B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast
B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast

Episode 1737 · 2 months ago

3 Areas Where Agility Leads to ABM Success, with Colm Shalvey

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this replay episode, we talk to Colm Shalvey, Head of ABM at TripActions.

Conversations from the front lines of marketing. This is B two B growth. Hey, it's Friday's episode and excited that you're here with us. My name is Benji Block, host of B Two B growth, and on Fridays we share throwback episodes, and so today our featured conversation will be one that, uh, we had with column Shelby, and we're going to talk about how to gain a B M success through really three key areas that you can focus on and having agility in those areas leading to to your success. Wanted to just say if you were unaware and you're noticing a few less episodes in your feed from B Two b growth, it's because we've gone from a daily show to three episodes a week for this season as we prepare some new things, exciting things, things that I know will resonate with this audience, and so thank you for your continued, ongoing support of this show. We really do appreciate that and we're working at all times to make this the best show it can be and I want to continue to help you in your marketing efforts. So, with that being said, I hope you enjoyed this episode and that it helps fuel your innovation in your continued growth. This is our conversation with column Shall Bey on three areas where agility leads to a B M success. Enjoy. Welcome back to be to be growth. I'm Logan lyles with sweet fish media, your host for today's episode. I'm joined today by column Shelby. He is the head of a B M over at trip actions column. Welcome to the show. How's it going today? Man, it's great. It's great to be here. Thanks for having me on. Absolutely we're gonna be talking about why you need to be agile with your a b m motions and what that really looks like when you move that way with your a B M campaigns. But before that we love to get to know our guests a little bit calm so, you know, one of the things I think that tells you a lot about a person is maybe their taste in music. Is there a spotify playlist that has been your go to during this time of social distancing, isolation and quarantine during the pandemic? There hasn't, but what there has been is so I have a fourteen year old stepdaughter and she lives on Tiktok. So I have now built out my music taste to include all these songs from Tiktok. So I am, I like to say I'm very hip and cool. She disagrees, but I feel I'm very forward when it comes to my music taste at this point. I love it, man, I love that peek into your world. We're all dealing with different family dynamics, different everything these days. Um, but one thing that you are very passionate about in having a lot of experience in a B M, is that you need to be agile, you have to have a dynamic approach and nowhere or no time, I think, has that been more important than in so give us a little bit of context and why this is something that you're so passionate about as we kick off this conversation about how other marketing teams can take an agile approach to their a B M efforts. Absolutely, yeah, so, I mean a B M my journey and there has you know, I started at the really traditional end of you know, there's ten strategic accounts that next sweek right where, you know, hyper focused massive accounts. But what's really happened is, and then, as I paid attention to, is technology has allowed us to scale a B M right. So now we can reach far more accounts, you know, at a far better and more efficient rate than we ever could before. Uh, and we start to blur the line between a B M and traditional demand GM. And how do we kind of cut that? And for me that's where, you know, being dynamic and Agile has kind of, you know, become the way to go forward. Right. So, for example, a team like ours, we have commercial, mid marketing enterprise and I have very different strategies for you to those segments. But when we talk commercially, you're talking to three thousand target accounts, right, because we have a lot of reps and we have a lot of volume and there's a you know, there's a very quick turnaround there on those kind...

