/ Smarketing

How Plataformatec changed from Inbound to Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Since last year, here at Plataformatec, we shifted the way we do marketing and sales. Instead of chasing Leads through Inbound Marketing, we are investing in Accounts, due to the kind of service we offer - software consultancy for digital companies. In the next paragraphs, we will get in detail about what we have done so far.

Spoiler alert: you’ll get a reduced sales cycle, more engagement with the right persona and even your ROI might get higher, but to achieve that you need to be patient because you will start noticing these results after a long period of testing and implementation - about 6 to 12 months to see the first returns.

Source: ITSMA

Changing the Gears

Not so long ago - around 2012 to 2017 - we saw the boom of Digital Marketing and its variants (Content Marketing, Inbound, Conversional). In fact, all these frameworks and methodologies work, you just need to adapt it to your context and business momentum.

So, before we knew about ABM, we got in a very particular situation: we are in a narrow market to offer our services, and working with Inbound Marketing, to achieve the quota of MQL (Marketing Qualified Leads) was getting tougher month by month, because many of our leads worked at the same company but the person who signs the contract is just one. We knew we had to change that.

"Salespeople never talk about how many leads they’ve closed. They talk about how many accounts they’ve closed." Engagio ABM Guide Second Edition.

Both teams, Marketing and Sales, were on board to change our approach. We all started studying ABM, and weekly we had a one-hour discussion to make sure everyone was on the same page. This helped us a lot to foresee our gaps and to build our path to this new method.

First Steps

In order to succeed, we haven't left behind our Inbound activities. We're still using Marketing automation, but not thinking about MQLs anymore. Now we check if the right Account is engaging with our materials and which further steps we can take to keep them engaged in the sales process.

The processes we use to follow the ABM method here at Plataformatec are:
1 - Study our CRM database
2 - Revisiting our positioning
3 - Creating an Ideal Customer Profile
4 - Buyer Journey
5 - Personas
6 - Account Selection and Tiering
7 - Content and Channels
8 - Plays
9 - Metrics

I'll put in a few words what we have done so far in each one of the processes mentioned above. If you have any concerns on how to adapt to your business, get in touch and I will be happy to answer you!

1- Studying our CRM database
We downloaded our CRM database from 2016 to 2018 to deep understand why we had won some deals, why we had lost others and if we could find any patterns.
We identified the account business situation, pain points, sales lifecycle, services offered, competitors that we were being compared to, relationships we have built with the account and the segment the deal was part of.

2 - Revisiting our positioning
All the board and managers were involved in this process - the CEO, the Director of Marketing and Sales, Project Director, Engagement Managers and all the Marketing and Sales team. We had three workshops to discuss the best way to position our brand to our potential customers. To help us on this mission we used a framework extracted from the book Crossing the Chasm - if you haven't read the book yet, it is a good recommendation for those who are in the tech industry.


3 - Creating an Ideal Customer Profile
With our positioning ready we started defining attributes for our Ideal Customer Profile. We also outlined the characteristics of an acceptable and unacceptable profile to keep us focused on working on the right accounts. This avoided the time wasted dealing with situations that we wouldn't be able to address anyway. We built a framework in which we could evaluate the following attributes: Firmographics, Technographics, Psychographics, Business Situation, and Business and Operating Model.

4 - Building the Buyer Journey
After we gathered all the information about our ICP, we read some sales books and articles to understand how we build a Buyer Journey focused on professional services. In this case, we built our own framework based on each step of their journey to hire a software consultancy firm.

The format created was according to the figure below:


5 - Addressing our Personas
Once we did our own research on our materials and listened to our sales phone calls from the past two years, we needed to go where our personas were and interview them. I asked questions regarding how they deal with the team, what kind of marketing materials they like, what channels are more appropriate for their role, questions regarding their business situations and what they consider when hiring a software consultancy firm.
At this point, we also needed to map all the other personas that might influence the decision to contract our company.

6 - Tiering and Account Selection
The right person to help you out in this task is your Sales Manager, who has deep knowledge about which accounts would be interesting to work with. He/She is thinking about the long term commitment and the future. It will be good for your content strategy, to have an interesting business case to share with your new prospects/audience. Also in ABM, we need to categorize the accounts which will bring revenue for the company.
In the picture below you can see how Engagio recommends to tier your accounts.

Source: Guide to ABM - Engagio Ebook

Account Research: The Sales Development Representative does all the research about the account. He/She checks relevant information about the market segment, the new hiring, and the company situation; builds the org chart mapping and finding the people who will likely open the doors for us to have a meeting.

7 - Working on Content and Channels
At this point we have our Ideal Customer Profile, we understand their challenges and we know what their concerns are on each step of the buyer journey. Now we should start creating personalized and customized content that not only brings value but also builds a trustworthy relationship.

8 - Orchestrating Plays
Let's put into action everything we collected. Now we are going to the field and execute our strategy, sending the right message through the right channels and, most importantly, assuring the constancy of our touches*. There must be a multi-channel and multiple personas involved so you can track the engagement of your account.
You need to set an objective for the play, define an end date and measure all the touches. This will be important for our last topic.
*Touch: every interaction you have with the account - it can be an email, a landing page, a video, a WhatsApp message, an event, a discount coupon, etc.

9 - Checking Metrics
At Plataformatec we follow the Agile principles: "we can't improve what isn't measured". To measure the success of your plays you need to check some metrics: engagement and awareness rates, revenue, sale life cycle, account coverage and ROI of your campaigns.

Source: Guide to ABM - Engagio Ebook

It has been such a long journey, but we're still in the beginning of a game-changing process to leverage the business to a higher level. How is your company seeing ABM? Let us know your thoughts using the comments section below.

How Plataformatec changed from Inbound to Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
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