Podcast: How to Run a Compelling ABM Campaign

Shahin Hoda 13  mins read Updated: January 9th, 2024

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How to Run a Compelling ABM Campaign

Episode topic: How to Run a Compelling ABM Campaign

In this episode, host Shahin Hoda chats with Michele Clark, head of APAC marketing at Secure Code Warrior, about how marketers can run a compelling and successful ABM campaign.

Michele shares her journey of adopting ABM, wherein she talks about the sources she and her team leveraged to research account-based marketing principles, things she had to consider while developing an ABM strategy and challenges her team faced at the time of implementation.

During the conversation, Michele also emphasises the importance of sales and marketing alignment for a successful ABM campaign and concludes by sharing her plans for the future.

This episode’s guest

211119_P Michele Clarke - Headshot

Michele Clarke, Head of APAC Marketing at Secure Code Warrior

Michele Clarke is the Head of APAC Marketing at Secure Code Warrior. She is a passionate marketing professional with over 20 years of experience in the IT and cybersecurity industry.

Her experience spans business management and marketing across SaaS and enterprise companies such as RICOH, Sophos and Forcepoint.

Michele is a proven leader and a strategic thinker who believes in building trusting relationships and driving growth in organisations - large and small.

Connect with her on Linkedin

Conversation segments on this episode:

  • [01:26] What made Secure Code Warrior look towards ABM?
  • [02:16] Before ABM, there was a target account-based approach.
  • [03:23] Crafting a plan for ABM.
  • [04:48] One-to-some approach was adopted based on analysis.
  • [06:57] Sources for researching ABM before talking to agencies - Youtube, podcast, blogs and ebooks etc.
  • [08:53] Ensured transparency with the sales team from the beginning about ABM.
  • [12:58] Don’t underestimate the amount of work going into an ABM campaign
  • [13:53] Reporting on success - the hardest part of an ABM campaign
  • [15:26] It is possible to do ABM without an ABM tool
  • [16:26] Execution of the campaign
  • [20:34] Advice for starting an ABM campaign - align with sales
  • [21:13] Decide whether you want to execute ABM internally or externally
  • [23:06] Advice for B2B marketers - Grow your relationships within the organisation.

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:

[00:37] Shahin Hoda   Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode. I'm Shahin Hoda with xGrowth. And today, I'm talking to Michele Clarke, head of APAC marketing at Secure Code Warrior and want to tap into her wealth of knowledge on ABM, specifically around running ABM pilot campaigns and her advice for other marketers thinking of embarking on that journey as well. On that note, let's dive in. Michele, thanks for joining us.

[01:00] Michele Clarke   Thanks very much for having me.

[01:01] Shahin Hoda  Oh, it's absolute pleasure. Super excited! Now, you know, we've known each other for a while and that makes this episode super, super special. And I think also the topic is a pretty interesting topic, ABM pilot, it's super hot. Everybody's you know, a lot of people are talking about ABM and what it is and how to do it and how to approach it. Maybe paint us a picture of what kind of happens to Secure Code Warrior that you decided to run an ABM pilot?

[01:33] Michele Clarke  Yep. So we realised that we needed to reassess our go-to market strategy, and really look at our high value target accounts and how to come up with a plan obviously, of how to get closer to them and increase engagement with them. So obviously, ABM seemed to be a natural place to go.

[01:54] Shahin Hoda  Got it. Okay, let's dive in to the ABM campaign. What did that entail? Paint us a picture about that.

[02:01] Michele Clarke  So obviously, we were doing a lot of research around ABM. What would it look like? What did we need? What resources do we need? And, you know, there was no one in the organisation that had really done it properly before. So we needed some external help. So we came to xGrowth. We did look around and x growth was the seems to be a good fit. So I guess that the way it looked was, you know, we really needed to understand where to start, what did we need, who needed to be involved? What did that strategy look like? What's the best type of ABM that was going to suit us? What are our target accounts going to look like?

