Podcast: How to Craft a Stunning ABM Campaign Theme

Shahin Hoda 15  mins read Updated: January 9th, 2024

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220210_P Neil Berry - Blog Graphic LARGE


Episode topic: How to Craft a Stunning ABM Campaign Theme

In this episode, host Shahin Hoda chats with Neil Berry, Head of Global Account & Deal Based Marketing Centre of Excellence at Atos, about how and why marketers need to build a theme for their ABM campaigns.

During the conversation, Neil defines the purpose of a theme and what it is supposed to achieve. 

He recommends starting with the priorities of the target accounts and building the campaign theme around them. He advises marketers to be thorough with their research, encourages them to take intelligent risks with messaging and go all out in getting buy-in from sales and the C-level executives before starting an ABM campaign.

This episode’s guest

220210_P Neil Berry - Headshot

Neil Berry, Head of Global Account & Deal Based Marketing Centre of Excellence at Atos

Neil Berry is a B2B Marketer with over 11 years of experience in Account-Based Marketing at some of the world’s leading tech companies such as Atos, Fujitsu and Capgemini.

After beginning his career as a Database Analyst, Neil turned his hand to marketing for the account he was already working in and quickly got hooked on it. He then became a full-blown marketer with a keen interest in ABM.

With extensive experience on both the client and agency sides of the industry, Neil brings in a tremendous amount of hands-on knowledge. He has been a great contributor to various global ABM forums. He regularly writes blogs based on ABM challenges and how marketers can address them.

Connect with him on LinkedIn

Conversation segments on this episode:

  • [01:28] What do we mean by the “theme” of a marketing campaign? 
  • [03:46] For theme development, start with focussing on the priorities of your target accounts.
  • [05:38] Look at data to further build your theme.
  • [06:10] Develop a process to communicate your messaging.  
  • [08:10] Mistakes marketers make at the time of theme development.
  • [15:10] Stay true to yourself.
  • [18:35] Advise for B2B marketers - get sales and C-level buy-in.
  • [19:32] Exciting thing about B2B - Creative thinking around scaling.

Resources mentioned on this episode:

About the Growth Colony Podcast

On this podcast, you'll be hearing from B2B founders, CMOs, marketing & sales leaders about their successes, failures, what is working for them today in the B2B marketing world and everything in between.

Produced by Shahin Hoda & Alexander Hipwell, from xGrowth

Get in touch!

We would love to get your questions, ideas and feedback about Growth Colony, email podcast@xgrowth.com.au

Episode Full Transcript:

[00:32] Shahin Hoda  Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode, I'm Shahin Hoda with xGrowth. And today, I'm talking to Neil Berry, Head of Global Account and Deal Based Marketing Centre of Excellence at Atos, about why should you create a theme around your ABM or more generally B2B campaigns, how to go about doing it, and what are some of the mistakes you should avoid? On that note? Let's dive in. Neil, thanks for joining us. 

[01:00] Neil Berry  No worries. Good to be here. 

[01:02] Shahin Hoda  This is something I'm super excited about. You know, we put a lot of effort in terms of creating themes when we're designing ABM campaigns, right? And I feel like I've seen sometimes people try to do it, and it's just, sometimes it really backfires. Let's, first of all, define what a theme is. Like, what do you, how do you define a theme? What is the theme for you? 

[01:28] Neil Berry  I think for me, a theme is probably something that when you're building out your campaign, whether it be ABM or any type of marketing if you've not got a theme, it's going to come across as quite generic. So for me, a theme is about helping you try to visualise and tell a story in a way that's really going to engage. Because if you've not got a theme, you're just talking white noise most of the time. So to give a theme a prime, it gives an identity, it gives something that the reader, the user, whoever's consuming the content, something to engage with, and something to see as they go along that journey. 

[02:09] Neil Berry  And it allows you to build a full-360 campaign that it just means that you can actually show them that there's a journey you're taking them on, which most customers will engage with better, rather than sort of one tactical random act of marketing is what we tend to call it. And that's where the theme's come in. And they're just if you have a good theme, it will absolutely work. And like you say sometimes the kind of themes that don't work are the ones that can really impact you. So you do have to be careful, but I think the braver the theme, the better result you'll get. 

[02:46] Shahin Hoda  Your horizon expands and gets smaller, depending on how brave you are with your theme. Sometimes it expands too much and it backfires. But you know, that's really a good point. So you're saying that, hey, your theme is really to create engagement. It's really to tell a story. It's to kind of narrate your value proposition in a story format that the audience can relate to, right? And I love that way of thinking, and I think it just brings so much value to a campaign. Where do you think or do you usually start from when you're trying to build a theme for your campaign? 

