Meredith Fuller, Quarry, and Greg Griffiths, Windstream Enterprise

The Benefits Of Narrowcasting: Windstream Enterprise Sets 7-Step Process To Develop A Hyper-Personalized ABM Strategy

It’s rare for B2B organizations to roll out new technology, strategies or programs without first testing the waters with a small pilot group. This has been especially true when it comes to ABM, given the shift in focus and metrics it requires for most teams.

For Windstream Enterprise, a Fortune 500 provider of advanced network communications and technology solutions, the push for ABM was out of necessity. The company needed to align internally and maximize the overall impact of marketing and sales efforts on key stakeholders within the IT department.

The company had invested $3 billion in expanding its next-generation network solutions in roughly 17 key U.S. markets broken down by geography. To maximize the return on this investment, Windstream’s marketing team piloted an ABM program in their Chicago market to prove the value of enhanced engagement and personalization. Ultimately, the pilot led to the company’s marketing team exceeding goals around prospect bookings and sales meetings within the test market. Windstream attributed roughly 25% of its new pipeline in the test market to their ABM efforts and in turn, fully adopted its ABM program to its 17 key markets.

Greg Griffiths, VP of Marketing for Windstream, and his team built a finely tuned demand gen engine that produced high-quantity leads for their sales team. However, a lack of lead quality had led to sales cherry picking valuable leads and leaving many others to waste.

“It was obvious that we were two independent teams,” Griffiths said during a presentation at the B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale, Ariz. “We were not working together and something had to change.”

In addition, Griffiths and his team had to focus on how they could become more narrowcast marketers versus broadcast. “In the telecommunications industry, success depends on understanding your ideal customer profiles and positioning your products and solutions to ideal targets. Broadcast isn’t the way to do that anymore.”

During his presentation, Griffiths highlighted the seven-stage process he developed in conjunction with Quarry, a B2B marketing agency, to formulate their ABM pilot:

  • Get buy-in from sales;
  • Set a strategy and objectives;
  • Develop and prioritize lists;
  • Craft a story that connects;
  • Design the “play;”
  • Brief and enable sales; and
  • Go live, measure and learn.

Gain Buy-In With Objective Communication

Griffiths described initial conversations with the sales team in Chicago as disparate due to the differing opinions and expectations of the program. To combat this, he tied his ABM pilot and game plan to the sales team’s quota and forecast by stating that, ultimately, this hyper-personalized engagement with high-value accounts would have a positive impact on sales objectives such as appointment and close rates.

“Suddenly, it becomes a really good idea and [sales reps] are a partner in developing the campaign with you, and that’s what’s absolutely important,” said Griffiths. “You’ve got to create that partnership before you talk about strategy and program objectives.”

From there, Griffiths and his team developed their strategy and objectives for the ABM pilot. The company wanted to deploy an “attention-getting, personalized direct marketing program to engage high-quality, in-market prospects,” according to Griffiths. He added that it should also be “supported by a multi-faceted, yet narrowly targeted, nurture campaign.”

As for objectives, Griffiths stated that his team had two primary goals:

  • Achieve a greater than 20% rate of prospects booking an initial sales meeting; and
  • Achieve at or above industry standards for KPIs.

Refining Account Lists With Traditional & Innovative Processes

When developing its initial list of target accounts, Griffiths and his team — with help from Quarry —aggregated more than 8,000 contacts from roughly 1,000 accounts in the Chicago area. The company used DiscoverOrg to identify prospects by firmographic data (number of employees, company revenue, etc.) and contact info based on roles and titles.

Then, Windstream narrowed and prioritized the list using predictive analytics. With help from Mintigo, the company was able to refine the list based on an ideal customer profile, along with layers of behavior-, trigger- and intention-based insights. The original list of 1,000+ accounts was shortened to 85 high-value, high-priority accounts.

After the refined account list was finalized, Windstream formulated a campaign designed to resonate with IT decision makers within target accounts. The campaign aimed to highlight how the role of IT is changing to becoming more of a business facilitator.

“[The IT department professionals] are moving from being that ‘geek’ who sits in the back room, to somebody who is working hard to influence business strategy,” said Meredith Fuller, Managing Director of Buyer Engagement at Quarry, during the presentation. “The decisions they make, and the technological solutions they choose to install and support, are fundamental to overall business success.”

The company decided that the content and messaging would focus on gaps within the IT department that are costing these businesses money. The messaging was tailored to spotlight how the IT role is changing from being a “tech geek” to a business facilitator, as well as explain how gaps in IT can lead to big costs for its target accounts.


Designing The Play To Relieve Sales Friction

With sales buy-in, a refined target account list and a creative concept, Windstream moved to design its play, which comprised heavily of multi-touch direct mail programs. One of the primary needs of the pilot was that sales had to have easy access to prospects when necessary.
“At any and every point throughout this process, sales could become involved as they so desired,” said Fuller. “I think what’s quite interesting is that as we rolled this campaign out into subsequent markets, sales became more invested and more involved throughout the [marketing] process.”

A few of the key experiences Windstream utilized included:

  • Hand-delivered bamboo plants from sales reps to get a foot in the door;
  • Personalized videos (via Vidyard) that arrived in a direct mail package (via Information Packaging) with a CTA to a personalized URL;
  • Develop and prioritize lists;
  • Personalized and localized landing pages with “thank you” pages after a form fill, customized by the sales reps;
  • After one to two weeks without an appointment, an Amazon Echo remote was mailed as an incentive to take a meeting. The sales rep would then bring the Amazon Echo to the meeting; and
  • If no meeting was setup, a Tile — Bluetooth tracker for keys, wallets and more — was sent via direct mail as a last-ditch incentive to setup a meeting.

To bring the sales reps deeper into the process, the messaging was created to come from that individual sales rep who owned the account. “Whether they had any involvement for their first number of touches or not, that account was theirs,” said Fuller. “That card, that bamboo plant, that video, all came from the individual sales rep.”

An example of Windstream Enterprise’s direct mail offerings

The Results

Since the initial pilot in Chicago, the company has launched their ABM program in all 17 of its key U.S. markets. As for objectives, Windstream met — and now exceeded — its meeting booking rate goals. The goal was to book more than 20% of its requested sales meeting, and the company stated that it is booking “between 20% and 35%” of its meetings.

“We’re looking at about 24% of the total sales pipeline driven by these campaigns,” said Griffiths. “The target, my objective for the year that came from SiriusDecisions, was 15% of all sales would be marketing-influenced. We were at over 30% in January.”

Griffiths added that utilizing the right experts, making investments in his team’s tech and better alignment with sales on marketing activities had helped reduce marketing spend.

“More effective marketing-based account strategies have allowed us to reduce our marketing budget, this is true,” Griffiths said. “Our marketing budget is about 20% less than [it was in 2017].”

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