[02:43] Michele Clarke  So we went through a strategy phase with you guys, which really, really helped us get that understanding, and put together a plan that was going to suit our audience and suit you know, give us the results that we needed to get. We knew that we needed to keep it simple. But at the same time, we knew that each of the salespeople would want a piece of it, right? So we tried to keep it simple, I don't think we really achieved it, we probably did go too complex on the first one. But we wanted we needed results quickly. We didn't really have the time to run a pilot and just see how it goes and then do something.

[03:19] Michele Clarke  We needed to produce results. We have, you know, the longest sales cycle. So we needed to make sure we got results within the year. So it was you know, it was a really good process to go through. We learned a lot as we went through it in understanding, you know, what, the amount of research that was involved and how it would look and how would we work with the sales team throughout the campaign? So yeah, there was a lot of learnings as we went through it as well.

[03:48] Shahin Hoda   Got it. I want to unpack that, right? That you mentioned a few things and I want to kind of go back from the very beginning of while you were explaining, right? So you said there wasn't a lot of experience internally to kind of roll out an ABM initiative. And I feel like a lot of organisations are in that place. Where they do kind of start, you know, you talked about the strategy work that we did, but before that, where did you kind of start forming your opinion or ideas about ABM and how to approach it, you know, other than, you know, maybe our conversation what was some of those sources that you found really helpful?

[04:28] Michele Clarke  Yeah, look, we were looking up, we were doing a lot of research online and there were podcasts left, right and centre. YouTube videos, you know, doing a lot of reading around different organisations and why they'd approach things and what was involved and what did you need because I was just scared that we didn't have all of the things that we needed. We've just gone through a rebrand. Did we have the collateral that we needed? I think there was a lot of unknown out there.

[04:55] Michele Clarke  So we did our research before we started talking to agencies and sort of had a bit of an idea of what we wanted. But I think it wasn't until we really went through that strategy with you guys, that we really got an idea of what the process would be, and all the different stages and how to get the buy in from sales. I think it was, you know, we had a reasonable idea, we knew what we wanted, we knew what the outcome we wanted was, but we just didn't know the steps to take to get there.

[05:25] Michele Clarke  I think, you know, in each of our regions around the world, we all took a different approach to it. And, you know, we all, we all learnt different things, which was really great, because, you know, then we could come together and go, well, this really worked and or this didn't work. And this is where we're having trouble. And we shared information with each other and shared best practice with each other. So, you know, we had three different approaches globally. And I'm not saying one's better than the other, but we were the ones that took an external agencies, and the others did it in-house.

[05:59] Shahin Hoda  Got it. So you've also talked quite a lot about sales, right? You talked about the fact that, you know, there was a new BDR team. There was, you know, we had to get buy-in from sales, you had to think about the areas that, you know, the company had sales people in there. How did you go about doing that buy-in from sales? What did that look like?

[06:22] Michele Clarke  Good question. I think from the beginning, we were already working together on a target account list. So there'd been a target account list before, but they probably weren't as well thought out. So we, you know, first of January, we were like right, sales team, you've got to be working on your your target account list and while you're doing that, think about what are the accounts that you would put as your, your primary must-have accounts, because they're the ones we'll probably end up putting into an ABM campaign. So how, you know, we sat down with them, and we told them, this is the way that we're going to do it.

[07:00] Michele Clarke  We want you to be involved in this journey. And you know, we're going to use xGrowth come into the meetings and be fully involved from the beginning. And, you know, we we walked them through the process, and they came on the journey with us and sat in on all of the meetings. And so, we're heavily involved in understanding the process that we've gone through, and doing their part in terms of, you know, look at making decisions on, you know, what segment Do we go after? And what were the accounts? And what are all the other things that we needed to consider in turn, including, you know, their own resources of their sales team and how heavily involved they were going to be?

[07:39] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, and, you know, having been part of that process, I think one important component, where you need to give yourself a bit of credit is the amount of energy that you put in, in terms of bringing the sales team to the table. And the reason I say that is, I think, you know, a lot of organisations that we work with, they are, marketing is a little bit passive towards sales. Marketing is a little bit, you know, hey, we're doing this, what do you guys think? I think the approach that you brought to the table is, hey, guys, we're doing this, and we're going to need your feedback and you have to participate in that.

