The Stranger Things In B2B Marketing: 5 Ways to Avoid The Upside-Down of ABM

I’m big on taking lessons learned in one discipline and applying them to different situations. I believe when you get this cross-pollination of ideas, that’s where innovation happens (not to mention, there’s high entertainment value). I also believe you can learn lessons from everything in life, even fictional TV shows. After all, my post on 7 Lessons from Game of Thrones To Advance Your Career was my most popular blog that month.

In this same vein, there are lessons you can learn from Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things.

There’s just something about the 80s-themed, sci-fi series that taps into the inner nerd of many B2B marketers. And why not learn something while being entertained?

Engagio’s Sandra Freeman recently gave a talk at the B2B SMX conference on what marketers can learn from Stranger Things, which was quickly picked up and covered by Top Rank Marketing Blog. Nick Nelson did a phenomenal job at recapping her talk, so I wanted to take his recap and publish it here.

Sandra talked about ways B2B marketer can avoid the upside-down of ABM. What is the “upside-down” in ABM? She explains, “Our upside-down is not knowing how our accounts are doing, and our sales reps not knowing what’s happening with our ABM program. It’s that lack of visibility.”

Here’s Nick’s recap of Sandra’s presentation.

5 Ways to Avoid The Upside-Down of ABM

1) Enhance Your Superpower

In Stranger Things, Eleven keeps demogorgons and evil-doers at bay with her supernatural psychokinetic powers. Without her, the gang would be lost.

Marketers and salespeople contributing to an ABM strategy all bring their own special abilities to the table, whether it’s creativity, leadership, communication, or otherwise. Sandra suggests we power up by adding “data-driven” in front of our primary skills, to ensure we’re maximizing our impact. Understanding and analyzing what’s happening at every stage of an ABM funnel is essential to maintaining a steady flow of results. This data-driven mindset is how we vigilantly spot snags or deficiencies. Know your funnel, know your impact.

2) Focus on One Big Thing

The Mind Flayer is a monstrous towering entity that reigns over the Upside Down, wielding control over an army of underlings as it seeks to invade the humble town of Hawkins.

Only by turning their collective attention toward stopping the Mind Flayer are the heroes of Stranger Things able to derail its nefarious plot. They can’t be distracted by Russian agents, or Flayed civilians, or teenage drama (at least, not for too long).

In an ABM program, or any marketing program, it can be tempting to try and optimize 20 different things at any given time, but ultimately this strains our resources and causes progress to falter. Sandra recommends we pick our battles, focusing on accomplishing one thing at a time and doing it really well.

“What is the one thing you want to work on?” she asks. “What’s the one area you can make a difference?”

This is going to be different at different stages of your ABM journey. For example, if you’re early on in developing your programs, focusing on defining your ideal customer profile and selecting the right target accounts is going to be paramount. If you’re much more advanced in your journey, implementing advanced attribution models can make a big difference in learning how to optimize your ABM programs.

3) Over-communicate

Tight coordination is crucial for a cross-functional endeavor like Account Based Marketing. In her experience, Sandra says she frequently encounters the Venus-versus-Mars communication barrier between marketing and sales professionals, who come from different worlds and often employ different styles.

“Sales reps have different ways of talking, learning, and absorbing things,” she explains. “Find out how your reps like to communicate and do it that way.”

She calls out a tip she picked up along the way: seven times, seven ways. This means delivering important messages seven times, each through a different channel (Slack, email, phone, in-person, etc.), to ensure it is received. Don’t be afraid to get creative, like Will Byers who gets trapped in the Upside Down and communicates with his mother through Christmas lights.

4) Work Together!

“If we’re both going crazy, then we’ll go crazy together, right?” 

Through good and bad, the characters of Stranger Things stay strong and maintain their kinships. Mike and Will. Dusty and Steve. Hopper and Joyce. These collaborative partnerships are the driving force in the story.

A successful ABM strategy requires getting and keeping everyone on the same page. This is of course easier said than done in a hectic agency or brand marketing department, where juggling multiple initiatives simultaneously is routine. To stay aligned, Sandra advocates for the ABM standup – an Agile-inspired routine that involves bringing together every sales development rep, marketer, and customer success manager together for a quick huddle once every two weeks to discuss the most highly prioritized accounts, and lay out a game plan for moving them forward, with specific tasks assigned to each party.

Engagio’s CEO Jon Miller credits Sandra for pioneering the adoption of this practice at their company.

5) Share Success

Nothing reinforces behavior like seeing it get results, and – even more so – seeing the people behind those results recognized. TopRank Marketing has seen this first hand where they hold quarterly closeouts and celebrate our biggest wins, crediting team members who went out of their way to delight clients, and sharing our learnings so we can replicate positive outcomes.

This is especially important for an ABM effort, where so many different roles and disciplines are involved. Given the variance in backgrounds, it can be challenging for a salesperson to understand the sometimes subtle actions a marketer took to help move a deal forward, and vice versa. As such, celebrating success and acknowledging the distinct contributors who made it happen is very valuable.

– – –

ABM shouldn’t be scary. Armed with these 5 tips from Sandra, you can defeat the evils of misalignment, get full visibility into what happens at your target accounts, and win at ABM.

Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger is the Head of Growth at Engagio, the Account-Based Marketing and Sales platform that enables teams to measure account engagement and orchestrate human connections at scale. He is passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. You can follow him on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *