How LeadMD CEO Justin Gray Does Account Based Marketing

June 2, 2016

Account Based Marketing Expert Justin Gray

At first blush, “account based marketing at scale” seems like an oxymoron. Account based marketing (ABM) is supposed to be the opposite of broad marketing efforts, right? Is it really ideal—or even possible—to focus on specific accounts, even individuals in those accounts, on a grand scale?

That seeming contradiction is the secret to ABM’s emergence as a viable strategy for B2B marketing. Technology makes it possible to scale up the number of accounts targeted and still deliver personalized messaging.

But don’t take our word for it. LeadMD CEO Justin Gray is one of ABM’s early adopters. Justin and the team at LeadMD have helped companies achieve incredible results with ABM. LeadMD practices what they preach, too; they rely on ABM for their in-house marketing.

We sat down with Justin to get his take on what ABM is, what it’s for, and how to get it right.

How would you define account based marketing?

Justin Gray: In our definition, account based marketing is just good marketing. If you only had one prospect to sell and market to, you would treat them with the same principles as we use for outlining ABM. What has prevented that historically is the scalability problem most companies perceive they have. Marketing is still heavily dependent on the number of hot or qualified leads that they’re generating each month. That naturally lends itself to this numbers game, trying to generate a high amount of interest and then trying to distil that down into actual interest and then to actual customers.

ABM is just aiming at a more well-defined area of that funnel. It’s about identifying your best buyers and treating those best buyers in a much more personal way. We’re focusing on not only the lead but really that account as a whole. What is the makeup of that company? What are their initiatives? How are they planning? Who’s on the buying committee? Who’s making the decision? And then we formulate the marketing based on what we learn about the account. It’s a much more laser-focused approach that eliminates a lot of waste.

What are marketing departments pursuing ABM doing differently than they were three or four years ago?

Justin Gray: They’re getting more intelligent about data. They’re taking strategies like predictive data models, and applying them to identify that high value segment within their database. The notion of an intelligent major account list is upon us. Major Accounts are a super old concept, but applying a layer of intelligence there is a new way to make that more viable.

For LeadMD, say there’s probably 5000 accounts in the world that can buy our product. Of those, the individuals that really fit our ideal customer profile (ICP) are less than 2000. And then when we really start drilling into those, we find that there is this subset that really makes sense for us to pay strong attention to.

What does LeadMD’s process look like, on a very granular basis?

Justin Gray: First, it’s finding the ideal customer profile, finding all of the buying committees within those accounts and developing buyer personas based upon them. That’s step one. Step two is making sure that my database is 100% accurate around that information I just gathered. I drop all of my major accounts there, drop all the contacts I need in each one of those organizations, to have them flagged accordingly with account personas. Then I can start going into what we call “account planning,” which is really aligning the teams that are going to sell into those individuals and understanding each account at a really detailed level.

We see the most successful organizations at ABM are having some sort of—even weekly—scrum around these accounts. What’s happening there? What’s changed? What are their initiatives and how are we going to have them meet those initiatives?

The next channel in terms of intelligence and engagement is using some of the cheap and easy tools like LinkedIn. I can build searches on LinkedIn. I can follow companies there. I can also use Google Alerts to learn what’s happening within those target companies. There are some guerilla techniques that work really well. You don’t have to go buy some multimillion-dollar platform to succeed.

Then, it’s going out to their websites and social profiles and making sure that I’m subscribed to their press and the company news. Anything that allows us to get a layer of intelligence into those target accounts.

This process will vary based on the industries you’re targeting. Some industries may not use some of the more modern areas to publish results. You may have to align a rep with someone at that account and try to mine for information the old fashion way.

It seems like marketing becomes more like sales, and maybe sales becomes more like marketing, too.

Justin Gray: Yeah, I really do think it’s the happy medium between the two, which is why it’s hard. Most of the time marketing is not customer facing unless they’re field or event marketing. That has to change under an ABM model.

You have to walk into a marketing department and say “you, over at Pepsi, what’s going on right now that we need to be responding to?”  It’s the same in sales. What content are we going to use? What’s our next event? What’s our next offer? How are we engaging this brand on multiple levels? So, I think it really does challenge both groups to think like the other and to get rid of all of the bad habits they have.

Is ABM changing the skills you look for when you’re hiring marketers?

Justin Gray: You’re looking for more entrepreneurial spirits. You’re looking for a lot of the soft skills that are not easily translated in a resume. You’re looking for people that understand that the essence of buying is trust.

Just when marketers started to think they knew the types of skillsets needed for modern day demand gen, we’re turning the dial even further. We’re saying, “Hey, the lines between sales and marketing are really blurred, and potentially you need to carry a quota on some of these accounts.”

How does LinkedIn play into your personal ABM strategy?

Justin Gray: Executive alignment is a huge play within our sales cycle. I know that if someone connects with me on LinkedIn and they have a conversation, that’s a pretty good indicator of the level of trust in that organization.

So my sales team will send me a weekly recap: Here’s the people we need you to connect with, here’s what we’re talking about. Can you jump in there, connect, reinforce the steel. That’s one of the plays within our ABM playbook.

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