[08:18] Shahin Hoda  And I feel like there was a little bit of hesitancy at the beginning. But that perseverance that you had was to make sure that they are, like you said that they were in those meetings, they were present, they were contributing, slowly, slowly, they really warmed up to to the concept and started to implement it. And, you know, maybe you don't notice that, because that's your approach and how you do it. But you know, it is quite an issue that we come across, in a lot of organisations where marketing takes a passive role, and they can't get buy in. And you know, they blame that. So I think that was really important.

[08:57] Michele Clarke   Yeah.

[0:58] Shahin Hoda   Might have been subtle, but very important.

[08:59] Michele Clarke   And I think that comes down and it may be because of the structure that we've got. So we don't have a head of sales or head of region. And then marketing sits below that, like we're all on the same level. So, myself and the head of sales and head of CS, we are a partnership, we are a team running region. And we've got an amazing relationship. And we've worked really, really closely this year. So that may have had something to do with it that, you know, I can go in at the same level and say this is what we're doing. I need you in it. And you know, I always respect sales teams and sales leaders that will partner with marketing, rather than seeing it as a support function.

[09:44] Shahin Hoda  What was your perception about ABM? How did that change after executing the first ABM campaign?

[10:30] Michele Clark  It changed a lot because I understood a lot more. I think we knew before that it was going to be quite an intense, in-depth process. But I guess I didn't really appreciate the amount of work that would go into it. The amount of research, the amount of resources and time. You know, we've learned a lot along the way about the process and the best practices and bringing sales on the journey. And so yeah, I think it's, you know, some people, I think everyone appreciates ABM is a lot harder than running a standard campaign.

[11:07] Michele Clark  And then how are we actually going to pull that information because we didn't have any, we don't have any tools to do this with like we're using, you know, obviously, we've got reports coming from our display advertising vendors, we've got LinkedIn stats coming in, we've got our content syndication, we've got all these disparate vendors that are giving us reports. But we've got to somehow bring that all together and paint a picture of what the engagement is. I think one of the things that was really good, which you guys suggested, is the bingo card, which has really, really helped us identify, you know, have a dashboard of all of the accounts that we're looking at, and then measure that engagement.

[11:51] Michele Clark  So every week we're going in there and updating what engagement we're having from each account. And that gives us a real nice visual of how much traction we're getting across the accounts. And sales can see that as well. And that's one thing I'm really trying to encourage them to keep an eye on to see. You know, from a digital perspective, this is all the engagement we're getting. And then from a sales perspective, this is the engagement. But I found that was probably getting the sales inputs into that was the hardest thing trying to pull reports in. And, you know, see, just measure that engagement was the hardest part, I think.

[12:28] Shahin Hoda  Yeah. And you bring up a really good point where it is possible to do ABM without an ABM tool, right? And I think that's a question that a lot of people have is like, okay, we're looking at doing ABM, what tools should we buy? And that's the first question that comes to people's mind. And it's awesome to hear that, you know, your experience was we can do this without the tool. Maybe in the early stages, we can definitely do it without a tool.

[12:59] Michele Clarke  I think you learn a lot by doing it that way as well. You know what you need? And, you know, where you're lacking information and where you need more? So, yeah, I think, yeah, it's it's hard to pull it together, but it's definitely worth doing.

[13:15] Shahin Hoda  The last thing that I want to kind of cover here is, and you've shared a lot of advice. And I think a lot of people have taken a lot of stuff away from this, but what advice would you give to people thinking about executing their first ABM campaign and thinking about executing their ABM pilot campaign.

[13:32] Michele Clarke  I think the alignment with sales is the most important thing. If you don't have that, then there's no point starting it. Like you can't do it by yourself, it needs to be that good partnership. You need to have their buy-in, and executive buy-in is always going to help even more as well just to make sure that everybody's aligned. They know, you know, they know that's what the company wants and is supportive of it.

[13:56] Michele Clarke  The next thing is obviously looking at the resources that you've got, and whether you can do it yourself or whether you really need to go external. So I'd say don't underestimate the amount of work that is involved. And if you've got people in your team that have never done it before and you don't necessarily have content people that you know, can help you at a drop of a hat, then I would suggest that you go external and find an agency that's experienced doing it and can work closely with you and give you that advice as you go along.

