A Personal ABM Stroy – with Declan Mulkeen and Jack Rawlings

Declan Mulkeen


Declan Mulkeen is the CMO of strategicabm, named a top 15 fastest growing ABM agency in 2021. Additionally, Declan is the host of the ‘Let’s talk ABM’ podcast, the #1 podcast for B2B marketing and sales professionals to learn about ABM. Prior to his current positions, Declan worked for over 20 years as the CMO of Professional Services and Edtec companies.


“When setting out on any ABM journey, you need to define the outcomes and make sure everyone is on board with what those outcomes are. Set realistic expectations and set them early on in the ABM journey.”

Key Points

  • Knowing the challenges of your brand awareness 
  • Understand where you are, what you know and set realistic goals 
  • The messaging challenge; providing that clarity and uniformity 
  • Addressing relationship challenges from within accounts early 
  • The 3 R’s: Reputation, Relationships, and Revenue 


Declan Mulkeen:
Ask. So welcome to the presentation by Strategic CBM. We are a navy emergency headquarters at the United Kingdom with clients right across EMEA and North America. And we’re delighted to share with you something a little bit different. We’re going to be sharing with you a personal ABM story. And I’m delighted to be joined today by my colleague Jack Rawlings, who is the head of ABM at the agency.

Jack, thanks so much for joining me.

Jack Rawlings:
Nice to be here. Good to talk to you.

Declan Mulkeen:
Well, just a little bit of background for everyone who’s watching. So, Jack is one of the kind strategic leaders at the agency and has responsibility for some of our key clients. And one of the clients that Jack has been working with for several years now and Jack will go to a bit more detail is a company called Blue Robotics, and they are a global leader in autonomous navigation systems, and I think Jack will explain a little bit more about that and very shortly and we’re going to talk a little bit about their journey to account based marketing, their journey from how they’re involved and where they go to market strategy. And we’re going to be sharing with you a little bit of kind of inside information on what we’ve been doing together over the course the last two or three yearsm and also, very interestingly, we’ll be sharing with you some of the results that we’ve had on the program. And as I mentioned, it’s quite a personal story because it involves both, obviously, Jack, from the agency and also the head of marketing at Blue Bluebox, Matt Waite. So let’s got some slides here which we’d like to share with you.

So we’re going to talk to the story and I’m going to read written questions, and Jack’s going to kind of fill in some of the information about what exactly happened on that program. So let’s just let’s just share the screen and hopefully we can.

Okay. So Blue Box, a personal IBM story. How to Build an IBM Strategy from scratch and deliver a £4 billion $4 billion pipeline. So let’s just talk about Blue Box. So, Jack, tell us a little bit about Blue Box.

Jack Rawlings:
Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve got six are, as you say, an autonomous navigation technology provider solution based out of Switzerland. They are one of the kind of key players in the in the autonomous navigation space. And what that means is essentially autonomous navigation is the technology that is used in a mix of different machines, mobile robots, autonomous vehicles, things like forklifts, mostly kind of warehouse automation functions.

But a mix of different kind of use cases and applications and and robotics make the technology both the hardware and the software that goes into these machines to automate the automate them and mean that they can be kind of programed to do different functions depending on what the kind of use case needs to be.

Declan Mulkeen:
Fantastic. And we’ll take it a little bit more now. So as I mentioned, Jack is the head of IBM at the agency and obviously I am the CMO and some of the all too familiar with the contents that both Jack and I share on LinkedIn. So head over to our profiles. And if you are looking to learn more about cloud based marketing, please follow us and hopefully you’ll benefit from some of the content.

So we said this is a personal avian story. So it’s really important to to to mention Matt, who is the head of marketing at Blue Pass. Give us a little bit of background, Jack, about Matt and and how he how he came to the position even now.

Jack Rawlings:
Yeah, absolutely. So so Matt is an experienced B2B marketer. He’s worked with a number of technology brands, is also actually got a kind of journalism tech background. So his kind of I’d say priorities focus and strengths lie in the in the content side of things, content creation, kind of storytelling and focusing on kind of really building out that story of, of, of different brands.

He joined Prebiotics in in 2019, a few months before he started working with us strategic. We worked when he first when he first joined the business he was kind of spending a lot of time understanding the market, understanding the industry, understanding the proposition and the solution that robotics had. And then at the same time, kind of investigating and I’m trying to understand what the best go to market strategy would be for me, but they weren’t necessarily doing a huge amount of marketing when he was when he first joined. He was probably the first marketing hire. And so essentially it was his job to kind of shape that marketing function and team and within his kind of remit was was looking to decide on a specific kind of go to market strategy. He kind of settled on ABM as a as an avenue to explore, and that’s when he kind of brought us in as as the agency partners to help him essentially try and try and build out the ABM program.

Declan Mulkeen:
Fantastic. Thanks, Jack. So let’s talk about some of the challenges that that blew. But it was facing at the beginning of this kind of account based marketing journey. One of which was obviously brand awareness. So it was a company that was very much led from a product point of view and from a sales point of view. And they’ve been they’ve been very successful.

I think it’s fair to say, in terms of their growth. But what was the what was the brand awareness challenge that they faced?

Jack Rawlings:
So the the key thing really is that within the relationships that they had, within the within the target accounts counsel, the clients that they were working with, they were very well known that were very well established. But in the broader, wider industry, potentially not as well known or not necessarily considered the market leader at that point in time, and so the brand awareness challenge was really to try and raise that profile of, of the business within that target, within those target industries. So that’s a mix of manufacturers of the of the machine. So actual client partners for Vortex as well as also end users and and targets in that in that sense. So those who are looking to buy the machines and use them in their in their own kind of functions, whether that’s warehouses or whatever it might be.

So the key thing really was that robotics was kind of reasonably well known within the sort of tight knit industry of mobile robotics, but not necessarily well known build, not. So it was a case for us to to identify how we could expand that reach expand the awareness with with the target accounts that we were we were looking to to speak to not really kind of identified.

This is as the key challenge, one of the key challenges in the early stages of developing his marketing team and brought us in to help with that, which was that. So it was a case of kind of thinking about what kind of content, creative and and strategies we could employ to increase that awareness within within the target target market.

Declan Mulkeen:
Fantastic. And let’s just talk about lessons as we go through this presentation and talk about some key lessons that that both yourself and Matt learned and obviously do politics and and the agency. What was this kind of major lesson you learned here?

Jack Rawlings:
Yeah. So I think from Mark’s perspective and from my perspective, it was really important to be to be really aware of where where the business was at when we first started working with them. The the kind of tendency for a lot of companies is to see ABM as a as a way to turbocharge their activities, turbocharge that kind of marketing strategies and while that’s absolutely true that it can have a huge impact on that, it also requires some patience and requires time to kind of get the foundations in place, and I think that we had to set realistic goals in those early stages. I think if we if we’d come in thinking that we were going to be getting, you know, generating revenue, when bear in mind the level of brand awareness we had within these target accounts was quite low. We would have struggled. We would struggle to hit those goals.

So it was about setting realistic goals, which indeed in those early stages was about building the foundations for a long standing, effective ABM program that would kind of succeed as it went on. If we if we’d spoken to Matt about you more kind of revenue based goals in those early days, I think I think we would have struggled to to to hit them because there was a lot of work that needed to be done to get the the brand awareness right to get be that the tech stack, the content portfolio in the place that it needed to be for us to be able to succeed of those those programs.

Declan Mulkeen:
You know, fantastic. I think I’d definitely agree that the when setting out any ABM journey, you’ve got to define the outcomes. You got to make sure that everybody is on board with what those outcomes are and set realistic expectations. Otherwise you’re going to get into trouble. You have people expecting that you’re going to meet revenue targets before you can, and it’s really important to make sure that everybody’s on side from the very, very beginning.

So let’s just move on now. Talking about challenges, we mentioned the brand awareness challenge. Let’s talk about the messaging challenge.

