Tyler is an expert on getting out of your comfort zone, pushing forward into new strategies, and launching products and ideas that are years ahead of the other guys. We caught up with Tyler to talk about adaptability in ABM, and how you and your teams can cultivate this skill for yourselves.
I’d have to go with, for me, adaptability is all about being able to recognize either the need or the opportunity to change. It’s the ability to change how you’re approaching solving problems or achieving goals, and actively seeking out course corrections or new opportunities to fuel that change.
There’s a few things that roll up into this, such as the insights necessary to find those needs and opportunities, and the drive to course correct.
But there’s both sides of it: needs and opportunities. You need to be intentional in looking for both: needs you can fill and opportunities you can create in a more proactive way.
To follow the metaphor of REACH, if I was summiting Everest, I would be mindful of proactively identifying and adapting to potential problems ahead, or potential opportunities ahead.
Sometimes we focus on one or the other. We just focus on problems while not thinking about where the new opportunities are. You could completely bypass issues and skip ahead to a better position!
On the flip side, some of us have our blinders on to the present, and we’re so focused on “What’s the next big shiny object?” that we’re not conscious and intentional enough about identifying potential issues that we need to solve or work around right now.
The big thing is intentionality. The most successful people, the best adapters, are intentional in seeking out opportunities to adapt further. Because adapting is a very positive thing! Some people view it as a negative, as a necessity, but you can view it as an incredible opportunity.
I prefer the latter.
At the end of the day, adaptability is about optimization. It’s about optimizing for the outcomes you want.
It’s looking for, thinking about, and acting on new ways of doing things to help you achieve that outcome faster, cheaper, smarter, or maybe to exceed that outcome. At the end of the day, that’s the most important part of this.
A big part of adaptability in B2B marketing is the foundation for continuous improvement. A lot of folks in marketing don’t think enough about constant iteration and improvement.
It’s not enough to do the same thing you did last year but a little more smoothly. We’re always looking for ways to make big improvements, and a lot of that just comes from our propensity to adapt.
One part is a reactive mode. We use data and insights on a daily basis, literally daily, to measure and understand what’s working for the outcomes we’re trying to achieve and what’s not, and finding ways to plug those gaps.
So on one hand, we operate from a hindsight perspective, looking at what’s working and what’s not, and if it’s not working, do we eliminate those things? Do we change those things to try and get a better outcome? Even if something is working, do we change it to try and get an even better outcome?
A big part of it is reflecting on the data and optimizing by listening to that data and reflecting on the results. We’re always refining and optimizing.
Another big part of it is being disciplined about proactively trying new ideas. Investing in new strategies, new channels, new content types. Looking for better ways to do something.
We’re very intentional in how we try new ideas on a quarterly or annual basis. We invest in that mentality of testing and iterating. We’re comfortable with failing in that environment, as well, because the only way to adapt is to fail! Failure is good. We embrace that.
We don’t just look at “What have we done and how can we do it better?” We look at “What else could we be doing? What can we do in a different way to achieve better outcomes?”
We invest in that philosophy. We’re comfortable and intentional in trying new ideas.
For me, there’s a couple different areas where adaptability plays out. One is that I’m very closely involved in our community building and thought leadership, as well as other outbound content. It’s an area of passion for me.
What’s so interesting right now, as a marketer, is there are so many different channels to reach audiences. You can make content, build communities, engage with people, and create advocates.
There are so many forms of content! Short and long form written content, podcasts, videos, memes, GIFs! You can educate, entertain, there’s all these different ways to engage your audiences.
There are so many different variations of what we can do that there are always different things we can be testing. We do this intentionally. We test a lot of different formats on different channels to figure out what’s really resonating with our community.
Yes, most B2B marketing organizations haven’t really thought about how to reach people on TikTok. Newsflash: TikTok has more growth in active users than any other social platform now. It’s insane.
Those who aren’t adapting today are looking at that and saying, “Well, that’s not my audience. It’s the younger generation. It’s pure entertainment. It’s over there, far away from me.”
But these are the people who haven’t taken the initiative to try it, test it, and see what could happen. They’re not being intentional in trying to adapt. You might fail, you might not.
In our case, we’ve taken that step. We said, “Okay, let’s understand that channel a little bit more. Let’s understand what opportunities might exist there.”
