ANALOG & DIGITAL:
Why Events Are The Perfect Match For ABM
In addition to the obvious benefits of creating face time with high-value accounts, industry leaders point out that events are also becoming increasingly strategic for ABM because of the negative effect batch-and-blast email and mass-market digital tactics have had on B2B buyers.
We can’t just use generic email. Everything has to be really relevant and really personal. It must have the human touch. So, despite the rise in digital marketing I think you see the rise of events because of that urgent need to connect with that right person at the right company.
— Jon Miller, President and Founder, Engagio
In the following iPaper, we will highlight how successful B2B brands are taking their ABM strategies to the next level by thinking of events as more than meetings at a booth or discussions over cocktails.
We will spotlight how these companies are marrying events into their ABM strategies pre-, at- and post-event. We will also provide expert commentary and use case examples of how B2B brands are utilizing events as springboards for:
right target accounts
Defining an engagement
plan for those
accounts at event
The phrase “high touch” is ingrained in the vernacular of account-based marketing strategies. Companies that employ account-based approaches refer to “high touch” as they engage key targets frequently and across multiple channels with relevant outreach. However, equally important to the “high touch” approach is the strategy to invest more time and budget to be physically in front of key accounts.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that investing in in-person events — including local field events, as well as larger industry conferences and trade shows — is a core part of most ABM budgets and strategies.
Events are increasingly viewed as a core way to bridge the gap between the digital and analog worlds. They provide a platform to physically engage multiple stakeholders within an account, as well as provide practical intelligence on topics of interest for the account and its key influencers. Event engagement can also signal if interest within an account may be spiking or declining.
This is especially true when it comes to ABM, because enterprise accounts typically have buying teams with multiple stakeholders, and the relationship with an account is usually measured over a long period of time.
ITSMA, a leading marketing association for tech and related industries, which helped to pioneer the concept of ABM back in the early 2000s, has defined ABM simply as “treating individuals as markets in their own right.”
Because B2B purchases are often high-consideration decisions with multiple stakeholders, ITSMA has defined the following four core principles of ABM:
sales and marketing
And B2B leaders stress that events should now be viewed as integral in the key phases of an ABM strategy:
“You have to look at events and your key accounts as a campaign,” said Julian Archer, Senior Research Director of Marketing Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. “If you only go by leads, you’re missing the opportunity. It’s a massive sign that events are not as much about leads as they are about an amazing in-person opportunity.”
Archer added that events represent an ideal opportunity for companies to apply SiriusDecisions’ Demand Unit Waterfall model, which helps link individual leads within the buying group to opportunities, business needs and specific solutions. “You get right to buying decision makers and buying decisions. You turn an event into real-person opportunities,” said Archer.
Because ABM plays are often measured based on different goals and outcomes than traditional digital marketing or lead gen programs, industry experts point out that events present a great opportunity to gather meaningful data and metrics that align with ABM goals.
“Events are a great channel for branding, making in-person connections, and obtaining new contacts. We often look at cost per lead or cost per channel, but what about cost per account or cost per acquisition?” said Cristal Foster, Principal Consultant at Oracle Expert Services. “Those questions can only be answered by taking an ABM approach to event planning and execution. Having the ability to roll that to the account level and tie it back to an event only solidifies Marketing’s seat at the revenue generation table.”
Rather than simply measuring events based on the number of booth scans or seminar attendees, advanced ABM practitioners are integrating the insights from their ongoing ABM programs to build more relevant outreach prior to the event, and then drive more meaningful interactions with key accounts at the event, as well as relevant follow-up conversations post event.
Demand Gen Report’s 2018 ABM Benchmark Survey
found the top three metrics for ABM success were:
Net-new targeted accounts engaged
We look at different metrics now. We don’t just look at the number of meetings, but things like target account engagement. We play the long game for our ABM strategies at events.
— Jessica Fewless, VP of ABM Strategy, Demandbase
ABM practitioners point out that integrating account strategies into events enables more meaningful, relevant conversations with key stakeholders, which leads to an even deeper understanding of account needs.
“When you have an ABM strategy, it can absolutely make your event planning and execution more powerful by leveraging data at an account level,” said Kim Roman, Senior Principal Consultant at Oracle Expert Services. “It allows you to promote an event and engage with potential attendees in a more meaningful way by looking at account engagement overall.”
Maybe you are in the early days of your ABM rollout, or maybe you just haven’t gotten around to integrating your events into your account-based strategy.
