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- IBM Watson’s IoT division shifts to a B2B ABM Strategy. The IBM Watson IoT team launched their ABM program about a year ago to better personalize their content by industry and make a bigger impact with the companies they aim to serve.
- G2 (formerly “G2 Crowd”) helped make the ABM program successful. G2’s peer-reviewed database of software vendors enabled the IBM Watson IoT team to identify and follow-up with targeted accounts within the G2 platform.
- The ABM initiative enabled IBM to create a narrower, more targeted list of accounts. The Watson IoT team learned that their initial target of 3400 accounts was too broad. They began refining and narrowing down their target approach, enabling them to reach fewer, but more qualified, prospects who were more likely to convert.
ClickZ recently spoke with Amber Armstrong, VP and CMO for IBM Watson, IoT to discuss the strategy behind her team’s new account-based marketing (ABM) program. IBM’s Watson IoT team developed a new brand approach in the past year, underpinned by the use of G2, a tech marketplace that enables businesses to discover, review, and manage marketing technology.
“IBM Watson IoT is a very specific part of the Watson business,” explains Armstrong. “We’re focused on helping our B2B customers manage, operate and design physical assets. We work with companies in energy and utilities, chemicals and petroleum, aerospace and defense and a variety of other industries to help solve operational challenges delivered through interaction with IoT data.”
Targeting people with a very particular set of skills
Watson IoT serves a very specific set of clients and prospects in operational and manufacturing roles within a range of industries. Since Armstrong’s team must reach out to a finite list of decision makers within these parameters, they created an ABM program with the goal of targeting roughly 3400 accounts.
Armstrong’s team aligned all their marketing resources towards targeting these accounts. They participate in paid search and third-party marketing events to maintain an overall industry presence, but spend most of their time and investment in reaching out to the target accounts.
“We know which of our targeted accounts have been on G2,” says Armstrong, “and we can follow-up with them accordingly to help them through the purchasing process.”
The shift to an ABM approach
Armstrong explained that IBM has always had access to top notch marketing intelligence information. Now, with G2, they can understand not only what their customers are looking for, but how their customers see IBM Watson’s IoT solutions compared with other solutions.
Says Armstrong, “G2 provides us with information demonstrating how we rate for our products against our competitors. That’s information we can share with our Offerings organization, so they can ultimately make better decisions longer term.”
IBM can also share the reviews with their sellers to help them understand what customers are saying about them.
Armstrong started this program a little less than a year ago for the IoT Watson business and is focused on targeting individual industries with enough content to speak to industry buyers. They do this by ensuring their story is not only relevant to the typical target, but to the full buying group.
With more information about specific buying groups, Armstrong’s team has been able to better personalize content by industry, for example, by sending out mailers with industry-specific video that links to a personalized website.
Says Armstrong, “It’s a refined approach to targeting that’s allowed us to make a bigger impact with these companies. We are making our impressions matter from a media perspective, so we can invest our content marketing dollars to address each audiences’ needs. This approach is not just helping us decide what we’re going to do, but it’s also helping us decide what we’re not going to do which is equally important.”
Lessons learned and recommendations for implementing an ABM strategy
Armstrong recommends that companies who want to implement an account-based marketing program, think about leading and trailing performance indicators. IBM Watson’s indicators were focused on uncovering new contacts and making sure that they continue to engage those contacts.
Using this approach, Armstrong’s team has been successful at generating new contacts to the IoT group, who are also new to IBM. They do this by being more focused in their initial messaging.
“The ABM project is separate from G2,” explains Armstrong. “It’s supported by G2 and fits into our larger strategy of listening to our customers, going where they are, and feeding the customer viewpoint into our overall process. It is supportive around the work we’re doing in ABM. Our ABM program is a broad initiative and the data from G2 is helpful in making the program much better.”
Armstrong explained that her team has learned a lot since they launched the ABM program nearly a year ago. They initially came up with a set of accounts to target, but quickly learned that they needed to narrow this list down to a smaller, more targeted list.
Companies must have agreement across the entire organization to take on a project like this. Armstrong had agreement all the way from the general manager through to the sellers.
Armstrong made the decision to put all of Watson IoT’s paid media behind the ABM program and this has impacted every person in the organization who is driving demand for their solutions. She has three major teams under her, each of which is testing a very tactical deep dive approach for a specific audience.
Says Armstrong, “To this end, G2 is an important partner for us as we listen to customers more broadly and they’re also very impactful in giving us the buyer intent data. The buyer intent data from G2 tells us the accounts that we’re marketing to overall, what are they looking for, what competitors are they looking at. When companies come into G2, they can request outreach from someone at IBM and we get a lot of high value results from this outreach.”