In this week’s Marketers Teaching Marketers video interview, Act-On’s senior digital manager gives us tips on account-based marketing (ABM), social media, and omni-channel marketing
Rodrigo: This is Marketing Talk with Rodrigo Fuentes at ListenLoop, and I’m here with Rachel Rosin, senior manager of digital marketing at Act-On software, a leading marketing automation provider for fast growing businesses. Rachel, please introduce yourself and tell us about your role and responsibilities.
About Rachel Rosin, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing at Act-On
Rachel: Thanks for having me today. My name is Rachel Rosin, and I’m the senior manager of the digital marketing team here at Act-On. I’m responsible for anything and everything that our customers, prospects and audience interact with digitally. Everything from managing Act-On, the marketing automation platform, and our strategy for nurturing and using it as kind of a lead-gen engine to align our sales and marketing team, including our website, landing pages, emails, forms, as well as SEO (we want to make sure that we are showing up exact results), and all of the retargeting and display ads as well. We use ListenLoop for our retargeting and what we do is create a seamless experience for our customers, so that no matter where you’re viewing our materials online, there’s cohesiveness and it’s taking you on a journey.
What is Act-On?
Rachel: Act-On focuses on B2B mid-market marketing teams, and Act-On is actually Act-On’s largest customer. We think of ourselves as our own use case for what it means to be an efficient marketing team in today’s digital landscape. So we use Act-On everyday and we use it as kind of the dashboard that drives all of our marketing activities. It’s where we’re feeding in all of the data from all the different lead sources that we have to make sure that we have everything in place so that we can strategically nurture people by sending the right messages at the right time using automated programs and lead scoring with Act-On. Also, we use it to make sure that we can track for final attribution, making sure that the money that we’re spending in campaigns is actually contributing to the bottom line. So, a lot of the ways that we do that is through our forms and just making sure that we have hidden fields or information available on every conversion, so that we know where those prospects and leads were coming from, and then we can follow them through the funnel and see who actually converts to customers, and then optimize our spends and our campaigns that way.
What’s the value of omni-channel marketing for B2B companies?
Rodrigo: I remember a compelling statement that Act-On pushed in 2016, “brand, demand, and expand,” and I love that. It often implicates an omni-channel approach. Tell me about omni-channel and why it’s important in the B2B marketer landscape.
Rachel: Yeah, definitely. Brand, demand, and expand is something that’s very real for us. It’s the way that we’ve structured our marketing team here because there are different facets of marketing.
From the branding approach, you’re trying to get people interested in your brand. You’re attracting that interest and you’re getting yourself known. It encompasses PR, analyst relations, and social media. And then, you have the demand function of it, which is taking all of that momentum that you’ve received from gaining that interest and that attraction, and taking them on a journey, making sure that you stay top of mind and hopefully convert to an actual paying customer. Then, marketing doesn’t end at the sale. It should not end. It’s all about expanding your customer relationships. So what education can you provide about your product or service to make sure that they are using everything to the fullest extent and love your brand? Because we kind of take it from a standpoint that there’s no other department in a company more so than marketing that really has a touchpoint with your customers through every phase that they go through.
Marketing really should be owning that experience because in today’s digital age, there are so many different factors that go into a purchase. You’re searching online and as soon as you have a problem, you’re looking for a solution or something that can solve that pain, and then, you don’t wanna just click and buy especially when it’s something you know is a larger purchase. So you look at reviews, you look at social media, you ask people what are they using. Then, once you have kind of a consideration set of companies that you feel comfortable with, then it goes into, “okay, how can they directly solve the issues I’m having?” and you evaluate a couple of different players. Then, you eventually start to use the services. So it’s not just a simple journey anymore. It’s really about staying top of mind in all the different places that potential prospects could be looking for you.
Why do B2B Marketers need social media management tools?
Rodrigo: I love that visual you brought up in the beginning. This idea that brand creates momentum that needs to be captured by demand. One of the things you talked about there was using social, and I know that Act-On recently launched a social module. Tell me about that and why you think marketers need these tools in their arsenal?
