How Honeywell invests in innovation with ABM

December 15, 2021

Legacy and innovation don’t always go hand in hand.

For some organizations with long and successful histories, an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” motto can permeate the culture.

But when change comes too slowly—or not at all—these legacy companies put potential revenue at risk. According to recent research from Gartner, the most common challenge faced by revenue organizations is driving demand and getting pipeline.

That’s because buying habits have changed and traditional marketing and sales methods aren’t as effective anymore.

To move the needle in today’s landscape, companies of all types must embrace digital innovation and become hyper-targeted in their approach.

Here’s how Honeywell embraced ABM to do just that.

Opening the door to ABM

As a blue-chip company in business for more than 100 years, Honeywell’s no stranger to changing times. But when Bill Kircos served as Vice President of Marketing and Communications starting in 2012, the company was still relying on press releases, print brochures, and town halls to launch new products.

As the new CMO, he knew he needed to change the culture around marketing. He started by implementing a swear jar to ban those pesky words above from the lexicon—then he began having some serious talks.

“The inflection point for us was some of the philosophical discussions we had. Then we married those discussions with technology that became available. Eventually, we had one instance of sales and marketing tools in our aerospace division: one CRM, one Marketo. Once we had that, we started asking questions like whether mass marketing is the best way to market if it’s expensive and we can’t measure it very well.” — Bill Kircos, CMO, Honeywell

Then it became a culture thing. In theory, they believed they could sell better, market better, and maybe save some money—but how could they get the group to change?

As it turns out, the answer lay in Honeywell’s existing culture. 

“We’re really big on teaching engagency, which means risk-taking, curiosity, iteration. That’s how we approached our first stab at ABM. We used geofencing to market by home and zip code where we thought the executives and decision-makers were working and/or living. And we took it on with engagency.”  — Bill Kircos, CMO, Honeywell

The results

In a slight variation on “the right message to the right person at the right time,” the CFO’s wife saw Honeywell’s ads and told her husband about them. Then her CFO/husband told the CEO.

“Next thing you know they’re calling us and saying ‘You must be spending millions on advertising. We’re seeing your ads everywhere. We really appreciate the message Honeywell is delivering to us.’ That was largely due to effective targeting.” — Bill Kircos, CMO, Honeywell

Translating the first success into full motions

Getting buy-in for a one-off campaign is a solid way to start, but how do you convince a traditional business to adopt ABM as an ongoing, multi-channel strategy?

For the Honeywell team, the process was like learning to run. First they had to crawl, then they had to walk.

“The competition was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Wall Street Journal ads and our executives didn’t totally grasp what we were doing. So I had to explain to them how precise targeting is, and we wound up doing some geofencing around our own building so they would see some of the targeting we were doing firsthand.”  — Bill Kircos, CMO, Honeywell

The walking stage began when, in the spirit of engagency, one of Bill’s colleagues recommended RollWorks. 

“At this point, we had one CRM, one Marketo, and a really innovative company that can do really specific targeting. With these three core solutions in play, we went from a crawl to a walk to at least speed-walking rather quickly.” — Bill Kircos, CMO, Honeywell

Speed-walking for Honeywell meant pursuing a big commercial engine account. It was a multi-million dollar deal, so they spent a lot of time figuring out who the decision-makers and influencers were before launching any campaigns.

“We came up with a list of 128 names within this company working hand in hand with sales—it wasn’t just marketing coming up with names.”  — Bill Kircos, CMO, Honeywell

The results

Honeywell’s results were outstanding. Working mainly through RollWorks and Linkedin, 89 of the 128 people targeted visited the intended landing page. 

“What was even better is they were spending about 6.5 minutes on the page vs. the Honeywell average of 2-3 minutes. I would highly recommend RollWorks and LinkedIn as our top two ABM tactics.” — Bill Kircos, CMO, Honeywell

Proving ABM is worth it

Convincing stakeholders that marketing is an investment—not a cost center—is an all-too-common challenge, even for a multinational conglomerate like Honeywell.

The solution? Having data that makes it possible to sell the idea internally and externally.

“The big inflection point for us with account-based marketing and digital marketing in general was going to a company full of engineers, airplane owners, and manufacturers who will only focus on numbers and black and white information. When you can approach them with data, it’s wonderful.” — Bill Kircos, CMO, Honeywell

But getting to the point where you can have data-driven conversations that make executives comfortable first requires a sizable shift in thinking. It means moving away from goals like massive awareness and large volumes of leads.

“We educated our whole marketing team to be lead-to-revenue focused. Now we’re starting with a very narrow group of people and our goal isn’t necessarily massive amounts of leads. In theory, your sales team already has those accounts covered.” — Bill Korcis, CMO, Honeywell

That means thinking about things like impressions, how long people engage with content, and perhaps most importantly, who’s engaging with what.

“RollWorks help us get actual names. Our KPIs get much more personal just like our account-based marketing does.” — Bill Kircos, CMO, Honeywell

The results

It’s no secret that the way people buy has changed. For B2B companies especially, selling effectively means reaching a committee of buyers with different needs and perspectives.

Often, someone in the middle brings the deal together. And the personas your team targets at the individual level will differ based on other factors like company size.

Whether they’re targeting a few decision-makers or pursuing buying committees of 100 plus contacts, Honeywell generates a tremendous amount of pipeline. 

“Even for smaller deals, we saw the conversion rate of those leads in the 40 to 50% range, while our average conversion is 20 to 25%. Now I'm going to executives to say not only are we delivering new pipeline, but we’re also increasing the chances of that conversion.” — Bill Kircos, CMO, Honeywell

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