How Aprimo is building a better target customer strike-rate through ABM

Marketing tech vendor's global demand generation leader shares his journey to adopt account-based marketing and the data and mindset shift required to make it a success

Aligning sales and marketing teams and securing executive buy-in are arguably the hardest parts of adopting an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy, Aprimo’s global demand generation and ABM marketing leader says.

Uran Kabashi took the lead on rolling out Aprimo’s ABM strategy 18 months ago. It was a move aimed at improving the marketing management technology vendor’s strike rate with target global companies and lifting its brand awareness against an increasingly competitive martech landscape.

Aprimo was one of the first big players in the marketing automation space with its marketing resources management (MRM) platform. In 2011, it was acquired by Teradata and consumed into the larger vendor’s marketing applications play. However, in 2016, Teradata divested its martech assets, selling off the Aprimo offering to private equity fund, Marlin Equity Partners.

Since then, Aprimo has been working to re-establish its position as an enterprise-grade marketing management platform.

Brought on three years ago to work with marketing operations, Kabashi oversaw Aprimo’s internal marketing stack administration, based around Salesforce Marketing Cloud, plus assisted with data sets and setting up new systems and processes. During this time, he transitioned to demand gen and new business development, and discovered ABM as a concept.

Limited resources, money, and the need to get the economics of marketing right, were a few reasons why ABM made sense, he said. Another big one was Aprimo’s rather broad target customer profile: Any global company with $1 billion in annual revenue doing marketing.

“We figured if we put all our eggs in flipping the funnel and identifying target accounts, we’d have a better shot of securing appointments as well as closing them,” Kabashi told CMO. “That led to developing an ABM program.”

Getting ABM set-up

It took 3-4 months to set-up the account-based marketing program. While Aprimo achieved success in the first year, it was clear more data insight into prospective customers was needed to improve strike rates. It was at this point the team adopted 6Sense’s ABM technology offering.

“The thing missing was that extra layer of data 6Sense provides helping identify predictive demand,” Kabashi explained. “We realised if we are flipping the funnel and building a targeted account list, we needed to know more.

“What we needed was a way to understand in-bound market intent.”  

Previously, the most advanced data points Aprimo had on prospective accounts was an engagement score incorporating how engaged they were with its website, if Aprimo staff had met account contacts at events, and firmographics.

“What the intent data helped us do is move from TAM [total addressable market] to TAIM [total addressable in market],” Kabashi said.

What the 6Sense platform allows Aprimo’s ABM team to do is firstly take the right target lists to develop an ABM strategy, thin it to the most likely prospects based on intent, then prioritise campaigns to those showing the right intent signals. It does this by taking IP data and providing insights on research these accounts have been doing, such as on competitors and related keywords.

“At a core level, it helps us understand at an account-level how interested these companies are in solutions like ours,” Kabashi said.

Aprimo’s account strategy is based on the number of sales reps it has. Each rep has 25 tier-one and 25 tier-one accounts, making the total number of ABM accounts being managed about 700.

“We incentivise prioritisation of these accounts by the reps. Leads outside of tier one and tier go to the next rep. But with the 1-2 tiers, it goes straight to the assigned rep,” Kabashi said.

Supporting this approach are segments built in 6Sense. “The first thing we did is build out account views for each rep to understand their accounts, which is table stakes,” Kabashi continued.

“Another interesting view is of how many accounts are researching our competitors but not visiting the Aprimo website. We can see these and then ask why is that the case? We want to be shining more light on that dark funnel.

“We then use that segment to run display ads and campaigns to get these prospective accounts visiting our site.”

Another use case is prioritising other ABM programs, such as one-to-many and one-to-one. “Depending on what the data is telling us, we’ll prioritise differently,” Kabashi said.

Aprimo is also increasingly anticipating inbound leads early in the funnel, lining up campaigns to launch before a form is filled out.

Key measurements of success are setting appointments on target accounts, and increasing engagement with those accounts. Today, ABM to other marketing tactical spend sits at about 50/50.

“The number one thing for us is our hit rate on one-to-one programs, which are fully customised campaigns,” Kabashi said. “In 2018, we could secure appointments 17 per cent of the time with tier 1-2 clients, which is relatively good. But with 6Sense so far this year, we’re at 40 per cent.”

Mindset shift

Aprimo’s ABM approach has been in place for 18 months. The 6Sense technology went live in February. The integration was straightforward, with 6Sense offering a Salesforce connector as standard, and integration with Aprimo’s websites via tracking codes. There’s also an integration in place with Aprimo’s current Marketo marketing automation system, which is now being replaced by Salesforce Pardot, and Aprimo also uses LinkedIn Sales Navigator and the SalesLoft Cadence prospecting tool.

But as Kabashi admitted, the ABM team had to make do with the existing martech stack initially, as it took time to educate the senior leadership team and people around Aprimo on the benefits of an ABM approach.

“The hardest part was shifting the organisational mindset and helping align sales and marketing. It took a while to educate our leadership team, and people with more traditional approaches,” he said. “And it took time to see results and see the value within an ABM program. Once we showed that and the market opportunity we were missing out on, everyone was all in.

“One of the powerful things about 6Sense was being able to show to leadership data to get them further onboard.”

The platform is also continuously learning and improving data thanks to built-in artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. “The platform is taking in our account Salesforce data as well as intent data, and blending the two, so it learns from the deals you’re winning and what accounts are converting into new customers,” Kabashi said.

“It’s going through an AI learning model to understand what our best customers look like, what engagement looks like, and to surface accounts with the highest potential.”

Thanks to ABM success so far, Kabashi has secured additional investment to grow the demand gen team and has added an extra BDR. He’s also now bringing on additional ABM campaign managers as well as a sales and marketing technologist.

“The reason is we’re able to show what the market opportunity is we are missing out on,” he said. “If we know the percentage of accounts with intent, but we can only run ABM programs to target 25 per cent of then, it means 75 per cent go unknown and untouched. To close the gap, we needed additional resources and money. We’re asking our board for that additional program spend to execute these campaigns because that allows us to scale.”

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