Rachel: I think it’s necessary in today’s world because you think of sales 50 years ago, and people would ask their neighbors. They would ask people that they know, and nowadays, you don’t talk to people face to face anymore. A lot of it is done online. You’re making connections online, and you’re able to have a larger network of people to post questions to, and that’s what social serves us. Act-On released our Advanced Social Media Module because social is growing, and companies are putting a lot more money into social, so that their channels are a lot more visible.
So you want to make sure, again, that you’re getting that return on the investment. It’s not just about how many likes, shares or retweets that you’re getting on your social posts. It’s about seeing how that actually ties back to revenue. How many people are following you on social networks? Are people that follow you on social networks more likely to become customers? And really using our Advanced Social Module gives you better reporting on the back end, which helps you answer some of those questions, and it also helps you identify too who are your top influencers. Your sales staff or just all of your employees are people that can be influencers for your product or service, and we encourage our employees to share social posts all the time. For instance, Act-On has an evangelist club, and everyday, we have an email that comes out of different items that we our employees can share to make Act-On more visible to our networks because it’s a great way to get more visibility without having higher cost of some traditional lead programs.
How are business decision-makers influenced by social media?
Rodrigo: A lot of people think that social media, especially in the B2B world, gets a bit of a bad rap – usually because social media is focused on consumers. How do you think about a decision maker, let’s call him “Carl the CIO,” he’s maybe 50-something, and he’s working at a large fortune 500 company. Is this person on social media? And if so, what channel, why are they there, and how are they being influenced by social media?
Rachel: Social media varies from industry to industry. Within the B2B world, we definitely see more success on channels like Twitter or LinkedIn. If you’re more on a B2C focus, then avenues like Instagram or Facebook typically see more success, and it can vary by age group as well. Carl the CIO, at a Fortune 500 company, may not be as active on social channels, but what’s nice about social. You could be connecting with somebody that Carl works with, and Carl at the end of the day, probably isn’t the only person in the decision to adopt a new product or service. More often than not, nowadays, it’s a team of people making decisions. It’s not just one person pulling that trigger and signing the contract. You have to get buy-in from other people. So it’s about influencing who you can at an account level or a company level, because it’s not just about reaching one person anymore. It’s about making connections with the company, with the business, and really making sure that you’re staying visible and top of mind with everybody who could be potentially involved in that purchase decision.
Rodrigo: I love that. It’s a really good point. I think that’s something that a lot of marketers often forget. When we have this laser focus on getting leads, getting leads, getting leads… We’re so focused on getting the lead that we want, the highest level decision maker. We often forget that they’re often influenced by their subordinates, who are often tasked to do the research and present it to the person that you want. People would do well to remember that for their campaigns.
Can you compare and contrast omni-channel versus ABM?
Rodrigo: How would you compare and contrast omni-channel marketing versus account-based marketing? They seem to have a lot of similarities and yet, people talk about them differently.
Rachel: Yeah, it’s kinda funny. I feel there’s just a lot of similarities to things that marketers have been doing for years, but we just didn’t have a term and a nice definition for it. In my mind, what I think is ABM is a method used in an omni-channel approach. Omni-channel for me really is not just using one method of communication to reach your prospects. It’s the sum of all parts. It’s making sure that you’re visible on search. It’s making sure you have an approachable website. It’s making sure you’re having engaging emails and engaging social posts, and then, making sure that you have your messaging aligned with your sales team.
So even when prospects and customers are interacting with you outside of the digital realm, that they’re having that same communication and that same expectation carried through in life conversations that they’re having as well. So I think ABM is a nice way to kind of button things up and bring it back to the fact that you’re not just trying to reach one contact in a business anymore. It’s about targeting the business and making sure you have a strategic approach to attracting companies that you want, and then, being efficient about the way that you interact with contacts within that company. ABM is just another tool in a marketer’s arsenal that really makes a more solid omni channel approach.
