Transcript - Using ABM to Generate Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL’s) and Grow your Business, with Katie Fisher, Sr. Director of Field Marketing at JLL

Audio:                         Welcome to AEC Marketing for Principals, brought to you by Smartegies, where we help design and construction firms navigate sales, and leverage marketing to win more projects. Here are your hosts, Katie Cash and Judy Sparks.

Katie Cash:                    Hi everyone and thanks for tuning in this week, for the AEC Marketing for Principals podcast. Today, I am talking with Katie Fisher, the senior director of Americas Field Marketing for JLL. I am super excited to have a fellow marketer, and also a fellow Katie on the show with us today. So Katie, thanks and welcome to the show.

Katie Fisher:                  Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Katie Cash:                    So I know JLL is a really well-known brand across the design and construction industry. The firm has been around for a very long time, but for those that might be listening, that are a little unfamiliar with all the service offerings underneath the JLL umbrella, could you share a little bit about what it is that JLL does, and maybe a little bit about your role as the senior director of Americas Field Marketing?

Katie Fisher:                  Yeah, absolutely. So JLL stands for Jones Lang LaSalle, and we are a large firm, a fortune 500 firm across the globe. Outside of our project in construction and design products, we also do facilities management, and transaction and lease administration, as well as consulting. So, if you think about the major markets in the world, if you live and work there, you may actually be sitting in a JLL-managed building today, to kind of simplify what we do.

And then, as far as my role, so I work on our owner and occupier side of the business, which we call corporate solutions. I oversee the Americas Field Marketing team, as you said. What we're really focusing on, is client loyalty and retention for our major accounts, as well as growth from our scaling accounts, into more of our large enterprise accounts.

So, that's where account-based marketing comes in, and that's really where we've developed our account-based marketing programs, is really how to grow those, maybe single X or two X accounts into multi-X product accounts.

Katie Cash:                    I have to say, I was super, super excited when I was at the ABM Innovation Summit, and I see on the agenda someone from the AEC industry speaking, and kind of blazing a trail for other professional services out there, really adopting what the B2B world has been using for years, this account-based marketing philosophy. But it was so refreshing, and so also inspiring, to see you and your team doing it, and sharing your success stories on the stage, while we were at event. I was just really impressed by what all you guys are doing.

Really, that's kind of what led me to reach out to you about being on the podcast today, is sharing a little bit of what that journey looked like and how you got there, how you made it to that decision, to take what is really been heavily rooted for hundreds of years ... If you want to argue thousands of years, when you argue that design and construction were the first real trades in the world, but it's always been relationship-driven sales model.

Here you have a global brand like JLL turning that model on its head, doing account-based marketing, and generating marketing-qualified leads through ABM. So, I would first want to applaud you for that, and then also would just love for you to share a little bit of your story, at what became that tipping point, where you decided to try something different.

Katie Fisher:                  Yeah, absolutely. I think that, at the root of what we're doing, we're still looking at it as turning marketing-qualified leads over to sales, and warming up those relationships, so that they can build those relationships, rather than going in cold.

That's something that was very, very new for JLL. We typically didn't look at marketing as a demand generation engine, in and of itself. It played a role, but not from the way that we face it today, with account-based marketing, and even broad-based marketing.

We really did take a refined look at what that meant for our business. The way that kind of shaped out, is that we had no leadership, that took a look at our organization and said, "We can be more aligned with sales in the business and how we're going to grow." That really was the catalyst for turning it on its head.

We revamped everything. We went from kind of jack-of-all-trades, and being very product-centered, into moving towards being very client-centered, which has been really refreshing. We still have really great product marketing and product management, but we partner a lot better, and our ecosystem is aligned in a much more partnership way than it was before.

So, with all of that, we said, "How are we going to do this? How are we going to drive demand?" We had a lot of really great people already in the fields, that are now on my team for the field marketing team, and we all really just dove into ABM.

I became a certified expert and I got all my teams trained. We worked with industry best-in-class partners, to help us in our journey. And we just went about educating people. That was really the catalyst, where we said, "All right, we need to change. This is how we're going to change, so let's educate our stakeholders and bring them along in the journey, so that it's not being done to them, but it's being done with them, as a true business partner."

Katie Cash:                    Well, I love what you just said there, this idea of becoming more client-centric. I think, all too often, we see it time and time again, working with a lot of our clients, but a lot of design and construction firms fall subject to always chasing projects, which is one's reactive. You're trying to figure out where the money's coming from, and trying to figure out where that project is in the development timeline. And then you put all your eggs in that basket, and you may or may not get it.

