Prioritize Account Based Marketing to help sales generate and win big deals.



Today’s article is focused on how to execute Account Based Marketing.  This involves replacing leads with opportunities for the sales team through ABM. It’s difficult to grow revenue faster than your industry’s growth rate and faster than your competitors. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year.


Why this topic? Demand generation and lead management does not work for companies with business models dependent on a small number of accounts but who spend a lot. Waiting for dream accounts to come to you will result in you missing your revenue targets. If you live and die by the big deal, growing revenues faster than your industry and your competitors requires a shift to account based marketing.


SBI spoke with Massimo Sangiovanni, Motorola Solution’s Vice President of Americas for Marketing and Inside Sales.  Motorola Solutions provides mission-critical communications products and services to public safety and commercial customers around the world. This is done by providing them with real-time information, and by arming them with intuitive, nearly indestructible handheld devices. Massimo describes how the evolution into modern Account Based Marketing has positively impacted sales.


ABM is perfect in an environment where you make or miss your number based on a few big deals.  The singles and doubles are important because they turn the lights on. To attain over achievement there are maybe a half of dozen deals a year that are very large. Having marketing focused on those deals, with sales, increases the probability of closing those.  ABM is all about having marketing focused on helping us generate those big deals. 


My interview with Massimo Sangiovanni will take you through the journey Motorola has gone through to leverage ABM.  If you are evaluating whether ABM is right for your company, this article provides answers to the biggest questions marketing leaders are asking.


Massimo, if a new company hired you tomorrow with a mandate to develop and execute an account-based marketing program, what would you do, in what order, and why?


I would focus on four areas: technology, people, processes, and measures. Let me take you quickly through those four elements.


  1. Technology: with much of the buyers’ journey now happening online, account-based marketers must incorporate digital tools in their mix to be more effective in reaching content in target account. Investing in marketing is an investment for the future, especially investing in marketing technologies as such, marketing automation, analytics, CRM, without the two in place.


  2. People: You need the right skill and the right attitude to be successful in account-based marketing. Some trait of account-based marketer shows collaboration, like we said before. You need to shift from a traditional marketing approach into a more sales-led and focus on key targets. You need customer-focused execution. It’s key for being successful. Knowing the buying process and the customer life cycle is key for the marketer. Of course, capability of using data and analytics, that’s essential.


  3. Process: The processes that you need to put in place involve a with clear role, responsibilities, rule of engagement, goals, and timeline to measure the outcome.


  4. Measure: For instance, I have a dashboard that allows me to track the various marketing activities of the various team. From the account-based marketing, it’s very important to track the process of the buyers and the customers during their journey. You heard me say a few times, buyer journey. The reason is because the buyer journey is tied to our own journey as solutions provider, as a company. That’s why it’s so important that we do align those journeys that most of the time combine and merge.


Why did you choose to implement Account Based Marketing?


There are top-accounts that require extra attention. That was the primary driver of your implementation of account-based marketing. We are serving two large market with specific accounts with very large initiatives.  We want campaigns to be focused on the top accounts with large initiatives. In each of these accounts we need specific attention and require different engagement to reach the decision makers in the various phases of their buying cycle.


Roughly how long have you been implementing ABM?


I think we have always done ABM. Our account-based marketing program has evolved over time. In the past, it was more based on pure relationship initiatives jointly with sales. In the last few years, we can leverage a lot of the modern techniques, of course tools, intelligence, analytics, and digital initiatives that can be tailored on a persona basis and that are very effective. That’s why we always did it, but it’s just evolving over time.



The topic, account-based marketing has a lot of attention. Sometimes, the providers of the software vendors that help with account-based marketing, maybe some of the thought leaders, position this topic as a new thing. ABM has been around for a long time in B2B. Most B2B environments, there’s some special accounts that need some extra attention. Focusing on those things has been around forever. ABM is a little bit of an evolution, as opposed to a revolution.



ABM has evolved over time. From a pure personal relationship of the past evolved. We in marketing, we do segment the account-based marketing in four phases based on the buyer’s journey.  The phases include awareness of our solutions, the engagement with the customer, the conversion, and the retention. Technologies and modern techniques has helped a lot to improve the engagement.


Roughly, when did you embrace these modern technologies and modern approaches?


It’s been an evolution. I would say four, five years ago, when the technologies and analytics became more pervasive into the marketing environment and themes, that’s when we really start to be more advanced in the engagement. I would say, four, five years ago, it was the time where we literally moved from a pure persona-based relationship with specific event dedicated to a specific customer into a more sophisticated digital engagement.


We’re on a journey that’s about four to five years old. What have the results been so far over that time-period?


I’m happy with the results where ABM campaigns are developing opportunities. The marketing team is very, very integrated with the sales. That’s a key element of account-based marketing. The cooperation has never been so good. What is good also is that the customer perceives a real value in this marketing approach because we provide information that they are looking for. They are relevant for that specific time.


