Why is Account-based marketing gaining so much importance in B2B Marketing?


Sangram Vajre, Founder of the #FlipMyFunnel podcast and Co-founder and CMO of Account-based marketing platform Terminus responds while sharing his predictions for ABM in 2019.

Paroma (00:08) : Hi Sangram. Welcome to the DemandMatrix podcast titled Sunny Side Up, we’re really happy to have you here today. How are you?

Sangram(00:20) : I am fantastic thanks for having me.

Paroma (00:23): Great. And do you want to start by telling our audience a little bit about yourself.

Sangram (00:28): Alright Sure. I think most people who know me probably know me as someone who started the #FlipMyFunnel movement. Prior to this I ran marketing at Pardot and I’ve spent a couple of years at Salesforce. So I’ve been pretty blessed to have some really incredibly fun experiences career wise.

Paroma (01:02) : That’s Pretty  interesting. So how did Terminus come about.

Sangram (01:07) : Well I mean when I was at Pardot and at that time I realized that there was there was a moment where one of the months we had about 3000 leads that we created in that month and we beat all the records for the year and we were just celebrating as a team. I remember one of my sales leaders came and said, “Hey that’s awesome that you guys did that.” Could you do 4000 next month. I was like- well this is never ending, like there was no conversation of quality, there is no conversation of you know how could we get better at any of the processes. We are all thinking and acting as if there’s an unlimited supply of our target accounts and target list of people that that we can sell to. Clearly that’s not the case. As a matter of fact during the same year, Forrester came out and did a study and said that less than 1 percent of the leads are turning into customers. So that combination of feeling like well no matter how much I do it’s not going to work- This is challenge that has been faced by everybody. I was fortunate enough to meet two of the original founders of Terminus and they were working on some really interesting things and I felt- man we could do something fun here so I ended up leaving Salesforce to join them and kind of restructure a little bit. And here we are.

Paroma (02:46) :-That’s great. So. So tell us a little bit about Account -based marketing and B2B Marketing- why is there such an increase in adoption. Why this love for ABM all of a sudden over the last couple of years.

Sangram (02:59) :-Well you know I think it really requires everybody to take a step back, we can go back to 2000 when email was hot and people used to get 80-90% open rate and that was fantastic. But then five years later or so e-mail became such a thing where everybody was overusing it, where now the open rates are like sometimes less than 2 percent. And people are OK with that. And if you really look at the last 10 -15 years we have gone through this process of email marketing automation to predictive, all trying to create new technologies that is truly just trying to get in front of the right people at the right time on the right channel. That has always been the goal of everybody who has been in marketing. But what we forgot in the process and I think that’s why ABM is so interesting is we really really really focused on technology as opposed to strategy. And I think like everything else I shared – It’s a technology. It’s not a strategy called E-mail marketing strategy marketing automation. I ran marketing at Pardot. So until it’s a tool people can misuse it and a lot of people do and most people are still trying to use it just purely as an e-mail marketing solution, a predictive kind that tells you the right algorithms- What do or who to go after but really doesn’t do anything to promote the strategy. So I think that’s one of the big reasons why I think ABM has caught hold in such a big way. I think it’s because its purely a strategy, it takes us back to being exceptional marketers or we want to figure out who we’re going to go after, what message to create and then dial and focus and align with our sales counterparts and do a really good job of it. And I think everything else was more technology focused or innovation focused.

Paroma(05:00) :-Yeah so say you spoke about the messaging, adding relevancy to a marketing message. How would you tell marketers to do that at scale. Using technology.

