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5 Key Tips for Pivoting your ABM Strategy in an Uncertain B2B Marketing Environment

Learning from Leaders like ServiceNow and Autodesk

Etai Beck
,
June 15, 2020

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a uniquely challenging business environment for companies worldwide as they struggle to maintain revenue streams and keep their customers happy. But along with the challenges come great opportunities, particularly for marketing and sales organizations that had already embraced an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy.

As companies move to a digital-first approach to marketing and sales, there are tangible steps they can take to pivot their business models to succeed. We recently hosted a series of workshops with B2B marketing leaders to explore solutions for navigating an uncertain marketplace. This blog underscores five key strategies that two leading enterprises – ServiceNow and Autodesk – discussed during one of our workshops.


1. Pivot Your Strategy to Address Revenue Recovery

ServiceNow

ServiceNow realized early on that the COVID-19 pandemic would present a range of new business challenges for them and their customers, so they set out to find solutions that would help them maneuver adeptly through the crisis. They knew their customers would be facing a looming spike in demand for service and support from their own customers and prospects during the pandemic, and might not have sufficient bandwidth to accommodate those rapidly changing requirements. So they set out to empower their customers to pivot their business strategies and keep their service and support operations from missing a beat.  

For example, the company recognized that many of their customers didn’t have a crisis communications strategy or infrastructure established prior to the pandemic. So to help, ServiceNow released four different apps to help companies see what’s happening across their organization from a service standpoint, and help communicate and provide support with the most accurate and up-to-date information for both employees and customers. And they did this all at no additional cost to the customer.

Autodesk

Autodesk believed that their customers might have trouble meeting revenue goals because of the precarious COVID-19 selling environment, so they developed a new service approach called “Solve vs. Sell.” Their goal was to help customers pivot their business models to better meet sales expectations. They focused on two key areas:

  1. Leveraging deep ABM knowledge of each specific account (derived from the Folloze personalization platform) to determine more organically what customers were looking for.
  2. Delivering key messages and content for each account in a way that was less “salesy.” The priority now focused on agility and speed, spinning up content quickly (with ABM tools like Folloze), and delivering relevant solutions that more directly impacted each account.

The pandemic also forced many of their customers’ core businesses to be put on hold: Manufacturing lines, product design activities, and construction (among many others) were all paused, and many customers weren’t sure where funding might come from to keep those critical business functions alive. Autodesk made a commitment to understand at a deep level what challenges their customers were facing and help them find tangible solutions that would impact revenue. For example, they advised manufacturers on how to change lines to develop vital COVID-19 related products, or streamline architecture processes to more rapidly develop blueprints for, and actually build, much-needed hospitals.

Folloze gives companies clear insight into the information that’s most relevant for each account so that messages and solutions can be tailored and customized.  

2. Elevate “Customer Centric” Thinking

ServiceNow

Being customer centric has always been a core tenet of ServiceNow’s value proposition. They strive to stay in lockstep with customer needs and provide crucial, relevant service and support. Collaboration and strong interaction with customers is at the heart of this core value.

A key strategy for ServiceNow was to enhance person-to-person interaction with their top 200 customers globally. Frequent check-ins allowed them to stay in sync with each customer’s specific needs as they arose (and they did arise quickly in a crisis like this). Then they created “tiger teams” to shift resources, build out workflows to make any necessary pivots, and ultimately provide the necessary support and solutions. They also brought in architects and specialists to share vital best practices with their customers, above and beyond traditional collaboration.

“These are the times to listen to your customers - you can’t just blast information out into the blogosphere. The processes must be far more nuanced. With Folloze we lifted all the restraints and saw exactly what customers wanted so we could deliver the most relevant campaigns and messages. Folloze allows us to be more flexible in times of crisis.”

Maisa Fernandez, ServiceNow

Autodesk

In the past, one of Autodesk’s most successful programs was a “Meet Your Account Team” live meeting where account execs would secure access with customers when campaigns were launched. But when COVID-19 struck, travel came to a standstill, so Autodesk decided to pivot their strategy and move these critical meetings to a virtual setting.

The company then went a step further by asking how they could “plus” on that strategy to truly delight their key customer accounts and build stronger personal relationships. The solution was a “virtual lunch” program as an informal way to interact, which included gift cards that could be exchanged or re-allocated between teams as needed. It gave everyone a sense of teaming up for the advancement of customer relations and better account management. The results of the program were excellent: they were able to get more overall meetings and pivot quickly with existing ones.

A focus on authenticity and connection with customers and prospects was also key to their strategy. The more you know about each account, the better you can enable a more authentic conversation and build trust and confidence for the long haul.

Folloze provides the framework for improving collaboration between marketing (providing messaging and content delivery), sales teams (providing the personal touch) and the customer.

3. Improve Insights into Key Accounts

ServiceNow

The pandemic made it clear that “business as usual” was no longer an option. In the new environment, ServiceNow wanted to do a deep dive into each account to see where new business opportunities lied. One example was with industry-based research and marketing: They began by looking at sub-categories of various industries such as pharma and medical devices, and by purchasing relevant industry research for each category that would help those accounts connect the dots to provide timely solutions for their customers.

