FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Scott Cannon, Emily Ketchen, and Mary Carse of HP
As companies move from cold, dead accounts no longer engaging with marketing and sales, some organizations are leveraging account-based initiatives to resurrect these accounts from the grave and close opportunities once thought to be lost. HP Inc. provides a great example of this process in action. It saw an opportunity to develop an account-based strategy at a time of overwhelming evolution in the technology industry.
In November 2015, Hewlett-Packard Company made the decision to split into two separate entities to remain competitive. While the division enabled the newly christened HP Inc. to be nimbler as a separate business, it was tasked with closing net-new deals — while retaining existing customers — in what was predicted to be a declining PC market.
Along with this, HP made the decision to test its fledgling account-based program on a list of “cold, dead and hostile” (CDH) accounts — roughly 400 companies showing little to no sign of doing business with them. Since implementing the program, HP has been able to close 12% of those target accounts, and marketing was able to contribute to 70% of those deals. This accumulated to several hundreds of millions of dollars in new logos closed from the program.
“The ‘cold, dead, and hostile’ name came from a regional sales VP after years of frustration trying to gain traction with these accounts,” said Scott Cannon, Senior Manager of Customer Segment Marketing for U.S. Commercial Personal Systems at HP. “It really requires a lot of investment and work to engage these whale-sized accounts. We were told, ‘These are the accounts we want to target, and — by the way — they are cold, dead and hostile.’ They threw the most difficult accounts at us from the get-go.”
B2B companies have long experimented with new programs by testing them on smaller segments of their database to compare with current initiatives. For HP, testing its new account-based strategy on CDH accounts was appropriate, as little negative results could come from it given the existing status of the relationships.
The result was an innovative, organic and multi-touch strategy designed to target, engage and accelerate prospects through their buying journey with minimal friction. This included:
“The strategy for the CDH accounts is at the center of our ABM program,” said Emily Ketchen, Regional Head of Americas Marketing at HP. “What we develop for these accounts permeates into campaigns targeting other customer segments. If something works with our toughest prospects, it usually works with others. The CDH program has become a testing ground for marketing and sales enablement ideas before we go mainstream with them.”
Since the 400 selected CDH accounts were some of the toughest to engage, HP noted they had little to no first-party data to leverage in its marketing and sales initiatives. Therefore, it had to invest heavily in gaining third-party customer intelligence to fuel marketing and sales conversations assisting representatives with getting their foot in the door.
“When you are talking about going after new logos, data is vital,” said Cannon. “I never would have thought my role in marketing would evolve into becoming a data broker for sales — but it has. It has become apparent you will not always be able to obtain first-party data and must rely on third-party sources.”
As a result, HP turned to solutions such as Demandbase, Adobe and RainKing (which was recently acquired by DiscoverOrg) to build an ABM tech stack that positioned marketing to better target and engage CDH accounts with relevant messaging. The company also uses predictive analytics to analyze where CDH accounts are engaging online.
“Providing sales teams with marketing intelligence and educating them with these tools has become crucial to ongoing success,” said Cannon.
The sales team agreed that the deeper insights garnered from the marketing team became vital for engaging CDH accounts with relevant and contextual content and conversations.
“When we first started, we were getting accounts we didn’t know much about. It was basic blocking and tackling here,” said Mike Cummins, Director of U.S. Personal Systems Sales for Corporate New Business at HP. “As we transitioned beyond that, we started taking advantage of the marketing team’s analytics. They showed us smoke, and we were able to create the fire within accounts based on that insight.”
Ultimately, HP positioned itself to sync data across marketing and sales systems to have both teams work from the same customer intelligence and provide a seamless experience.
“Another big step we’re taking is not just collaboration, but also syncing data,” said Mary Carse, Senior Marketing Analyst for U.S. Commercial Personal Systems at HP. “Instead of having it in data silos, we have a collaborative lens to provide intelligence in a consistent manner.”
The 400 CDH accounts had historically ignored traditional sales and marketing approaches.
“Sales wasn’t looking for traditional lead generation from marketing; we knew who the right people were, and it was a matter of selecting who to target first and identifying the mechanisms that could help open the door and build relationships,” said Cannon.
The implementation of an ABM strategy enabled marketing to digitally “surround” CDH accounts with the HP brand, according to HP. Some of the tactics leveraged within the program include:
The new initiative positioned HP to create “icebreaker” moments that were unique to each CDH account — everything from in-person events to hyper-focused direct marketing initiatives. This led to further engagement with interested CDH accounts that helped marketing and sales prioritize efforts.
“When running digital advertising towards target accounts, we’re seeing a constant presence on our website, which means the message is getting across to key stakeholders,” said Cannon. “We’re starting to see continuous engagement with our digital activities, which helps us identify who sales should prioritize.”
To guarantee sales reps have what they need to continue the conversation with CDH contacts, the marketing team designed a series of tactics and resources positioning reps as an extension of the marketing team.
To create a streamlined message and experience for CDH accounts, HP’s marketing team worked to ensure sales collateral such as seed kits, demo systems, and email campaigns had the same look and feel as the marketing content and messaging. This ultimately guaranteed better alignment between the hunter reps and marketing team as they engaged CDH accounts.
“The reinvention and the level of [research and development] that we put into our portfolio was astounding,” said Cummins. “Being able to get the product into [CDH accounts’] hands, in their own environment, has been very powerful.”
This also allowed sales to pivot messaging based on prospects’ interests and expectations. The increased flexibility ensures CDH accounts are receiving the messages they need to continue conversations and prevent them from churning away.
“Before, we could take a shotgun approach with little success,” said Cummins. “But now if we find someone who is very interested in VR, for example, we can take a targeted approach to that.”
While many ABM and sales practitioners are quick to write off CDH accounts, HP has seen notable success prioritizing these specific accounts with its new account-based initiatives.
The company highlighted the following successes it has seen since launching this account-based strategy targeted towards CDH accounts:
The next phase of HP’s ABM initiatives includes moving its personalization down to a one-on-one level and scaling it for other segments within the company’s total addressable market.
“We have big plans and high expectations for ABM in 2019 and beyond,” said Ketchen. “The ultimate goal is to deliver a one-on-one ABM experience at scale. We believe that, by understanding each prospect’s unique buyer’s journey, we can provide a customized HP experience across all marketing and sales interactions — from initial signs of intent all the way through to purchase. The long-term vision is to deliver that experience for all our customers — from the largest enterprise accounts to the smaller SMB accounts.”