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119 | Navigating the crossroads of creativity and customer insight in ABM

25 min listen

Listen in for some award-winning ABM insights straight to your ears!

The wonderful Nickie McDade, Marketing Director of Account Based Marketing (ABM) at the London Stock Exchange Group joins the podcast this week, alongside host, Jon Busby, and special Twogether guest, Minaz Tejani. 

They explore how creativity and customer insights intersect to shape effective ABM strategies, and how Nickie's background in customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) informs her approach to ABM. 

This episode zones in on:
  • Balancing personalization and privacy
  • The importance of memorable, human-centric experience
  • Converging brand presence and demand generation within ABM

Has this episode piqued your interest? Get in touch for the opportunity level up your ABM activities. Alternatively, see how we've done this for other programs by reading one of our case studies.



We'd love to hear from our listeners whether this is something they've explored yet - get in touch and let us know!

View the full transcript here

Jon Busby: Welcome again to another episode of the Tech Marketing Podcast. I'm really excited to be joined by Nickie McDade, Marketing Director of Account Based Marketing at the London Stock Exchange Group. And of course, we can't be talking about ABM without a fellow co host, my fellow co host in, and partner in crime when it comes to account based marketing, Minaz.

So Nickie, Minaz, welcome back to the podcast.

Minaz Tejani: Thank you very much, John. Cheers. Good to be back again. You know, been a, been a few episodes away, but I'm back in full force.

Jon Busby: No, it's good. It's good to have you back. And Nikki, welcome. Welcome. Like, you know, you've been, well, we've been planning this one. We've just been joking that we've been planning it for a good few years.

It's a pleasure to have you have you on the tech marketing podcast. Uh, you know, you've had quite a journey from where you landed to where you've landed as marketing director at the LSA group, you know, could you share like. What's been your path to, to get you. to where you ended up at ABM today.

Nickie McDade: Thank you so much, Jon, and I really appreciate having me today.

It's exciting to be part of the series. Yeah, so I've had a long and colourful career. It started, actually, I think you'd be surprised, in the Scottish Government. I worked there as a researcher for another bit, or an economist. So yeah, starting my life there, you're like, and then moved to Thomson Reuters around 2008, working in brand.

So it was all about Thomson Reuters, that brand transformation, and then have really been in lots of different roles since then, from brands, university program management, especially, you know, working with our business schools and building relationships. Parts there through to then spending six years in the customer experience in UX team.

And then from there, six years, I moved into accountants marketing and enterprise start of 2019. So it's been quite the journey, but I think if I was going to be really honest with you, I would say that my first job was actually doing a cake run aged about 16 when I went door to door selling buckets of Scottish cake.

So yeah, that was the real. Beginnings of my years. So, yeah.

Jon Busby: Which, which of course sets you up for, you know, you're, that's account. You're doing one to one marketing there just on the doorstep. That's the way we can, the way we can put it at this, this concept of, and this really intrigues me, this starting in UX and CX as part of your career.

Like, do you feel that's something. You know, firstly, I think that's really rare for marketers. Do you think it's something that's helped you when you've moved into ABM?

Nickie McDade: I think it absolutely has. I came into the role very much, you know, the team that built ABM from the ground up, all the different experiences and backgrounds, different industry backgrounds.

And I think from my point of view, that customer lens where we're really understanding our role strategically. And really looking at the customer journey across all of the, the majority of touch points with us, you know, from that first initial endorsement and awareness right away through to using the product and becoming then a loyal customer that, you know, we're really, really focused on that, that overall after returning there.

And then of course, starting from a UX and Research standpoint, understanding the needs and the challenges and that's from like, you know, from, from every aspect of the experience from both of course, as marketing to them, but actually through to to product usage and overall as well. So I do think that it certainly set our team up for success in terms of ensuring that we start our account based marketing programs with a customer first lens and starting with the data to it really builds.

That trust with the sales, uh, partners that we work with the strategic sales teams, but also more, more importantly, or even more important, even more as important with the, uh, the customers themselves as well. So, yeah, I think it's, it's been an interesting journey. And I think for me, again, setting up Kibbe's marketing with my, with my colleagues here at Elsig, it's been super critical.

Jon Busby: I mean, I think we always, we always talk about being customer first in marketing, but actually being able to talk about it from a CX and UX perspective. I think just. It feels like we're really practicing what we preach there. I mean, I mean, as what's your view on, you know, you've been living and breathing ABM your whole career as well.

Like what do you think it necessarily brings to, to, to the role?

Minaz Tejani: It doesn't have a dig at me being really old, by the way.