Jack Rawlings:
Absolutely. Yes. So the messaging messaging challenge that we that we had particularly identified was around specifically the clarity of messaging. So robotics, as we said, they came from a lot of product led sales that backgrounds. That team is predominantly kind of engineers. So very technical. They’re also obviously Swiss. So English being not necessarily the first language for a lot of them, though, their English is is fantastic, but it’s not necessarily the the primary language that they use.

So in terms of the messaging that was being put together or being used at that point in time when Matt joined, it was slightly I would say mixed in terms of how it was approaching things. So it meant that there were different phrases, different kind of terms of being used. Maybe one is relevant. One in particular was around things like mobile robots and mobile robots.

This is certainly one aspect of what robotics does, but it’s not the only aspect. And so the focus being on not kind of narrowed slightly or slightly mis represented what what people six were about. The the key thing was for Mat’s perspective to be able to understand what was the value that the robotics brought to to the to their clients.

So building out a narrative and a value proposition around not really being clear about what it is that what value robotics adds to, to those, those clients and and then build all of the messaging around that. So everything we did was based on not everything that we, we did from a campaign perspective had to be built on clarity of messaging that Matt identified.

And then we kind of assisted with building out in those in those early days.

Declan Mulkeen:
Yeah. So to summarize the, the kind of the work that we did as a team in conjunction with Matt and the Group of 16 around the insights development, looking at the industry, looking at the environment, looking at the competitive landscape and then the value proposition work building a unique brand proposition for that market helped to actually create a cohesive message.

Is that right?

Jack Rawlings:
Absolutely. Yeah, that’s spot on.

Declan Mulkeen:
Fantastic. Let’s move on now to talk about the second lesson. So how would you summarize that second lesson.

Jack Rawlings:
Yeah, I think it’s I think it’s about being clear with with that messaging, but specifically having that alignment across the team, across the business, around that clarity, because it’s very easy for marketing to get excited about the messaging and really kind of want to push us as a certain kind of avenue or a certain group. But actually it requires buy in from the whole business to be able to actually get this kind of this clarity and this this focus of what the proposition is into the market.

So what I mean by that in practice is it’s not just the marketing team using this in the messaging, it’s the sales team when they speak to prospects, it’s the is the product teams. When they have these conversations and demos, it’s the engineers. It’s everyone within the business using the same terminology, the same kind of focal points within within the messaging, rather than a kind of mix of different, you know, different ideas in different, different terms.

And that that sort of united front on it in terms of the in terms of the messaging that the whole business used means that then it’s very simple for us to kind of make a clear journey through the ABM program with that and and the prospects and the customers feel comfortable with with every step of the way because that they’re picking up on the same kind of messaging, the same wording, the same terminology that that they’ve kind of had the whole way through. So having that clarity and having that focus, I think, was super important.

Declan Mulkeen:
Fantastic. Thanks for that, Jack. So third challenge, we’ve talked about the brand, we’ve talked about the messaging, and now there is a challenge around relationships. So what do you mean by relationships in this context of ABM?

Jack Rawlings:
So the key thing was, as we said, it was a sales led organization. There was a lot of really strong relationships built on a kind of 1 to 1 basis. So from events or from sales conversations or relationships built in that kind of way, that was that was great. And that’s what got prebiotics to wear where they were.

What was required though was a kind of deepening and widening of of those relationships within target accounts. So by increasing the amount of contacts and the amount of touchpoints that people had with that target and also within those relationships, enforcing them, strengthening them almost so that there were more more messages going out to them, more contacts going out to them, whether that was on different channels, whether that was a different, you know, different kind of content assets and different not so that there was rather than being this kind of very much just a one way single point sort of of contact with an account, it was a lot more of a sort of holistic view and sort of encircling accounts with that, with that proposition and that messaging, as we said before, so that there was a kind of influence, influence from within the account, from different angles around to solution, so that when it came to the point of them wanting to make a buying decision, a lot of people in that account were aware of it.

People were aware of what they do, had that understanding of what that the benefits of that product was. And so that was, you know, it was a much easier conversation to be had rather than having to convince people at that sort of later stage when they’re looking to buy. So that deepening of the of the relationships, but also the widening, as I say, was was really, really important.

