ABX Can Help B2B Through Uncertain Times

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What to do now, in this “new normal” for B2B marketers? That question will power digital transformations even in a post-COVID-19 world, according to speakers at Adobe Summit, which for the first time was all digital and held online.

Keynote speakers were optimistic about the future of enterprise marketing, noting that the changes brought on by current shutdowns and adjustments in operations will accelerate the evolution of B2B marketing from a lead-generation engine to an all-around account-based experience (ABX).

Opening the session, Sarah Kennedy, VP, global marketing for Adobe Experience Cloud, reminded marketers that constraints can breed creativity. “As we go forward, we have to get real,” she said. “We’re trying to define what this digital-first—digital-only—path forward looks like.”

One reality being driven home is that marketing needs to be an engine of growth for the enterprise it serves, Kennedy said. Marketers must be operationally focused: “CEOs first, marketers second,” she said. All marketing decisions, metrics, and executions have to be made with a whole-company mindset.

Marketing is already heeding the call, noted Nnamdi Nwoke, head of US growth marketing at SAP Concur. Enterprise marketers also have to take more operational and strategic responsibility for the businesses in which they operate, even adding some of that business expertise within their teams, said Nwoke, whose team focuses on new business.

“Continue to become the partner that more and more stakeholders across the enterprise can lean on,” he said. During this emergency, “it’s increasingly important for marketing to continue to have the skills that the business needs.”

Enterprise marketers also must learn to speak the language of the business they serve, Nwoke said. “Abandon all the marketing speak and marketing geek-speak … and really start to communicate in the way the business needs,” he advised.

A ‘Career Catalyst’

In the midst of so much marketing technology, it is still important to focus on the people involved. Optimizing their experiences is what matters most, Kennedy said. Marketing can be a “career catalyst” for enterprise clients.

“That is our currency in the experience economy, where the B2B buyer is simply just another person. Not a screen, not a company, not an entity—a person trying to succeed,” she said. Relationships are built where ROI can be measured, she said: “It’s what gives your customers the confidence in you.”

“It’s all about the power of human connection,” Kennedy said. Marketers are all about the power of experiences, but account-based marketing still needs to evolve into a comprehensive account-based experience system.

Adobe serves as an example of this transformation journey, breaking from the traditional lead funnel to an account-based experience approach, said Marissa Dacay, senior director of global enterprise marketing at the company. Adobe had to transform its lead-generation engine to “a true cross-channel ABX engine,” she said, and its biggest learning was that “ABX is not, and cannot be a tactic or an end result. It has to be a strategy.”

Adobe’s marketing organization learned to “co-own the quota with the field” as well as the patterns of engagement that help close a deal, Dacay said. The group now analyzes over 2,000 attributes across accounts “to make engagement predictable when it comes to creating an opportunity and to closing a deal,” she said.

Any company that succeeds in the future will have put ABX front and center during these difficult times, Kennedy said. The winners will have a strong digital platform to enable that relationship, she added.

“While the world is becoming more digital, it’s only enhancing our ability to find and connect with each other,” said Brian Glover, director of product marketing at Adobe.

For example, he noted how Honeywell Corp. profiles important accounts using machine learning and targets key personas with content curated from its digital platform using predictive filters. The company then measures all campaign activity with analytics that show which content is resonating. Glover demonstrated how a Honeywell marketer can combine e-commerce capabilities for buying and selling used aircraft parts with personalized sales conversations. A salesperson equipped with a dashboard can see the prospect’s buying activity, while predictive analytics and other tools help the salesperson engage the prospect.

Enterprise marketers need to draw a line in the sand, set goals, and reinvent themselves, said Kennedy. “Embrace what a marketing team can do to lead a recovery–and not follow it,” she said.

This period for reinvention might not have been possible under normal operations, and many enterprises are redefining what the future of digital experience will be, Kennedy said. Marketers are changing their definition of success and getting out of their comfort zone “as we cross this 2020 chasm together,” she said.

“This is where the very best of ideas and possibly the next decade of best practices are born for so many,” Kennedy said. “This is our time. Our new reality is forcing us to think differently.”