What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas

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MarketOne founder and CEO Fred Ewald shares his key takeaways from the SiriusDecisions Summit 2018.

The 2018 SiriusDecisions Summit took place amid scorching Las Vegas temperatures reaching over 100°F. Safely protected within the vivacious, air-conditioned structures of the Mandalay Bay, participants enjoyed another stimulating and well-organized event.

No one seemed to mind the long walks between session rooms, the vendor MarketPlace, or the maze of walkways through endless slot machines and tables to find their room. For this participant, who ended up staying at the connected Luxor hotel, the walk to the conference stretched almost a mile each way. Other than taxing my Fitbit battery to keep up with the 20,000 daily steps, I rather enjoyed the exercise – and, meeting Pete Rose who was tucked away in a sports store quietly signing autographs.

While last year’s event built up to a “big reveal” of the next gen Demand Waterfall, 2018 seemed to be less about the latest and greatest SiriusDecisions innovation, and more about participant-generated content, case studies, programs-of-the-year, Sirius Labs, and of course, the ever-present and vociferous cantations of the vendor community.

There was indeed no shortage of content

Whether you are a demand gen enthusiast, a brand marketer, advertiser, or a fearless Scott Brinker MarTech zealot. Something for everyone. The selection of session tracks and presentations was truly impressive; to the point of wishing your doppelganger could share your event pass. All told, there were 82 presentation decks from the Summit representing sessions held over the course of three short days.

Some themes emerging this year seemed to include ABM, content marketing, an emphasis on the role of Sales (enablement, channel, structure) customer engagement, and digital transformation. My favorite sessions, however, focused on ABM. Since demand gen is in my blood, I find ABM especially intriguing. It’s perhaps the biggest challenge that besets B2B marketers. Why? Because it is so hard to do well!

Good ABM requires a solid data-driven approach, something we’ve gone deep on in this article. It also relies on connected technology, a strategic framework, identity management, and the recognition that true B2B attribution may require just a dash of pixie dust. This is why segmentation in the mid-funnel is so powerful. Anyway, I’ll stop proselytizing and get back on topic.

For me, the most engaging session on ABM was led by Demandbase and HPI’s Scott Cannon, Senior Manager, US Commercial Marketing. Scott focused on his team’s successes in ABM to top accounts long thought to be dormant. His practical, methodical, and dogged approach to engaging this segment was both informative and entertaining. Scott used Demandbase technology, a direct mail component, a mid-funnel digital nurture strategy, and ultimately a specialized sales team to crack open each account, one by one.

One listener asked, “What special message did you deliver to engage the accounts?” Scott answered by saying, “nothing special, we simply told them about HPI’s value propositions. Our message has always been strong, we simply needed an ‘icebreaker moment’ so that they would listen” [paraphrasing].

Putting theory into practice

Staying with the ABM example for a moment, the concentration of content at the event presents a helpful framework and conceptual guidance on strategy and tactics. I’ve always found it curious, however, how so many companies implement conceptual models, walk away, and assume success. It follows the old adage,

“The best battle plan falls apart after the first shot is fired.”

A prime example is the lead scoring model. Often companies assemble a team from marketing and sales. Together they build a scoring model. Great first step. The problem is that no one really knows whether the scoring model is an accurate reflection of buyer intent. When positive results don’t emerge, faith is lost in the integrity of the concept itself. ABM is another example. The idea of identifying demand units and segments should be considered only a strawman model with the need for extensive testing. SiriusDecisions recognizes this need for validation, but the requirement is often underappreciated by practitioners, leaving a gap in a successful ABM implementation.

For us, any model that relies on collaborative “brainstorming sessions” is just a theoretical representation of reality. It has to be validated. We call this “test-and-learn”. This testing may involve field sales, BDRs, ISRs, internal or external call centers, but for us the key is a human interaction. With scoring, the model needs disciplined testing to ensure the levers are set correctly.

“Imagine car makers never testing a driverless car or a drug maker never conducting clinical trials.”

At MarketOne we take segment testing one step further. We start with a brainstormed model, test the segments, but then let the data identify new segments previously unidentified. This also avoids falling into the trap of prematurely assigning cause and effect. Think attribution. But again, I digress…

At the end of the Summit, The Gala Dinner was removed from the agenda; although I’m not sure it was missed. By Thursday evening my sense was that event fatigue may have set in, as I noticed quite a few thousand-yard-stares as East Coast participants prepared for the immutable red-eye home. When the dust settles and bags have been unpacked, I’m sure marketers will tap into what they heard in Vegas and bring meaning to the title of this piece.