...of transactions. So I'm not going to go after three thousand accounts all the time. Right. It's it's inefficient, doesn't cost you know Um, and also it just doesn't make sense from a business perspective. Right. You know, even on the enterprise side we have clients that will have a two or three their contracts, right, and sometimes we will after them, sometimes we won't. But what we want to make sure we do is when an account, when you know an organization is in that buying cycling, that research cycle. How do we make sure that we maximize our impact and get in front of them right? And that's where being agile dynamic for US comes in, and we use that, you know, with the tools we have. But I mean ultimately the concept is, if you're interested in what we're selling, how do I make sure that our messaging is what you see first and foremost right and consistently across personas, etcetera, etcetera, and that's what kind of been my focus over the course of years. But I think, as you alluded to, hyper focused here in the time of Covid as, we've kind of just had to also respond to incredibly changing market conditions on literally a weekly basis. Yeah, especially being a travel focused company, with everything that's gone on this year, I'm sure that being agile beyond just a B M has been, you know, just the name of the game. It's the IT's front and Center for you guys every every day you wake up in the morning. What do you think it looks like to to be agile with your a b m campaigns versus not during kind of normal times or during the midst of a pandemic? What are some of those characteristics where you see, okay, this is, this is clues to me that there is not an agile approach to a b m within this organization. And then the flip side of that, what are some of the counterpoints where you you see, okay, they are going about it the right way, there is this agile approach to a b M. Yeah, so, just coming from my experience and what we've done. So there's two layers, right. So first of all, I'm very data driven, right. So the more data I can get the better. So for us that means when I have a platform, we use terminus for a B M platform. We integrade Bumbar, we integrate our website activity in the great sales activity. So I use all those signals as triggers. Right. So when I build an account funnel, you know, the ones that are showing no activity anywhere are off the funnel. Those are showing third party intent by a Bumbar are just starting the research phase. So I have a plan of action to go after those kind of accounts. Uh, those that are engaging on the website, right, so they're they're down to that vendor selection process. I have a very different set of tactics for there where I'm really trying to influence them and make them pick that step of filling out the form, the Demo, we use direct mail, et CETERA. And then sales activity. That's where we get a lot more you know, targeted and focus. So that's very personalized. That's one to one. You know, sometimes will have specifical landing pages built for an account. Sometimes we'll do, you know, very fancy direct mail, which we've had to pivot on that because you can't mail anything to an office these days for obvious reasons. Um. So that's kind of where we look at it from the account perspective. When I'm looking into an account, things change drastically. So we are a leading traveling and expense matching platform, right. So you know there's the traditional personas that we go after. Finance people in travel operations sometimes leads that, but as we get into Covid, all of a sudden HR NOWs involved, right, so they have a hand in the decision because all of a sudden duty of care, which was always kind of a thing that was a secondary, tertiary consideration, is primary. Right. Like when we talk about travel, we have to think about safety first. And foremost, and that's where HR and some of those people, uh people, titles, now come into play. So how do we pivot our message? How do we kind of address those folks, give them content, to give them things that add value? And that's kind of just a brief kind of overview of like how we are Agile, kind of on a going forward basis, but also how we pivot based on a se conditions that no one could have predicted. There's also what's interesting about interesting is probably too nice of a word, but what's interesting about the covid challenge, right, is it has it's not a single event, right. So when this all started happening in March Um, you know, we there's expectations within the US, and you know my family's Narrowland,...