Declan Mulkeen:
Yeah, absolutely. I think the we talk about, you know, the three R’s reputation, relationships and revenue and obviously the relationships and the reputation you build within those customers and target accounts will actually be the kind of early indicators of the revenue to follow. So getting those relationships, deep relationships and wide relationships is absolutely critical. So I can’t experience this is something that we obviously talk to the market a lot about and not necessarily everyone who does.

APM actually builds an account experience. Can you briefly talk us through we’re seeing here, you know, awareness, educate, influencing, commit took us through this and took us through what we what we built for the Blue Parsecs ABM program.

Jack Rawlings:
Yeah, absolutely. So this was for specifically for one too few programs. We’ve also run over other types of programs with them. The the key thing in the context of relationships specifically was we wanted to drive people through those different stages and increase the kind of level of understanding and awareness that that those prospects, those contacts have for, you know, for people.

Sick, so we start with awareness type activity awareness content. So in this case, it was a kind of personalized hub page with lots of different real sort of top of the funnel type resources just building that kind of yes, first kind of first touchpoint of first awareness using using different sort of channels. So we did a mix of ads, paid paid media.

We also did some some social settings, media, marketing, that kind of stuff, then drove them to a kind of second, more in-depth piece around it, very specifically around what the value proposition we’ve kind of uncovered was the with the big benefits of, of prebiotic technology for, for these targets. And so built this kind of rule in really kind of an in-depth interactive experience landing page where you click into it, you get more details about each of the different kind of benefits and selling points of what people does.

And then the key thing really is to try and drive thinking about it from it, from, from building nice, you know, strengthening those relationships, driving people to a 1 to 1 session with someone from the robotics team. So whether that was a workshop or a face to face meeting or meeting them, an event, but just kind of building up that that’s, that, you know, really solid relationship 1 to 1, and then we also looked to kind of create assets that helps move that past that initial first conversation into a more of a kind of buying stage conversation. So we had, in this case, a survival pack for a direct mail. A direct mail piece for an event that was like a survival pack. So like lots of little kind of goodies and can be used at an event.

I think the the key thing here is that all of these things, you know, in isolation, these tactics don’t necessarily have the significant impact on their own. What’s required is this kind of concerted combined effort across the across the different stages, because people are going to be the targets are going to be at different stages, depending on on what that, you know, what they’re researching, what they’re engaging with.

So making sure that we’ve got content, we’ve got assets, we’ve got campaigns that talk to each of those stages is is really, really important. And this isn’t necessarily linear either. That’s the other thing, too, to that it you know, we structure it like this, but obviously buying journeys, people come in and out of buying journeys all the time.

There’s stuff that goes on in the background that we’re not necessarily aware of. And so essentially this is for us to make sure that we’ve got all those different places for people to come back to, depending on where they’re at in their journey, they can come back to that sort of the where stage or educational stage or the stage when they need it.

So this is how we kind of structure it. And this is what we did was we bought prebiotics to really good effect for the the one two few program.

Declan Mulkeen:
Thanks Jacqueline as well explaining I think the the way that we think about an account experience is a way of kind of enveloping an account, you know, within a unique environment where they actually can identify immediately that that the in the case this case probiotics is actually understanding their challenges and understanding their problems and is proposing information education value to help them explore what the potential solutions are, one of which of these other solutions that Blue Posits can can offer.

So let’s move to the this is also important to have the results. And I think this you know, this this slide has an awful lot of information on here, but it’s actually there’s a lot of stories in here. So what would you say is the kind of how would you describe what you what what this image is telling the audience?

Jack Rawlings:
So I think the key thing here is, is understanding it in the context of the three R’s, three. So you’ve got a reputation relationship to revenue from from our perspective, we think it’s really, really important to to build those foundations in the in the reputation and relationships two stages in order to be able to translate that into into revenue at a later, later stage.