After that, we said, “Well, we don’t create content today that works on that channel, so let’s adapt the kind of content we create, and let’s do it for that channel, because we know we’re going to get the best result if we adapt to it and do what that channel does best.”
That’s become a very successful channel for us to build new audiences, and we’ve learned a lot. And we failed a bunch. And we won a bunch!
Only by being intentional and trying to adapt to it have we found this right mix. We found this is an opportunity for us, so we put in the investment to try and build an audience. As opposed to last year, when we didn’t even have a TikTok account.
That’s one simple example. We’ve done other things, like we’ve launched several podcasts over the years. Ones that worked, ones that didn’t seem to work. And we’ve launched two new ones based on the learnings from that.
Again, even within that content strategy, we’ve adapted. We tested a couple of podcasts, then we took the best of those, and launched something entirely new and invested in it.
That’s the reality of adapting. There’s two ways to do it: look at what you’ve done before and make it better, like with our podcasts, or try something entirely new, like we did with TikTok.
You may fail, and if so, we’ll move on. But if we find something that works, we’re going to leapfrog over others, because they’re going to take a long time to figure it out, because they’re not testing.
It’s a huge part of modern account based marketing. If we step back to look at a couple different areas, the first thing we can say is that an ABM strategy is underpinned with data insights. The purpose of that is to help us adapt and evolve the strategies and tactics to more efficiently create the outcomes we’re looking for.
So the first thing you want to do is think about the data and insights you can bring together about your target account that will help you evolve your ABM program and become more successful as you go.
The data will tell you, even before anything else, what accounts you should focus on. Your strategy needs to adapt based on what companies you’re going after, and that should be based on data.
Then, we’ll get a deeper understanding of the key accounts we care about. What types of content resonate? What types of offers? What types of campaigns? Where are they showing the most engagement?
Data helps us adapt our strategy for each account, and for future accounts that we go after. For example, if we find that these organizations all tend to resonate with a certain type of research report, then I’m going to adapt that program to invest more in research reports than other types of content.
So that’s the first step, to use data to help you adapt and make the best possible program for each account. It’s the foundation of any type of marketing program, but it applies to account based marketing really well.
Another piece, and this connects to what we were saying earlier about being proactive, is being intentional in testing new channels, new content, new strategies with your accounts, to find that next campaign or that next approach that will help you be even better.
For example, in our own account based marketing program, we started off pretty standard. We started with some online account based advertising, but then we said, “What would happen if we started doing direct mailers?” So we tried a few different options with that, as well as some other creative things.
We tried things like hosting private dinners, both virtual and in-person. Small, private events. Do those help us accelerate our relationship with the accounts we’re going after? There’s lots of examples now of how you can test and invest in different strategies.
Only in doing that did we learn what worked and what didn’t. That helped us adapt our strategy going forward.
It’s so critical today, particularly in ABM, as so many companies are in discovery mode and figuring out what’s going to work for them.
The most important thing is: you have to want to adapt. You have to be intentional about it as you evolve the programs. If you don’t, you’ll have your standard set of five tactics that you optimize until they don’t work anymore.
If you’re not always testing out a new strategy, even every quarter, then you’re going to get stuck in the same process over and over again, and you’re not going to evolve. You need to be both iterative in your improvements and aspirational.
That’s a clear area where there’s not a huge amount of traditional tactics that we know work with that audience. We are often trying to reach new types of people in ABM, or if your company is growing, you’re trying to reach bigger companies than you have before.
Again, you need to be intentional, aspirational, even opportunistic with the new things you try out. Think through the new ideas and tactics that you can use. Think about what you know would work for that person, that persona, that kind of company, but also, let’s think outside the box of what we’ve done in the past, put ourselves in their shoes, use that beginner’s mind, and think about what might resonate.
Thinking outside the box is so important for these kinds of audiences. An important part of that, especially when it comes to ABM, is that adapting is a team sport.
Make sure you bring a diverse set of perspectives into the room. Have them brainstorm on it and share ideas. This is crucial.
If it’s just your demand gen leader looking at the data, thinking about it, and implementing new tactics, you’re going to be put into a box. You’re not going to be as adaptable, because you won’t have as much perspective or gather as many new ideas.
But if you bring that person together with members of your sales team who have worked with similar target accounts, and a teammate whose role matches the role of your target audience (for example, if you’re seeking out CFOs, bring your CFO in on the brainstorming), you’ll get better results.