[03:32] Neil Berry  That's a good question. So I think I'll probably start, we use a lot of insight. So especially so if we take ABM as an example. Yeah, we use a lot of insight, a lot of data. So if we're targeting a specific organisation, or we're targeting a specific individual, we'll look at what are the kind of priorities of that organisation. Why are they behaving in the way that they are? And what are their core goals? What's the information that they've you know, what information have they given us? And what information do we know? But also, what data points can we find more information about? 

[04:10] Neil Berry  And right down to when it's the personal level. How does this person consume content? Where do they consume it? Are they engaging with us already? What are the core trigger points? What confuses them? What demotivates them? Once you've got that general picture, it kind of builds up this unique personality, and it almost gives you the themes from that point onwards because all of a sudden you go, ah okay, now I know how this person likes to consume or how this organisation likes to consume. How do they talk about these things? Why are they doing these things?

[04:51] Neil Berry  And then that kind of starts to build up a much clearer picture. If you go in and you say, oh I'm going to do a theme about, I don't know, let's say we're doing it about growth. You know, there's the classic thing that everybody uses is that iceberg. You know, once it has all, you know, you see this tiny little tape, but underneath, there's this huge, massive iceberg beneath it. It's been done so many times now, that there needs to be a new theme for that. But that topic, and that content around the fact that actually the tip of the iceberg is only a small part of the work you've got to take on. That's absolutely relevant. But the theme is dated now. So you've got to find new ways to build on that. 

[05:37] Neil Berry  And during that day to dive deep, and all that insight allows you to look at and go, okay, well, maybe we've got that story but also, we've got this story in the story as well. So how do we build a theme either around all of them, or just around one or two, to give us a little bit more focus. So that's where I start from, and then we kind of go through a process of looking at how do you tell that story? What's the core lines and straplines and messages and keywords you want to hit? And that then just builds out a visual creative style as well. So it's a real process now. I hate that I'm using the word process, but it's a real workflow, right? How things build over time, but it has to be built using insight first, because otherwise, you're guessing. 

[06:22] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, fair enough. So, okay. So, what I'm taking away is, you got to kind of know the person that you're reaching out to the account that you're reaching out to do a lot of research on them, understand their pain points, understand what motivates them, what demotivates them, all that stuff, take as much information and build as much context as you can. Then kind of create these taglines and these phrases that are going to fit within that story, and then start to look at the visualisation. Is that correct? Did I summarise that? Or did I miss something? 

[06:59] Neil Berry  Yeah, nice. Nice. That's a good summary. And as a, and you can even use it in some more general B2B marketing as well. You know, if you're targeting an industry. For example, if you're targeting banking, or retail, or manufacturing, or energy and utilities, all of them have their own ways of representing information. And they all have their own ways and languages that you've got to be conscious of. So if you were to take, as a technology computer, take a cloud campaign, to an energy and utilities company versus a financial services company, the difference should be huge. If you're campaigning, the same thing to both of them is probably not going to land quite as much, quite as well as you would hope. 

[07:43] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, very, very good point. Very good point. Where do you think marketers go wrong when they're trying to build a theme around their campaign? 

[07:54] Neil Berry  Where did they go wrong? I think I've gone wrong loads in the past, right, we all will have to go wrong to learn. 

[08:00] Shahin Hoda  Let's do it. Let's dig, let's bring the the drawer out. Let's dig through this. 

[08:07] Neil Berry  So, I mean, I've gone wrong before where the theme maybe hasn't been punchy enough. As a typical Brit, we're very reserved. We like to kind of do things in a certain way. And even when we take stuff to the sales teams, and so when we do deal-based marketing. We look at themes and we go, right, these are the themes that come up with me. There are times going a bit overzealous, right? As marketers, we go in with the most creative idea that we can. And sometimes the sales teams go whoa, whoa, hang on. These guys are not gonna want to see this. Because you know, you've got spacemen on it. And you've got fireworks over here. 

[08:47] Neil Berry  And it's like, well, yeah, but that's exciting. And they go, no, this is a public sector, financial body, they're not going to want to see this stuff, right? So I think the biggest mistake I've made is potentially turning it down a bit too much, because I know that I'm probably going to get sidelined and go, well, let's play it safe. So what I now do, I now go in with wild ideas and let them tame them back a bit to a point where actually we've got something punchy, but it's not so dampened that it just feels like another piece of our corporate material. But it's not so out there that the customer is going to look at it and go, well, what are these guys on you know, they've gone mental.