What you're talking about, is really about being proactive, being that partner, and being client-centric, and putting your efforts on those clients that are going to be in a position to hire you time and time again, and build that long-standing relationship. I feel like that ... People often just go for that immediate gratification. "But yeah, but there's a project, right here right now, down the street from me," but it might be a one-time client.

What you guys are doing is really, really nice, that you're really investing in that partnership, and again, just focusing your marketing and sales efforts on those high volume, high value accounts.

Maybe that's a good way for us to talk a little bit into ... So you decided to roll out account-based marketing. What made you decide internally like, "Hey, we're going to pilot it," and maybe just do it for corporate solutions group, instead of maybe one of your other divisions?

Katie Fisher:                  Well, I think that we had the leadership at the time, within corporate solutions, to do it. We're a big organization. We have 90,000 people. In the Americans alone, I think we have like 400 marketers, and there's various different areas of our business.

The corporate solutions side, just seeing the best place, because we had the buy-in. We had the buy-in from our marketing leadership, and we had the buy-in from the business. But we really decided to pilot, rather than trying to do it at scale, because we didn't know if I would work.

You have to start somewhere, and prove it, before you can say, "Now I need more money and more investment," which is obviously what we face as marketers. But it allowed us to be like, "This is what we're seeing. This is our big bet. This is why you should invest in this program and in us, in order to grow in scale."

Now, not only are we across all of the Americas for corporate solutions, but we're moving into our mid-cap markets as well, for launching account-based marketing programs. And I'm helping those marketing teams with the launch of their programs as well.

So, it really has taken off as a big bet strategy for our firm, but it's nice, because it's not like this is the marketing goal and this is what marketing's doing. This is an aligned business strategy, an aligned business goal. We only will do account-based marketing with stakeholders. With business units that have signed on, and that believe in it, are going to push it from the top down, because that's where you're going to see the success. That's where we need to focus our effort and resources.

Katie Cash:                    I think that's super, super helpful for our listeners out there, that often keep sales and marketing, even business unit leaders, kind of in their own silos, in their own lanes, if you will. The sales team go out there, have dinner, play golf, do whatever it is. Marketing team, typically in our industry, always gets put on blast for just doing proposals, and maybe some trade show plan.

And then you have your business unit leaders trying to figure out how in the world they're going to get the work done. But here, you're bringing all that together, you're getting everybody rallied around, into the philosophy, and saying, "Hey, this is going to be a team effort. If we don't have support from the top, we're kind of fighting an uphill battle. It's not worth it."

But when you get everybody buying in, and everybody orchestrated together, it sounds like you have achieved some pretty quick success. Some wins, if I'm hearing you correctly, in that now you're starting to roll it out to other markets and to other units.

How have you been measuring it? For some of our novice business unit leaders, or principals that might be listening, how are you measuring it?

Katie Fisher:                  Yeah, so great question. We actually have a really long sales cycle within our corporate solutions business, so we have to start by measuring your typical vanity metrics, that show engagement, that show traction. We also started tracking actual demand units and decision-makers. So, who is engaging? Were there more titles within a decision-maker title, that we're engaging, versus others? Were we able to achieve traction at higher levels, with an organization where we didn't previously have relationships?

So those were all metrics that we started track to show success. Obviously, marketing-qualified leads, sales accepted leads, and closed booked revenue is the end goal, and-

Katie Cash:                    Sure.

Katie Fisher:                  ... where we're driving traction. But for us, it's been how are we building the pipeline? So, of the things we passed through, how many of those have really gone into our pipeline, in order to be converted? And that we continue to work, and continue to stay close with sales, in order to drive it either towards a contract without an RFP, or towards RFP. So, those have been, really, the catalyst metrics.

What I will say is, now that we're moving more into the mid-cap area of our business, where the services can be more transactional, and we can sell into them multiple times, those are shorter selling times. So, we're hoping to see an uptick in the funnel velocity in those areas. We have seen an uptick in our funnel velocity and corporate solutions, as well.

But there's still a lot that's pending, I would say, for closed booked revenue. So, we're still on that journey, but we're starting to really measure it more towards the pipeline, and how we're engaging with specific demand units, in order to replicate how we approach account-based marketing, and continue to approach it down the road.

Katie Cash:                    So, when you talk about long sales cycles, short sales cycles, just to give some perspective, what does that timeline look like? On the long end, what would you define as a long sales cycle?

Katie Fisher:                  18 to 24 months.

Katie Cash:                    18 to 24 months. Okay. That's helpful. And then on the short side, is it a matter of months still?

Katie Fisher:                  Yeah, anywhere from two to six months, I would say, is some of our shorter, more transactional products. And really, we've started to develop a methodology, of trying to get our foot in the door with some of those shorter sales cycles, in order to try to gain the trust and build the relationship. And then try to move them into some of our longer, more revenue-producing product channels.

