Account-based marketing (ABM) and deal-based marketing (DBM) are hot topics—especially for government-focused tech firms, where raising awareness and building relationships are essential to gaining trust and winning contracts.
But it isn’t just the job of marketing or sales to introduce and maintain these programs. The most successful firms know it’s a joint effort, where each team plays to their strengths. That isn’t always easy, so to look at how to make that alignment between sales and marketing work, we spoke with Anamika Gupta, Director and Head of Customer Marketing and Robert Lai, Vice President and Head of Public Sector at Fujitsu Americas.
Here are the highlights of our conversation. Click below to listen to the podcast or visit layofthebrand.com.
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: The reality is every government-oriented company does ABM and DBM to some extent, even if they don’t call it that. How do you define ABM and DBM specifically for the government space?
Anamika Gupta, Fujitsu Americas: In the past couple of years ABM, the term itself, has gone crazy, just like predictive analytics, right? People have started defining it based on what their need is. But for me, ABM is a long-term strategic approach that requires marketing and sales to work as partners to achieve one common goal, open doors or deep engagements at high growth accounts. It’s not a simple campaign or tactic. It’s a business strategy; it’s not one and done.
When it comes to DBM, it actually follows the same approach, the same work [as ABM]—just that DBM has a shelf life rather than growing an account.
So in principle, if you ask me about ABM and DBM in the government space, it is no different than what we employ in the private sector. But you need to take a couple of things into consideration, navigating long procurement cycles, respecting complex government procurement regulations. There is no single federal IT persona that covers all decision-makers. So there’s quite a bit of work to be done here so that there’s no ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ And please don’t forget the lobbyist. Understand what inspires your target audience, who they trust and why they trust them. Compliance, ethical boundaries. In fact, relevant case studies work like magic and duty segments. The last I would say is being very, very particular about choosing the right terminologies. With all this, I would say, remember you’re still selling and marketing to humans, right?
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: Anamika had just talked about that alignment and that partnership between marketing and sales, but for a lot of organizations that isn’t always a natural fit. What needs to happen to really align those groups?
Robert Lai, Fujitsu Americas: I think Anamika really said it best, in that we both have the same goal in mind. And when you both have the same goal in mind, you can now break down in terms of what role each organization or part of the organization’s place is to get to those outcomes.
There’s often a lot of debate between sales and marketing — who leads? Who follows? But it really is not about who leads or who follows, but having a common goal in mind and understanding the strengths that marketing can bring to that outcome and the role that sales can play in that outcome.
And when you understand that, it’s easy to work together and be aligned to the outcomes that we want.
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: Tell me a little more about those roles that we just discussed. What is sales’ role in this partnership?
Robert Lai, Fujitsu Americas: Marketing has a broader view, whether that’s account-based or deal-based, reaching out to a broader base of relationships and contacts and raising that awareness that you’ve talked about, and also creating that interest in what we have to offer and how we position ourselves in the marketplace. But then sales takes a more active role in terms of being more in front of specific relationships, doing more specific positioning with regards to those accounts or those opportunities. And I think that both need to work together. When people make decisions, it is not always based on that one-to-one relationship or one to a few. There are many influences on how people look at the company: their capabilities, what they have to offer. And when you can work with marketing to broaden that type of influence into the marketplace, that helps the overall objectives that we have in mind.
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: And Anamika, there’s kind of a Venn diagram of responsibilities. There are things that marketing does specifically, there are things that sales does specifically, and there’s that overlap where you really mesh together. So from the marketing side of things, as related to ABM, where do you see marketing’s role?
Anamika Gupta, Fujitsu Americas: I think Robert has put it very nicely. It is not about who is leading or in the passenger seat. To make it more real, we actually define a RACI matrix.
It’s who’s responsible, who’s accountable, who’s consulted and who’s informed.
It is very helpful to develop the RACI matrix when you are working towards one common goal. To make ABM and DBM successful, you need the village to come together and that village will constitute your sales team, your extended marketing team, your BDM team, your partner in business solutions, and your alliance team.
Take a very quick example. Let’s say I have a need to work towards one goal. We know we are trying to get to this customer where we have done the segmentation. We know who is the right audience. We also understand the right channel. Now we are getting into the execution mode, which is developing the right content. Let’s say one of the other components for developing content is a microsite. You have so many different things that go into developing a landscape planning page or a microsite. So the layout, the content, developing the design—marketing is responsible, while sales is more consulted and in some cases accountable as well, but think about things like blog development. You’ll see sales needs to be responsible and marketing will be accountable. So I think the RACI matrix helps a lot.
