Oh man, this week we cover something near and dear to Kula’s heart. We are discussing ABM and ABX with Jessica Woodside of WIKA this week. We dive deep into the nuts and bolts of embarking on the journey to an account based strategy and how to avoid some of the pitfalls. This episode is so packed with information we suggest taking notes (or reading the full transcript on our website). Don’t miss this one gang!
Making the Move: The Journey to Account Based Marketing 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 you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: Man, I’m excited for today.
Jeff White: Yeah. It’s not often that we get to talk to somebody as experienced in this realm around the ABX and ABM side of things, and really advanced in how they’re thinking about their customer’s journey. It just doesn’t happen that much.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I think that’s fair to say. You know, and it’s damn cliché at this point for people to talk about, “Oh, well, so much of the journey is happening before you find out about it or before somebody reaches out to sales,” and they kind of do that as a way of encouraging people to lean into more digital tools or what have you, but it kind of stops there, you know? And then there’s a smaller sliver of more advanced marketers, in my view, that are looking at this more anonymous customer journey and finding ways to understand it and impact it, so I am stoked for today’s guest.
Jeff White: Yeah. Me as well. So, joining us today is Jessica Woodside. Jessica is the Director of Marketing for the U.S. at WIKA. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Jessica.
Jessica Woodside: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Jessica, it’s awesome to have you on the show. Let’s learn a bit more about you and WIKA USA, if you would.
Jessica Woodside: Yeah. So, I’ve been working in marketing now for around 14 years. Most of my background prior to working with WIKA was actually in B2C. I was in franchised restaurants both on the franchisee side and the franchisor side. And at one point was participating in a mentorship program and my mentor was maybe a bit jaded, but he said, “You’ve gotta get out of restaurants and you’ve gotta diversify your industry experience because you’ll get to the point where people think that’s all you can do.” And we all know that marketing is marketing is marketing, regardless of what industry you’re in, but he was absolutely right that you can get pigeonholed.
So, I made the shift over to B2B, specifically with WIKA, about five and a half years ago, and it’s been really fun marrying kind of the experiences that I had on the B2C side with learning about so many industries and products that… I mean, some I didn’t even know existed before I started working at WIKA, so that’s been a challenge, but in a really fun way.
Carman Pirie: I must say I think that almost every manufacturing marketer I’ve ever spoken to has uttered the words, “You know, there’s parts of this that I didn’t even know existed before I did this job.”
Jessica Woodside: Exactly, like for example, I had no idea that power companies use sulfur hexafluoride as an insulator, and that it needs to be monitored and dehydrated, but now I do, and we have an entire division that just provides products and services for that. So-
Jeff White: This is why we’re all so fun at parties, because we have that knowledge.
Jessica Woodside: Yeah. Everybody wants to hang out with us, right?
Jeff White: I know. They just have no idea. They think we want to work for Apple and Nike. No, man. Complex chemicals is where it’s at.
Jessica Woodside: Exactly. I mean, I will say, especially with all of the craziness of the last few years, it’s been nice working for a company that provides something that is necessary to the infrastructure of so many industries. It definitely provides a little bit of job security.
Carman Pirie: I think that’s a great point. And it’s one thing I wish more marketers would think about, frankly, when they consider maybe B2B manufacturing versus other marketing alternatives, is that sometimes there seems to be some economic categories where it seems like you’re marketing fluff a bit more, I suppose. And maybe I’m biased.
Jessica Woodside: Maybe a little. Maybe a little.
Carman Pirie: Jessica, look, let’s jump into this, because I want to understand what you’re doing to understand a more anonymous customer journey. I think so many marketers were experiencing that, and some haven’t put words to it yet, to really think about what it means to move a target account from being genuinely unaware through to problem aware, solution aware, brand aware, et cetera. And so, I guess talk to me about that path at WIKA and kind of what you observed when first joining and what you’re trying to figure out.
Jessica Woodside: Yeah. So, like I said, I joined WIKA about five and a half years ago, and we had already been in some of our market segments moving towards a more account-based marketing and sales approach and seeing success in those particular segments. Our mobile machine segment is a great example, where we had a very laser-focused strategy. We knew what accounts we were going after. We knew what products we had for those markets, and we were seeing continuous revenue growth year over year when marketing, and sales, and our market segment or our strategy leader were all aligned, right?