That’s exactly what kind of is is borne out here. You can see it in the in the way that the those different kind of touchpoints have come through. So you’ve got lots of impressions, lots of clicks, lots of engagement, kind of a top level. And that would be the kind of that, that reputation stage there. You can see we run a mix of one to many and one to few account campaigns.

And with the we’ve we’ve got that kind of translated into was 16 opportunities from from the two programs eventually and of those were those 16 opportunities that that came through we can see that they all engaged in some way prior to becoming an opportunity. So it was either through ad impressions or clicks or it was connections at that relationship level.

So it’s connections with social media, conversations on social media or on email. So build in those different sort of stages of, of the reputation and relationship before then generating those opportunities was, was absolutely fundamental to the success of this program. And as you can see then those 16 opportunities, some of them have gone into the closed one stage.

Some of them are still ongoing, but with some really, really good brands as well. So the likes of Michelin and Freeform who are key, have been key targets for robotics for a long time that we’ve managed to kind of move into that to that level. But the key thing is, were it not for the activity in those early stages around awareness, content, you know, build in that reputation, you know, educational content and content that was able to start generating conversations and relationships.

We wouldn’t have got to the point of having these opportunities coming through and ultimately that revenue. So really, really important to take in in that wider context of the three RS that you won’t be getting to revenue without those those kind of foundations in place.

Declan Mulkeen:
Yeah, I think that’s a great some a great summary that the first two are reputation of relationships. As I said earlier, the early indicators of the revenue to follow. And you can see here that the the approach, the blended ABM approach of blending a one too many a want if you program have actually both yielded results. And as you can see on the left hand side of the eight closed one deals six came from the ones many campaign to complement a few and equally on the right hand side, the open opportunities are progressing through to sale.

Five came from one to many and 3 to 1 to view. And just for the audience they will see here we’ve mentioned here in Pound Sterling £750,000 and £4 million. That would be approximately $1,000,000,000 on the left hand side and $4.5 million on the right hand side. So let’s just move through to the final lesson here, the three lessons.

What would you how would you summarize this?

Jack Rawlings:
Yeah. So I think I think it’s kind of what you said there around around having this blended approach. You know, that the key thing is that singular tactics, singular channels and, you know, operating isolation really don’t have the impact that that you want, that you need. And particularly when we’re talking about long term success, you know, quick wins here now.

Sure. But but long term success requires this real kind of concerted approach across multiple channels, multiple tactics, multiple content types, buyer stages. All of that needs to be kind of considered. And I think having having a multi-channel approach means that you’re able to really talk to different people in the accounts different, different stages of the of the journey, and likewise, you know, 95% of of all accounts on online market are given time. They’re not looking to by any given time. If we take us to a singular approach in a more kind of like sales, that approach, you’re going to be focusing on just that 5% you are in market. But what happens then when when you kind of run out those all that will there’s not that kind of that keenness from from them to to boy you’ve you’ve got to be able to also focus on 95.

You’ve got to be able to count on them getting to a point at a certain stage where they are ready to have a conversation. So the sales conversation. So you have to be putting putting content and and material into the market that keeps that 95% engaged and educated and aware of of your proposition. So that at certain point, when they are ready to buy, that conversation becomes easier, and I think that the doing that across multiple channels is, is the best and easiest way to do that.

Declan Mulkeen:
Yeah, I think it’s a great summary. So here, just to sum up here, lessons, one, two and three, understand where you are, set realistic goals. Make sure you get everyone from the C-suite down on your side. Make sure you are very clear on your messaging. Work really hard on getting those insights into the industry that you’re working to, to, to win into the competitive landscape, into the accounts you’re looking to win together, and with the value proposition work.

And you’ll have a clear message. And finally, as Jack just said, to take a multi-channel and a blended approach to your ABM program. So I think this is it’s quite a busy slide, but we’ve done it deliberately, actually, because I think there’s the story behind this check is quite interesting. How would you how would you summarize what are what’s the message we’re trying to get across here with this with this slide?

Jack Rawlings:
So I think what you can see here is, is the the evolution of the program with with robotics and and also the the amount of kind of work and time and patience that’s gone into this program. You know, this is not as I said before, it’s not a singular program trying to kind of, you know, get some quick wins.