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: I imagine that there are things that each group is going to ask of the other. So what sort of asks do you have of the sales organization, Anamika?
Anamika Gupta, Fujitsu Americas: I have a very clear ask from when I get to sales: do you have a budget? DBM gets funded by sales, but ABM is born of sales and is marketing funded. In fact, this year we have changed the model because we have seen in the past that when there’s skin in the game from both sides, there’s a higher responsibility to the things you’re doing. And there’s a higher return on engagement and also in the investment. So yes, budget is one thing, but the most important question where we start talking and discussing is who are you reaching out to and why do you want to reach out to them? What is your goal?
When we agree on those, then the question gets more tactical. Who is your segment? Who do you want to reach out to? Segmentation is important because your targeted audience is specifically federal. There’s no one federal IT persona who can cover all decision-makers. So how do you segment those now? Once you understand that, how they digest information — are they going onto social media or are they geofencing — so that’s where marketing becomes an expert and says, I understand your challenges and issues. Now, let me go and do my full work and come back to you with some of the tactics we could employ.
Robert trusts me and my team in saying I liked that, or I don’t like that. Maybe he’s going to bring some sales insights. Like, I have seen my primary audience and secondary audience digesting information in a specific way. So why don’t we employ or add this to your piece of the puzzle as well? So those kinds of conversations help. And, ultimately, it’s all about execution and measurement. So reporting and metrics, how is this performing.
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: Robert, let me flip that back to you. When you’re looking at a recompete or an opportunity to capture a new contract, what’s the first thing you’re going to go to Anamika to ask for? How do you start that conversation?
Robert Lai, Fujitsu Americas: I start the conversation out by responding to her budget ask. It is a sales-driven approach in terms of ABM and DBM. And what we look for is, again, lining up to what is the outcome we want, obviously, that is closing a deal, but then there are many steps that get you to a deal closed. And with the government, as most people know, there’s the procurement department, there’s the IT department. And then there’s the business that actually would be looking for a solution to their problem or to how they operate. There are many stakeholders. We try to map out who those stakeholders are, who can be part of the decision-making, or part of the people that influence or shape what they buy and how they buy. So those are mapped out. And then I would look to marketing to be a consultant for us, essentially.
I don’t go say, “I need this or that.” I tell them what problem we want to solve, or what goal we have, what challenges we have and who we want to target.
Then marketing comes back to us in terms of being a consultant to say, “These are the things that we should do.” And then we will ultimately make a decision and proceed with the execution.
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: Let’s follow up on that thought, Robert. That’s a very powerful statement about knowing who you’re dealing with and the relationships that you build with them. You have to know your customer, the challenges they face, the environment they’re in, as well as the contributors and influencers and the ultimate decision-makers. And now of course you can and probably should bring in some third-party data. But if you have direct data that you can pull from your CRM, that can give you a distinct advantage. Do you have the data you need and does everyone who needs it have access to it?
Robert Lai, Fujitsu Americas: We do have data such as CRM data but then there is external data that would always be helpful as well. I think every organization today would always say the more data, the better. How do you take all of that data and make good sense of it? And that’s where we work with marketing as well, to help us dissect the information that we have. And that word Anamika uses: segmentation.
Segmentation is key — how you reach out to different people in different functions within the government or different seniority within the government.
They would take on information differently. Their access to information is different. You influence them differently. All those things have to be taken into account before we do the appropriate account-based marketing or deal-based marketing. So we have data, but we certainly look for third-party data to help us be more informed in terms of how we shape our decision and do that segmentation.
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: And Robert, you mentioned segmentation several times. Anamika, you also brought that up. Can you tell me more about how you approach segmentation and how it influences your go-to-market strategy?
Anamika Gupta, Fujitsu Americas: Before I get to that question, I love one of the terms Robert uses: consultant. I think it is very important for marketing and sales to understand that word because if you take that approach, I think the alignment has already started. Because you are trying to put the layer of not just asking for what you want, but you’re actually saying I want to be a partner and a consultant.
So to answer your question, Peter, maybe I’ll take a step back and ask you this question. I’ll be very curious to know if there’s any company that says they have solved the data puzzle 100 percent. I’ll be very curious because I haven’t come across a company that says my data is 100 percent clean and I’m able to utilize that data for the proper segmentation or to properly build a persona. You haven’t come across any company, have you?