...that this would be a month, two months, maybe three, right. But then as we've kind of gone forward, I mean that that timeline has changed, right, and now we're in this position where things are still unknown and unsure. So it's like how do we one time? You know, it's one thing to have a message that says, Hey, you're gonna be traveling in six weeks, right, you want to make sure you're ready, you're safe, you're all those things right, and that was what we wanted to make sure that we got our clients. You know, we did this for our customers, but also prospects. All of a sudden, six weeks later, it's like you're probably not traveling yet, and now okay, so here are the things that you do to put in place right. So how do you make sure that you travel management platform is ready, that you have your people on board so when they do travel they're already in the system? How do you streamline your expense process, all these kind of other things. So again, the message changes with time because we are adapting to a an event that does not have a exact horizon, right, which is again the challenge, which is why I can't you know, this is the plan for the next three quarters, right, that just isn't a feasible approach, right, you know, in today's Environ and yeah, so I would say one of those tip offs too we're not being actual is this is our plan for the next three quarters. You know, the antithesis of what you just said, and the way I kind of break it down column is you talked about being agile in three key areas. One was based on the stage of the account based on that engagement, third party engagement, direct engagement, sales engagement. So that would be one. Shifting your tactics and your messaging based on the stage there. Number two would be if your buyer persona shifts and you need to start to engage a different buyer persona that is either, you know, climbing in importance in the decision making process or new to the decision making process, like in your instance. And then third, based on market conditions and how those are changing. And nowhere has there been as much change as in this year, but even outside of a pandemic, that is something important to keep in mind. I'd like to talk a little bit more about that first one, because I think that applies whether you're in a space that's shifting so much, like you guys are in travel, or in somewhere else where the direct impact isn't being felt as much, and that's those stages. So you mentioned like not using the same tactics if they're at that third party intent kind of early stage, versus, you know, on the website, versus sales. Can you tell us a little bit of maybe where you've seen some pitfalls of using the wrong channel or the wrong messaging based on where they're at in their engagement stages there. Yeah, I mean I think so. The first thing is it's very easy to say that we should use intent, right, but what I found is it's really worth taking the time to identify what is real intent versus noise. So bomboard is a great example, right. They track literally thousands of topics and when they do an analysis for every client, which is what they do, they tell you here are the topics that your perspective customers are surging on when they before they become customers, and you will see that you'll get a hundred, two hundred different hits. There's no way that all of those are relevant, right. There's so many things that are happening at the same time. They are just and are just noise. So taking the time to identify what's real intent. So we track about fourteen topics today. You know, some of those are general topics, but then some are specific custom competitors. We also work with them to actually add our own brand as a trackable topic, which took a little while but we got that. But then so I tracked fourteen topics, but I only actually make decisions off of four right, so I take the ones that are most aligned with our business. The other ones are important but they're more tertiary. So it's like if you're showing interest in business travel management, for example, and you're showing interest in X, Y Z, that's you know, that helps the rep kind of target their message. It also helps me target my messaging when I'm saying, okay, if their business travel management and expense management, all right, this is this is a finance approach I want to kind of drill into. You. Basically look at those top four to determine their overall engagement rate, but you look at the other ten, not to determine where they're at, but to determine how do we customize the messaging based on where they're at for those those key for that you're looking at exactly totally is.

So you think of the four is kind of the those are binary. You're you're interested or not interested, and the others are how do I then message you? You know, because again, trial management. Of course we're a trial management company. All our messaging has an element of that. But how do we really tweak it to make it specific to that account and hit, hopefully, what we assume are their pain points, given their search restream, and then we kind of do the same at increasing levels of granularity down the funnel. Right. So website. What what assets are they engaging with? What pages are engaging with? From there we can extrapolate what personas are interested versus not. Um, what their pain points are, you know, are they downloading a duty of care guidebook or are they looking for how to reduce expenses? Right, and that allows us again to target what we're going to say next. And then sales. That's where I work very, very closely with the team. We use outreach from a sales enablement, from a sales outreach perspective, and I'm there every day. Right. And how do what messaging is working, what a B test for certain sequences is engaging or not, and now how do we tweak and learn, et Cetera, right, Um, you know. And then we kind of take the next step within that. We use path factors, right, for content. So, okay, now you know, this is the content hub that we're sharing with the finance persona. Within that content of what pieces are they engaging with? Right. So when we have an assumption of what finance cares about, what does the data show us. Look, okay, we need more of this, less of this. Right, this is fluff, this is not you know, and then that's kind of you know. So again the mob that the thinking model is the same. It's just what data points do I have at each stage? Just hopefully make those decisions. The other thing I've I've learned uncomfortably at times, is don't get too specific. Right, just because you think x, Y Z means I have to say exactly this. Um, it's so easy to miss the mark, right. So always kind of take that level of what is going to be most relevant to this account, to the VP of finance, but also a director, also a manager, right, because you know, we don't know exactly what level of the organization is leading the you know that research, research. So don't get way down the weeds like here is something that's just for a CFO, right, because that's an audience of one. Right, maybe two if there's a you know, an ambitious vp in there. Right. But ultimately that that's a lesson I learned where you know you have this perfect content, you think that lines of exactly what the data signals and you launch it, you push it and it has nothing right. So be aware of how the limitations of the data and also like my own biases. Just because I think it's relevant doesn't mean it is right interesting. So in this world of being so customized and so personalized, you've found that at times you can get too specific and you alienate other people within the buying committee. Are there any other things, if you guys have used path factory and other tools to look at the content consumption data, where you were surprised or you realize that maybe testing it a little bit of a different way lead to a different result, that you didn't see anything surprising, as you guys have more regularly done that, that audit and that analysis of the content consumption. Yeah, there's two things that kind of stood out in the last I would say three or six months. We have outstanding content team. Uh, you know, they do great work. But what we found is we've at times made the assumption that this is an asset that is relevant to travel managers, exclusively. Right, and what we found is travel management and people who are invested in the travel decision in the company are actually much broader than that. Also, you know, we've worked with partners and we found that, you know, something like the people who managed to travel and organizations in the US don't have travel manager in their title right. So it's like, you know, it's this kind of very flexible, you know, stakeholder situation. So we found that assets that we had lined in a certain persona are actually brought than that right. So kind of don't restrain it to okay, this is only for finances, is only for procurements, is only for HR and and some have they have life beyond that. The other that inform column. If someone recognizes that, hey, I want to test and see if this content applies to a broader set of the buying can...