Here are four key steps on how to position events as the catalyst to fuel your account-based initiatives moving forward:
Align People, Process And Technology
The first step is to assess your martech stack to make sure you have the necessary tools, and that they are set up and ready to share data and talk to each other. Research has shown that the expansion of ABM programs is having a positive impact on the working relationship between sales and marketing.
For advanced companies looking to unify their ABM and event strategies, this should include tying event lead management — the ability to capture leads across events in a standardized manner and track account engagement across events — into your marketing automation, CRM and ABM orchestration platforms, so campaign and sales outreach can take advantage of automation for timely and relevant engagement at all stages.
Then, once your tech stack is prepared, make sure your processes and key stakeholders are aligned with handoffs, data flows and key metrics. Ideally, your event management tools can help automate next best actions by integrating with key functions such as data enrichment functions, lead scoring and lead routing.
56% of respondents to Demand Gen Report’s ABM Benchmark Survey ranking improved alignment as the top payoff of an account-based strategy.
Prepare Your Pre-Event Approach
A foundation for all events should be to make sure your sales and marketing teams define mutual goals and desired outcomes of the event. This will help identify and prepare the necessary actions to achieve those goals.
Just as account selection is a core foundation for the success of any ABM program, identifying the key stakeholders within top-tier accounts to schedule meetings is critical.
It may take several outreaches to get a response, so try to coordinate ABM plays that are multichannel, and also refine your pre-show nurturing plan based on what works to engage target accounts. The more personalized you can make those messages and meeting requests, the greater success you’ll have in getting prospects to sign up for event activities. Make sure you have digital with physical sales follow up to maximize sales meeting scheduling. And lastly, be prepared to have the right discussion with your accounts so know what is going on with them prior to showing up at the event — positioning yourself to ultimately influence the next best action.
How B2B Brands Are Building A Perfect High-Touch Union
CONNECTING EVENT AND ABM STRATEGIES:
A Demand Gen Report primer on turning events into relationship and revenue acceleration opportunities for high-value accounts.
New Metrics, Meaningful Engagement
TAKING ABM TO
THE NEXT LEVEL:
4 Key Steps To Integrating Events in your ABM Strategy
EVENT & ABM
Cognizant Converts Event Strategy From Analog To Digital
CASE IN POINT:
Global tech services leader Cognizant has an expansive event portfolio, running approximately 70-75 events in North America alone, and between 600-700 globally.
Subhayan Deb, Global Martech Lead at Cognizant, explained that a lot of Cognizant’s focus at large events such as Dreamforce has been on working with their sales team on key accounts to convert what had traditionally been an analog approach to a more digital strategy.
“We do a better job than we used to at involving our sales community and we get their input on determining the best accounts to reach out for depending on the event, Deb said. “We’ve created a community of our most influential salespeople. For example, at Dreamforce, our goal was to create one-to-one relationships between our key sales influencers and key accounts.”
He explained how Cognizant utilizes the atEvent platform pre-, at- and post-event to fuel engagement and accelerate revenue opportunities:
Deb suggested that the biggest payoff of atEvent has been after an event concludes. Previously, the company struggled with data aggregation on key accounts due to lack of a formal process and the right technology to enable seamless data collection.
“We would have salespeople come back from the event with a lot of information in the back of their minds, and sometimes even key information was entered onto cocktail napkins,” said Deb. “In the past, the process of aggregating all the contact information and new buyer information from an event took five to six weeks. Now, it is completed within the business week.
“We’ve had situations in the past where a global sales executive will meet with a potential account and lack the context needed for that account. If everything is kept on the app, you can make friends with technology. ABM has always been an important focus for us but a much sharper focus since working with atEvent,” Deb concluded.
Account-based event strategy is emerging at the intersection of human touch and automation. By connecting analog and digital customer experiences for a holistic view of target account engagement and sentiment, successful B2B brands are taking their ABM programs to the next level and driving more meaningful interactions with decision makers and influencers.
By marrying people, process and technology around their ABM and event strategies, companies such as Cognizant are eliminating inefficiencies of paper-based note collection, and also providing more relevant experiences
for buying groups at key accounts.
“To do ABM effectively, events are a key ingredient,” says Uzair Dada, CEO of atEvent. “If you’re not thinking about events as an opportunity to build relationships with targeted accounts, and planning for that like you do with your digital marketing efforts, you are missing out in a big way.”
