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Guide to getting started with Account based Marketing

An Interview with Laura Cuttill

Welcome to E-Coffee with Experts, an interview series where we discuss all things online marketing with the best minds in the business.

In this episode, Dawood chats with Laura Cutill Chief Marketing Officer at Advertas.

Laura is an ABM expert and in this conversation Dawood speaks to her about ABM in depth and how it’s the way forward for B2B marketing. She shares her expert insights about how to get started with ABM for your business.

Read this insightful conversation and stay tuned for the next steaming cup of E-coffee.

At the end of the day how pure the data is, ultimately defines how good your strategy turns out.
Remember that ABM is this really beautiful blend of marketing and sales. It’s taking that get to know you phase of the sales cycle, and scaling it across all of your accounts at once.
The biggest thing about building content for ABM is not to sell. You’ve got to be a trusted product, a trusted partner relationship, and the sale is just sort of a byproduct of that.
The buyer journey is super important with ABM.
The higher value the sale, the more ABM starts to make sense.
Let the machines do what the machines can and leave your talent open for doing things that only people can.
Consistency over time is what builds success.

Laura Cutill
Chief Marketing Officer at Advertas
Hello, everyone. Today we have with us Laura Cutill, Chief Marketing Officer at Advertas. Hi, Laura, thank you so much for taking out time, you know, during your vacation. So Laura right now is in Mexico, and really honored to, you know, like, having you on the show today and you taking out time for us.

Of course, it’s my pleasure.

Laura, before we start, you know, discussing ABM and the strategies you follow at Advertas, it would be great if you could introduce yourself for our viewers.

So my name is Laura Cutill, and I’m the Chief Marketing Officer and advertising. I’m also a serial entrepreneur, and startup businesses, medium sized businesses are where I have lived my entire career, started out working in energy with the big boys, Schlumberger, and Exxon Mobil, and then actually started advertised back in 2004, grew it up, and then transitioned the work to my business partner, and left to start a software company did that grew the software company for a few years, sold it off, and came back to Advertas. So leveraging those good lessons learned now for many clients.

I mean, that's a great success story. And, you know, we'll definitely want to ask you more about it, but you also host a podcast for CMOS, could you talk a little bit more about that?

So it actually came about as a result of the pandemic, like most people, a lot of our clients were cutting their marketing budget, and we decided, rather than to get in a big panic about it, because the business will come back, these things don’t last forever, we thought, this is a time for innovation, this is a time to look, get out of the weeds of what we’re doing. And look at the things that we’ve learned, the things that our clients have pioneered, and really share that and my big passion is for pushing the boundaries of what we can do, both with technology and with creative ideas. And those that best happens in conversation. There’s not really a class you can go take that does that or whatever. It’s the creativity that spawned from people talking to one another, and just having a conversation. And so that was really the gist of it, I started calling up my fellow Marketing Leaders and said, Hey, do you want to get on the phone with me and do this podcast and let’s just talk about what’s going on. And let’s talk about what you were doing, and I’ll share what I’m doing and perhaps we can both get some great ideas and learn from them.

What makes the Advertas Legion service unique?

So Advertas specializes in b2b technology clients. And that’s all we work with, and have for 20 years now. And, you know, we really layer an ABM approach on top of traditional lead gen, as you and I have spoken about before. You can’t abandon that lead generation, there’s basic blocking and tackling of marketing, your SEO, your content development, things of that nature. And so we take those and, you know, layer on top of those services, really personalized, targeted ABM strategies.

Right, right. You are an account based marketer, an obvious question to ask would be how do you think it has gained relevance in the past few years?

Well, that’s a really good question. Anyone who has done b2b sales, when they first hear about account based marketing would probably tell you that we’ve been doing account based marketing for many, many, many, many years, we’ve just not called it that that’s the new buzzword. But here’s where it’s different. The amount of data that we have today at our fingertips allows us to really personalize each and every interaction to a degree that we haven’t before, at scale.

Right. And then here are talking about data. I think it's also very important to ensure that you know, you're collecting the right data, right? Because at the end of the day how pure the data is, ultimately defines how good your strategy turns out. So how do you ensure that you're getting the right data and the correct data?

So the first thing I would say is never buy lists ever, ever, ever. That’s the cardinal rule of ABM when it comes to data go election, there’s just too many ways of legitimately building a database that don’t run the risk to your email domain. So when you buy a list, it can be full of spam traps. So when you send to them, your domain gets flagged and filtered out. And you also don’t know the quality, there are plenty of scammers selling lists where they might deliver random valid email address, but they’re in no way attached to the person you think it is. So for instance, funny story, we had a client at one point who, prior to us coming on, they had purchased a list. But when they cross reference those titles, they found that the people were wildly different. So for instance, perhaps they intended to buy VPS and technology, in a particular industry, well, you know, john smith might appear on the list, but they would find out that john smith was actually a call center representative. So something like that didn’t match the title they thought they were buying, it was a person at the company with a valid email address, it just wasn’t at all the role they thought it was. And one person two people like that on the list might be just an honest error, someone with the same name, but legitimately have this list like 10%, were actually correct. So you want to avoid that at all possible costs. And so how do you do it correctly? To answer your question, your database needs to be entirely first party data. That is you’ve collected it yourself. Second, we’ve got to think beyond name rank and serial number, right? We all want, okay, what’s your job title? What’s your company? Where are you located and all. And certainly, you can personalize to some degree based on those things. However, to really take it to the next level, you want to capture each of their interactions, so that you get a profile you can speak to, so you got to pay attention, where did they go on your website? What are they reading? What do they spend the most time on? What events did they attend that you were at? Did they speak to your staff? So you have to remember that ABM is this really beautiful blend of marketing and sales. It’s taking that get to know you phase of the sales cycle, and scaling it across all of your accounts at once.

