Six Key ABM Lessons: What E2open Learned in 2020

ABM planning

When the world turned upside down in 2020, the E2open marketing team had to think quickly about how to pivot their company’s account-based marketing (ABM) plans. Annika Helmrich, Director of Field Marketing, and Kathy Mammon, Director of Marketing Communications and Marketing Operations, shared the lessons they learned along the way in their session at the B2B Sales & Marketing Exchange in October.

Here are the six key ABM lessons they learned that may help you with your own ABM program.

1. Shorten Webinar Execution Cycles

When physical events went on pause, the E2open team was well aware they were competing in a virtual event space with many players. They got to work examining their execution checklist to find places to optimize their virtual events.

Instead of performing a long list of steps that couldn’t be scaled, they decided to create a rinse-and-repeat model. The model included adding more channels, creating new templates and a rehearsal guide, and identifying clear lines of who owns what in each webinar.

Then they created a series of 30-minute weekly webinars highlighting content that mattered to key personas. Attendance rates climbed, and execution time decreased from two months to two weeks.

Takeaway: If your team wants to scale webinars as part of your ABM program, focus on:

  • Reaching out to a few personas. Your webinars should reach the right people at the right time. Define the personas for each webinar. By focusing on one or two, you’ll ensure your invitation goes to people who’ll make time in their calendars to join.
  • Creating content that matters. Pick topics that resonate right now with your personas. This could include building resiliency in a crisis or managing uncertainty with your customers. Leverage your network of internal and external thought leaders and subject matter experts to present on those topics.
  • Developing your own rinse-and-repeat model. Create templates, including presentation decks, scripts and emails. Ensure the templates clearly delineate who owns what.

2. Increase Email Conversion Rates

Another challenge E2open faced was getting their message heard in full inboxes. The team compared their work to industry benchmarks and found opportunities to improve their open rates and click rates.

They looked at getting more creative with subject lines—changing preheader text, testing out different sender options and narrowing down the audience to increase open rates. They used less text, made it more exciting, created captivating new header text and improved their CTAs to boost click rates.

As a result, they reduced the number of emails they sent from 76,000 to 171 and earned higher open rates, click-through rates and click-to-open rates.

Takeaway: If your team wants to optimize its email strategy as an ABM tactic, focus on:

  • Testing. Perform A/B tests for subject lines. Experiment with dynamic data and tokens in preheader text. Review how emails perform with different “from” lines. Send emails at different days and times to understand the optimal time to send emails.
  • Optimizing your email text. Positivity in their emails increased conversion rates by 22%. Experiment with text about exciting new features, learning new tools or solving problems.
  • Narrowing your audience. If you’re sending thousands of emails and not getting results, it’s time to narrow down your targets. Home in on specific personas and pain points to see higher rates across the board.

3. Test Content Engagement Strategies

The E2open team realized that to increase their success, they needed hyper-personalized ABM content journeys. This work involved picking key accounts, identifying key personas and determining what channels to use and when before creating that content.

But that was only the first part. The team knew putting that hyper-personalized journey into action would require more time and experimentation to find the ideal combination of personas, tactics, messaging and measurement. They’re still experimenting to perfect this combination.

Takeaway: If you’re looking to optimize your content engagement strategies, focus on:

  • Aligning with your sales team. Before executing on any work, marketing and sales need to agree on account selection criteria and SLAs. This ensures each organization moves toward the same goals with each other, not against each other. This also ensures that your buyers receive the right messaging at each buying stage.
  • Reducing form friction. How do you measure user engagement with your content without requiring users to fill in forms for every piece of content? Revisit your gating strategy. Work with your sales team to decide which assets should always be gated, which should sometimes be gated and which should never be gated, and stick to that plan.
  • Ensuring you have a strong database foundation. Your database is full of contacts who’ve been nurtured and have intent to buy. The challenge is ensuring you can easily find those contacts and that your technology can support you sending contacts through a repeatable, scalable process. Review your database processes to identify potential areas of improvement.
6 ABM lessons
Image courtesy of E2open

4. Combat Declining Attendance

As marketing teams continue to rely on virtual events, they face a new challenge: webinar fatigue.

The E2open team saw that after attendance rates initially went up, they started declining again as attendees became webinar-weary. This required the team to rethink how they kept attendees hooked not just during the presentation, but afterward. They looked at such options as on-demand webinars, supplementary content and personalized content from the presenter.