Then (with the help of the Folloze ABM framework) ServiceNow was able to look deeply into account needs, develop a more informed campaign strategy for each category and help craft key messages and value propositions based on the different types of research available. ServiceNow became a strategic partner by showing where new business opportunities lied.  

Another strategy was to focus on accounts with the biggest growth upside, such as underpenetrated accounts or, on the other end of the spectrum, highly penetrated accounts that could still be cross-sold effectively. Folloze helped provide ServiceNow with a fresh, dynamic view of these accounts: where the best opportunities were, how they could upsell and cross-sell, and how to create messaging that is prescriptive to each account.

Autodesk

Autodesk’s ABM marketing team knew they would have to take a more strategic approach to customer care during the pandemic, so they established a COVID-19 leadership team to help drive progress. The cross-departmental team focused on surfacing key customer pain points and validating what marketing messages should be used for each. Thinking holistically, the team ensured that programs were unified as they were rolled out, not on-off, and they continued to monitor that campaign alignment and respond to evaluations and requests as quickly as possible.

They also made a concerted effort to prioritize and balance COVID-19 marketing messages with new product release messages. Oftentimes the two themes conflicted, producing inconsistencies in marketing campaigns. By studying specific customer preferences and needs from Folloze data and insights, it was easy to balance key messages appropriately, pivot as requirements changed over time, and drive marketing programs in the right direction.

Modern ABM strategy is all about understanding your customers’ needs, addressing them, and building a strong ongoing relationship. With the Folloze ABM personalization platform, trust can be more readily established as you gain key insights into what each customer is going through.

4. “Reactivate” Your Sales Teams

ServiceNow

One of the most important strategies of a successful ABM program is to move beyond “enabling” sales to “activating” sales to super-perform. ServiceNow made a concerted effort during the pandemic to educate and empower their account executives (AEs) to achieve better sales results. They launched a new campaign to show AEs what’s actually going on in their accounts from a messaging and marketing standpoint. That knowledge gave AEs the insights to better target and sell into those accounts without seeming too aggressive (which can be especially unseemly in times of crisis). Marketing teams also trained AEs on how to master social marketing, virtual event marketing, and how to personalize and customize deliverables for their customers.

Collaboration between marketing and sales is vital to activating sales teams. ServiceNow brought all stakeholders together in ABM workshops, which included ABM marketers, AEs, solution teams, and customer outcome teams. Participants shared account and desk research to build out a targeted sales plan, allowing sales to hone in on the best opportunities in each account. The output from these workshops would be the main account focus for the coming year. ServiceNow even brought the customers into the loop to validate directives and initiatives. Regular collaboration helped teams pivot very quickly when things began moving fast.

Autodesk

Autodesk created a COVID-19 online resource page – a one-stop-shop for product marketers, field marketing, ABM, sales teams and customers. The resource page became a home for new open-source development tools that customers could use, as well as important use cases showing what customers were actually doing with those tools. The resource page also allowed customers to connect with other customers, opening the door to further collaboration and idea sharing.

Folloze provides a fresh, dynamic view of accounts to see where the best account-based marketing and selling opportunities are.

5. Think Bigger in Times of Crisis

ServiceNow

You might expect companies to slow down during times of crisis, but a well-oiled ABM machine can empower its organization to actually think bigger – and be even more audacious and creative than before. Setting stretch goals in the wake of the pandemic was an edict set down by ServiceNow’s own CEO, and now with their account-based marketing efforts fueling them, teams are hard at work to make that directive a reality.

With the ample data and insights that Folloze provides to ServiceNow’s ABM teams, the company has been ever-more-innovative with their marketing messages to customers and prospects and has been able to set bigger and bolder sales goals. While no one was surprised by the great strides marketing and sales groups have made in the face of great challenges, innovative technology has helped ServiceNow set the tone and thrive.

Autodesk

The COVID-19 challenge was also an opportunity for Autodesk to be more creative, such as the aforementioned virtual lunch program that brought them closer to their customers. Their end goal has been to keep solving problems with innovative solutions and asking the question: “how can we ‘plus’ our customer service efforts at every turn?” Those efforts have inspired actions such as building an efficient work-from-home program and creating better ways to sync with customers and account teams.

Autodesk also created an Extended Access Program for cloud tools. During these times of greater need for virtual collaboration, they can make these big tech tools available to customers, giving them the bandwidth to access trial programs remotely for commercial use. Customers can use those tools to build something to solve their own COVID-19 challenges or simply improve other parts of their business.

Folloze helps service organizations empower innovation when they need it the most, helping them be more agile and iterate solutions more quickly.

Conclusion

Great adversity can really bring people together to find solutions, and constraints to our business can actually drive us to be more innovative. It frees us up to do new things, have the liberty to take chances and be scrappy marketers. The COVID-19 outbreak has given companies like ServiceNow and Autodesk license to stretch the boundaries of their ABM efforts to develop solutions more quickly, mix and match marketing approaches, and bring new value to customers. Folloze is proud to have been a key ABM partner to help these companies find new success in uncertain times.