...entity. What is that then change tactically for you? Before we get onto that second surprise. You know, that's a great question. And what we've done is so we've worked with commanded message around value cards and how do we align our solution with value with the problem, right, and all these kind of steps. So That's enable us to them break content down and see, okay, this actually addresses multiple areas, right, that we we assumed again it was very narrow and it's actually not. And what it enables us to do was the next step we took was we took this one asset. We built three similar assets that were specific to the problems, that were more aligned personas and allowed us then to kind of get even more granular and down, because we found okay, this broader topic actually really resonated across a lot more levels, but we needed to get a little bit deeper to give the you know, the persons download the assets the value that they're looking for. So you kind of go back up a level, revisit that piece of content and now break it into okay, we need an A, B and c version of this same content that's mostly the same but a little bit more tailored to that HR leader versus the OPS leader versus, you know, the finance leader. Absolutely, yeah, you are. And the other thing that's been incredibly helpful on that is brought in the channels, right. So taken that e book, for example, or that guide, but then when you have a Webinar you really get to see some of the feedback because of the questions that come in. We've also launched an office hour program right which is a lot more low touch, but the topics and questions that have come out of that have really guided some of the content conversations we've had internally. Right. It's like, okay, this is what people really care about. A great example is unused tickets, right, which seems like a niche, you know, specific thing for a travel manager. It actually resonated all the way up to CFO level because in certain accounts, you know, that's hundreds of thousands of dollars, right. That's a real impact on the balance book. So we we found that we got that question a lot and then we really dove into that and gave you know, a lot more detail there. We released a couple of assets specifically by that topic. You know, we ran some more webinars with third parties. So that was a great example of like taking an asset and then all of a sudden, within six day weeks, that has new life across multiple channels and multiple persons. Yeah, I love that. So you mentioned one of the things that was surprising was the content had a broader appeal. If you notice that, those are some of the things you want to do about it. What was the other thing that you mentioned was surprising, as you guys have dug into the data on the content, what was aligned with decision makers versus influencers? And, as you as we use full circle to really track the funnel. We also used terminus account help to kind of see all the touches within an account and to actually see how many times a certain asset was involved in how many deals, versus what assets were aligned with the specific person who was making a dubuying decision. Right. So it actually, you know, it opened up the you know, the window of like, oh, even though the numbers on this are high, for example, in terms of volume, it doesn't actually really impact deals the way we expected to, whereas this one, which is a much narrow focus and, you know, we actually thought was underperforming, it is actually an essential piece of, you know, of the buying decisions. Right. So each of these deals had this asset along that person's journey in some way or fashion, even though the account was a tenth of what, you know, our top performing asset, which kind of brought people on the top of the funnel. But a lot of those people are just looking to inform themselves and that's one of the things we we we pride ourselves on, right. It's something we want to do, is we offer content and resources to the industry. That the whole you know, we've we've kind of put ourselves a leader there, but that also gives you a lot of false falseless right in terms of like are you interested or you just interested in the industry? Both are valuable, but not for us when it comes to making a sale. Yes, so basically, what I hear you're saying there is you want to kind of divide out the consumption of that asset based on the actual persona and at the end of the day, were they a decision maker or or an influencer? Because that is going to help you determine was there just engagement on that content or was there true deal influence happening because of that content? No, great question, and we we looked at both. So netline, as a consentdication...