[09:30] Neil Berry  So this is where I think that a lot of marketers kind of, will play it safe in my book. And I think when I say play it safe, it's not necessarily playing it safe to a point of, you know, being boring. It's playing it safe to their own brand and not pushing it towards the customers. That I think is probably where a lot of marketers fall down. But I'm gonna say that right so ABM's my bag and my game. But if you don't look at what the customer is gonna find interesting and appealing, and you focus more on your brand, all that happens is you talk about you and yourself, and what you want to do and what you want to see and what you're expecting and what they can get, actually, currently to reverse that completely and go, we know you've got these problems, right? 

[10:23] Neil Berry  Everybody knows it. So then public space. We're going to help you solve that problem by doing these things, and then talk about what those things are. But starting with yourself, I think is probably the biggest drawback that a lot of people get. But I think lockdowns change that. I don't know if you've seen that. I think lockdown for me has seen a lot of people start to person, that's brought personality to the brand. So it brings a lot of those people to the forefront now. And everything, so people-focus, which is awesome. The B2B industry has needed to do that for a long time. I don't know if you've seen the same? 

[10:58] Shahin Hoda  Absolutely. I think, you know, I think one of the main drivers for that is even organisations have been able to see their colleagues. So let's, let's take a marketing department, right? And I completely agree with you. I think what is causing it is, let's say the marketing department, they were previously in the corporate environment of the office, quote, unquote, all of a sudden, they go into each other's bedrooms or home offices, and you see a different picture of someone, right? It's not all of a sudden, it's not button-up shirts. It's maybe a t-shirt, it's maybe a hoodie. And I feel like it brings some of the barriers down. Yes, I understand that people say, you know, you lose the human touch and stuff like that.

[11:44] Shahin Hoda  But I think on a larger scale, what happens is people start to see the people side within their own organisation, and they're like, well, you know, let's portray that out. Because I think in a lot of situations, we sometimes portray what's inside of the organisation, which is, again, let's go to the boardroom, let's sit down. There's whiteboards and stuff, let's brainstorm. And I feel like that being removed and I'm speculating over here. But I feel like that being removed has definitely had an impact of making it a little bit more human. But I've definitely seen it I'm now you mentioned that I can definitely identify with with a few instances, then I'm like, That's pretty damn good. Yeah, absolutely. 

[12:30] Neil Berry  I think it's for the better, because a lot of people like a lot of brands prior to this is gonna sound really stereotypical. But a lot of brands pre COVID are quite faceless. Yeah, they didn't really have anything that that made them feel like you could connect with them, especially in the beats, but I'm talking B2B more than anything. And then you kind of start to see, started to see this kind of increasing, okay, we're all locked down, we're all stuck inside with our family and kids and all on our own in apartments, and in all these different scenarios, and we all kind of suddenly wanted this human connection more than we ever had.

 [13:14] Neil Berry  And actually, those I mean, we did this really nice thing around. So to keep the kids busy, we did a lot around STEM. So we did like, you know, activity books and stuff like that for your families and kids to share. And we did that online and pushed it through LinkedIn and things like that, which was quite a nice way of doing it. And it was kind of saying, Look, we know your worlds changed completely now. And you've got a lot more on your plate than you've probably realised before. 

[13:40] Neil Berry  But we're still there as an organisation. And, you know, even when we do, we've done a campaign recently on decarbonisation, and we used our people, because we believe in it. It's not because we want to show them and give them an ego boost. It's because these people are the ones leading that fight. And that drive to decarbonise the way technology is delivered. And that's if you don't show a personal face to that. It just comes across as another corporate message really. 

[14:14] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, very true. Very true. No, I love that. Neil, I want to ask you some rapid fire questions. But before I get to those rapid fire questions, is there anything that you think I didn't ask or you think it's important for us to talk about with regards to themes and building themes and mistakes around themes? 

[14:33] Neil Berry  No, I don't think so. I think the only thing really is that it's probably just reiteration really, when it comes to themes it just has to be completely sourced around who you're targeting, not necessarily just about yourself, but by the same token. There's a balance to the harddrive. And there's a challenge that I've thrown into a lot of agencies in the past around how do we make ourselves different in a world where everybody's trying to be different. 

[15:04] Neil Berry  And that, that's the hardest bit. And one of the parts of that is to still stay true to yourself. So don't try and falsely claim to be something you're not. No, don't try and say that you are, you know, if you're working for a solicitor's firm, you know, don't go in and say you're a digital technology company. It's just not going to work. So you've got to find ways to be true to yourself, but also attribute that to the people you're targeting, because that's where you're going to get the most leverage. And the better that theme. That's where your themes are gonna come from. 