What is the rationale behind using an ABM strategy?
Rodrigo: You speak about ABM with a lot of authority and it gives me the impression that Act-On is already pursuing an ABM strategy. If so, I’d love to hear more about that. What was the rationale behind that, both at the management level and at the execution layer, to embrace ABM as a strategy?
Rachel: It was something that we had been seeing internally or something we just kind of felt as marketers. It’s very rare and it’s very rewarding to work at a company where your target market is yourself. A lot of the things that we’re doing on a day-to-day basis are the things that our audience is doing. So we try to make sure that we’re very vocal with our sales team and our product team to make sure that what we’re doing is heard because that’s part of the industry. So for us, it kind of came from the approach that we kept hearing salespeople talk about just reaching the CMO. And there are a lot of us, coordinators, specialists on the floor that we’re actually in the platform everyday using the product and hearing some of these calls, and it’s like, “hey guys, you’re missing an opportunity here because it’s not just the CMO that’s thinking that decision.”
You don’t want to forget about the people that are going to be in the product everyday, because those are the ones that are going to use the product, and if they don’t use the product, then they’re probably going to churn. So you want to make sure that you have buy-in from everybody, and the best way to do that is to target the account, and make sure that you have the different buyer personas that you might interact with within a marketing team for us specifically, and that you have content and talk tracks that really speak to each of those personas within a company.
At the end of the day, the company is going to have the same pain points or issues that they’re trying to solve but each person is going to try to solve them in a different way. If your issue is revenue, your CMO is going to have a much different approach connecting your ROI than a coordinator would. They would be more focused on features that they can actually implement themselves. We don’t want to just get the person that’s signing that contract. It’s about getting buy-in from the entire company. So then, Act-On recently released an ABM module, which helps you roll up scoring to an account level so you can begin nurturing accounts, not just leads or contacts. Also, we work with ListenLoop and we do ABM ad targeting with ListenLoop as part of our omni channel approach, making sure that as we are nurturing these accounts, such that the messaging that they’re receiving and emails are the same messaging that they’re receiving in digital ads and retargeting ads across the digital universe.
What’s the value in creating harmonized messaging across channels?
Rodrigo: What do you see is the value in creating harmonized messaging across channels? Or the inverse of the question is: what’s the harm in having different messages across channels?
Rachel: The harm is that mixed messaging can create inconsistency, which is a red flag for buyers. They want to know what they can expect and they want to see consistent messaging: “what is your company about?” That shouldn’t change from channel to channel. Sure, the way you pitch the message should be different because of different mediums. In email, you can be more lengthy, you can explain things. With digital ads, you have to be short and brief, and it’s just about recognition too. We are bombarded with messages daily. Think about how many emails you get in your inbox everyday or how many ads you see online, but when you see imagery and messages that match something that you’ve seen in email, the recognition factor is a lot higher and people can start to remember you a lot more.
What are some of the biggest challenges in implementing an ABM campaign?
Rodrigo: Looking at the ABM campaigns that Act-On has been executing, what would you say are 1 or 2 of the biggest challenges you’ve run into and how you’ve overcome them?
Rachel: Probably one of the biggest challenges is data. Just making sure that you have clean data and that you can effectively pull segments (accounts that you want to address) because there are some upfront costs that come with ABM programs. So you want to make sure that you’re spending your money efficiently and wisely, and so I think data is usually marketers’ number one problem. Making sure that you have things set up in a way that you can segment effectively so that you can run targeted campaigns, so that you’re ensuring that you are delivering the right message to the right people at the right time.
With that comes a variety of challenges. It’s not just demographics anymore. It’s not just the company, the location or the titles. It also encompasses their actions and what they’re interacting with, and trying to use those as a basis for what their interests are based on which content they’ve interacted with. Deliverability is also a huge issue with emails, so you want to make sure that you’re not just batch and blasting anymore. You shouldn’t be sending the same message to everyone. You should be sending a message that is very applicable to a targeted audience. A lot of people kind of boast about, “hey, my email list size is X-thousand numbers big,” but now, we’re moving to a world where smaller, more targeted lists and messages are better. You see better engagement from that because you’re able to deliver more personalized messages.