So, 2019, we were already kind of, “Hey, this is working in some markets. We want to expand it to others.” We had realized we wanted to start working with an account-based marketing vendor to give us a little bit more insight into what was happening on our website. And then, of course, we all know what happened in 2020, so prior to the pandemic, even though we were making or starting to kind of dip our toe in and make this shift to thinking a little bit more strategically about our marketing approach, we were still exhibiting at like 50-plus trade shows a year. And that was our primary method of lead generation. That was the primary method of lead generation that we were tracking. We had forms on our website, but we weren’t really tracking them.
We also had a lot of direct links to our info at WIKA dot com email on our website, which meant that once somebody clicked on that, we had no idea whether they came to us through the site or not. So, we were definitely in our infancy, and COVID really threw us into the deep end, and we suddenly had a lot more time on our hands because we weren’t exhibiting at 50-plus trade shows in a year. And we had to figure out how to continue to fill the funnel without that primary method, right?
So, we started a couple of new vendor relationships. One with Intralinks, who I describe them as an external CRM. They give us visibility into what happens to inbound leads once we send them out to our distribution channel. Like a lot of manufacturing companies, a pretty strong percentage of our business in the U.S. does go through our channel, right? And then we also started working with Demandbase, and the big things that they did for us, of course, were deanonymizing traffic on our website on the account level, which obviously gave us insight into what our target accounts were doing. It also gave us insight into what accounts were interested in us that we had no idea were interested in us, which in some markets, there were a lot of really cool surprises there.
We started tracking all inbound leads on all of our forms on our website, where in the past we were really only tracking forms from our distributor locator. We redesigned our website and that was just already scheduled to happen, but we went to a new content management system, and with the redesign removed most of those direct links to our email address, forcing people to fill out forms so we actually know where these inbound leads are coming from now, right?
So, took a step back, made a lot of process changes internally, including some of those, and then started looking at our strategy. And we go to market in so many different markets that… and I think a lot of manufacturing marketers face this, that we have different product lines that apply to this market over here but don’t apply at all to that market over there, so we aligned with our sales team and our market segment team to build out target account lists for each of our market segments. Some of them were a little more mature and knew exactly who they were looking for. Some of them are new markets to us and we were using some of the insights from Demandbase to build up those account lists.
So, we went from, “Hey, we know we want to target maybe these five accounts,” and then we started learning about who was showing intent and who was showing interest in this already and are able to build the account lists a little bit more. I know I’ve been talking a lot-
Carman Pirie: That was a really good deep dive, though, and kind of I think it did help set the table. I was like, “I’m soaking this up.” But I want to pick on that lead attribution comment just a little bit because I feel like there’s something that happens in the marketing maturity path for a number of manufacturing organizations and indeed manufacturing marketers, and that you go from a point of view of not knowing where the heck a lead comes from to building out an infrastructure which enables a level of lead attribution, and then all of a sudden you start turning your attention higher up in the awareness funnel where that attribution often gets fuzzier again.
And I feel like sometimes you start doing that just at the time that you’ve been beating the drum for X number of months or years on the lead attribution angle. So, as a marketer, sometimes it feels like you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth, even though you know you’re not. I guess how is the organization… How have you navigated that?
Jessica Woodside: That’s a really good question. So, when it comes to attribution, our primary focus was that I knew deep in my soul that people were coming to our website, clicking on that link, and sending direct emails to us. We had hundreds of direct emails coming to that email address every day, and I knew that a percentage of them, maybe even a big percentage, were coming directly from the website. So, I do want to be able to take credit I guess is the right way to say that. I do want to be able to take credit for the fact that this person converted on our website, but further back in the funnel I’m not so worried about what tactic or tactics actually brought them there, right? Because like we were saying, the customer journey is usually anonymous up until the point where you’re in their final consideration set, or even until the point where they’re ready to buy depending on what the product or service is, right?
So, Carman, if you saw one of my digital display ads, and then maybe you also saw an organic post on LinkedIn, or you searched for industrial pressure gauges and we popped up in organic results, or in our Google ads, or whatever, you’re probably interacting with us through multiple tactics before you raise your hand and say, “Hey, I’m Carman. I want five gauges.” And I’m just not worried about exactly which tactics you touched before you actually converted on my site.