Sangram(05:12) :- That’s a great question. I think every time you think about newer things, there’s always a chance where we look at it and say well you know it cannot be done. I’ll tell you a few examples. We had Snowflake who’s a huge customer of Terminus and a practitioner of ABM in the office last couple of weeks ago and he shared that they’re doing about five hundred one to one ads that take those five hundred target accounts to 1 ,500 unique categories where they then retarget 1 to 1 in order to get in front of them and their entire buying center. So let me just unpack that for a second. He’s doing 1 to 1 campaigns not for 1,5, 10, but 500 companies and he wants to do four thousand and they are Snowflake – one of the fastest growing companies in the SAAS sector in the world right now. They’re trying to shoot for a billion dollar market cap in 2020. The point being, if you want to grow fast I think scale is important but that doesn’t mean he can generate 50000 leads today. But he’s not going up fifty thousand he’s going after five hundred and is creating five hundred one to one campaigns. So. So when I think scale is very relative I feel like a lot of times in the name of scale we tried to go and generalize the messaging and it really doesn’t work, people can see through it. So if you truly want to personalize the messaging then we have to go beyond that and be really really focused on the experience that you’re creating not only the ad but also the landing page. Like in their case they’re not only taking ads and getting them to a landing page, they are now retargeting anybody who comes to that specific landing page from that specific company, they can measure how much traffic this is generating and how much engagement they’re getting on the accounts they and their sales teams actually care about that, that is a very different kind of skill. So I think it’s time for all of us to start redefining what scale really means.

Paroma(07:38) :-  Absolutely. So there’s a lot of talk of data here. Of course you know when you talk about measurement. So how would you tell Marketers and B2B Sales team to capitalize on data, what should be their priority?

Sangram(07:52) :- Data is a fun topic in itself. I think everybody knows that nobody has good data and everybody’s trying to do it- we stumbled on that problem ourselves and we realized that. Our customers didn’t have the right data. And we were doing things like- Give us your data from Salesforce and your marketing automation and then we’ll start running campaigns for it. What we started realizing is that they themselves don’t have good data. So it’s really bad feeding the bad and really the net result is even worse. So for example we would automate data from different data providers in order to help our customers do that because I truly believe not a single customer and not a single company out there has good quality data. The most survey results that we have seen is anywhere between 30 to 40 percent. So to me I feel like this is again another paradigm shift for somebody who might be listening. You need to stop relying on your CRM for actually like a ton of data. You have to start augmenting it from all these other places either through platforms like Terminus or through other platforms, there are hundreds of them available right now. And keep it going for all the one to one personalization that we just talked about.

Paroma(09:35) :- So what would be the key engagement metrics that one would need to track when they’re putting in all these efforts and taking all of this into account?

Sangram(09:46) :- Yeah. You know the the biggest aspect of engagement- I think it’s a fluffy word. Would you agree like you know when we say engagement the first thing they think about is like oh that might be just fluffy like who measures engagement right.

Paroma(10:00) :-Right. You know that also very it’s something that people don’t don’t necessarily give enough importance to .

Sangram(10:08) :-Yeah, because you know if you go to your salesperson or our CEO or CFO and say that hey we have a have of engagement on a Website I think one of the big reasons why engagement became a bad word was because marketing kept showing increase in traffic on their Website. Yes. Yes, and that became one of the major elements of marketing when they’re presenting to the Sales team and the board its – hey look whatever we’re doing is working because we have more traffic coming in. Yeah right. And the reason we’re not closing more deals you know it’s it’s not our problem it’s your problem right. And and I think what engagement really in the new ABM 2.0 world is, it’s not traffic to the Website from any and every place. Traffic from the right accounts from the right people in the companies that you want to go after. So if I were to show you a ten thousand percent increase in traffic to the website that really may not mean anything because that may just mean that you’ve done some press releases and some interesting PR kind of market activity. But if I were to show you that – hey of the five hundred accounts that you and your sales team is banking on in order to close deals to meet your business goals or business outcomes for the end of the year, those 500 accounts if I were to show you that 40 percent of those accounts are actually spending time on your website I think it would change the conversation internally where I say OK well let’s do something with these 40 percent and let’s figure out what do we do with the other 60 percent that we don’t have engagement for.

Paroma(12:14) :-Right. And. Okay so let’s get get to the entire strategy point here. How many touch points would you say are need for any cadence? And what kind of a balance would you suggest when it comes to an inbound and outbound strategy.

