26 September 2023

What is Account-Based Customer Marketing?

Interview with Leslie Barrett of CMA Soulmate

ABM—account-based marketing—is probably more than familiar to you. But what about ABCM? Account-based customer marketing is all about strengthening customer relationships and boosting customer growth and retention through tailored and targeted post-sale strategies.

In my recent interview with Leslie Barrett, the brains behind CMA Soulmate Consulting and author of Unlock Growth with ABCM, we discussed the importance of personalization when targeting customers, especially those that have moved into the post-sell phase. That’s where account-based customer marketing can transform customer engagement efforts.

Keep reading to find out how Leslie built her brand and launched a career as a Customer Marketing and Advocacy professional. Leslie also introduces us to the world of account-based customer marketing, provides insights into the value of personalization, outlines how to overcome some of the critical challenges to creating great account-based customer marketing. 

Leslie Barrett interview

Name: Leslie Barrett
Job title and company: Founder, CMA Soulmate Consulting; Board Advisor, UserEvidence
Previous companies: EVERFI, Engagio, Marketo, Sendoso
Hometown: San Francisco, California, USA


Fun facts about Leslie Barrett:

⛱️ Vacation you’re dreaming about: Everyday I think about St. John (Caribbean) 
📺 The show you’re binging right now: Succession
🎵 Your favorite musician/band is: Prince
☕ Tea, coffee, or something else?: Coffee Coffee Coffee
⚡If you could have one superpower, it would be: I would say to fly but I don’t want to fly alone so let’s go with making food appear on command.

Please introduce yourself.

Leslie Barrett: Hi, I’m Leslie Barrett, Founder of CMA Soulmate Consulting. Before that, I was Senior Director of Customer Marketing and Evangelism at Sendoso for about 5 years.

How did the role at Sendoso help you create your personal brand?

Leslie Barrett: After about 3 years with Sendoso I won an influencer award, which I thought was really cool. To announce it, I made a funny TikTok which was very well received. And so I decided to make more—and people loved them. Then I did Brand30, which is a cohort of folks who post on LinkedIn for 30 days; you have to come up with content for 30 days straight.

At Day 17, I almost gave up because ‘Saturday and Sunday content? No thank you.‘ But I stuck with it, and it was an amazing journey. I learned what people like and what people don’t care about and what should be on LinkedIn and what shouldn’t. It shocked me that what resonated the most with people were personal stories. I wanted to go further on that journey.

I had to decide what to call myself. I was a customer marketer marketing to marketers, and I felt like I knew the people I was working with inside and out, and what they were thinking. So I thought CMA Soulmate, that’ll be a placeholder. But it stuck! I went all in and created the CMA Soulmate newsletter, and then courses, and then ebooks. It’s been a great ride.

What’s the motivation behind CMA Soulmate? It must be a ton of work.

Leslie Barrett: Everybody said they didn’t understand how I did my full-time job and then all this extra stuff for CMA Soulmate. And I always said the same thing: I think you underestimate how obsessive I am with something.

I’m really fascinated with building a relationship with your authentic self. That kind of content just pours out of me. I am not corporate at all. I just got off a phone call with a customer and, we’re just like, ‘tell me your fertility schedule.’ We rarely talk about work—I build relationships with a non-filtered version of myself.

Tell me about your ebook Unlock Growth with ABCM. First, what the heck is ACBM?

[Download Leslie’s ebook: Unlock Growth with ABCM]

Leslie Barrett: ABCM is Account-Based Customer Marketing. So ABM, account-based marketing, is a strategic initiative to help companies reach business goals by better targeting who you’re bringing into the pipeline. ABCM takes the ABM practices but personalizes efforts for your existing customers.

If you target post-sale customers with an ABM strategy, you’re acting like you don’t even know anything about these people—but they’re your customers, you already know so much about them. You can do things differently.

Who is the ebook for?

Leslie Barrett: Account-based customer marketing is about retention, so the ebook is for customer marketers or ABM managers, but it’s for the CMOs too, to understand what it takes to develop a retention program and how to leverage customer marketers to run these types of programs. And to educate them on post-sale—because CMOs are typically really focused on pipeline.

