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Quarry doubles down on ABM

Richard Hill, MD of Quarry, is pretty clear what the future of B2B marketing looks like, and says he can sum it up in only three letters: A, B and M. He spoke to Joel Harrison

There’s one very clear trend which has defined the last 12 months for B2B agency Quarry, and that’s ABM – or account-based marketing. “ABM has been around for a long time,” says Richard Hill, MD of Quarry, “and we started experimenting with it long before last year. But interest really started to scale in 2017. And all the signs are that it’s not slowing down.”

Quarry is building on its firm credentials in the demand generation and marketing automation business, says Hill, as well as an ingrained culture of curiousity, experimentation and proactive desire to seek out the next. “We started developing personas in 2000, we became Eloqua-certified in 2008 and we build our first responsive website for Symantec in 2012,” he explains. “We are constantly seeking to anticipate what’s coming next in order to get ahead of the trends, and we hedge our bets by piloting and experimenting with it. Then we double down by investing in skills and competencies. And we’ve been rewarded by delivering great value for clients, and seeing great growth in the agency. The last year has gone gangbusters, and we’re very proud.”

Marketing automation skills are just 'table stakes'

Hill believes that becoming Eloqua-certified relatively early in the marketing automation boom is proof positive of Quarry’s ingrained aspiration to innovate. He also suggests that its marketing automation expertise has placed the agency well to be at the forefront of the wave of interest in ABM – but he says MA expertise alone is nowhere near enough to deliver really excellent ABM. “We have a good solid and stable business delivering demand generation campaigns, and we’ve expanded beyond Eloqua into supporting other MA platforms, namely Marketo. But for ABM, marketing automation competencies are just table stakes – to do it well, you need to add many more layers of expertise and knowledge. To do this, we’ve really built up our broader martech muscles. A lot of agencies say they can do ABM, but you need a lot of things to come together to do it properly – from predictive modelling and account list prioritization, to engagement planning, creative strategy, campaign execution to sales enablement. Data science is particularly important.”

So what impact has the focus had on the kind of marketing that Quarry is doing for its clients? And is the focus on specific accounts compromising creativity? Hill is quick to refute this. “Because you’re targeting smaller groups, you can spend more money on reaching specific individuals, and this allows a different kind of creative thinking. This ‘narrowcast’ approach has seen the re-emergence of the ‘lumpy’ DM piece, including personalised video mailers which are very impactful. There are lots of interesting ideas and solutions.”

Hill says Quarry is seeing the birth of a new kind of hyper-targeted ABM campaign, which he calls ‘mega-deal’ ABM. He explains, “We ran a campaign for a major financial services client last year which focused on only one account. Our sole objective was to force an RFP (not necessarily to win the business) and dislodge an incumbent with 25 years standing. To do this, we targeted hundreds of individuals within the organisation – some at a deep level, and some just providing ‘air-cover’, to address potential blockers – with a multi-touch, multi-channel integrated nurture campaign involving everything from direct mail to geo-fenced display ads and social targeting. We needed to target hundreds of people because, after 25 years, the tentacles of the incumbent ran very deep in the organisation. We’ve just heard that the RFP has indeed been issued.”

So does Hill expect to see more campaigns like this? Not necessarily for the same client, although success of this campaign has already led to further conversations within that organisation. And it’s a great example of how versatile ABM techniques can be in meeting B2B challenges.

Hill clearly believes Quarry’s expertise in the on-trend theme of ABM places the agency well for future growth. But he says gradual reduction in the generalist Agency of Record concept/methodology, with its associated retainer, multi-year deals and agency hierarchy, is also creating opportunities for Quarry, and other specialist agencies. “We are on the other side of this, and are benefiting. I think savvy B2B marketers recognise they need savvy B2B agencies who get it, and who understand the business buyer mindset. The fact that we are fiercely independent and agile means we can respond quickly to these opportunities.”