This is something that’s building a long standing, sort of almost like center of excellence for prebiotics in terms of ABM. So that they’ve got a way of doing things, a way of getting to market with ABM. The fall kind of, you know, goes beyond just tactical, is much more strategic. It’s much more kind of all enveloping of of what they’re trying to do as a business, and you can see we started in 2019 developing a one to many that was kind of a I guess almost like a testing phase to some extent, seeing what messaging was resonating, what types of content was resonating, all of that sort of stuff. We then developed a12 few program in 2020 and continued that, and then it’s rated on that as well.

We’re actually built out a sort of second version of that. And then in going into 2022, we’ve been looking at new ones, a few program and also now currently working on a new one to many program which actually targets a whole separate target market entirely to to the programs we run before. Also using a whole separate proposition and brand.

They have a whole new brand and driven icon, which is essentially like a catalog site of all of the vehicles in the market that use the Botox technology. So it’s a way for them to target those end users that are looking to purchase purchase the machines directly. And we’re working on that one to many program with them at the moment.

So into a whole new, new, new area of business there. But what we’re what we’re clearly seeing is this this need for you know, this is two, three years of work here to get the, you know, those those results coming through. It’s it’s that flywheel type effect as well. As you build up these foundations, it starts moving the flywheel more more opportunities, more relationships are built and come through and now we’re really starting to see the fruits of that at that activity.

So it’s a it’s been a long process, but obviously a really, really rewarding, rewarding one in the long term.

Declan Mulkeen:
Fantastic. Your apologies. The the presentation seems to have a life of its own. It’s jumping around the place. So just to find to finish off on a couple of a couple of points here, what would you say is the biggest lesson from this IBM journey that yourself and Matt and the team at Blue Politics have been on?

Jack Rawlings:
So I think I think the key thing really is, is that dedication and patience required for the long term success, having the having the buy in from the food business, the seat, the C-suite, the CEOs, all of that, you know, is really, really important. And, yes, we were able to we were able to demonstrate some indications of success along the way, particularly in terms of reputation, relationships being built in those early stages.

But from a revenue perspective, it has taken time to get to that stage of of building pipeline and getting opportunities coming through. And so having that patience and dedication to to not, you know, not pivot straight away when when it’s not necessarily working in three months, it requires that that, you know, concerted effort from the whole team. And I think that’s where we’ve seen the success for robotics is they were willing to give it time.

They were willing to put the effort and working with us to get to that stage. And what is built now is not something that’s just generated some results. And that’s the end of it. It’s something that’s that’s going to last a very, very long time. Some of them work really well for how they kind of go to market generally going forward.

So yeah, patience and dedication is is absolutely key for IBM.

Declan Mulkeen:
Thank you, Jack. Well, I think that’s been a great IBM story, a personal avian story. And I hope that the audience at the demand Gen Summit has some has it has enjoyed that story and learned something about a robotics, which is an interesting world that obviously is is is coming to the fore. And I think all the large company that we all know and a key consumers of that and I think also of account based marketing and the fact that it is a journey, it is somewhat a marathon and you do need to put in an awful lot of effort, but the results that come out the other side are well worth it.

Just to finish off with just a reminder to if you want to keep learning about ABM, head over to our website, IMDB.com. We have a monthly publication called Dash Dot that comes out once a month and you can get everything in there about interviews with various ABM thought leaders. Check out our avian playbook and you can learn about the best ABM plays, and finally, if you want to come a bit deeper into ABM and perhaps road test your strategy, just book a session with us and we run these educational sessions. We’ve done about 250 actually to date with B2B technology team. So we’d love to to learn more about your go to market strategy and your ABM thinking and we could share some ideas with you.

So Jack, just to just to finish off ready to say yes, thank you to you and to Matt over at Blue by six for sharing this personal avian story. And we wish you and the team over there every success in the future.

Jack Rawlings:
Thanks very much. Great to talk to that.

Declan Mulkeen:
Thank you.