Carman Pirie: Jessica, I’m picking up what you’re putting down. I like this. But-
Jessica Woodside: Of course, there’s a but.
Carman Pirie: Well, I think that there’s a number of people that operate through a bit of a mental framework that says we’re going to be able to measure the effectiveness of a wide variety of these marketing executions so that we can decide where we’re going to double down-
Jessica Woodside: Absolutely.
Carman Pirie: … and what we’re going to do more of, and what we’re going to do less of, so-
Jeff White: Do you think that there’s a level of scale here where it matters less? Like you’re getting hundreds of emails to the info@ account daily. If you’re getting 100 contact us conversions in a four-month period for a lot of manufacturers, that’s a lot. So, is it the case that it matters less because you are very successful at converting people? And it’s purely a scale related thing? Or is it just that it really doesn’t matter to focus on a particular type of content because it seemed to perform better?
Carman Pirie: Or alternatively, I was going to just simply say are we just measuring the success of those awareness pieces differently and just not having lead attribution as one of the ways we measure those successes?
Jessica Woodside: Those are so many great questions.
Carman Pirie: All at once. This is what you get from giving us that deep introduction.
Jessica Woodside: All at once.
Carman Pirie: Now we’re dishing it back.
Jeff White: I still have another one I’m going to go back to.
Jessica Woodside: So, that’s where I think a couple things come into play first. You know, prior to the last few years the vast majority of our marketing budget was going towards executing live events. We have really worked to diversify our spend. I don’t love putting all of your eggs in one or two tactic baskets, right? That’s where I want to spend a little bit here, a little bit there, a little bit here, so that there’s not one tactic that’s the majority of your spend. Two, we have spent a lot of time working on looking at metrics, benchmarking, and looking at what leading indicator metrics we can track from each tactic that aren’t vanity metrics. You know, one of the best examples is… And then when we talk about tactic attribution, Google ads actually does do a great job with their conversion tracking because they want to take credit for all of your conversions, right?
But with Google ads, we shifted from looking at click volume and clickthrough rate and started looking at engagement rate on our site from people who came to us through ads and at conversion tracking. We made sure that our conversion tracking was as robust as possible and we were tracking all form fills, all shop purchases, all of those things that could be attributed to Google ads. But then we’re also looking at, “Okay, once somebody clicks on a Google ad, if they leave immediately that’s a waste of our money, right?” But if you click on an ad and you have a meaningful engagement with our website, even if you don’t fill out a form right then, you’re that much closer. We’re helping to speed up the velocity of our pipeline at that point.
So, it’s finding those metrics that actually tell a story and aren’t just, “Oh, we had this many impressions.” Great. What did it actually do? “Oh, we had this many clicks, but then they all left the website.” Well, then that doesn’t really do anything for you, right? So, it’s a combination of conversion tracking where we can, and then reporting out on metrics on the leading side that actually do tell a story.
Carman Pirie: Jeff, this is the part where I wait for you to ask that second question you said you had.
Jeff White: Just making sure you didn’t have a follow-up on that. But I do want to go back to one thing that you mentioned as you were going through that kind of pre-redesign and pre-implementation of some of this technology. You talked about how you never used to forward on any leads to distributors that didn’t kind of come through that dealer finder. Just kind of like ignored a big-
Jessica Woodside: Not necessarily true, but our internal process was clunky. We’ll just put it that way. So, we have cleaned up the process and made it smoother so it’s easier for us to get more leads out to our channel.
Jeff White: Right. Okay. Yeah. I think what I was interested in there is just because this does kind of point towards where you’re going now, where you can begin to understand people who aren’t necessarily at that sales ready phase, like, “Hey, tell me where the closest distributor is to my location,” kind of thing. That is a very obvious sign of being ready to buy and if you were to forward the other things that are certainly further back, or other information you’re finding out about who’s visiting your website, they wouldn’t know what to do with it. So, it’s interesting kind of how you’ve chosen to… Yeah, how you were doing that and then how you’ve kind of evolved that process, as well.
Jessica Woodside: Yeah. And actually, we’re at a point now where like I said, we spent a lot of time building foundational target account lists with our market segment folks. We work really hard to be aligned with our strategy leaders on the market segment side and with our sales leadership, because if you’re not aligned with sales, what good is what you’re doing actually gonna come to, right? If everybody’s not rowing in the same direction, how is that really gonna help you?