Katie Cash:                    That's awesome. So I remember when we were together out in San Francisco, at the ABM Innovation Summit, you spoke about trying to break the habit of going from "random acts of marketing," to really being more targeted plays mapped towards your target audience.

Can you talk a little bit about, what did that look like? What did that feel like in the trenches, as you were trying to really change the marketing philosophies and practices at JLL?

Katie Fisher:                  Yeah. I mean, I only oversee one piece of it, right?

Katie Cash:                    Right.

Katie Fisher:                  So, I can't speak to that element of it, but there was a lot of ... We have really great media thought leadership, and so you got to get the thought leadership out. But rather than it being a quality client loyalty aspect, it was a kind of throw it to everyone and see what sticks.

You would be sending it to different groups, that didn't have the buying authority over what that white paper was about. So, you're getting unsubscribes, and you're messing with your metrics, and so on and so forth.

Nothing was really done with it after. I mean, I'd say our content, in general, was really good content, but it wasn't really built for the funnels. We'd have some really good top-of-the-funnel content, we'd have some really good bottom-of-the-funnel content, but not a lot in between.

So, it was a total revamp of the way we thought. We really had to take a really hard look at our content. We have an amazing content strategist on our team, who has completely revamped the way that we approach our campaign content, and even our sales enablement content, which has been really refreshing. It helps us drive that wider ABM content strategy, and the way that we focus our channels in approaching that strategy.

That's just something we didn't have before. We just kept going back to the same well, and probably weren't even really looking at, "Well yes, we're talking to this person, but then there's all these other groups that are also talking to this person, across our various business units, and the message isn't consistent."

So, we've taken a really hard look at how to make sure that we're protecting our list, and we're protecting who we're messaging to, so that when they do receive content, it's tailored to them, and it's for their buying authority, and that it's a consistent voice and a consistent message, rather than coming from disparate parts of the firm.

Katie Cash:                    I think that that's so important. We talk a lot and ... Actually, a previous episode with Scott Steiding from Morrison Hershfield, that we had on earlier this season, he spoke a lot about respecting the reader and respecting the audience. Not dumbing it down too much, when you're talking to a technical professional, but also respecting their time. Not making something overly verbose when you can get it in in two sentences, and being mindful of their time.

But then, also making sure that you're giving them the right information at the right time, and not overburdening them with too many communication points, or ones that are absolutely of no value. I think that that is some very, very great insights, that you're sharing right here with our audience, so I appreciate that.

I'm curious. You mentioned a little bit earlier that ... You kind of threw out this number. You said, "We've got roughly 400 marketers in the Americas," which to the average design and construction engineering company here in the U.S., that seems like a really, really large number. That's more than a lot of large architectural firms, all-in.

So, maybe if you dial it back a little bit, and you look at your pilot ABM program, where you launched it for corporate solutions, what did that team look like? Who are you working with, to get that up and going?

Katie Fisher:                  Yeah. Honestly, we didn't have a demand center or a demand team in place, when we launched our pilot. All of that was being built with our marketing transformation.

Katie Cash:                    Okay.

Katie Fisher:                  We did work with an agency to help us with the execution, but it was really myself and my team. I have five people on my field team, and myself. We all work together, kind of all hands on deck, to really dive into what was the account strategy, what were the problems going on in the account, or the opportunities going on in the account, that we wanted to grow for both prospects, as well as current clients. That's how we really put it together.

We did all of our writing in-house for our content, and for our emails, and then relied upon our agency vendor to execute it through their technology system, because our stack wasn't where it needed to be at the time. So, when I say 400, that's across our entire Americas team, out of a 90,000 person company.

Katie Cash:                    Sure.

Katie Fisher:                  You have to think, that's multiple business units across all of the Americas. When I talk about corporate solutions, we have about 50 ... probably a little bit less than that ... marketers. That includes some global people, and my team, in and of itself, we're six people.

So today, we still work together. All my field marketers handle their own various regional or industry vertical ABM programs. We still have very much a one-to-one large account-based marketing program for each of our geographies and verticals.

We do have a demand team of four people, that helps us with the campaign canvases and our marketing automation system. They help us with our metrics reporting, and they do the actual execution for us, while we drive the strategy and the account relationships.

Katie Cash:                    I think that's really impressive. Thinking through, building an account-based marketing plan, building a marketing team, building a demand team, and all of that all at the same time. That was a lot to undertake.

I want to pivot just a little bit, because in that the answer you just gave, you started talking a little bit about technology in automation, which I do think is a lot of what people automatically think about when they think about ABM. They think it's a technology solution. "I'm going to buy this whizzbang new software and automatically I'm doing ABM," and that's very much not the case. I think you and I both know that.