How do you measure results or ROI based on accounts rather than individual leads?
Rodrigo: One of the things that often comes up for the ABM marketer is the question of measuring results and return of investment (ROI). If we look back at the last 10 years, there has been a focus on the marketing qualified lead (MQL), the sales qualified lead (SQL), and so on. How does Act-On change its model for measuring results of its account-based team when you’re looking at an account rather than the individual lead? How do you think about metrics and ROI?
Rachel: Yeah, that’s a great question. At the end of the day, MQLs and SQLS, still plays into the puzzle, but it rolls up into “account scoring” and the way that you create your reports. We have lead scoring, so each individual contact or lead gets a score, which rolls up into an account score. In this way, we are monitoring accounts, too. We look at accounts and we analyze a control group of some accounts that are being worked by marketing versus a group that aren’t getting marketing campaigns. Then you look at the difference in those conversion rates and see how your programs are producing lift based on the differences in conversion rates between those two groups.
Rodrigo: Absolutely. That’s definitely how we recommend measuring the results of an ad campaign. Setting up a control group and then setting up a group that’s receiving the marketing messaging.
Do you have any tips for implementing an ABM strategy?
Rodrigo: So we’re going to wrap this up, and the last question I have for you is: do you have any tips for marketers looking to implement an ABM strategy for the first time — land mines to watch out for, pitfalls to avoid? I’d love to hear about that.
Rachel: Number 1 is have a strategy. Try to plan it out. Think from beginning to end. Don’t just try to say, “I’m just gonna market to accounts instead of leads now.” That’s not the right approach. Take a look at the types of accounts or customers that are currently active opportunities, and take a look at some of the factors that are in common between those successful customers.
Once you have that list of commonalities, then look at your database and all of your leads and prospects. Identify the accounts that have some of those similar characteristics. From there, try to do your first ABM campaign because it’s all about identifying the right account for you. Create a thoughtful strategy that goes beyond email, using an omni-channel approach.
Consider, “what are the different interactions that these accounts are gonna have from us throughout all the digital channels?” Think about the messaging strategy. What are some of the ads that they’re gonna see in PPC? What are the landing pages where you want to direct prospects from your offers? What are the emails that prospects are going to receive, and then, what are the ads that they’re going to receive from those emails? Once you have that laid out, it makes the implementation of an ABM strategy much simpler.
My number two tip for any marketer is “when in doubt, test it out.” A/B testing can be a marketer’s lifeline because at the end of the day, we do a lot of research. We have a lot of data available to us, and we think we know what our customers and audiences want but we’re not fortune tellers. We don’t know the future. We don’t know how everybody’s going to react. So even if you have a campaign idea that you’re absolutely in love with – and you think is gonna be so successful – it could bomb.
Always consider how to test it out. It’s really simple to do A/B testing, especially if you’re using marketing automation. It’s one of the features that Act-On offers, and it helps give you peace of mind to test out your ideas before you rule them out, because even if you’re getting a 1% increase in your conversions, that can mean huge things down the line. With so much technology at your fingertips, it’s a disservice to yourself not to use it.
Rodrigo: Well said. Again, I’m Rodrigo from ListenLoop and we’ve been talking marketing with Rachel from Act-On Software. Rachel, is there anything you want to leave us with before we wrap up?
Rachel: Thanks so much for the conversation today. I think this is great. As a marketer, like I said, test it out and always just be on the look out for new technology and new ways to do things. We can be pretty fearless in our marketing strategies now, and it’s an exciting time to try new things, move the needle and become better marketers.
Rodrigo: Thank you so much, Rachel. Stay tuned for our next podcast on more marketing technology tactics and tips to implement your account-based marketing campaigns.
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