The team also decided to stop doing things that didn’t work. When they realized that “sorry we missed you” weren’t helping, they looked at other options, such as LinkedIn Live, to give attendees another option to join webinar programs. Their efforts paid off with rebooted improvement in attendance rates.

Takeaway: If your marketing team wants to combat webinar fatigue, focus on:

  • Ensuring you have the right content and audience. You may have a weary audience, but you need to rule out that declining rates aren’t due to the wrong content or because you’re reaching out to the wrong people. Review your ABM content and personas with your sales team to see if either needs to change.
  • Keeping your audience hooked after the webinar. Test different options, including on-demand versions of the webinar, sending them related content to consume and sending personalized messages from presenters.
  • Stop doing things that don’t work. People can stand only so many “sorry we missed you” emails. Engage differently. Perhaps another platform would better suit your audience needs right now, like E2open found with LinkedIn Live. Explore and experiment.

5. Think Inside the (Mail)Box

E2open wanted to change their direct mail tactics for the ABM program, so they asked field marketing what to do and how to execute. This collaboration helped the team get information about how to make an impact, reach people who weren’t in the office and identify the best ways to track success with a mailer.

Using that input, they emailed five to 10 key buyers to get current addresses for video mailers. The message came from someone the buyers already knew and included copy that let buyers know the address would only be used once. They included hyper-personalized messaging within the video mailer with a CTA.

E2open reached buyers in a new way and tested new tactics to accelerate the sales cycle.

Takeaway: If your team is looking to optimize direct mail tactics as part of ABM, focus on:

  • Getting input from the field. Your field marketing team has direct contact with buyers. They know what buyers are looking for so you can provide the most value and make an impact. They can also get the information you need from buyers to send something via direct mail.
  • Reaching a small number of buyers. It’s hard to hyper-personalize message for dozens or hundreds of buyers. Start with a handful of key decision makers, test things out, refine your processes and then consider scaling.
  • Including a CTA that helps you measure success. You’ve put all this effort into your mailer, so make sure your CTA is strong. For example, your direct mailer could include a CTA encouraging the buyer to schedule a meeting or a demo, and you provide a QR code the buyer can take a picture of with their phone that takes them to personalized hub you can track. Don’t forget to track the package so you know when they’ve received it and you can reach out to follow up. Another option is the dynamic QR code, which are faster to scan, editable and trackable, and can help boost engagement.

6. Foster Team Cross-Functionality

E2open realized they needed to improve internal collaboration to increase brand awareness and expand their footprint with existing clients. This required partnering and aligning with other organizational teams and functioning across channels and touches.

The team focused on project timelines, defining the KPI process before campaigns began and ensuring everyone could track campaign success. They created a foundation for cross-functionality that can be replicated and scaled.

Takeaway: If you’re looking to improve your ABM functionality across your organization, focus on:

  • Developing project timelines. Timelines ensure accountability and alignment across field marketing, digital ads, marketing ops, product marketing, copywriting and design. Ensure your timelines are easy to follow. You want to be able to track deadlines and know when to step in if a project is going off-track.
  • Defining KPIs before campaigns begin. Work with teams to decide what KPIs are most important for your goals. KPIs can span across brand awareness, demand gen, quality, quantity, clients, prospects and pipeline development.
  • Easily tracking campaigns. Whether you use SFDC, Marketo or Engagio, ensure key players within teams can track how campaigns are progressing and performing.

When your marketing team is looking to optimize its ABM plans, it can be difficult to know where to begin. By focusing on these six key ABM lessons, you’ll ensure your ABM program will target the right personas with the right content at the right time.

The best-laid ABM plans rely on great content. Learn how to create compelling content at scale from seven experts in our E-book Maximizing ABM Success, and see how Assurant built a successful ABM program around outstanding content.

Toni Boger

As a Content Strategist at Content4Demand, Toni Boger partners with clients to build successful content strategies that empower their digital marketing objectives at all stages, from ideation and creation through execution and promotion. She has a decade of experience in B2B content strategy and development across several industries. Outside of helping clients take their content to the next level, you’ll find Toni learning how to paint, reading a good book, taking aerial arts classes at circus school and watching classic films.


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