I believe personalization is incredibly important right now. Think about the B2C world. You have a conversation about a pillow, and then the pillow shows up on your webpage. People are starting to expect B2B companies to be just as personalized. Give them content when they need that content. Talk to them. You’re actually talking to your customer on the webpage and you know exactly what their use case is and exactly what their industry is. It’s the future.

In your ebook you mention that content is the key to successful ABCM. Can you elaborate on what post-sell content encompasses?

Leslie Barrett: First, it’s important to remember that an ABCM strategy is about personalization and so, by definition, cannot be one-size-fits-all. I’ve developed a variation of the ITSMA pyramid

Account-based marketing pyramid from ITSMA

Source: ITSMA

My ABCM pyramid represents a tiered approach: as you move up the pyramid, your efforts become more targeted and more personalized as investment and potential ROI also increase.

Account-based customer marketing pyramid

Source: CMA Soulmate

Here’s how the account-based customer marketing pyramid works:

  • At the bottom is a 1-to-many approach; you’re grouping accounts based on similar needs or challenges. 
  • In the middle is the 1-to-few strategy, which delivers messages tailored to a small group of accounts with a similar business need, getting a little more targeted. 
  • And then at the top is the 1-to-1 strategy, which can be scary because it takes a lot of resources, but can also be extremely rewarding because these are your white-glove accounts that you want to make feel special, and everything is prepping them for the renewal and for upsell opportunities.

What advice do you have for someone who’s just dipping their toes into ABCM for the first time?

Leslie Barrett: Download the ebook. The last chapter is a playbook; it gives you a way to get started. If you have an advocacy program, pick some of your advocates to target, select one of those plays and get started.

Or you can use the Pareto principle. The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. In this case, identify the 20% of your key business accounts that are responsible for 80% of your business success. That’s one way to segment and I think starting with those 20% would be a good pilot program and bring some really good results.

What are the top 3 challenges of ABCM content—and how do you overcome them?

Leslie Barrett: To create ABCM content you have to change the way you think about the customer journey. Many of us are used to the pre-sale customer journey: the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel. But I’m talking about the encompassing customer journey, post-sale. That’s where you start.

Here are the top 3 challenges of account-based customer marketing content:

#1 Delivering a personalized experience through content

Focus on the complete experience that a customer has with your organization, encompassing all interactions across all channels. You may need a spreadsheet or map to really see all the different touchpoints.

The content really needs to be personalized to where they are in that journey. For example, early-stage content might focus on onboarding and adoption, and then later-stage content may focus on reiterating the benefits of your products or services. And then you have to get creative and determine how to deliver that message. What channel or format should you use?  

#2: Knowing how to choose target accounts 

This can be totally overwhelming. You can slice and dice and segment your customers in so many ways!  The process will involve analyzing account data—but expand your segmentation factors beyond size and financial health. Look at engagement habits, behavior, demographics, geography and other divisions to help you personalize content.

Begin with your advocates. At Sendoso, I had top senders and spenders; they love the platform and are quick adopters. Upsell or cross-sell opportunities are targeted first toward them because they’re most likely to take a meeting.

#3. Knowing what content to use

First, do an audit of the content that you have and see if can be tweaked slightly. Focus on content that is based on analytics—if you’re tracking what content is being consumed, then that’s the place to dig into to see what really resonated with the audience.

Thanks for spending time with us!

Thanks to Leslie for introducing me to the power of ABCM—and thank you, reader, for spending part of your day with us. I hope enjoyed my interview with Leslie as much as I did. 

Here’s how you can connect with Leslie:

Want to read more about customer marketing? 

Check out these related Uplift blog posts: 

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Emily Amos

As the founder of Uplift Content, Emily leads her team in creating done-for-you case studies, ebooks and blog posts for high-growth SaaS companies like ClickUp, Calendly and WalkMe. Connect with Emily on Linkedin

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