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Sponsored by Kula Partners—an agency committed to helping leading B2B manufacturers craft digital experiences that transform how they engage buyers, serve customers, and outpace their competition—The Kula Ring podcast features conversations about marketing, sales, and technology with top manufacturing executives from across North America.
The Kula Ring podcast is co-hosted by Kula Partners principals, Carman Pirie and Jeff W. White, both of whom are frequently sought after for their digitally-focused B2B expertise. They regularly share their insights with audiences including conferences like B2B Online and HubSpot’s INBOUND, the Gardner Manufacturing Marketer blog, and other podcasts focused on B2B marketing and technology.
When it comes to creating account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns, more companies are stuck in strategy mode versus putting a program into practice. Fabio Luz, Latin America Media Team Leader and North America Digital Media Strategist at Schneider Electric, shares his account-based marketing pilot process, which helped the company identify target accounts and move them down the sales pipeline.
How a B2B Manufacturer Pilots Success with ABM Transcript:
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how are you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: I’m doing fantastic, Jeff, and you?
Jeff White: I’m doing well. Yeah. Excited about our guest.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve had a few folks on the show that have talked about ABM in a number of different capacities, and certainly account-based marketing is a big focus for us here at Kula, big focus for an awful lot of our clients, and manufacturing marketers more broadly, of course, are turning their attention to it. So, today’s guest I think can really kind of lift the curtain a bit around some of the success that they’ve had with ABM, how they’ve implemented the approaches and technology, and what we’ve seen as a result, so let’s just get into it.
Jeff White: Yeah, I think so, and it is nice to see as well, some folks that are actually doing ABM instead of rather talking about it more theoretically, which we’re seeing, as well. Because it is still a relatively new marketing concept, if not in name, but in execution.
Carman Pirie: So, you’re trying to say that ABM is like sex in junior high, more people are talking about it than actually doing it or something?
Jeff White: Or knowing what they’re doing. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Ah, yes. Yes, indeed.
Jeff White: As the father of multiple junior high kids, I’d rather we didn’t talk about that.
Carman Pirie: It’d be better if we didn’t talk about this. Yeah.
Jeff White: Break out in cold sweats during the podcast. So, joining us today is Fabio Luz. Fabio is the Latin America Media Team Lead and North American Digital Media Strategist at Schneider Electric. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Fabio.
Fabio Luz: Yeah, thank you for having me.
Carman Pirie: It’s fantastic to have you on the show. Look, I know that a lot of our listeners will have heard of Schneider Electric, but clearly it’s a bit of a big beast, and so why don’t you explain to us a little bit about your role within it, and how long you’ve been there and whatnot, and then we’ll get underway.
Fabio Luz: Sure. Sure thing. Well, as you said, Schneider is a monster. So, we are a global company. We provide energy management and digital automation for efficiency, sustainability, and we combine technology, automation software and services to integrate solutions for homes, for buildings, data centers, infrastructure, industries. And here at Schneider, as you said, I’m the Media Team Leader for Latin America, and also the Digital Media Strategist here for North America, so I’m supporting the business with their strategy when it comes to media. So, how we are supporting the marketing team to reach their goals in terms of awareness, leads, and everything else.
Carman Pirie: Fabio, is it fair to say that you’re fundamentally like an in-house media agency, if you will, for Schneider and its various business units?
Fabio Luz: That’s correct. So, our team, we are under the umbrella of global marketing and our team, we are around the globe, and we support the marketing team. So we are kind of an in-house agency, so we do programmatic media, paid social media, ABM, I would say a little bit, as well, of offline marketing, like print, to billboards kind of stuff, but pretty much any kind of paid media needs, our team handles everything inside.
Carman Pirie: Very cool. And just for context, how many people in your organization? Kind of the in-house agency side of things?
Fabio Luz: Yeah, so our structure, actually we support more the top 50 accounts for Schneider globally, and I would say our team globally is around 40, 40-something people globally.
Carman Pirie: Cool.
Fabio Luz: So, we have not just the paid side, but also the organic social media side, they are also part of our team. So, yeah, trying for sure to join efforts there, and to leverage not just what you’re doing on the organic side, but also on the paid side for social media, as well. So, we are just one team globally.