Sangram(12:32) :-Man there is so much study done on this. Some say nine. Some say 10”20. I actually quite honestly think that that question does not have the right intentions, I think the question is not doing justice to what really our future customers expect. I don’t think you have to hit anybody 50 times to get the message. So I don’t think number of touches is the answer. Quite honestly I feel the quality of touches is the answer. So going back to this example of Snowflake or you know I’ll give you another example. Jillian I just interviewed her on the FlipMyFunnel podcast .She said that they target 250 accounts. This is a mega company. She’s part of the legal division that runs 60 percent of the revenue for the organization. So she said they go after 250 accounts a year. And using ABM. They’re able to get in front of 95 percent of those accounts and that is how they’re looking at increasing their win rate. Now you look at that and when we look at and here and understand how she’s looking at touches they’re not looking at any and every charge they’re really looking at – Do we have engagement happening in that account and that engagement can happen with the very first direct mail because it is so well done or the very first ad that you saw or it could take three different attempts to really get the problem right so that when the message is in front of them they get it and the time is right for them. So I really don’t know if there is a real good answer or data to support what is right over the other. I feel like if there’s anything we we should all super focused on figuring out how we can create quality touches for our customers.

Paroma(14:33) :- That’s pretty interesting insight. What are some of the most successful ABM campaigns by leading brands that you’d like to talk about that you think people should look at as a reference point when they’re probably starting off with their first campaign.

Sangram(14:48) :- Yeah I mean the two examples have shared right here. They’re the Snowflake and Writers. I think we can look at that. One of the things they do beyond what do other campaigns do go way specific is when I’m seeing a resurgence on is really all about customer marketing. So a lot of marketers are spending a ton of time on acquisition because majority of what the executive team does or expects out of marketing is a great acquisition inside right. So they’re really focused on acquisition and some of them are focusing on Pipeline velocity and very few of them, if any, are focused on customer marketing. I’m seeing that CMOs are spending more and more time on making sure that their retention rates are going up, their expansion revenue coming up and ABM is a is a poster child for that because with Account-based marketing you truly can. And if you want to upset or cross-sell in other words I like to say observe if you’re up serving them with other products services or anything like that you know so much about them. And if the color of the money is still green then why not create more retention revenue and expansion revenue because that is really going to increase the bottom line. As a founder myself I feel like from a business perspective that outweighs a net new revenue. If I can get a dollar more in motor retention I’ll be fine. And then acquisition because a dollar or more in retention creates a better economics for the growth and the health of the business than a dollar or more in retention with a negative not not so good for retention. So point being that more and more companies are actually starting to see more revenue coming out of their retention and having marketing influence on it. And in both of these cases both of these marketers are hyper focused on that.

Paroma(16:19) :-Right. So. So what do you see for ABM in 2019.

Sangram(16:56) :-So much so much. I think what I would like to see I don’t have I would see it in 2019. I would like to see ABM as a discipline just like marketing automation became. People started to hire marketing automation specialists and that became a practice, that became a thing. I think in ABM I would love to see (like I’m seeing in some cases) like companies hiring like 15 account-based marketing people in marketing departments. So I think that’s just crazy and incredible. But that’s what I’m starting to see. I’d love to see more ABM as a discipline because it does take a different mindset. Secondly I think I would love to see authenticity kind of raised to a completely new level in marketing where it’s not gimmicky. It’s not trying to alert or appeal to everybody it’s really personalized. Have a lot of that in it. I’d love to see that. I’d also love to see a different level of dashboard. Like we talk about ABM scorecard which is very different than what marketing has been sharing which unfortunately now has become that. I’d love to see a better and a different ABM scorecard for lack of a better word or phrase so that will truly showcase the power and influence that marketing can have working alongside sales in driving revenue for their organization. I think that will require a completely different set of metrics not leads but engagement not traffic to the website but pipeline velocity. Right. Not number of downloads or registrations but really penetration into accounts that drives revenue. Those kind of things will be core to the CEO and the CFO and the board and the company.

Paroma(18:53) : Interesting way to look at things, it was really fun to have you over, do you have anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

Sangram (19:05) :-Laughed. I’m about to go write the second book on a marketing so I’m just starting sometime in April or so. So I’m excited about that and more more on that soon.

Paroma (19:20) :- Great. So we’ll have you over again to talk about it. Thank you so much.

About Sunny Side Up

Sunny Side Up is a series of 15-minute podcasts. Leaders and innovators share what they’ve learned in the B2B tech sector on topics related to marketing, product management, sales, and leadership.

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