But, if we were to isolate the conversation around the tech stack, what does that look like, now that you have been fully immersed in ABM now for almost two years, it sounds like? And what does that investment look like, both in terms of resources and ... I don't know if you're able to disclose. Are you spending $1 million a year on technology licensing, or is it upwards of that, lower than that? Whatever you might be comfortable sharing, I think that would be interesting, and helpful for our listeners to better understand.

Katie Fisher:                  Yeah, I mean honestly, as far as cost, I wouldn't even be able to venture a guess. Because again, we're such a large firm, and we have so many licenses across our various technologies, that that's handled from a marketing operations perspective.

Katie Cash:                    Okay.

Katie Fisher:                  And from a technology team perspective. So, we work with our procurement team to source all of our capital investments for technology. But what I will say, is that we started out kind of lean, where we had our client relationship management system, our CRM, and we had our marketing automation system, but they weren't talking to each other. So, we had to fix that first, which we did. We did fix that. And then we started to add on top of it.

So, we did add in Demandbase, which is a intent monitoring, as well as advertising tool. We do paid social as well, that kind of links in. We are getting more robust around contact acquisition and true predictive intent, with technologies that isn't 100% in place yet. But I mean, we didn't have any kind of sales enablement technology, and the technologies that we did have, again, they weren't speaking to each other. So, we had a lot of data, but we couldn't really make sense of it.

And so I think the biggest thing that we had to face was, A, first making all of these tools talk to each other, and being able to have a centralized data lake repository to gather the data, but then also having clean data. So, it's definitely been a journey.

I will say that, yeah, ABM technology is definitely not something you plug and you're like, "Hey, I have ABM now." They help, but account-based marketing is a strategy. It is a marketing strategy in and of itself. And unless you have the qualified professionals leading your account-based marketing program, and the right demand professionals as a part of your team, you can have all the technology you want, you can have the Ferrari of technologies, it's not going to get you what you want from it.

Katie Cash:                    I think that's super helpful. Kind of wrapping up from our discussion today, there's some main takeaways that I've written down as we've been talking. The first of it ... and I think you've repeated it multiple times ... is, first and foremost, ABM account-based marketing is really a business strategy. You can't think of it as a set aside marketing tactic. It's not a sales tactic. It is an all-in business strategy, that requires sales and marketing alignment with top level support from leadership, and from the business unit.

You also talked a lot about education, and getting everybody internally on board with what they're signing up with, what that level of responsibility looks like, maybe what their role in that client journey, and in that ... partnership, I think is the term that you used ... in terms of building that partnership with your clients is.

Lastly, technology is great but it's only part of it. Even if you have the Ferrari of technology, if you don't have a good plan, you don't have support from the top, it's really not going to go anywhere. Is there anything else that you would really advise our listeners, who might be thinking about implementing an account-based marketing strategy as they're getting their 2020 plans together?

Katie Fisher:                  Yeah, absolutely. I think, first and foremost, you have to be educated in account-based marketing. I think it is kind of an industry buzz right now, and everyone's talking about it. Some people are doing it really, really well. But other people are saying they're doing it, and they haven't really taken on the full elements of what account-based marketing is.

So getting certified, working with best-in-class partners, and educating yourself and your team members on what account-based marketing is and can be, I think is really important.

The other side of the coin is, educate your stakeholders. Because I'll tell you, when we start saying we're going to do account-based marketing, they're like, "What are you talking about?" There's pride in ownership of client contacts and accounts, and so it is a really gentle conversation. You can't just be like a bull in a China shop, and run in and say, "This is what we're doing." It has to be a partnership and you guys have to do it together.

And with that, I'd say pilot. Find a champion. Find somebody that believes in what you're talking about and pilot it. Start small, before you try to scale. Prove it out, and have goals associated with the pilot, and KPIs and metrics that you're tracking to, and then work on scaling it. But really, you have to find that champion in the business, that's high enough up, that's going to really push it from the top down.

Katie Cash:                    I think that's super helpful. Yes. Because I mean, marketing is hard enough in B2B space, but then when you add in design and construction nuances, you're selling to a selection committee, sometimes that are not educated on exactly what they're buying, or the differences between player A and player B. Having all-in participation and support, is going to be really, really helpful.

Katie, I really appreciate your time today. I think what you and your team at JLL are doing is great. It's super exciting to see firms in the design and construction space really embrace new business strategies, that are different than dropping a business card in official at a trade show, or just taking everybody golfing.

So, keep doing what you're doing. I'm going to keep watching from afar, and hopefully see you again at some more conferences. But I really appreciate your time today.

Katie Fisher:                  Thank you so much for having me. It's been a true pleasure.

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