Pivoting a 175 Year-Old Company to ABM

This post is based off a podcast with Derek Slayton of Dun & Bradstreet. If you’d like to read the summary, you’re on the right page. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here and below!

Pause for a moment and consider this statement: everything around us is trying to tell us a story.

Whether it be the plethora of news stations updating us on the latest, our personal account balances screaming at us to stop wasting so much per month on Starbucks, or our high school history textbooks forewarning us against repeating the same mistakes – Stories are everywhere.

But, as far as your marketing campaigns go, is your company telling your story optimally?

At a #FlipMyFunnel event Derek Slayton, Group VP of Products and Marketing for Dun & Bradstreet Netrospex (D&B), blessed us with the hard-earned words of wisdom the 175-year-old company learned from the transition to AMB.

In doing so, he taught us exactly how to leverage foundational data as the operating system for the inverted funnel, so as to most efficiently share your story with customers and invite them to be apart of it.

Before moving on to Derek’s 3 key sticking points in which to knock home the lessons he learned, let me briefly explain who D&B is and why they are worth paying attention to.

Who is D&B?

When you get down to brass tacks, Dun & Bradstreet Netrospex specializes in collecting, aggregating and linking business entity contact data and intelligence, primarily for B2B companies.

D&B prides itself on its core competencies, including data mastery and analytics expertise, which, believe it or not, have become embedded into many different systems you and your organization may use today.

With that in mind, they offer their services in numerous ways, to vastly different types of accounts.

In deciding to come on board with D&B, they can show you exactly how to leverage your respective data, be it to evaluate who should receive credit based on risk assessments, to determine the most efficient ways of marketing and selling products / services at a given point in time, and of course, to reach the most profitable customers in your target market and creating the immensely desirable, long-term relationships that last.

After Derek explained who the company is at its core, he moved on to his role in pivoting the company to ABM.

He told the audience that he was, “responsible for some of the solutions that we bring to marketing leaders and also talk about how I worked with our CMO at D&B, and a large team, to embrace ABM, and help pivot the company over the last 8-9 months.”

Through this process, many important conclusions were stumbled upon, now passed on to you.

For example, he made the bold claim that “the funnel and the wheel are complementary”. As with everything else, both tools tell a story. More specifically, Derek explains exactly how you can use these tools, summarized in 3 key points.  

Throughout the rest of the article, I’ll expand upon the three key points that will hopefully inspire similar results as the 175-year-old company.

How You Define “The Universe” Matters

Focus on the right accounts.

Every story, by design, requires characters.

In regards to ABM, Derek most-eloquently paints an extremely relevant analogy so as to understand the challenge most B2B companies are fronted with in determining who their ‘characters’ are.

When it comes to Account-Based Marketing, he compares leads to solar systems and accounts to galaxies.

In other words, Derek professed that “it’s super important to focus on which galaxies are most opportune for us, and which solar systems, are the ones we are most capable of reaching.”

[Tweet “Focus on which galaxies are most opportune, and which solar systems, we are most capable of reaching.”]

I know what you’re probably thinking – comparing the individuals and accounts associated with your company to the entire, vast universe, seems extreme, if not infinitely incomparable.

However, “infinitely incomparable” is exactly the pun I intended, because if there are thousands and thousands of companies in your database, they will most assuredly be impossible to target effectively.

When Derek and his team were helping to facilitate the transition of D&B into ABM, it was discovered that there were 22,000 companies in the company’s “universe”. Even for a company with the clout and size that D&B possesses, the task is light years away from being achievable.

In order to solve the issue of over-abundance, Derek said they, “employed an analytic filter, where we looked at propensity, penetration, and demand as ways to derive the best accounts to focus on”.

The resulting companies remaining proved to be top quality and an overall number far more manageable, compared to the initial 22,000 companies.

The filter’s specifications pinpointed a few hundred worthy accounts to be prioritized, in which only 300 – 400 sales reps were needed to give the accounts the full attention they needed and deserve.  

Understand Sales Channels and How They Work

Pick the right ways to attract and engage with those accounts

Another needed element of any story is it’s setting.

If you and your company is planning on transitioning to ABM, acquisition efforts with full attribution should be your “setting”.

For example, in considering the acquisition of accounts who aren’t currently doing business with your company or those who don’t have a relationship with you in your sales and marketing space, the question to be considered is, ‘how do you reach them and make sure you attribute your company’s marketing spend to bringing them in and acquiring them’?

In order to pick the right ways to attract and engage with such accounts, your marketing team must determine which digital medium will be the most effective at driving relevant, engageable content into their viewpoint and how to personalize the experience they have with you through proper attribution, to successfully ascertain the close.

According to Derek, D&B was, “able to use our digital data, driven by our DUNN’s and account specifications to advertise digitally to the accounts that we were seeking to acquire”.

He went on to say that after these individuals showed up on their website, D&B’s IP intelligence technology is utilized to further personalize the prospects’ experience.

Based on this powerful system and technology, each person is served content specifically catered to their respective company’s needs and desires, followed by a couple of simple, short questions.

In doing so, your goal should be to take that data and merge it with whatever information you have about their respective account, stored in the backend, to fit them into the most accurate persona that represents them.

Based on their persona, largely impart determined by the company they are working for, you can then go back and re-advertise to the individuals who left the site and those who were already in an account, but that hadn’t been to your website yet.

According to Derek, optimizing sales channels through your ABM initiative comes down to the fact that, “a lot of this process was delivering density versus reach”.

Set a Boundary Around Where You Will Focus

Work on an engagement process, in the field, where we could sit down with the customer and deliver highly personalized, directed content to them, to later take it to sales discussions.

What makes or break a story is largely impart due to its plot. Account-Based Marketing is no different.

According to the Dictionary.com, a plot is, “the plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work”. In this stage of the game, its critical that your company’s ABM strategy has a solid plot – in other words, an engagement strategy secured with boundaries to drive home your ultimate message and acquire those high-value accounts.  

Derek’s last point may seem ambiguous and confusing at first, so consider D&B’s “plot” with the focus of taking an In-Market / Event-Centric approach to top tier accounts.

D&B has four categories at the core of their ABM program:

  1. The first category is: inform and nurture, which focuses on the digital experience.
  2. The second category is: learn and build. The goal is to convince people that D&B is the right vendor, by focusing on their own events and the ones they participate in, as a way to cultivate an in-person connection with the groups of people in their target accounts.
  3. The third, explore and expand, is focused on two things. First, S&B opts to deliver intelligence to prospective customers about their respective company’s current state of data and/or some the best segments in their market. Second, these customers are prompted into customized workshops suited specifically for them. At this point in the game, D&B team members from the executive team, marketing operations team, etc., show them exactly how they use the data to leverage their marketing desires.
  4. Lastly, the fourth category is the accelerate and grow phase. At this point in time, D&B helps the prospects move from deciding they are the right vendor to do business with and to prioritize spending on those respective projects, opposed to other areas they had in their marketing ask list.

In closing, Derek highlights the fact that this point, out of the other 2 of the 3, is the most important in saying that, “getting them to prioritize the project internally is the last, and sometimes the longest, step”.

But not to fear. As soon as you begin applying the three sticking points, analogized as a story’s characters, setting, and plot, you begin telling your company’s story in a way that you want it to be told.