...ender, we worked very closely with and what they do, which I love, Um, they really break down the consumption of each asset by the persona that actually consumed it. Right. So we saw, okay, these are assets resonate with these levels of an organization. On the flip side, you know, what you kind of alluding to your part of your question is what ones were actually part of the process and the journey for that, you know, for that deal cycle, Um, and that's where we saw, you know, this specific e book in our example seemed to always be consumed at least by a VP or CFO at some point in the buying cycle before sale. Right. So it's like this was a crucial touch point where that was grove their interest, that was shared with them, Um, and they consumed it and it also kind of drove the conversation forward, right, because good assets ask as many questions as they answer, right. So it's like, Oh, this is what we can do, like, I want to learn more about the how do you do that? You know, how do you make that work the way you're describing Um, and that's where we kind of found that they were a crucial part of the you know, and we have when we talk about attribution, we have obviously multi touch as well as the direct line of attribution, and the is are the ones who actually fell into direct line attribution. Right. This is a decision maker that actually touched this asset on the way to a deal. Yeah, yeah, really interesting. So I think there's a number of number of things that that you share there and how marketing teams can look at the content consumption to a deeper level once you kind of have these things in place. One of the things you mentioned earlier column that I thought might be applicable to folks who maybe are earlier on in their a B M journey than where you guys are at trip actions. Obviously you've got a lot of tech in place. You're going deeper and and you've kind of figured out all right, this is level one of kind of looking at the data. It sounds like you guys are three or four levels deep. One of the challenges that I know everybody is facing, even if they're somewhat simple or early in their a B M motion, is incorporating some sort of direct mail, and you mentioned the challenges there that everybody is kind of facing. Have you guys come up with any creative solutions to the direct mail component then, since you can't mail stuff to offices today? No, it's uh a laugh because I mean it's been the baning of my existence over the last three months. So we had a really impactful direct mail program right. It was, you know, it really was. It was generating more pipeline than, you know, most of other channels other than, you know, the traditional paid search, digital kind of things. Um, and obviously that went away in March. It just turned off like a light switch. So we actually tested ten different iterations of digital direct mail. Right. So we use two vendors. We use SANDOZA and we use snappy, and both have different kind of experiences. But we tested everything, you can name it, and what we've found is so email has become a really convolutory channel right now. I mean there's so much email going and everyone lives in from the computer, but it's it's actually harder to get through there. So what we what were we found successes, is integrating direct mail into the sales communications, right, so it's not a separate thing. At the same time in parallel. It's it's truly one to one. I want to talk to you, you know, I realize your time is important. Um, we try to be, UM, as empathetic as possible. Right, like, give you work from home, right. How can we make that easier? Right? And you know, certain things are you know, we've through snap, we offered work from home gifts. Right, so there's a lumbar pillow, there's microphones, there's headphones, I mean all these things that people all of a sudden need that we want to kind of help with. On on the Sendoza side, it's you know, do you want Um, I know for me, and again this is my own bias, like cooking is the worst, right, when you're cooking every day, you've got kids, you're just all these things. So it's like if you give mecks on Uber eats or door dash, like that's real value. I appreciate that. That actually saves me time. And you know the way we communicative, that is, Hey, we realize your time is important. We would love to chat with you thirty minutes. We we think that you, you know, are solution lines up to you. Well, how about we give you some time back by by a delivery service so you can spend that time with us and you know and we have a good conversation. So those are the kind of things that we found at work. And again, I would love to see, like I...