I think also, you know, now with all these tools and automation available, it's also not that difficult to strategize your funnels and track the activities of your target accounts. It's just that you need to do it, like you know, very smartly and you kind of need to be aware of each and every step of your buyer's journey. So, again now personalized personalization becomes very important when you're doing account based marketing. So how do you go about building content around your strategy? I mean what are things you look at? How do you make sure that the personalization is there? I mean, how do you take care of that? Because I, you know, I'm sure that's very critical when it comes to account based marketing.

Okay, I’m building content around ABM can be a little bit tricky. Because, again, we go back to this is my target account, and I want to build things that are relevant to them, right. But here’s the thing in that target account, things are changing very, very quickly, right, nobody’s business standstill. So you have to be able to develop content, not just high quality content, but you have to be able to turn it out fast. So this is something that very few organizations are really able to do something that we pride ourselves on and being able to turn out content quickly. And so in order to best develop that you really have to understand what’s going on in your target account, and then have things kind of at the ready to address their specific situation. So for instance, one of the many things that we do is we just set up a Google Alert on our target account. It’s a super simple, super straightforward, free way to just get some insights into what’s going on. Now, granted, by the time Google gets ahold of it, it’s a little a little dated, but it’s not worthless. For instance, one of our clients, they have a drilling solution. And so they would set up a Google Alert for where an oil company had security drilling rights, and then that’s an indication that that company is about to get very active in a particular location. And so then we pulled together all kinds of helpful information on that area of interest as it relates to the client’s product and send it over. So again, you’re going back to right people, right time, Right message.So I think the biggest thing about building content for ABM is not to sell. You’ve got to be a trusted product, a trusted partner relationship, and the sale is just sort of a byproduct of that.

I think it is also as simple as a simple LinkedIn strategy. LinkedIn right now is a place where I think, like, most of the people are consumers of information and content, because various, you know, less people are creating content on LinkedIn. So I mean, if you have the right audience in your network, and if you just like, kind of, you know, posting good, valuable information that is relevant to your target audience you see that organically get inbound inquiries. So I think, you know, you're absolutely right now, again you're talking about a bigger scenario, where you kind of provide the valid information to the right people at the right time. Also, you know, like talking about ABM, right, I mean, there's a proper coordination that has to happen between sales and marketing. So how does that change, you know, in ABM versus traditional Legion.

So that’s always something that people talk a lot about. But the biggest difference is that it used to be this big us versus them, you know, right. Sales and Marketing were very siloed. They didn’t talk to each other, they wanted to blame everybody, you know each other when things went wrong. And when you go into ABM, it’s got to be this very synchronized, very choreographed approach. And so, you know, sales and marketing become partners, and you have, each of them working in an account, and you have to have that feedback loop, right, like marketing does some things, they have some points of engagement, sales might get involved at some point, and you have to have this entire feedback loop on how it’s going, what are the next steps? What’s important, how is this person responded consistently throughout the account, and I think it’s really brought about a much better way of doing things because at the end of the day, we’re all after the same goal, right? The goal is to win new customers. And so it’s really provided, if a company is doing it well, and that communication is working well, then it’ll be very successful.

On your podcast. You know, you've spoken about the emphasis on building a buyer's journey. How do you think that changes when we speak about ABM?

So here’s the thing about the buyer journey, right? It’s the linchpin of your whole ABM strategy, right, you’re defining different points throughout their journey, and what’s important to them at different times. And however, I wouldn’t limit it to ABM. If you think about it, B2C is almost the complete opposite of an ABM strategy, right? You’re just mass marketing to everybody. But even still, even in that you have these big online retailers who are personalizing results to you Oh, you’ve bought this thing. I’m gonna recommend this other thing Oh, I know that your supply of this product has probably run out at this point, I’m going to email you and see if you want to refill even just the base till they still create a buyer journey. So I think to say that buyer journey is just the domain of ABM is wrong. It’s everywhere. If you are engaging with people at all. The buyer journey is super important with ABM, we’re just targeting it more. We’re personalizing it, we’re investing more effort into the individuals rather than just sort of generic rules that apply to everybody.

What is the right ABM team structure?