Carman Pirie: I appreciate that background. I think that’s helpful context. So, I know that you’ve been doing some work and really bringing an account-based approach to the global secure power products side of the house at Schneider, targeting cloud service providers is my understanding, so I’d like for you to take us through that campaign a bit. Introduce us to the challenge, and then let’s talk through some of the approach and results. So, first things first, what were we trying to accomplish?
Fabio Luz: Sure. So, secure power, it’s basically our IT division here at Schneider. Then we have solutions for data centers, for cloud, we have software and everything else, targeting the IT segment. And specifically, for this campaign, targeting cloud service providers, so we had a challenge, because usually we have big companies working with cloud service providers, but they are kind of limited, right? So, the goal for this campaign was a global campaign, actually, and working with a specific account list, the challenge was how we could leverage our presence with those accounts. So, how we could get more contacts, and not just that, but also how could we leverage and accelerate the sales pipeline for those accounts that we identified that it was kind of sitting around our sales pipeline.
So, it was two steps for this campaign. The first one was a little bit more broad, so how to acquire new people to the account, and for sure we had in place a marketing automation monitoring program, so the point is we need to work with these accounts, but when we bring the leads inside, what we are doing with those leads. Right? So, that was like another structure inside the marketing team they were working with. So, when they are getting the leads, what is the process and how they are nurturing these leads through their marketing automation strategy, right? So, that was one part.
And then another point, really important, is I think when it comes to ABM, we need to also highlight that it’s really important to… How the marketing team and the sales team, they work together. So, I think this second step of this campaign was really nice, because we could work closely with the sales team, and with them we could identify those accounts that were sitting around in a specific sales stage, and pretty much with that, we could leverage those accounts and reach them more aggressively with specific content, and try to move them to the end of our sales pipeline. We had a pretty good result. We could move those accounts. We could convert them into sales. So, it was a really good campaign and had a very positive impact.
Carman Pirie: Couple of questions. In kind of rough order of magnitude, how many target accounts are we talking about, roughly?
Fabio Luz: Yeah, so that was I would say around 200 accounts globally for this campaign. For sure, when we are targeting those accounts, we are also targeting specific job titles. So, we don’t want any contacts from those accounts, but specific people. But globally, it was around 200 accounts.
Carman Pirie: And did you have contact level data for each of the 200 accounts? Like were they all kind of in some way known to Schneider already? Or were you kind of going in cold?
Fabio Luz: No, they kind of know Schneider, and also because it was a global account, we had different content to approach them, as well. So, let’s say we were working with a different language, so we had German, French, Spanish, English, so it was kind of a different content strategy, just to make sure that we are reaching those accounts for a specific region with their local language, as well. Otherwise, let’s say just using English to reach them, maybe we wouldn’t see a good conversion rate for that. But pretty much they knew Schneider, pretty much the sales team somehow, they had in the past interacted with them. But for those specific accounts, we could see that it had a huge potential, so that’s why we started to work with them.
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Jeff White: I think it’s really interesting, you’ve pointed out the language factor and the geography, obviously. This isn’t necessarily something that impacts all manufacturers, but it certainly does impact a lot of them, especially ones who are operating globally, and I don’t think we’ve ever really heard mention from other ABM folks who we’ve spoken with about having to create content and create account-based campaigns that are regionally optimized using different languages. That’s a consideration that takes it to another level.
Carman Pirie: Sure. And I think too, Jeff, I’m just reminded of so many conversations we’ve been in with manufacturing marketers who are basically making the choice either not to translate their web presence, or frankly, translate any kind of marketing material, sales materials. They’re going to market, and these are significant companies. We’re talking $500 million a year companies. So, you got half a billion in revenue and you’re saying, “Yeah, we’re gonna be English only though, even though we sell to 40 countries.”
Jeff White: Well, English is the language of business, Carman.