We are living in an era where the quantity of information is flooding in our life, professional and personal. Having just the right information at the right time is really making a big impression on the customer, and it’s a great value for them. It’s not just the success based on the appreciation of the sales team, also the customer appreciates receiving relevant information tailored on their specific persona or need.


You mentioned several times that the cooperation between marketing and sales there at Motorola has never been this good. Tell me a little bit about how that happened. Very often, that’s not the case. Specifically, your evolution into modern account-based marketing, how did it impact the relationship with sales?



The impact was important. Sales and marketing, like I said before, are totally aligned. We work together on the same goal. Like I said at the beginning introducing myself, my organization is Marketing and Inside Sales. The inside sales organization are the one that is touching customer first. In my marketing team, we have a group of central marketing functions like in all the traditional marketing organizations.


The demand center team, the digital marketing team, channel marketing, vertical marketing. They’re working side by side with the field marketing folks that are the one that are the closest to the customer and closest to the sales team.


I got to tell you, I receive a daily thank you note and recognition from the account executive or the other sales manager. I think the real justification for me and my organization is coming from the wings. This is result that you see on those accounts that we are following since a few years now. We continue because again, the retention is not the last, but not the least is element of engagement with the customer. I couldn’t be happier of the relationship between sales and marketing now in Motorola Solutions.


Massimo, prior to implementing account-based marketing, were you using a classic demand generation approach?


Being always in the B2B marketing, my company is a B2B company, we never had a spray and pray, that’s how we call it, approach, so mass market messaging going out. Working B2B, and especially working by vertical, because beside account-based marketing we have also the vertical marketing that is overlooking to our target reference market. Like I was referring before, we must be very specific on content, messaging, and personalization if we want to be effective. One size fits all doesn’t apply to our customers and doesn’t apply, I would say, to the B2B modern marketing techniques. We didn’t implement spray and pray before. Now that we see the results of vertical marketing and account-based marketing, would never do it.


My next question, you and I spoke before the show regarding the role that account-based marketing plays in contrast to classic demand generation, which you just described as spray and pray. Sometimes, demand generation is deployed in a B2B setting in a non-spray and pray way. I believe Motorola has experimented with that. Maybe philosophically, if you will, yes specific to Motorola, but as advice given to our audience, is it your opinion that account-based marketing replaces classic demand generation, or does it augment it?


We have a vertical market approach across the entire database. For specific audience and specific customers, we are using the account-based marketing because it’s augmenting. It’s marketing on steroids, if you want to call it that way. Tailoring the initiative with account-specific marketing plan so the merge between the content personalization and the digital capabilities that we have now give us an incredible traction and result. I would say that is augmenting, but in exponential way.


The reason so many of our clients have asked us to help them implement account-based marketing is for two main reasons: demand generation sometimes can hit a wall. It reaches a point of diminishing returns. When that happens, traditional marketers say, “Okay, I’ve squeezed all the juice out of this orange, if you will. What do I do next?” That’s forcing them to turn to account-based marketing. The second reason is that inbound marketing had begun to frustrate some folks. Publishing content and waiting for dream accounts to find them requires too much patience.


Let’s turn our attention, Massimo, to your vertical marketing. We’ll use that as a proxy, if you will, for classic demand gens so our audience can understand this. Are the vertical marketing results still producing an acceptable return, or did that start to crest a little bit, and that’s one of the reasons why you went to account-based marketing?


I would say that it’s a mix of the two situations. When I say vertical marketing, we segment, for instance, public safety in three pillars. Law enforcement, EMF, and firefighters. We narrow the focus and the content to tailor it around those specific markets. The capabilities and the engagement that you have within account-based marketing is much, much higher, and qualitative higher than the vertical marketing.


A few years ago, again, we are more focused on outbound than inbound. The secret is really to find the right balance between who you’re targeting and how you bring the customer into your own space, how you educate them about your solutions, and how your solutions are addressing their need. That’s where they, driving traffic, for instance, to the web, personalizing content for that specific account, is key for being successful.


We recommend potentially shifting to account-based marketing, or augmenting your current market approach as Massimo has done with account-based marketing. Specifically, if your demand generation program is hitting a wall, maybe you’ve hit the point of diminishing returns, or if you’re getting frustrated with inbound marketing because you have a set of accounts that you really want to go after and they’re not finding you, then you’ve got to shift to outbound. You’ve got to make it a highly-personalized message. Go after the personas and specific accounts. The way that you do that is through account-based marketing.


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John Staples

Leads teams of highly qualified experts, all relentless in their pursuit of helping you make your number.

John is the global leader of SBI’s account management business unit. As such, he and his team help clients across 19 verticals drive top line growth and operational efficiency in sales and marketing.


John’s marketing, sales and product expertise span a multichannel strategic approach. He has an unyielding focus on strategic and key account development, which enables strategic alignment between all functional team members in order to reduce acquisition cost and increase lifetime value.


His broad experience in sales, marketing, product and engineering allows him to bring a unique problem solving approach to his team and clients. As he has discovered through decades of experience, clients are often distracted by the symptoms of a larger problem and overlook the root cause of it.


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