Jon Busby: I'm just doing this like

Minaz Tejani: it. Well,

Jon Busby: it's, uh, it's completely not unintentional. I'm maybe it's subconscious.

Minaz Tejani: I think to answer that question, I think, you know, so yeah, absolutely. I mean, putting the customer right at the heart of what you do is, is critical.

I do find that maybe over time. The ABM world focused a lot on sort of personalization and, you know, how can we make something feel like it's customer centric, but for me putting someone's first name, surname and company logo onto a document is not personalization and it's really about driving relevancy.

And I think when you really look at. Adopting a customer first strategy into your ABM programs, you start to see that it's almost intangible slightly in that sense, or it's not as obvious or on the surface all the time. It can find its way into a lot of the content that you produce. It's all fueled by that customer insight, that understanding the drivers, inhibitors, igniters, that's really going to make your brand stand out and be memorable.

And that can, those can be quite hidden gems within, within elements of your ABM strategy, which is, that's the area that really, you know, interests me and excites me more as well, actually, that anyone can do the obvious surface stuff. It's beneath that surface is really going to differentiate you as a brand when you're developing your program.

Jon Busby: I, I, I'd love that point. Nickie, do you have any examples of. When we talk about customer insight of one of those hidden gems.

Nickie McDade: Absolutely. I mean, I think that, you know, if we're thinking about the way our account based marketing team engages with our most strategic customers, you know, we're looking at the C level to the heads of, to the end users.

And really when we're thinking about, I'll give you an example of a recent event that we held for our C level at one of our most strategic clients. So we used a profiling on each of the individual folks that attended to really understand what is their career path. What are the challenges and motivations in the last few months?

What have they been seeing in the market? So really from that perspective, understanding, you know, and tailoring the agenda and also the people that are in the room, right? So the senior leaders from LSEG on our side, you know, getting those right people in the room, they're going to speak the same language into the needs of those other particular customers.

That's so critical. Having the right people sit next to the right people because that's where magic happens, right? That's where you really build relationships that last and partnerships that last. I think one example I'd give is, you know, With dinner, it's like anyone can do to another point. Anyone can put a logo on something or name on something.

Anyone can go to dinner. But with this particular dinner, we personalized everything from the cakes, where we actually had personalized favorite cakes and desserts. I get back to cakes, the same with cakes. About personal cakes at the end, executives, preferred in their childhood, right? So we asked them, what is your favorite, you know, dessert from, from childhood?

And then right the way through to the mocktails and the cocktails, right? What is your favorite mocktail cocktail? And we actually had a mixologist come in and make that for them and help them mix their own. And then, so from really that experience to the music, to the smells, to the flowers that we use within the space, everything is informed by what we know about the customers now.

But again, you have to be really mindful about As in when you lean in and bring in that personalization, because you don't want to encode a situation where you know too much about them, right? So we also want to make a little bit of, have a little bit of mystery and personalization can get a little, we've all been in a position, right?

Where you get an email or someone reaches out to you and it's a little bit too knowledgeable on exactly what, you know, who you are and what your, you know, what your challenges and needs are. And I think you have to, that's a really tricky balance, right? But. But yeah, I think that, that executive dinner really, that, that the magic happened there and relationships.

And there was meetings that were, that, that happened post that, that event. And, and then we're in a really great position with that, with that customer and building that strategic relationship. But I think that that's the, that's where ABM can really come into its own. And that's where you, you know, customer insight meets creativity.

And ultimately, you know, when I think about account based marketing, I think about the customer experience, but that's my background, and I think what we're effectively doing is using marketing methodology to deliver that optimal customer experience at every touch point. And that's a really important touch point, right?

Those senior meetings are exceptionally important. And so, yeah, that would, I would say, be a really good example of using that personalized approach, you know, in a creative manner.

Minaz Tejani: I think being customer centric. Also, in that environment, it enforces you, encourages you to be sort of human centric as well, because at the same time, when you are absolutely using insight to develop, you know, the right kind of dinner and sort of what's going to be on the menu, it also encourages you just generally to bring back things and instill things that are going to grab the attention of the audience on a slightly more human level.

So, it could be, you know, those drinks that they, that particular cocktail that they like. Takes them back to a place, you know, it's about creating that human connection. And I think, you know, the nostalgia that comes with it. I mean, we found it in, in re previous programs in the past where we've won awards for things like selling the Lego boxes to, to, to certain contacts, to accelerate deals, the feedback we got was that, you know, it took them back to being a child.