But one of the things that we’re looking at now and that Demandbase also enables us to do, which I really should be on their payroll I feel like at this point, is they give us the ability to build out digital display campaigns based on journey stage. So, that’s our next evolution, is that we’re looking at journey stages and we’re saying, “Okay, these accounts that aren’t aware of us at all, let’s just deliver them some of our thought leadership content.” You know, we have a huge content library. If you’ve checked out our site, you know it’s a giant website. We’ve got something like between 400 and 500 blog posts that pretty much all of them are still relevant. So, let’s deliver them some thought leadership content and establish ourselves as thought leaders when it comes to how do you choose a pressure gauge, or how do you do this, or how do you do that.
People or accounts who are a little further down the funnel, we’ll serve them some more specific content all the way down to that point like you’re talking about when they’re showing all of the signs, they’re showing all the intent signs that they’re ready to buy or they’re ready to contact us. Let’s start delivering them ads that push them to either our distributor locator or our contact forms. So, that’s kind of the next step in that account-based experience evolution.
Carman Pirie: I’m wondering, as you’ve begun to understand more of what that customer journey, kind of the dark part of the funnel, as you start to shine a bit of a light on it, what have been some of the bigger surprises? I think you had mentioned you were surprised at just some of the companies that were showing up at the site that already were displaying interest. I’m curious if there’s been any other aha moments along that path?
Jessica Woodside: Yeah. I think that’s a really good first example, is in markets where we maybe haven’t traditionally focused, or we’re starting to focus more, we started seeing like, “Oh, all of these heavy hitters in these markets are already on our website and already engaging with our content. We just need to point them in the direction of where we want them to go. We just need to point them in the direction of the products that are more applicable to their market,” right?
I think the other thing that has been interesting for us has been the sales insights that we get from that deanonymization that our sales team is able to use those insights to both inform their conversations and to validate their conversations, right? So, if a salesperson has a meeting with a target account that they’re maybe trying to cross-sell, and then the next week they get their reporting that shows them what their target accounts have been up to and they can say, “Oh, that account who I met with last week is looking at the products that I was talking to them about. That’s great. That means that it’s landing, they’re interested, and I know how to move forward from here.” Where in the past, yeah, you’d have a great conversation, but you really have no idea afterwards whether that actually landed. Or at least not immediately afterwards.
Carman Pirie: That makes sense to me.
Jessica Woodside: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: I’m curious too, as you begin to explore really customized advertising by journey stage, et cetera, to what extent are you integrating kind of those offline touchpoints into that?
Jessica Woodside: So, we’re working on that. You know, we had talked about the other day that we have started doing live events again, and you know, we’re approaching live events and shows a little bit differently. We’re being a little more selective about where we actually exhibit and when we do exhibit. Our schedule is not just an in-booth schedule anymore. We also have a schedule for walking the show and our salespeople will go into a show knowing, they’ll look at the floor map and say, “All right, I want to make sure that I hit this, this, this, and this target.” Because ultimately, especially as a components provider, or a service provider, a lot of the target accounts that you’re trying to reach at a trade show are also exhibiting at the trade show. So, the people that you want to be talking to may well be in their booth and not walking around looking for you. So, that’s one way that we’ve tried to kind of evolve our approach.
We’re also experimenting with different types of more intimate events. I know I told you all the other day, and I still fully stand by this, there is nothing I hate more than standing in a trade show booth and just waiting to see who shows up. I hate it. It feels pointless to me, especially when your strategy is so focused on these are our targets, this is where we’re trying to go. Why does that make sense?
Jeff White: Yeah. That’s more like watching me play pool than actually calling the shot.
Jessica Woodside: Exactly. Exactly.
Jeff White: You know exactly what I mean.
Carman Pirie: Jessica hasn’t even seen you play pool, and she knows you suck by that comment alone, you see?
Jessica Woodside: Oh yeah. No, I’m fully aware of exactly what I’m dealing with, and I am terrible, but I am confident I could beat you now.
Jeff White: You’re on. I don’t know what trade show we’ll meet at, but there’s gonna be one of them.
Jessica Woodside: If I’m there.