...woke up on March thirtieth and said this is the way we're going to do it. But we we tried so many different angles and tests and tries Um, and just with almost zero success. Right. I mean it was it was truly just churning out ideas and losing them. And again we're still testing and making things better, but that's kind of where we are today. And now we're like, okay, within that framework, how do we enhanced that? Make that better, make that more relevant, more empathetic, more, you know, personable to the person that we're trying to reach out to? Yeah, I mean I think it's a spot on solution there. So are you guys sending those as the sales you mentioned? It's more once their sales engaged and it's a tool that the sales team can use. Is it sending those via email or salesperson literally saying hey, what's your home addressed? We want to physically mail this to you. Have you guys tried both options and kind we have effectiveness? Yeah, no, and the because the home delivery thing. So we we have tested that. You know, send those as a great solution on that, but people are still, and this is understandable, people can still be uncomfort we're given out their home address. Right, it's Um and everyone has different situations about their environment. So we we actually had some kind of misses there where it came across, you know, especially if it's early in the sales cycle. So if you're talking to some of you're engaged with the relationship with, absolutely right. We make that happen, no problem. We send personalized things through Amazon and we get their home address and send it. But when you're really looking at how to open that door and kind of start that conversation, the address for what we found it was too big of an ask, right. so that's where email and digital delivery became more way to go and that's where, again, we empowered the reps to make that offer via however they want, the phone, social, email, you name it, and then we would work on delivery for them, you know, after the fact. Yeah, I love that solution, looking for a digital way that isn't an ask and adds value but incorporates the value of adding a gift once they're engaged early in the sales process. But if it is a longer sales cycle and the sales are up, is engaged, oftentimes, you know something strategic. I I've even I've been engaged with marketing leaders that are looking at our service, and this is after we've had a caller too. But Hey, I'd love to send you a copy of our CEOS book because it really unpacks the strategy that we talked about with podcasting. Hey, can I can I send that to you? At that stage people are more than willing to give out. You know their mailing address, but I wouldn't cold message someone on Linkedin and say hey, I want to send you a book or I want to say where do you live? Give me where do you live? Yeah, why do you want to know? It's kind of like that line from from Hamilton's. I've been looking for you. I'm getting nervous, sir. Right Anyway, for folks who haven't seen or listened to the soundtrack of Hamilton's, that might fall on deaf ears, but it's in my head consistently. One of the things I want to add on the digital direct mail side. What we found also, though, is it's important to establish the fit and the value first. What the direct mail and the incentives did for us was help with the timing right. So so much of what we run into is like hey, it sounds like great, but no one's trying going right. Why? You know why? We can talk later, right, and later as always. Never so what we found the digital direct mail. That the right way that we found use it is established, the value, established that we're going to solve their solution and then use the incentive as a way to say, Hey, let's meet this week. Right, let's meet this month, not in the future. And someone defined thing, because when we lead with the with the offer, it became a you know, a spamming right, and it was like, well, what are you really doing? It's like, no, let's let's sell you first on why we're important and we'll use the incentive to say and that, and this is why you should talk to us now, as opposed to next quarter, next year, when traveler resumes, because who knows what that is? Right? Yeah, I like that. So definitely hit the back button a couple of times. This might be an episode you want to go back to the start, because column we talked about a number of things, how to how to be agile with gift giving, how to be agile based on the stage there in, how to be agile based on the content that you create, what the data tells you and then adjusting that. So a number of different things. I love the way that you walk through some very specifics and...

...what you guys have tested, tried and and learned from column. On that note, if anybody listening to this would like to Ping you with any follow up questions or maybe just stay connected with you and the team at trip actions, what's the best way for them to do that, the best way would be linkedin. So Colin Shallby. I'm one of one CLM, so you're not gonna find too many of me.

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