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How Blue Yonder built an always-on LinkedIn ABM program using 6sense

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher November 30, 2023
How one company ramped up its ABM strategic direction...

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Blue Yonder, a world leader in digital supply chain transformation and omni-channel commerce fulfillment, won the ABM Program of the Year at 6sense Breakthrough 2023 for a pilot ABM (Account-Based Marketing) program they ran on LinkedIn called “Always on ABM.”

I spoke with PT Umphress, Director of Digital Marketing and Operations, and Sam Nohava,  VP, Field Marketing, Manufacturing, and 3PL, about this new program and the company’s approach to ABM overall. 

Getting started with ABM

Nohava has been with Blue Yonder for just under six years. She was responsible for building the ABM program from the ground up, starting it in 2018 on "nights and weekends". The idea was to build internal success stories to prove its worth and get leadership to recognize it as a strategic priority.

The firm built those early success stories for two years, referring to it as "scrappy ABM." This was primarily one-to-one and one-to-few programs. Then, in July 2020, it invested in 6sense and got started with targeted advertising. Nohava said the company was tired of pouring money into LinkedIn advertising and other places and not having the message resonate with what is a seemingly niche audience. The pandemic was also in full force at this time. For a company heavy on in-person events, seeking a greater digital presence by expanding the use cases around their traditional ABM marketing practice became necessary. 

Enter PT Umphress. Umphress joined Blue Yonder a year and a half ago as Head of Digital Marketing and Operations. His team of 20 is responsible for the marketing tech stack, ensuring it's properly integrated and data flows properly. The team also manages vendor relationships, acts as admins, and communicates capabilities to the organization to get the most use out of the tech. Another key part of Umphress's role is to help refine processes and identify the best ways to use and activate tools in an omni-channel, always-on, programmatic approach. 

The alignment between the Field Marketing and Digital Operations teams has been critical to accelerate and amplify the use of 6sense, said Nohava. Prior to Umphress joining the company, 6sense was managed within the ABM function directly, but the platform plays a more significant role in the company supporting foundational growth and data initiatives, so it made sense to move its management out of that team.

From a regional focus to GTM industries

Organizational changes within Blue Yonder provided an ABM opportunity. The company shifted from a regional lens to go-to-market (GTM) industries. Sales and business development aligned along industries, and the decision was made to restructure Field Marketing similarly. 

The focus now shifted to who they were selling to and what motivated their buying motions, starting with retail manufacturing and logistics. Umphress recalls: 

All of the ways that we activate our marketing through like advertising channels, and the way that we build our segments and audiences in 6sense, all of that had to change. So that really became an opportunity for us to say, Okay, well, since we have to rebuild everything anyways, let's take the chance to figure out, okay, can we build something that would scale really well. ABM had been very scrappy, very opportunistic, and with plenty of wins, but it was a lot it was high effort to do those things.

When Umphress joined the company, people were saying, "Let's do ABM," which was strange to him because ABM is a strategy, not a tactic, and you should always be doing ABM. What he saw missing from what the company was doing was a one-to-many (air cover) ABM program that wasn't specific to a region and was fully programmatic and always on.

That’s where the pilot “always on LinkedIn” ABM program came in. 

Building an always-on global ABM program

This initial, always-on LinkedIn ABM program used 20% of the budget. It started small, focusing on prospects and the buyer journey's awareness, consideration, and conversion stages, where there was more control over the narrative. The project also limited the industries and solutions. Nohava said it was important to keep it simple and manageable to allow to iterate and buildout over time. Also, the firm wanted an approved budget and a program that could speak for itself with results. 

Nohava said that initially, ‌the content was her first concern. The idea of creating a lot of new content for the program would be a challenge. Fortunately, she said there were already very sophisticated ad programs and a high volume of campaigns and events running across channels, just regional. So, it was possible to build out a matrix of existing content aligned across industry segments, key solution areas, and customer journey stages to use in this new program. Blue Yonder is a data-driven company, so it used its own data to do this work to reduce risk and scale personalization. 

It also worked closely with 6sense and LinkedIn to make the pilot program work, says Nohava:  

We relied heavily on LinkedIn to help us pull those models, in addition to 6sense (in their platform it allows us to do similarly), so we could invest the right level of budget so that we can prove this pilot out, see what was working, see what wasn't. We leaned heavily on every part of the tool and maximized those integrations. We continue to optimize the model, the keywords, the countries based upon our go-to-market motions and sales and business development efforts and really tried to dial the machine in the best we can to optimize our results and then free up our team's energy to focus on more strategic personalized campaigns and accounts.

The pilot started working, and Blue Yonder quickly found that all field marketing globally, across industries, was benefiting. It didn't matter what stage of the buyer's journey a person was in; the program provided air cover for all. Umphress said it was a nice complement to everything field marketing was doing. 

While ‌technology (6sense, LinkedIn) was key to this program working, the tight relationship between Field Marketing and the Digital and Ops team was equally important. The latter understood the machinery and capabilities and built the automation, while the former knew the audience and what motivates them. 

Working together, they could track performance and, through regular check-ins (in this case, monthly), iterate and make changes where necessary. You may think that monthly isn't enough, but it was the right amount for this program. Nohava said that based on how often content was created and the data points of 5,000 to 10,000 impressions from LinkedIn, a monthly check helped them decide if the program was working.

Along with tracking field marketing's KPIs for pipeline and revenue, Umphress also worked with business development to track leads, opportunities, and pipeline. In addition, they were also able to track the movement of buying stages to show the full impact across the buyer's journey, which Nohava says many ABM programs don't do.

Here’s a look at the pilot program outcomes by the numbers:

  • 19 million pipeline influenced
  • 38 opportunities
  • 42% increase in the purchase stage
  • 37% increase in anonymous visits

6sense as their ABM foundation

The decision to use 6sense as Blue Yonder's ABM platform came down to a few things. First, they wanted a true partner because the company was new to ABM. They did have a few success stories but didn't know how to scale that success, especially around targeted advertising. Adoption was also crucial, so a user interface that made it easy for users to adopt and work with was important. 

More recently, the business development team (under marketing now) adopted 6sense Sales Intelligence. The entire team now has access to the same data and speaks a common language.

While the pilot program was focused on LinkedIn and specific industries and solutions, 6sense plays a much larger role in the company. This is the foundation of their ABM approach. For example, the firm uses it as the basis for targeting in Drift to help them understand which playbooks to fire based on 6sense audience parameters. 

6sense is constantly listening and reporting back to the rest of the toolset. Umphress said that it has enabled the company to be more automated and nimble and allows them to work smarter, not harder. While not fully automated yet, it's the direction they are moving in.   

Umphress says that 2024 will see the company broaden out the program, keeping things broad with retail manufacturing and logistics but also looking at fragmenting by personas, adding a retargeting layer, integrating 6sense display advertising, and leveraging their Google  Ads Audience sync to optimize their global, always-on paid search program.

My take

Blue Yonder's ABM story is a great example of what you can do to prove the value of ABM without trying to do everything at once. Nohava established the importance of ABM with high-touch, highly personalized one-to-many and one-to-few programs. Adding in a one-to-many automated program via a pilot established that air cover programs also work when implemented carefully. It also proved that automated, programmatic advertising can work if you have identified your target ICP, understand the right content to share, and have the right technology to help you reach them.

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