Carman Pirie: Your comment is quite well taken. In a time when there’s so much of that marketing enables us to kind of push towards our target accounts in a more aggressive way, standing there at a trade show booth and waiting for them to drop by seems decidedly passive by comparison.
Jeff White: The antithesis. Yeah. How are you… I love the idea of being more active about that and a bit more of an offensive play than a defensive one. What are you arming the sales team with as they stroll the halls of the trade show booth floor with their target account list in hand? And how are they reporting back on it and leveraging that later?
Jessica Woodside: That is a great question. So, we do work with… We have so many vendors. We do work with a lead retrieval vendor, and it is app based, so we have a set of iPad Minis that we send to every trade show, but a lot of our sales team just prefers to download the app on their personal device, and then even when they’re out walking the show they can very easily scan people’s badges right then and there. And for every show we work with a show champion on, “Okay, what content do we want to make available?” And we have a whole content library for each show, whether it’s linked to blog posts, or data sheets, or brochures, or landing pages, or videos, so that as you’re having your conversation out on the show floor and you say, “Oh, actually we have a really great video about that. I’ll make sure I send it to you.” And you can scan their badge, say, “I want to send them this, this, this, and this,” and they’ll get an email almost immediately.
And then they’ll also be added, obviously, to our generated leads list that we then follow up with after the show.
Jeff White: What a great way to get buy-in, to have permission to contact them.
Jessica Woodside: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. And you want to make it seamless, right? And selfishly I don’t want them to come back to me with a stack full of business cards or a handful of business cards, because I don’t want to input them, and I don’t want to pay somebody to input them. That’s insane.
Carman Pirie: I wonder… I love the progress that’s been made, and I think for some people they look at five and a half years and it seems like forever, and for others it seems like they’re just getting started. I’m really impressed with how much has been accomplished here in that time and I’m guessing as seamless as you make it sound that there has to have been at least one gotcha along the way. So, I’m just curious, Jessica. If somebody else is heading down a similar path are there any kind of dark corners you can point out in advance? Is there anything that kind of tripped you up?
Jessica Woodside: Yeah. I think the biggest piece of advice that I can give to anyone is to find the people in your organization who are already at least sort of bought in and start with them. You’re not gonna convert the non-believers until you have some results, right? So, we’ve definitely spent a little bit of time beating our head against that wall and then realized, “Hey, these guys over here are already headed down this path. Let’s help enable them. Let’s work together hand in hand with this sales team, or this person, and build out a strategy that proves to be effective.” And once you start that ball rolling, then other people in the organization start paying attention, and raising their hands, and, “Hey, I want this. This looks really cool. How do I get to do this?”
So, that was probably the biggest learning is that if people are too far from being convinced about a new strategy, find the people who aren’t too far and start with them.
Carman Pirie: I think that’s fantastic advice. I’m reminded of an open space facilitator that I know. And to call him just an open space facilitator is kind of I think not giving the devil their due, but one of the pieces of advice he always talks about is that the power of living a life of invitation. If you go where you’re invited, the energy kind of matches up a little bit better, right? And I’ve never really quite thought about it in that way applied to navigating the corporate world until you just said that.
Jessica Woodside: Yeah. Exactly. I mean, it’s similar philosophy, right? Find the places where you know that you can get some quick successes and then make sure that you are shouting about those successes from the rooftops and other people will become interested.
Carman Pirie: Jessica, I think it’s been awesome to have you on the show. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us thus far. It’s been fantastic.
Jessica Woodside: Oh, thank you. I appreciate it.
Jeff White: Really enjoyed having you on. Thanks.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring, with Carman Pirie and Jeff White. Don’t miss a single manufacturing marketing insight. Subscribe now at kulapartners.com/thekularing. That’s K-U-L-Apartners.com/thekularing.
Jessica WoodsideDirector of Marketing, WIKA
Jessica has a diverse educational background, holding a B.A. from University of North Carolina at Asheville in Literature and Dance, and an MBA in Marketing from J. Mack Robinson College of Business. She has been a creative problem-solver in the marketing industry for over 14 years, working with both B2C and B2B brands. She specializes in marketing strategies that integrate both digital and traditional tactics, creating engaging content, and producing measurable, tangible results. When she’s not working or honing her marketing skills, Jessica is a voracious reader, hiking fiend, decidedly non-professional dancer, hot yoga enthusiast, and over-protective cat mom.