Creating SMARTer GTM Strategies
by Melissa Koonce
Practical ABM strategies can translate to program success.
I enthusiastically jumped back on the B2B marketing event circuit recently, attending the Demandbase SMART Showcase 2023 in San Francisco. The conference was the first in a series of events Demandbase is hosting this year, including upcoming showcases in Austin (June) and New York (November).
Upon my arrival, I entered a room full of senior marketing leaders from a wide range of B2B industries and enterprise organizations. These marketing practitioners were eager to learn about practical ABM strategies, how to bring them to market, what “program success” looks like, and ways we can all leverage technology insights to make our go-to-market planning and activation strategies SMARTer.
As I reflect on the benefits of attending in-person events, I typically come back to asking myself, “What did I get out of this? What are the core themes I can take with me in my day-to-day activities—guiding my clients, empowering my teams to think beyond the initial ask; pushing past the status quo, and ensuring that, as agency partners and trusted advisors, we are adding value. As a continuous-learner in the ever-evolving B2B landscape, what insights will I take with me?” Ultimately, three key themes stuck with me—all of them directly applicable to the common challenges marketers face today.
1/ Creation of outcome-driven campaigns
Aligning sales and marketing and, more importantly, getting them to “speak a common language” is key to identifying the right qualified accounts to target, consider account size, intent, relationship, and engagement.” That was the POV from F5’s Jessica Kao, Senior Director of Marketing Ops and Hannah King, Director of Global Demand Response. Think about the FIRE model to find in-market accounts: Fit accounts in your ICP (firmographic and technographic), Intent interest in your products and/or competitors, Relationship context and history with the account, Engagement time spent with your company. Remember that your sales team does not care if your marketing asset performed or how well your campaign worked. Empower them with tools they can leverage to “get that meeting.” Determine what is important to these top accounts and customize marketing efforts so that the speak to how your offering can solve relevant customer pain points.
Just as marketing and sales must work together to quantify what the success of the program will look like, what are our SQL and MQL goals, how many top tier accounts are we working to convert? This is a question agency partners should be asking clients during discovery and client onboarding discussions, as well. What are primary and secondary objectives that will help the program team hit its business goal? Reducing cost per lead? Increasing average deal size by 10%? 20%? More? Specific costs per benchmark? True partners should be invested in understanding of KPIs at the onset of the program to bring outcome driven strategies to life. If this step is skipped or alignment is missing, setbacks and churn will plague the program from the onset.
2/ Personalization strategy across touch points
The gathered marketers were presented with some timely “why” and “how” examples that put into context the need to follow through on implementing a customer-first approach to personalization. Sophia Agustina, IBM’s Global Demand Strategy leader, made the point that there’s a difference between “companies that talk the talk…and those that walk the walk.” In her recent blog, she advises teams to, “Focus on “context” as it relates to the customer.” As customers become more advanced in their purchasing decisions, we need to consider and apply multi-tier strategies that leverage technology platforms around AI, marketing automation, personalization, and intent. As we are in the era of “do more with less” we need to be thinking about how we can target smaller audience sets in more personalized ways. Gaining an assist from technology platforms to inform our strategies is critical to creating program effectiveness and keeping your brand in the consideration set of your target audience.
At April Six, we are constantly working to upskill our team around new technologies and platforms. Instead of approaching the changing technology landscape with fear, we determine how the new tools can help us optimize, personalize, and delight our customers with what our products/solutions can offer. If your agency partner is not testing and learning with AI and new ways of customizing experiences today, they will be light years behind when it comes to meeting customers where they are tomorrow. Whether it be through digital marketing, sales enablement, and/or event activation, trusted agency partners need to lead and guide with integrated go-to-market thinking. Let’s push beyond the status quo and campaigns limited to common ho-hum tactics. Testing and learning needs to be integrated throughout the program lifecycle and applied to future strategy optimization efforts.
3/ Intent capture to replace declining MQL conversion rates
“Where have all the buyers gone?” rhetorically asked Qualified’s VP of Demand Gen Sarah McConnell. Then she brought the theme to life, sharing the stat that, in 2022, the industry average MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) conversion rate hit 2 percent—an all-time low and less than half the average rate of a decade ago. No one is filling out forms and, if they do, the efficacy is compromised. The focus for marketers today needs to move beyond the MQL and into a mindset around how can we best leverage intent.
ABM strategies should be focused on aligning around key target accounts, understanding where to reach them, and providing the right level of detail on your product/solution to solve customer challenges. Frankly, leveraging and capturing intent data is still something many marketers are struggling to get a handle on effectively. Distinguishing the intent-data platforms on the market—assessing pros and cons to evaluate which platform maybe the best fit to meet your organization’s specific needs and budget—is a great first step for those still undecided on how to leverage intent data within their marketing tech stacks.
If you want to hear more about our perspectives on how these trends are impacting our clients and our agency, and how we approach strategic GTM planning, drop us a line at email@example.com. We’d love to talk with you!
Head of Client Service, April Six NA