Carman Pirie: Well, and that’s what people tell themselves.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: And I’m really just happy that Fabio’s on here to say that they’re wrong. Because this is somebody who’s working and kind of has accountability on just a media spend side of things. I mean, you gotta think about that. So, conversion rate from the media spend is where Fabio’s gonna live and die in his career, and he’s saying, “Yeah, we kind of need them to be speaking to them in their own language, by the way.”
Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.
Carman Pirie: So, if you’re especially a mother tongue English speaker marketer in North America listening to this show, please listen to Fabio. I think he’s right.
Fabio Luz: Yeah. I think you’re… Even because when we are working with those accounts, let’s say if you are speaking the same language as them, I think the chance to have a higher conversion rate is much higher. And it’s funny, because actually when you start this campaign, like we started this campaign a little bit smaller, just with basic LinkedIn doing ABM, and it was just English, right? So, we said, “Okay, how we can leverage that, so how we can go to the next step.” And for sure, with that we start to develop… So, pretty much our ABM strategy was not just social media with LinkedIn, but also like working with a third-party database to reach those accounts, and we had not just web banners on the local language, but also whitepapers with local languages, also how people are engaged with us, what kind of piece of content they are downloading, and also here at Schneider we have our customer stories, which usually we see very good performance. Because people are watching, okay, what that company’s doing, what is the success, and everything else.
So, also we translate all those pieces of content for the local language, and with that, we could see very high conversion rates.
Carman Pirie: Now, of course it’s not a pure A/B test, because you said when you first started, you were just using a more limited channel, LinkedIn only, English only, but still, so I understand that some of the channels may have evolved and whatnot, as well, but I think the test is still very valid, and I think that-
Jeff White: I think so, too. Yeah. How are you managing translation? Do you have in-house translators, or do you work with outside partners?
Fabio Luz: At Schneider we have our global service all inside, so we can translate everything inside, so pretty much when global started to create the campaign, they made that available for the countries, and for sure, the countries, they translate that and upload back to our global library. So, we had that on everything else.
Jeff White: That’s great. I mean, it’s certainly… there’s no question that it makes it a little bit easier if you have those in-house resources who have natural ability in different languages, but you can still… Outside translation is not that crazy expensive. Certainly not as expensive as creation of content and the return on investment is obvious.
Fabio Luz: Totally. And sometimes even like the vendors that… Maybe the people that we’re working with, they can help them to translate that, as well. So, it’s not a lot of money and makes a lot of difference.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
Jeff White: I think we’ve hammered that point home.
Carman Pirie: Okay, and I know that we didn’t set out to hammer that point home, so I’m kind of happy that we did. So, in addition to the account-based advertising that was happening, both via LinkedIn and elsewhere… Basically, is it a combination of marketing automation, drips, account-based advertising, and then some sales enablement pieces? Do I have a full glimpse of the campaign at this stage?
Fabio Luz: That’s correct. Yeah. So, pretty much here on this campaign were three different teams working on that. So, my team, the media team, plus the marketing team with all their nurturing path through marketing automation, and then the third team, for sure, would be the sales team. It’s important, as well, because not all the accounts that we were reaching, and not all the contacts that we were getting from those accounts they were ready for sales, so that’s why it was really important what the marketing team, what they were doing with those contacts inside, so what kind of nurturing program they were developing, what kind of piece of content they were providing to those people.
Carman Pirie: I wonder, I think it is something that marketers run into, especially when they start down the road of ABM and they’re wanting to do it well, and then they quickly find that it demands a more intensive level of integration with the sales organization than maybe they had originally anticipated or have… Maybe they haven’t even cultivated the relationship enough with the sales organization to be able to enable that. I guess is that something that you’ve experienced as you’ve taken a more account-based approach? Or did you till that soil in advance a bit and ensure that sales and marketing were reasonably integrated beforehand?
Fabio Luz: Yeah, so that’s a great point. I think everyone has the same challenge: that usually marketing and sales, they are not communicating, they are not integrated, right? So, I think that is a challenge that we have pretty much everywhere. So, it’s funny, because actually this campaign that we head for our secure power division was also a pilot to show, and a case to show how marketing and sales can work together. So, actually it was an internal case for that, as well. But usually, when the marketing team, they come to us, “Hey, this is my campaign. This is my investment. This is what I’m trying to get awareness or leads,” or anything like that, and then usually when we get back to them and say, “Yeah, I think for this specific campaign, maybe we can work with ABM.” Right?
