The ABM Content Team was formed in March 2020 with the goal of addressing a gap in content specifically for the company’s account-based marketing (ABM) program. Autodesk had transitioned to an ABM approach two years previously and was evolving its approach to content. Content was required that was customer-centric and focused on building long-term strategic relationships.
In particular, the need was identified for cross-industry content targeted at senior members of the customer buying committee – an audience less familiar with Autodesk. There was a recognition that ABM content should be rooted in the regions and that the team should partner closely with regional ABM teams.
The team was hired entirely during the pandemic, with the final members joining in August, 2020. It consists of:
- A global head
- Leads in each of three regions (North America, EMEA and APAC)
- Executive editorial lead
- Audience development manager
As of today, the whole team has never met in person. [Note: we finally met in person in May 2022]
The overarching goal was clear: create content that supports the corporate goal of becoming a strategic partner to customers rather than a mere vendor. But there were some significant hurdles to overcome:
- As Steve Jobs said, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Our first job was to figure out exactly what regional ABM teams needed and then to create it.
- To achieve our goal, we needed to approach content in a different way, adopting an outside-in, customer-centric approach.
- We also needed to support ABM’s evolving embrace of a targeted 1:few approach involving both marketing and sales, in addition to 1:many campaigns
- Each region had completely different needs and expectations.
- Limited relationships with executive-level customers
- Lack of approved vendors who could produce the type of innovative, executive-level content we needed to produce.
The team really was starting from scratch. It wasn’t enough for team members to be experienced content creators. They needed to be self-starters who could assess the needs of their regions, devise a way forward and collaborate globally to make it happen.
Within our first few months of operation, executive engagement became the company’s number one marketing initiative, with an ambitious target to boot; all eyes turned to our team to fuel that program with compelling content.
ABM starts with audience insight. We commissioned a study into the new audience of executives and uncovered key insights that formed the basis of our content strategy. We shared the research with stakeholders and received rave reviews: “Even more than valuable, this is actionable – we can use this insight to shape what we’re doing right away.” Andy Mott, ABM Americas
It quickly became apparent that there was no place to publish executive-level content so we needed to create our own platform. We called the new executive content hub Converge and launched it globally in November 2020. We rolled out German and Japanese versions in early 2021 and have plans for more. Converge got the sales seal of approval: “This is gold” is how one sales rep described it.
Creating content in a vacuum is fruitless. We worked hard to establish partnerships internally to ensure our content was effective and incorporated into ABM programs and sales outreach. We also built a close working relationship with the executive experience team and led the effort to create a companywide Content Council so that all content creators could collaborate effectively.
We developed a three-pronged content strategy:
- Quarterly executive-level pillar content – big-hitting research reports and innovative formats conceived globally and executed locally
- Always-on publishing via our new executive content hub, Converge
- Regional purpose-built ABM content
Major milestone: our first pillar content
Within six months of the team’s formation, we published our first pillar content: a series of reports based on the topic our research revealed was uppermost on executives’ minds, Growth in the Next Normal. The content was exactly what local sales and marketing teams needed to engage C-suite leaders authentically in the midst of the pandemic. We worked closely with them in each region to craft a full program around the research that started with marketing outreach, included opportunities for sales engagement, and culminated in an executive workshop.
New content formats
We created content in a wide variety of formats to appeal to our time-poor audience, including an interactive benchmark, data visualization, modular research report and physical book.
Regionally, we introduced new ABM content formats that truly focus on the customer and that support targeted 1:few ABM approaches. For example, the Challenge series of assets was designed to help sales and marketing open doors with senior customer executives and can be easily personalized to individual accounts.
In one year of existence:
We are viewed as a critical partner to the business, not a mere content shop
- “Thanks for being such a strong partner to the ABM EMEA Team – you are definitely helping us step by step to become a better customer-centric company.” Christian Weiss, Director, ABM EMEA
- “I was impressed to see how this campaign [Growth in the Next Normal] developed as an agile, innovative partnership between sales and marketing to drive conversations with business leaders on their priorities. It has enabled us to connect with our C-level audience in a unique way and position Autodesk as a trusted strategic advisor at the highest level.” Walter Dopplmair, Vice President, EMEA Territory Sales
The team played a foundational role in Autodesk’s transition to executive engagement
- “This is a really great example of thoughtful scaled executive engagement. We will be using this example in our Q1 Highlights of the things we are doing to change executives’ perception of Autodesk. Great job, team!” Shawnita Sterett, Senior Director, Demand Generation
- We created the hub for all Autodesk’s executive engagement
- Our budget was tripled in the most recent quarter to build on the momentum achieved
- A global executive engagement campaign has been built around our latest pillar content
We enabled Autodesk’s first executive-level ABM campaign, Growth in the Next Normal
- 1570 executives engaged; 171 opted in for future content
- Research reports downloaded exceeded target by 62%; workshop attendees by 20%
- 56% of workshop attendees said they took inspiration for their business
- Described by a sales manager as “a breath of fresh air”
- Named a Q1 highlight by EMEA sales leadership
We established new content formats that helped ABM teams adopt targeted 1:few outreach and achieve commercial impact
- A Challenge asset personalized to a French account was used as the hero in an ABM approach that resulted in a meeting with the company’s entire executive committee.
“Anyone who has worked in a corporate setting knows how difficult it is to get budget and headcount for a net-new team. That investment has been rewarded many times over. The ABM Content Team has far exceeded our expectations. They’ve done so much more than create awesome content; they are helping to change the way Autodesk markets to customers– particularly executives–and move us to the next level in ABM marketing motions.”
Dusty DiMercurio, Senior Director, Content Strategy and Thought Leadership