It took them back to the nostalgia and just having, you know, the time when life was a bit, it was a bit more fun, really. And it wasn't all about. Cost of living crisis and, and, and increasing taxes. And I think that's a, that's an important part as well, that once you get into the mindset of using data and insights to be customer centric, you'll find that you will, it's a, it's a domino effect that will then roll into lots of different areas of, of ABM and just make ABM do a lot more personal in that, in that sense.

So yeah, it can be driven by data and insight, but it can just be driven by instincts as well of what people like. Which is good. Which is good. It's cool. Makes better marketing, right? Makes it more fun. I would agree with

Nickie McDade: you. I think nostalgia is such a powerful thing. Emotion as well. In fact, years back, my dissertation was on advertising nostalgia in the 80s.

Very random topic. But yeah, that, that, that emotion is powerful. And when we think about account based marketing, it is the experiential. Yes, we absolutely, from a business standpoint, need to know the industry and the customer needs. You know, we work with very complex organizations and what they do is complex.

We need to make sure they're the right experts in the room, but it's, it's about creating those memorable moments that really will stand out and make you stand out from the next and those moments are really critical.

Jon Busby: So, I mean, you've talked, you know, obviously coming from that CX background that's allowed you to kind of.

I'm going to use your words here. Customer experience meets creativity. I think that's just such an eloquent way to put it, Nikki. Like what are the, how would you break it down practically? Like what, what's your, what's your process to make sure that you're creating that, that best experience?

Nickie McDade: Well, we have a very robust process, how we approach our account based marketing programs.

It's a six step approach, and it starts with that Intel and data gathering on the, on the account. We work with our internal teams to do, to do that. And then we do external research, desk research, another Intel and publicly available sources on the account. And then we bring the sales teams and the marketing team together.

And then we identify that account, what is mission critical? So yes, there's an account plan and we've got, But ultimately, what we want to do is ensure that it's through the customer lens. What is the customer strategy? What is their five year strategy? And how can we align ourselves to partner with them and help them along that way?

Right? And if we're where they need us to be and we're partnering what their needs are and how they want to deliver to their customers, then that will put us in a very strong position to build upon those strategic goals. I mentioned, so that mission critical identification is really important and also it sets the scene for the year ahead, right?

It's almost a bit of a, a mandate, a moment in time where we're where we agree with the sales strategic sales teams, but this is where we're going to focus our efforts. Sales team and the marketing team together based on these three mission critical priorities that the customer really requires this account.

And again, when we think, when I say the customer, I mean a politics accountant, and I'm talking about the C level into the heads of end users, right? We're targeting at the audiences across the organization and business divisions. And so that's really an important critical piece to consider. Set an ABM up for, for success.

And then once we have that agreed plan of action, we create an ABM mandate. It's a bit of a contract between sales and marketing, a sales gift, sales kit, and then we partner together, right? We're, we're, we've been described that an extension of the strategic sales team, you know, they're the, they, they, they consider us a partner.

Jon Busby: So Nikki, we've talked a lot about frameworks and, and approaches, you know, this wonderful ABM mandate that you, that you mentioned, like what What are some of the examples? Have you got any KPIs where you can show how, what difference this has really made to an account?

Nickie McDade: Absolutely. Yeah, we've, I mean, we use some KPIs across all of our campaigns and programs, but I think when we think about personalization, it's really important to identify where personalization matters.

So when we're running a program, for example, you could personalize every aspect of the customer journey. But what's really critical is ensuring that you personalize the areas that matter most to the customer. And so one example we have recently is the personalized, personalized onboarding of around about 1300 end users at one of our strategic accounts.

And really every large organization that we onboard customers. With our products and services, they have different needs. We have different it teams. They do have different customer support mechanisms. And of course the systems that they utilize too. So there's that type of personalization that behind the scenes tech personalization.

Also, what's really important is that we tailor and personalize the key moments that matter both in person and digitally. So we work really closely with the customer success management and sales teams on these end users and their workflow needs. So we really use the Intel, the customer Intel to understand what, what business units they sit in.

What are their critical workflows? How are they using your product? What are their ultimate needs and goals? And then we tailor our email series, the microsites that we build, sales enablement materials that we build in the training materials, and then we work really closely with the customer success management team on their in person interactions with those team members to ensure that there's the almost position in the customer success manager.

As the personal guide, their own boarding guides to the, to the, the product. So we, again, we also introduced them to the CSM on the emails. You have the, you see the picture, the name is used, and then that's the same person that they see in person. So that personal experience of, of both digital and in person personalization is super important to optimal experience.

And when we think about measurement, so if we look at those 13 end users, we checked in on the overall product usage at the six month mark. And then at the 12 month mark, and at both stages, we were around about 20%, a higher usage of those end users than is benchmarked across the other accounts that did not have that program.