My dream team for something like this is as follows:
Have a conversation with this group that asks, “How do we reach this kind of person?” Encourage sharing perspectives.
This is how you create the most impactful new ideas. Get these individuals together, and what they come up with together will be better than anything one person could have figured out on their own.
Yes, I think everyone needs to have the desire to adapt, even across different functions. Account based marketing is really account based customer engagement. Like I said, it’s a team sport.
Generally, when we talk about how we adapt, you need that diverse set of participation across different groups. That yields the most impactful results.
I have two. Certainly, in my career as a marketing leader, I have been lucky to be a part of great cross-functional teams who always come up with better ideas than I have!
Quite frankly, over my career, I’ve seen people in creative roles, data roles, campaign roles, who all come up with new ways of thinking about things. There are so many different ways to tackle different problems, so many new ways of doing things, and again, that’s why we need those different perspectives.
I’ve found over my tenure that some of our most impactful programs today didn’t exist five years ago, but it’s now a huge part of our program. That’s been an eye-opener for me as a marketing leader.
The other big teacher for me has been my kids. I am lucky enough to have four amazing kids, between the ages of six and fourteen, and they are an absolute wealth of learning opportunities. They’re like my own little focus group.
I have come to appreciate, thanks to them, how varied people can be. I mean, my goodness, they are all so different from one another! As a parent with multiple kids, I have to adapt, even in the mornings when making lunches.
They all like different things! There is no saying, “This is what you have for lunch today,” no, there are four different lunches, because they all have their own unique character and preferences.
Or when we’re picking a movie to watch. Again, there is no one perfect movie! Everybody finds their own thing they’d rather watch.
It’s given me a better appreciation for how important it is to be able to adapt to people’s styles and interests. The way my kids interact with the world is so different from how I do, or even how I did when I was their age.
So it’s given me a lot of inspiration in that way. I look at what they do, and I think, “Wow, if that’s the way my buyers are going to think and act in the future, I need to get ahead of that.”
Sometimes it’s obvious. The amount of time these kids spend on TikTok blows my mind! I know I have to adapt to it, because it’s not going anywhere.
We talk a lot in marketing about persona, or audience profiles, but that never does it justice. Real people all have their different preferences, their different interests. You can’t capture the nuance in one persona.
Sometimes you’re never going to know. Will they prefer a video, a podcast, or would they prefer a cool direct mailer? It won’t always be one clear thing. So you need to be able to try everything, and adapt to what seems to work best in your market.
Everyone’s going to be a little bit different. The way we market to them needs to adapt and evolve.
Be intentional and disciplined in trying new ways of doing things. Set very clear goals for experimentation, either for yourself or your marketing team.
Success doesn’t just mean you achieved your core metrics. It also means that you tried a new channel, a new program, a new area, and you learned from it.
It’s hard to do, because we’re all so focused on today or tomorrow’s outcomes, but some of these things you try are going to be more important for how you do in the future.
Be disciplined about it. Include it in your targets and goals. You are going to try something new and learn from the results. The learnings themselves are the most important outcome.
I’m climbing a lot of mountains right now. We all are!
But one of the things I’m focused on at Vidyard very much relates to adaptability. About six months ago, we launched a new experiment.
We consider it a media company for the sales community. We target salespeople and sales leaders. They’re a big audience for us.
We’re looking at the state of the world today, but also the possible state of the world tomorrow, and we’re seeing that, more and more with the sales community, they want to engage with content in different ways than they have in the past.
They don’t always want to engage with a pure vendor brand. They want something more community driven and unbiased.
So we launched a media company called Sales Feed. It’s promise is, “Your fuel for a better life in sales.” We’ve been experimenting and testing with creating both sales and educational content for that community. We’ve been learning a lot along the way, it’s been really interesting.
It’s given some insights to how we should be adapting our other marketing programs going forward. But one of my “summits” I’m working toward is building out Sales Feed into a very large community initiative and see great engagement. Eventually, we want hundreds of thousands of followers behind it.
I’m excited about it. It’s a very different approach. It’s a really big example of an experiment turning into a current program that may have a big impact on what our marketing programs look like one or two years down the line.
It’s a big Everest! I might fall. I might crash and burn. We’ll see! But those are the best summits.
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