It seems like we can’t turn a corner without running smack into ABM in the marketing world these days. As with any key trend in marketing, it’s good to play the skeptic and ask: What’s the big deal? And, is this right for me?
Account-based marketing has been around for a long time. Why has it exploded this past year?
To get to the bottom of it, we knew exactly who to ask—the man who is flipping the funnel on its head with his #FlipMyFunnel movement, Sangram Vajre, the CMO and Founder of Terminus.
Sangram is leading the charge with Account-based marketing, but he is doing it with a great entrepreneurial quality…generosity. As busy as a guy like Sangram is, he was kind enough to take the time to meet with us to chat about all things ABM.
Without further ado…
Account-based marketing is definitely not new, but this past year everyone in B2B has been talking about it. What’s your theory on the rise of ABM?
Every five years in marketing there is a shift in technology, and our way of thinking has to shift with it.
In the early 2000’s, we were all about email marketing and it became the thing that every marketer did every day. The marketing industry collectively said, “Great, we have this new thing called email…and it’s awesome!”
In 2005, content marketing happened. Marketing automation helped power the need to capture leads through all of the emails marketers were sending to get their content out in the world.
In 2010, predictive analytics came to save the day because marketers were getting too many leads from all this content we were blasting out.
In 2015, the rise of ABM began to help marketers make sure they are focusing on the right leads. Now that you know you’re targeting the right accounts, you can engage on their terms—not yours. It’s not about blasting emails, but sending accounts something they actually care about. That’s a very big shift in marketing.
Because of the popularity, everyone also has their own definition of ABM. So, what’s yours?
I have a very simplified definition for ABM: I think about it is as laser-focused B2B marketing. If you break everything down, it’s really all about accounts. The last decade we’ve been focusing on one lead or one contact, and now we’re putting the “B” back in B2B to influence decision makers.
The traditional funnel focuses on bringing in thousands of leads at the top, with the hope that a few customers will end up at the bottom.
But according to Forrester Research, less than 1% of leads are turning into customers, so we have to focus on the right accounts from the start instead of wasting 99% of our time, energy, and money marketing to leads who will never purchase from your company. This is exactly why I started the #FlipMyFunnel movement.
The #FlipMyFunnel movement is gaining a lot of traction. Tell us what it’s all about and why you started it.
The funnel hasn’t been challenged for more than a decade, and I was trying to elevate this message of sales and marketing coming together. I was on a five-hour plane ride sitting next to two drunk guys, so I put my headphones on and drew the funnel on a napkin.
Then, I flipped the napkin…
…and began writing down the steps to create an account-based marketing funnel!
What kind of companies should invest in ABM? Do you think it’s most effective with mid-sized or corporations—or can small businesses benefit too?
Mid-sized companies and above should invest in account-based marketing, because they have a clear focus on which companies and segments they want to go after—a defined universe of target accounts. Plus, they have a better understanding of which message to get in front of those target accounts.
At the same time, there are high-growth companies (like our customer, Vidyard) who are not enterprise or mid-sized, but they are getting a ton of leads. Instead of handing over leads to sales, you can identify which accounts your sales team should focus on based on customer profiles.
So regardless of size, if your company is drowning in leads, you can apply ABM practices to spend time and energy marketing to the accounts that matter the most.
Sales and marketing alignment is a common battle in companies. Do you have any recommendations for teams deep in the ABM trenches?
A welcome bonus with ABM is that it encourages sales and marketing alignment. Marketing needs to grow up and recognize that sales should be the focus. We call this “smarketing” and even have a weekly “smarketing” sync at Terminus.
Vidyard is truly bridging that gap with a campaign, where they identify targets and warm them up by running a Terminus account (using direct mail, email, etc.). Two weeks prior they are putting that message in front of their account, since they can target and be specific.
These warming up tactics create a halo effect around the brand to increase engagement. After two weeks, marketing hands accounts over to sales. Sales is happy with a better open rate, click rate, and demo responses—an initial conversion rate was 2% and now it’s 3%. So our customer is seeing great results with ABM through team alignment.
Let’s talk content. Should marketers rethink their content strategy for an ABM campaign?
Absolutely. When a company creates an amazing infographic—say, with a Game of Thrones theme—they will probably get lots of interest and downloads. From a brand perspective it might seem cool, but those leads will be handed over to sales. That’s where content fails…because the content has to solve a problem.
Our customers are now opening up their content, going “form free” instead of gating it. If you already know which accounts you are going after, this is a big mindset switch.
Have the value upfront…here’s how we’re helping customers like you. As Abe Lincoln once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Content has to create value. Content needs to fundamentally be about quality and focus, instead of Game of Thrones.
No effort is complete without results. Paint us a picture…what does ABM success look like?
The whole metrics system for evaluating marketing’s success has to change. Salespeople don’t care about vanity metrics, like opens and clicks. Real metrics are what your sales team and C-level execs care about—how engagement affects pipeline and revenue.
The metrics we need to look at with ABM are fundamentally different, because they are business metrics. In traditional demand generation, they look at the number of leads. ABM is about how many accounts we can engage and bring back.
Pipeline velocity is another big one. With all of these campaigns and events to engage, what about pipeline velocity?
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. No marketer has ever lost their job for increasing revenue.
You’re at a coffee shop and you bump into a starry-eyed marketing director who’s just getting into ABM, and you only have a minute to spare. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to him/her?
Don’t be a one-night stand marketer. Everything we’ve done has been about blasting an email, downloading an ebook, or attending a webinar. Stop doing that.
We have to think about relationships. It starts with finding the right accounts and saying: “Here’s something valuable. I hope you like it.”
Sangram Vajre is the CMO and co-founder of Terminus, a leading SaaS platform for account-based marketing. Before co-founding Terminus, Sangram led the marketing team at Salesforce Pardot. He’s the author of Account-Based Marketing For Dummies and the mastermind behind #FlipMyFunnel. Follow him on Twitter @SangramVajre