So it really shows that that interaction between marketing, the customer success management teams, the tech teams, and working really closely with that. The organization and their specific needs really ultimately provides them with that more optimal experience. And they get value from day one and going forward using our products.

It's really critical to building the partnerships.

Jon Busby: I absolutely love that stat. I think that's one of the most powerful stats that I'd ever heard of just demonstrating the impact of ABM. So that that's, that's incredible. And now we've talked a lot. Lot in this podcast around some of the frameworks. I think ABM is quite often criticized for over reliance on some of these frameworks.

You mentioned Forrester earlier. We also talked about this ABM mandate with sales, which I think is a fantastic practical example, but you know, we've also talked about some of the emotional elements and why it's important to build that human connection. If you were to start an ABM practice again tomorrow, like what are like the key building blocks that you would include as part of it?

Nickie McDade: So I think that frameworks are really critical when you're building an account based marketing program, because you have to have a set approach to how you build a plan for an account, a personalized plan. You have to ensure that there's an optimal and consistent experience, no matter which sales teams we work with.

When they are working with account based marketing, they should have a plan. An optimal and high quality frameworks in place. The mandates we have to approach that 6 step process where we, you know, kick off an IBM plan where we're looking at the account Intel. We're looking at externally. What is happening at that account?

What is their 5 year strategy plan? Look at the investor reports publicly available data and information and then agreeing. The mission critical priorities for the year ahead with the account teams, those frameworks and those common interconnection points in the ABM mandate that we agree that sales gives sales gets mandate is really critical.

You can't get away from that, and I think that's what makes a robust and structured program. But at the same time, And marketing is creative, right? And so we have to always make sure that yes, whilst we have those frameworks in place, that the campaigns, the plans that we're building really focus in on those moments that matter and personalize those moments that matter for the customer.

And that's where you can't get away from creativity, right? If we're not creating a memorable experience for the customer, like when we talked about the dinner, for example, or in person events that we create or. Even those campaigns that we reach out with, there's one really good example I have where we were engaged with a, a, a, a, a, a senior meeting with the COO and ABM took a sustainable, we have a sustainable review report.

We tailored and personalized it to that account, so we used our ASG data to identify where in those scoring tables and where and how that account was demonstrating their ASG mandates and values. And we tailored it to the account, we pulled the data on that specific account and so it Every aspect, every page of that account used our data to showcase, um, how that account was, uh, was, was performing and that CEO was so struck by that personalization and the fact that we've taken that time to really understand the account strategy, their strategy and their positioning that they requested.

Um, a quarterly meeting with that report, um, and to go through the results. And it's just, and it's such an effective way of using personalization to create the, that, that relationship and build upon that. And it's a strategic partnership. It's like, we understand your business. We know where you're positioned and we're here to help.

I'm here to guide and here to partner. And that was another really great example of a rare personalization works really well, those moments that, that delight.

Jon Busby: And I absolutely love that. So I'm going to, I'm going to bring us to a, to To a, to a close here and take that creative thread that you've just mentioned, you know, because we often talk about, especially over the last year where business has been more difficult, you know, by groups have increased, but also budgets and budgets have decreased.

So we often talk about this, this line between brand and demand. Where do you think it? How, how do you blend brand into ABM? Like what is the approach for, for how that all fits together?

Nickie McDade: Well, from, from our perspective, I'm sure there's many different ways to do it, but ultimately my, my thoughts is that customer experience brand is your customer experience, right?

It's the sum of those interactions and moments that you have with a customer. And then they have the, the, the perception of your brand from all of those various touch points, account based marketing is a marketing framework and methodology whereby you're utilizing marketing to. Deliver an optimal experience in coordination with the business with your sales teams.

And so for me, account based marketing equals ABM, account based experience equals customer experience, ultimately equals brand. And we do do brand campaigns within account based marketing. I mean, the Ulstig brand is, we landed a huge brand campaign last year where we were in multiple markets and we used a personalized approach, targeting our top accounts.

And of course, we're tailoring and personalizing that brand mission specifically to the accounts. And ensuring that we're speaking to them in their language, albeit bringing their own message or brand or else the brand message to the floor as well. I think as well, there's a, there's a, a well known stat externally that our video views for the entire brand campaign had around 88 million views of our brand video, which is almost unheard of, right?

Be spaces. It's really a fantastic stat. But again, what I think is important is that where it mattered, we identified and map the areas where we would personalize that campaign for our accounts. And we did a personalized approach and in partnership with the brand team and the same this year and beyond.