The one that works? But this just looks so different for everybody, everybody has a super, and none of them wrong, none of them’s wrong. And the one that’s wrong is the one that doesn’t work. But in general and broad strokes you have to have a person who is in charge of a set number of accounts, maybe it’s just one account, maybe they have a list of 10. But they really have to be tuned in into what’s going on at that account, and to facilitate communication between everybody. And of course, they have to be backed up by traditional resources, they’re going to need a Content Developer, they’re going to need a graphic designer, they’re going to need a web resource, they’re going to need all of the standard things that a marketing person would need. But they really need to be point person on making sure that we know what’s going on in an account and making sure that the whole team knows, and really the one responsible for coming up with creative ideas for how we’re going to reach those people.

Also, is there like, you know, an optimal target size of an account?

Yes, the first thing we do with any client is sit down, and if they haven’t thought about it, yet, we think about it with them, typically, they have and come up with their ideal customer profile, right? And the value of ABM really is largely dependent on the deal size. So the higher value the sale, the more ABM starts to make sense. You do have b2b companies that have very small transactional sales, you know, we’ve got a $30 a month plugin that somebody can plunk down their credit card for, that maybe may not make so much sense for an ABM strategy. Personalization in general, yes. But like a very targeted ABM strategy, maybe not. And, you really want to look at your ideal customer profile, and there’s gonna be some minimum, but it’s gonna look different for every company. And I would say, in general, what I’ve seen is when you have deal sizes of $100,000 or more, then that starts to merit a really, you know, strong ABM strategy. Less than that, and then the math doesn’t quite work. If you’re devoting four people to a sale, and the lifetime value of that customer is only like a few $1,000. That math doesn’t work, right. But then it takes a certain company size, maybe either in headcount or in revenue, to merit a high value solution. That’s six figures.

Makes sense. How can one scale their ABM efforts?

So I would say, life is all about systems and processes. You have to have good acquisition and workflow systems and processes in place in order to scale effectively. If you’re doing everything manually, it’s going to be very difficult to scale, obviously. And so I always coach people, let the machines do what the machines can and leave your talent open for doing things that only people can, right. So we look at every task that we’re doing, and we say, Can this be automated? I can do it.

Laura, what is your favorite client story?

Oh my gosh, that’s hard to pick. I will say, ABM a lot of times, is a lot about creativity. And this is less of an ABM story that a branding story. But many moons ago, we had a client geophysical insights, we still have them today. But we they launched their product back in, I want to say it was 2013. And we were in charge of all of the branding for their product like product name, trade dress, everything. And they are in the oil and gas industry software in the oil and gas industry and oil and gas tends to be traditionally a rather staid industry, I guess, perhaps is a PC way to say it. And we really wanted something that would break out and be memorable. So we chose for the product name paradise, because it evoked this sense of almost whimsy and fun and someplace that you enjoy being right like who doesn’t like being at the beach, or in the mountains or something like everybody has their own version of Paradise, right? But the software itself was very elegant, very streamlined, very easy to use, and that was their driving development. philosophy was whatever we do, we want to make it fun for the user. We want the user to enjoy working in it. And so Eric, go call the paradise and we were launching at a trade show and we had a crazy idea. But rather than having the traditional trade show accoutrements and booth and whatever we went into pitch this idea of a 40 x 40 Island booth that completely ditches all the standard things, it was a Tiki hut design. And we had taken away all the traditional laminate countertops and replace them with plexiglass cases filled with sand and seashells.

We were pitching that, you know, the booth staff would wear paradise attire Tommy Bahama shirts and floral patterns and ditch the suit and tie, a really big diversion from what was typical. And, and we knew it was a big idea, right. And we held our breath, and when we pitched it, and fortunately, the management team loved it And we did it. And it was just the talk of the show, we served Margaritas and we just had so much attention, everyone was talking about us. And as a result, you know, 10 years later, we’ve continued that in everything that we do, and we support that whimsy in that fun with very solid technical presentations, because it is a very technical product. And so you know, the owners of the company and the various researchers that work with them, do peer reviewed papers in journals and, and present on those ideas. And so it is a very technically grounded offering sort of wrapped in this package of, you’re gonna enjoy using it, you’re gonna love using it. And the market has responded really well to it. And at this point, 10 years later, they’ve got fairly universal, and I mean, global brand recognition, which is really nice.

You must have had fun doing it?

It’s so fun.

Laura thank you so much for your time, but before you go like one advice that you would like to give our audience

Oh, my advice. There are so many, I think, first I would say, time, if someone is launching an ABM strategy or growing their ABM strategy, everybody wants results now, right? Give it time. Consistency over time is what builds success. There is no one silver bullet that’s going to change the world. And, I would say, Make small objectives, accomplish your small objectives, make bigger objectives and give it time. And the second thing I would say is create an environment of creativity. We work in this noisy, busy, crowded marketplace. And sometimes, like it’s the crazy idea that really gets traction, right? But as a manager, you have to create an environment where people feel the flexibility and the freedom to make those kinds of suggestions. First of all, hire rockstars. So they do have good ideas. And then let them give them the freedom and the support to implement crazy ideas. They’re not all going to work. There may be some duds in them, but that’s okay. There will be one that’ll just absolutely change the business.

I completely agree. Well, Laura, thank you so much for your time. It was great having you.

Great. Well, so glad to do it and look forward to talking to you again in the future.

Same here.

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