[15:41] Shahin Hoda  Love it. Love it. All right, let's do some rapid fire questions. First thing I want to ask is, what is one resource, could be a book, blog, podcast, talk, that has fundamentally changed the way you work, or the way you live, or add a really big impact on you. And hey, if it's more than one, shoot away. 

[16:03] Neil Berry  There is definitely one. So I was actually at an event. So I went there three years ago. And I went to the B2B marketing ABM conference. And at the time, I was literally in kind of the precursor stages of building a small pilot program for ABM, just in the UK, there was going to be like two-three accounts. We're going to test what I've built, and just see where we went with it. We started to build it out. And I started to go through the framework, do some of the workshops, start to look at what we could do. And then I went to the ABM conference, and I was challenged before I went there, they said, my marketing director said, what more can we do, because what we're doing at the minute in ABM is really cool. 

[16:52] Neil Berry  So we need to take on more accounts. Let's expand the program and start to make it a little bit more official. And we'll do something really good. So I went to this conference. And I sat there, I was assigned to about six different talks. One was with a, an awesome lady called Gemma Davies at ServiceNow. And I still speak to her every so often nowadays. And I sat there and in every single talk, I was like, yep, I've got this. I'm doing this already. That's working, that's working. I went to Gemma's and I went, holy crap, I'm doing everything wrong. 

[17:28] Neil Berry  And just completely, like, changed everything that I did, and made me go right. I'm not going to do it. Because I suddenly realised I was doing things the same way as everyone else that comes back to the point I was making earlier about differentiating in a world of differentiation, right? It's just, if you're not, if your program isn't different, if you're not engaging in a different way internally, it's not going to come across different externally, either. So it's finding those little ways to make your program different that's going to really make it stand out. But that was the turning point for me. That wasn't a rapid fire answer, by the way. Sorry. 

[18:08] Shahin Hoda  I love it. Okay. That was but that was a good one. That was a flamethrower. That was a good one. Question number two, is if you could give one piece of advice to B2B marketers? 

[18:21] Neil Berry  I would say, aim high. Like it sounds like a really cheesy line to say. But when I say aim high, it's not necessarily about you know, for yourself, it's more about getting the right people engaged in what you want to do. So if you want to do a campaign, and you think it's going to be the best campaign you get can be, go to your sales director, go to your Global Sales Director, go as high as your CEO, right, there's nothing stopping you. 

[18:49] Neil Berry  Being able to go to the top people in your organisation and go, I want you to buy an insert is because this is going to be awesome. If you truly have a belief in it, then go do it, then kind of I think we as B2B marketers, we often hide behind a facade of being safe and measured, which is good to a point. But internally, you need to excite people. And if you don't do that, people won't get behind it, and it'll become another kind of gray campaign. You won't get the black and white and the excitement around it. And so. I think for me, just keep aiming high, don't feel like you have to be restricted. 

[19:27] Shahin Hoda  Aim high and go bold. Okay. Question number three in the last question. What's something that excites you about B2B today? 

[19:34] Neil Berry  I think B2B is by far the most creative marketing industry. Which is probably a bit of a bold statement to make because I'm sure if any B2C marketers are sitting out there go oh, get out of it. You guys just did boring stuff all the time. But I think we have to think differently to anything else. And we have so many different levels to think about. So you know, we will go, especially, you take ABM will go from a one-to-one person level to a one-to-one account, to a group of accounts, like three to four accounts to, you know, possibly 10 to 20 accounts to 5000 accounts. 

[20:20] Neil Berry  And we have to think about each and every one of those in a different way. And we've got to think creatively to be able to find the right answers for that. So I think it's that creative thinking for me that is most exciting about B2B. I think we're B2C, you've got to think outside the box. But a lot of the time, it's to do with kind of the bigger brand awareness piece, right? For us, it's all about relevancy. And if you're not being relevant, and you're not driving towards that customer focus, you lose your customers quite quickly. And that's why I love B2B because it's just, you got to think so much more differently. You've got to know your customer a lot better. 

[21:07] Shahin Hoda  Neil, I love this. This has been a pretty awesome conversation. As I said, you know, building themes is close to heart and I think you've dropped a lot of golden nuggets in our conversation. There's a lot of signal in the sea of noise that I think a lot of listeners are going to enjoy. So look, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Really enjoyed the chat and we might bring you on again. 

[21:34] Neil Berry  Yeah, no problem. It’s good to be on. Thanks for having me.

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