So, I think it’s at this point that we start kind of an education, because not always the marketing team, they fully understand what ABM can do, and then also, how they will work with the sales team to get those specific accounts and everything else. So, there’s a lot of education internally, for sure. But I think now they are getting more at this point, and usually when you go back to the marketing team with their media plan, and also, “Yeah, we are doing this other campaign that is seeing very good results here.” I think that opened their eyes, and I think made them a little bit curious, and they try to replicate that, as well, on their campaign.
But yeah, I think the challenge is always-
Carman Pirie: Yeah, the challenge is certainly ever present, but it sounds as though you’ve taken some pretty solid steps here. I’d be curious. I know that part of this is really a pipeline acceleration campaign in many respects, but of those 200 accounts, have we moved a number of them over to closed-won at this stage? Or have we just moved them further down the pipeline? Where are we at in this initial campaign?
Fabio Luz: Because we have different regions, let’s say accounts that we have here, for North America, maybe they are on a different stage for Europe, or a different stage for Latin America, right? So, they are on different stages I would say, but for those specific accounts that we were working on the sales journey, was for sure a smaller number, we could close pretty much all the opportunities there, so it was a really good one. And for sure, for those main accounts that we were working on a more broad approach, we could also move them to the sales pipeline and make them ready for sales.
Carman Pirie: All right. I know that oftentimes as we’re rolling out these campaigns, you’re looking for that kind of synchronization with sales, in some way you’re looking for a certain amount of impressions into the account, kind of awareness triggers, if you will, in order to engage the sales motion. Did you take it to that extent, where you were triggering sales activity based upon a certain amount of interaction with the account-based advertising? Or am I leading the witness too much?
Fabio Luz: No. That’s correct. I think even when we work with ABM, I think we have a lot of great insights, right? So, not just like we are targeting those accounts that we could align with sales, but when it comes to the marketing side, as well, what kind of insight we can take from that. So, usually when we are working with ABM platforms, we can have a lot of great insights, such as what kind of piece of content engages the most, or even what kind of topic these companies are searching for. And I think that provided us a great insight in terms of, “Okay, so do we have the right content to engage with those people or not?” Maybe we are reaching those accounts with this specific piece of content, but maybe it’s not what they’re looking for.
So, I think that also provides a lot of good insights for the marketing team on how we can better customize our content and also what kind of content and topics those accounts are looking for. And I think that also helps the sales team to build their speech when they are talking to those accounts, right? So, pretty much they will better understand what kind of topics those accounts are searching for, and maybe let’s say kind of align that with our solution. So, I think everyone gets a lot of benefits, insights from ABM.
Jeff White: In terms of learning as you put these campaigns in place and get them out there, is the level of learning about what accounts are looking for kind of consistent for both marketing and sales? Are you both kind of in some cases surprised at what’s resonating? Or how much is marketing bringing that content to bear versus what sales saying they expect the accounts are going to want?
Fabio Luz: It’s funny, because sometimes we have accounts that we thought would be more mature, I would say, but when we start to see what kind of content they are downloading, or what topics they are searching for, we understand, “Oh, actually those accounts are not ready yet for sales.” So, we need to step back and maybe put them on a different journey, and provide them other kinds of content, and make them ready for sales in the future. So, we have a lot of learnings on that, and for sure, there’s accounts that move really fast to the sales funnel. We thought they would be more on the first step, but actually they’re already researching for specific solutions or topics that are much more advanced. So, that’s the time when sales needs to jump in very fast.
So, there’s a lot of learnings and for sure we need to have a plan, and a strategy in place, but if we don’t keep our eyes on the contacts that we are getting, what they are downloading, what topics they are researching for, I think we can lose very good time from those accounts. So, that’s why it’s really important to keep our eyes on those contacts all the time.