The Cognizant marketing team tries to have all meetings for an event confirmed two to three weeks prior to the live event. On-site, it uses the atEvent check-in option to confirm appointments via mobile devices and further qualify attendees.
Leading up to events, Deb said Cognizant concentrates on attracting attendees via social media, targeting key accounts via email campaigns and creating microsites to have a digital mechanism for them to interact. He added that utilizing data collected via atEvent has been extremely beneficial in helping build target account lists and prioritizing accounts to focus on with targeted invites to upcoming events and other marketing programs.
Align sales and marketing re: event outcomes
Target Accounts outreach pre-event
up for event
Prospects receive personalized
During the event, it is essential to have as many genuine, one-on-one conversations with target accounts as possible. Companies that have integrated their ABM and event strategies have found that event technology is a crucial piece, making it easier to confirm meetings with target accounts before the event, capture data from conversations at the event, and accelerate personalized follow up after the event based on the data captured.
In addition, experts noted that companies should have a process in place for unscheduled, unexpected meetings on the show floor with target accounts. Some event lead management solutions, such as atEvent, have features that automatically alert account executives in charge of specific accounts when a contact in that account checks in at a booth. This enables account reps to have relevant, contextual follow-up conversations to further build a relationship.
Another key step is using data captured at events to inform and enhance their ABM strategy. Event technology that can be customized to capture the data organizations want and integrate with other marketing platforms help ensure that intelligence, such as specific areas of interest and specific follow-up actions, isn’t lost on the back of business cards. Ultimately, this data can produce deeper insights into stakeholders within the demand unit and their engagement with a brand or product, positioning companies to accelerate sales with those accounts. Deeper insight into who attends these events helps clearly identify events that are more valuable to attend from an ABM perspective, leading to more targeted spend on event planning in the future.
One of the newer realities many companies overlook in terms of ABM at events is GDPR compliance and capturing clear opt-ins to continue ongoing marketing communications. Event lead management solutions are helping companies capture consent on the show floor to ensure the path is open to engage with the account in the future.
As companies are further aligning their ABM and event strategies, it is frequently changing the way they are making decisions about budgetsand priorities.
Align At-Event Experiences With ABM Goals
“We have changed the way we evaluate and re-evaluate the threshold for the events we attend. Maybe we will sponsor a show that has a lot of ABM integrations. But ABM drives the world of events for us and events must be target-rich. We’re here to talk about revenue and we don’t focus as much on gimmicks or big attention getters at our booths ... I’d much rather spend money on a VIP dinner.”
Jessica Fewless, Demandbase
Capture GDPR consent
Check-in invited prospects with atEvent
By optimizing and automating key steps prior to and during the event, companies are typically finding a lift in meetings with target accounts. However, in many ways, follow-up post-event is where the real critical work begins:
Data from badge scans may provide the registration details
for a contact, but it may not give you their correct address, phone number or email. Therefore, data enrichment and standardization are also a key consideration post event.
After a lead is validated and contact information is enriched, other key steps include Account scoring and lead routing. Integrations of the proper technologies have helped successful B2B companies develop rules-based routing of leads to account owners or identify whether a lead should be handed off for further nurturing and qualification to the tele-qualification team.
Deeper analysis of the data garnered from events can also help in strategizing and planning for future events to incorporate in account-based initiatives. Insights into prospect and account engagement with qualified follow-up actions could lead to businesses deciding to exclude that event from its calendar — or even uncover the events that drove the most engagement with top-tier accounts to prioritize for next year.
Plan, Execute Post-Event Engagement Strategy
Data collected during the event must be reviewed to further optimize and refine account-based event initiatives.
Focus on reputation
not just revenue
needs of those accounts
Creating timely follow-up conversations in the days and
weeks after an event concludes
According to research from Demand Gen Report, events remain the top engagement tactic for generating qualified leads for 76% of B2B brands.
What percentage of B2B companies believe events are
the top engagement tactic for generating qualified leads?
Given the need for a “personal” touch with high-value accounts, early adopters of ABM have made events a core part of their strategy, with Demand Gen Report research showing 54% of ABM practitioners including targeted event invitations as part of their account programs.
What percentage of ABM practitioners include targeted event invitations as part
of their account programs?
And ABM Strategies
Analog & Digital
Taking ABM To
The Next Level
Event & ABM
Case In Point
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Table of Contents
Companies must follow up with target accounts engaged at the event in a fast and personalized manner; and
Your Account-Based Marketing Strategy Could Be Missing a Huge Piece of the Pie
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