[14:30] Shahin Hoda  Got it. With the, you know sales buy-in and one of the things that was awesome to see at Secure Code Warrior was, you know, you talked about how important to get get sales buy-in, towards the end of the campaign, one thing that I saw was sales was then coming up and saying, okay, cool, this was this was cool, what's next? And that very rarely happens from sales to come to marketing and say that. Like, okay, so what do we, what are we doing later? And we, you know, we want to know about the next one. And that was, you know, that was amazing to see. And I think that the alignment there was amazing at the beginning but even got better as well.

[15:16] Michele Clarke  Yeah, I think they were really well invested there. They've all taken ownership of it. And, we have run another campaign since and we've taken all of those learnings, you know, even around the direct mail, how do we make sure even though we, you know, people aren't back in the office, how do we make sure people actually get them? So we've taken a different approach. And when we ran through the kickoff campaign for that, they were so appreciative that we'd taken their feedback on board, and was super excited to do the next phase of it. So yeah, it's great to have them on board. Yeah, it was good.

[15:50] Shahin Hoda   Awesome. Okay. Michele, I got a couple of rapid fire questions for you. The first thing I want to ask you is, you know, if you could give one piece of advice to B2B marketers, what would it be?

[16:01] Michele Clarke  Growing relationships within your organisation is always going to get you a long way. Make sure you're known. And if you're not getting the right things, just keep on asking, like, in Australia, you're a long way from the US where a lot of companies are headquartered, right? And, and I think sometimes you just have to be the squeaky wheel and, and shout louder than everyone else to get the things that you need. And that's what I've always done. I just annoy everyone until they give me what I want. So yeah, I would say relationships with other people within our organization is probably the most important thing. And sales is obviously, you know, very important in that, but I think even in, you know, your corporate marketing teams, make sure you get to know everybody so that you've got, you know, people that will help you get what you need and achieve your goals.

[16:55] Shahin Hoda  Got it. Got it. Question number two, who are some of the influencers that you follow in the marketing space?

[17:01] Michele Clarke  So there's lots and lots of people and podcasts and everything that I follow, there isn't probably one person in particular, and I do think Growth Colony podcast is one of those really great podcasts that I have been listening to a lot. And there's some really great speakers on there. So fantastic. Well done on that one.

[17:22] Shahin Hoda  Thanks very much.

[17:23] Michele Clarke   One person that comes to mind is Ray Kloss from Cisco. I've attended quite a few of his webinars, and the B2B marketing conference team have done some really great podcasts recently webinars with them. And yeah, so Ray, I just find him a very inspirational marketer, he's done some fantastic things at Cisco. And I know he's got an enormous budget, and I wish I had something as big as that. Well, maybe not that big but, you know, I think he's done some amazing things at Cisco. And I'm always interested in learning about those things.

[18:00] Shahin Hoda   Awesome. Last one, last question is, I mean, you, you've been in the B2B space for a while, what's something that excites you about B2B today?

[18:10] Michele Clarke   I think there's just so many new techniques, new technology, new experiences, you know, COVID has made, turned everything upside down and made everyone think about how creative they can beI think there's just so many new new techniques, new technology, new experiences, you know, COVID has made, turned everything upside down and made everyone think about how creative they can be and you've really got to think outside the box to engage your customers. So, you know, for me, just the challenge every day gets me out of bed and doing something different, like it is just, you know, you're always trying something different. So, yeah, just think there's so many different opportunities to try something new and experiment and see what works.

[18:45] Shahin Hoda   Got it. Michele, this has been an awesome conversation. I think a lot of people are gonna take a lot out of it. So I just want to thank you for coming on the podcast, and giving us the time.

[18:59] Michele Clarke   Thanks so much for having me. It's been great.

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xGrowth brings a very structured approach to ABM. It’s been amazing working with you.

michele clarke
Michele Clarke
Head of Marketing, APAC Secure Code Warrior
When I think ABM, I think xGrowth. xGrowth were 100% committed, the whole team was just like our business partner. I would say you are not a business vendor; you are our business partner.
reena misra
Reena Misra
ANZ Marketing Leader