I really think that customer experience ultimately is the brand. And there's, there's just, there's a complete convergence. I don't think they're one and the other. They're one of the same in my view.

Jon Busby: Minaz, me and you often debate the importance of experience and experiential events, like the dinner that Nikki has mentioned throughout today's podcast.

Like what's, what would be your answer to this question? Like where does brand and demand, do they, are they, are they one and the same or are we trying to make life too difficult for ourselves by putting things into boxes?

Minaz Tejani: Yeah, I think that's, you know, could be a whole separate podcast in itself to discuss that.

But I do think that what I've, what I've observed and definitely experienced myself is that Within ABM, it's, it's the truest sense of, of brand and demand really coming together. You know, one of the biggest bits of feedback that we've heard from sales teams is they know who we are. They don't know what we do.

And. In, in theory, you know, and LTEG is probably quite unique in that, you know, they don't suffer from so much of that issue, but definitely across the, across the market, I would say that brand awareness and brand understanding and brand belief within accounts is lower than ever, you know, that it needs to be.

So I do think there's always an element of our marketing campaigns and our ABM campaigns really have brand and brand building and building that credibility. up front and then we get into a lot of the more sort of tactical ABM demand gen pieces. So, yeah, they definitely will, they live and breathe together.

I think if you, what I'm interested to look out for is, you know, Workday's investment in brand strategy with the Rockstars campaign and everything they've done and the ripple effect of that. What effect is that going to have on their ABM programs in the future? Obviously, that's, that's going to be Like to be, to be determined, but I only think it's going to be a hugely positive.

I think we're all

Jon Busby: looking out for it really, aren't we? Like, cause if that proves you're right, if that proves the ripple effect and how much of an impact that can have on an ABM campaign, hopefully that will really demonstrate why we should all be investing in brand, especially at the moment when investment in brand is, is at an all time.

I'm not going to say an all time low. It's, it's not as expensive as it has been.

Minaz Tejani: And especially that's why, why the ability to be able to control that within your ABM program. You know, a lot of clients aren't able to go and solve the big, you know, brand awareness campaigns across their entire organization, but they can control it within The micro environment of their ABM accounts.

So yeah, absolutely. When building a program, always consider that as part of fundamental part of the strategy for sure. Just call it something different.

Jon Busby: So what we're really saying here is ABM is really a subset of marketing. And the notes here says a subset of brand marketing, but really just a marketing as a whole, isn't it?

And rather than just stopping at the brand story, I mean, these words are brilliant. We, you know, we should create those moments of connection. Nikki, as you've talked about of alchemy and partnership, I think that's, that's the, that's kind of the powerful message that we want to leave behind here. So if you want to.

I'm going to kind of bring us to a close. Like Nikki, if you were to give like one piece of advice to a, to a budding ABM career marketeer that started out selling Scottish tea cakes in the Highlands. I'm, I don't know if they were actually tea cakes. We never agreed on that, but it's Scottish cakes in the Highlands.

What would you tell them in order to succeed in their career?

Nickie McDade: So I think the, the, the ingredients to my success has definitely been the, the starting in the, the rate of customer experience, like know your customer, it, we all say that, right? Um, but I think getting to know your, if you have a customer insights teams in the organization, actually going out with your sales teams and meeting customers, listening into customer research and interviews and actually truly understanding, you know, what it, whichever market you may be in, you know, how are your customers utilizing your products and your services?

Cause it will just ultimately make you. A better marketer, it'll make, it'll give you an opportunity, I think, as well to just land, you know, a better program. If we're specifically speaking about account based marketing and marketing in the big, I think for me that the customer lens has just been so critical to the face of my career, but also the account based marketing team as well.

So yeah, know your customer, I would say.

Jon Busby: I mean, as having worked with a wonderful brand such as El Seg, like, what would be your piece of advice to future ABM marketeers

Minaz Tejani: do your homework, do your insights, but definitely draw a line in the sand, which, you know, insight can be, can be too much. You know, you need to turn that into action.

You know, you can carry on doing insights forever. It's the point at which you stop, take stock, and then ultimately put that into, into, into place and into the market. Fantastic.

Jon Busby: So thank you very much, Nickie, for joining us on the tech marketing podcast today. It's been an incredible journey going through some, you know, how creativity and customer experience needs to, needs to really meet in the middle in order to build that power of emotion in some of your campaigns, how we need to balance privacy.

You know, we've, we've discussed about how you like to balance privacy and also really for me, some of the last things that I've done. Practical advice about creating this mandate with them in sales. So it's been a real pleasure having you on today's podcast and hope to see you again soon. Thank

Nickie McDade: you.

Pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.

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