experience. Their marketing and sales teams were working in tandem to figure out what “ABM” should look like in their organization.
This process involved:
- Identifying the different segments of the manufacturing industry
- Determining which industry segments were the best fit for their products using data like
- Employee size
- Key personas
- Defining their customer base
- Crafting compelling stories around their key product lines
Some of this process, Kim admitted, involved a lot of guesswork.
But it also involved a lot of reflection. Companies that sell complex products will empathize with this — there’s an incredible amount of customization that has to happen to sell complex products to niche audiences. This makes it difficult to build targeted campaigns and communicate expertise at scale. In order to truly address this challenge, Kim and her team had to ask themselves:
- Who their customers really are
- What they really need
Without knowing the answers to those questions, you can’t adequately customize your marketing and build a sustainable pipeline. Kim carried this mindset with her from pre-acquisition to her current role as Executive Director of Sales Operations at Hexagon Xalt, the digital solutions division of Hexagon AB.
Taking the Guesswork Out of Their ABM Strategy
At about the two-year mark of practicing ABM at Hexagon Xalt, Kim was prompted to find ways to do ABM “better and faster”. While they’d already seen significant improvements since implementing an account-based approach, it was time to launch the next iteration of their ABM efforts.
They took their two years’ worth of data and dug into their success rates with specific verticals in the manufacturing industry. The Hexagon Xalt team also spent a significant amount of time talking one on one with customers to gain an even deeper understanding of how they’re using Hexagon products.
Kim found that about 40% of their marketing/sales efforts made up about 80% of their success and were able to narrow their focus to a few areas. Previously, they’d chosen industry verticals based on their best customers. This is a common practice when launching new ABM programs — but Kim’s team then took it a step further. Instead of just accepting a list of top accounts from the sales team, Kim ran an analysis on that list and worked one on one with the sales team to find answers to questions like:
- Why did they pick those customers?
- What’s their company size?
- What do they do?
- What does their market look like?
- The key contacts within those accounts – where do they fall on the corporate hierarchy?
- Is there any information we’re missing? Is there a pain point they’re experiencing that we haven’t solved yet?
By combining insights from the sales team with hard data from their initial ABM programs, they were able to identify which verticals were most receptive to their products and carve out a larger space in those markets. They were also able to get insights on which buyer personas had the best conversion rate and fastest sales cycles.
This led them to their next iteration of ABM: a more focused approach to account-based marketing that was hyper-specific to a select number of buyer personas and industry sub-verticals within manufacturing.
By reframing their approach, they were able to invest their resources more efficiently and drive better results.
Hexagon Xalt now iterates its programs on a quarterly basis after revisiting data from the previous quarters. They try to follow an 80/20 rule: 80% of their resources are invested in areas they know drive results, and 20% are reserved for experimentation.
Getting Corporate Buy-In on ABM
Hexagon Xalt became the Hexagon ABM poster child by happenstance. At the time, Hexagon was mostly relying on traditional marketing methods. So when someone at the corporate level got a whiff of what Kim’s team was doing at Xalt, they were intrigued. Kim’s team presented their ABM results at the corporate level, which led to a year-long campaign of sharing ABM across the entire organization.
Like many enterprise organizations, Hexagon had merged and acquired a number of disparate organizations, which originally made it difficult to spread the word about how much success Hexagon Xalt was seeing with ABM. But by looping Kim’s team into a larger initiative to pool company ideas and resources — One Hexagon — she was better able to share her approach to ABM across the entire company, encouraging other departments and organizations to try an account-based approach for themselves.
Here’s what she had to say about it:
“It took a couple of really passionate people [to get buy-in]. We were following ABM, sharing the good news, reporting on our patterns of success, and doing internal campaigning. We were trying to push the message that we could all win if we do this together. It’s been a pretty cool journey — [ABM] was something that was originally just a means to survival as a startup, but now we’re helping to grow a global brand.”
When asked if she had any tips for account-based marketers hoping to get executive support on rolling out a wider ABM initiative:
“We championed our ABM approach because they’re very aligned with what our business goals are and what our parent company’s business goals are – there’s an alignment there.
Our goals were to increase revenue and find new logos in addition to finding opportunities to cross-sell/upsell those new logos. Because ABM is so data-driven, it made us very knowledgeable about what wins, what doesn’t, and how long it takes us to convert new customers.
We used this data to get corporate buy-in and win the support of our executive team. We were able to clearly show them how ABM could solve our problems. I would recommend finding ways to align your ideas for ABM with your company initiatives and the goals of the executive team; then, show your executive team how ABM will help you accomplish those goals.”
Their Advice to New ABMers
Kim affirms that account-based marketing is not a quick-win strategy. And when gunning for executive buy-in, ABM shouldn’t be marketed as such.
It takes tools, time, people, resources, and alignment. The team at Hexagon Xalt considers it a lifestyle – over time, you’ll get quicker and more efficient, but Kim warns beginners not to expect immediate wins during their initial investment in ABM.
Her advice for beginners?
“Implement ABM with a beta group. Set up an incubator with a select few teammates across sales and marketing and select a test market. Run ads to that group and a few others. Launch mini- or micro-programs to test new markets and collateral. Be thoughtful, be methodical, and incubate new ideas intentionally.”
Even though Kim’s team has been practicing ABM for years, they still use the incubation approach to test new ideas. If they see results, they’ll roll it out to the rest of the team. If it doesn’t, they go back to the drawing board to see how they can make it even better.
Digging Deeper Into the Hexagon Xalt ABM Story
There’s so much more that we covered with Kim regarding her ABM journey. To listen to the rest, watch our on-demand webinar (embedded at the top of the page). In it, you’ll get to hear her talk through the above points along with:
- A brief intro to the ABM tools her team uses
- The steps Hexagon Xalt took to get sales buy-in on ABM and align sales and marketing
- Effective sales activation tactics
- Hexagon Xalt’s high-performing ABM tactics
- How Kim is working to implement ABM across the entire organization