Carman Pirie: I really like that just in some way the learning there is that regardless of how much intel the salesperson has into the account, and what you can see from the outside looking in as the marketer from firmographic data, et cetera, you’re trying to make some sort of assessment of the level of sophistication or where they’re at in their ability to buy what you’re selling, and even with all that information, basically what you’re saying is, “Yeah, and you’ll still get it wrong.” Like you gotta be open to the fact that it won’t be perfect the first time, and it needs to iterate in order to get to perfect.
Jeff White: But I think it’s great that you can look at someone that you thought may have been more advanced and more ready, potentially, for a sale, and look at that and say, “You know, these folks are still kind of in the learning phase, and they’re very, very early in the process, and they’re going to require a bit more education before we can truly move them over to the sales organization.” I think that’s more valuable than putting them in closed-lost.
Fabio Luz: Yeah.
Jeff White: You know? The ability to nurture and become their preferred partner for learning as they move towards requiring a solution is preferable to the alternative.
Fabio Luz: Totally. Totally. Yeah, and the other point is usually when you work with a certain platform and everything else, also another point which is really important is when it comes to our website, what those accounts are engaged with. What kind of page they are going to, how many times they are going back to our website, as well. So, I think all that information is really important to understand — the stage of each account.
Jeff White: For sure. And I mean, obviously having these analytics and tracking data and all of that is certainly… Being able to leverage that information and put it to good use, and to be able to put people into the appropriate buckets after you’ve seen how they interact with content is incredibly powerful, even as we… It’ll be interesting to see where things go as more and more of these do not track plugins and other things come into play, what we’re actually able to see from the outside looking in. But there’s no question that as people engage with stuff, you’re going to be able to change what content you show them, and kind of move them into the funnel in a different way.
Fabio Luz: Totally.
Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. That’s really cool.
Carman Pirie: Well, I think this has been a fantastic peek under the hood really as to ABM piloting at Schneider, and I’d be curious, Fabio. Do you really see this approach expanding in 2020 and beyond? You said that this was an initial kind of pilot, if you will. You wanted to kind of use it as a case study to show that marketing and sales can work together nicely, and that you can actually drive a lot of results with this account-based approach. So, are we likely to be seeing more of this from you all, I’m assuming?
Fabio Luz: Yeah. So, yeah, I think ABM was always there, right? So, people were working with ABM here and there, but I think there was never a huge push, I would say. Now, like this global pilot for us is being really helpful, because we can use that as a case internally, and show to other marketing teams how they can take advantage also for ABM. But yeah, ABM right now, it’s much better to put our dollars on those accounts that we know that we have potential with, so I think across the board, we are seeing much more ABM investment now at Schneider.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. One thing I found interesting with it is that as a pure play media, in media land, we have a lot of these kinds of typical ratios and things. You know, for instance, managing paid search campaigns. An awful lot of agencies and people kind of charge like a 20% on the media buy or what have you, right? So, there’s all these kinds of standard approaches. And ABM I find really does challenge some of that, because your media is so much more focused, but then you’re spending more money on the technology and the administration of it. So, this notion that, “Oh, X% of my marketing budget should go to media spend.” Those types of ratios just don’t line up anymore.
Fabio Luz: Yeah. So, yeah, pretty much as I said, you have the fee to use the platform, right? And I think at Schneider because we do everything in house, so I think for us, it makes a little bit more clear to understand how much we are paying for the license to use the platform, and for sure how much we are putting towards lead gen, or display for ABM. But sometimes it can be a very specific platform, like if you compare it with any other tactic, but I think when it comes to understanding the ROI, it’s totally worth it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, of course. And I think it’s instructive for marketers to think, “Okay, I maybe need to put those old kind of metrics that I had in my mind, just kind of check those at the door, because we’re gonna be spending probably more on technology, but probably our media spend actually is probably going to go down.”
Jeff White: Probably gonna go down, yeah.
Carman Pirie: “Because we’re gonna be a lot more focused and there’s gonna be a lot less waste.”
Fabio Luz: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Well, Fabio, I really appreciate you taking the time to take our listeners through your experience here today. It’s been fantastic and I just really thank you for sharing it and wish you all the best with it.
Fabio Luz: Yeah, thanks so much. No problem. It was great.
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