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: No, I haven’t. And I imagine that company doesn’t even exist. If they say they can do that, then I guess I should give them a lot more credit, but realistically you go to market with the data and the tools that you have. So working with the best information that you have available to you, you then need to build a strategy and implement it.
Anamika Gupta, Fujitsu Americas: We definitely do not have 100 percent credible data. In fact, I think we have not even fully advanced in utilizing our data accurately. We are on a journey to making it a reality. The best part is that we now understand the gaps and are working towards building that unified customer experience. Capturing accurate real-time, action-driven customer insights. So as an organization, we are making some very hard decisions. We have already made some very hard decisions of building that data pool of how we can connect it together to pull insights out. We are working with a couple of third-party intent data providers as well, but we haven’t explored this as much as I would like to.
A few of our team members are leveraging the RFP mining data from various approved sites for the public sector. So with all of this data that is available to us, we go at that and then do the segmentation. And again, the segmentation is based on who I’m going after in the public sector, right? Is this education? Is this government? There are few who we already know that we have built credibility in that market. So we pull that data as well because one of the things you’ll realize in the B2G segment that is very important is they don’t work with every partner. They will work with somebody who has built credibility in the market, in a certain area.
So if you go to the government saying, “I am everything to everybody,” you actually cannot sell to customers.
And something I’ve learned from Robert is who we are and what we stand for is very important. So when you’re looking at the segmentation, all these things go into defining who is my key decision-maker, who is my influencer, the lobbyist, in the public sector. Then I gather sales insight. When you’re segmenting this, align with sales to make sure that they are approving or in the same boat as you. When you’re segmenting the data, you are absolutely aligned. Because when you do that, you start building the content from there. You cannot act as two different teams when you’re building that content. So when sales is talking to those people in the corridor, or when marketing is taking a LinkedIn approach of targeting, they shouldn’t be two different things. It should be one message. And you can do that when you are aligned on the segmentation and hence on the content.
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: Do you have any advice for government-focused organizations that want to improve what they’re doing with ABM and DBM?
Anamika Gupta, Fujitsu Americas:
The best advice to this group would be to understand you’re still marketing to humans. Government is no different.
In fact, I think they need to move faster than the private sector sometimes because they’re marketing to citizens like you and me who are already digitally savvy. So they want the government to react to our asks. In fact, I’m talking as a citizen as well. My asks, my queries I want the government to respond to me as quickly as I would expect companies to.
They have similar needs and demands and aspirations and everything else, but you need to understand what is different from the private sector. Align with your sales. Align with your leadership team and your delivery team; build an ecosystem when you’re doing ABM and DBM. First of all, ABM and DBM cannot work in silos. It is not a segment that will succeed inside and we need to build a village around it. It constitutes an extended marketing team, which is your social media team, your events team, your content team. You name it. And then the most important is the sales team. Align and act as a partner and consultant.
Lastly, be extremely relevant. You cannot just pick something from secondary research and go back to your team and say, let me combine everything and go to market or get to the government. You will not build credibility. You will not build trust. So you need to be extremely relevant. And for that, you need to understand your audience. So go back to segmentation, go back to persona, go back to your sales and ask them questions.
Peter Jacob, Lay of the Brand: Robert, what’s your perspective? What advice do you have for sales and marketing leaders?
Robert Lai, Fujitsu Americas: I think leaders have to be able to adapt to the changing environment in terms of how people are marketed to. And I can speak about myself. I’ve been in the business for a long time. And I would say that for most of my career, I’ve leveraged my relationship capabilities and found relationship selling as foundational to my past success. But today, you can’t just rely on relationships or the one-to-one or one-to-few, you need to be able to reach out to many to be successful. Young leaders are adapting because they grew up in more of the fast-changing world we live in. But I think the more mature, more seasoned ones need to adapt like myself. There’s so much data out there that we can use now, whether it’s our own data or third-party data. Use that data because that’s where the world is going.
Data is data shaping our decision-making and strategy. Data is shaping how we execute. So leverage data, whether internal or external, to develop your strategy going forward.
Want to learn more about how to reach government decision-makers? Listen to this podcast and other episodes at layofthebrand.com on your favorite streaming platform and check out our B2B Marketing Hub.