4 Essential Building Blocks of Account Based Marketing

This week on Digital Conversations, Billy is joined by Jon Miller, Chief Product Officer at Demandbase. Jon gives an overview of account based marketing, and how it differs from typical marketing strategies.

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Billy: Alright everyone, welcome to the show today. I’m your host Billy Bateman Today I am joined by the man the myth, the legend John Miller, Chief Product Officer at Demandbase and was co-founder at Engagio and Marketo. John, how are you doing today?

Jon: I’m doing really well. Thanks. We were just talking about over here in the Bay Area. The smoke is finally cleared. Yeah. It breathe easy.

Billy: Great. I’m glad. I’m glad we got a day where you can breathe and talk with us. Okay, before we get into it, first thanks for thanks for joining us today really appreciate it. But tell us a little bit about yourself and and your journey to where you are today with Demandbase?

Jon: Well as you mentioned, some of the companies I founded. I been in Martech pretty much my entire career starting. Well, actually, starting with an undergraduate degree in physics. But somehow I ended up in marketing technology, starting at an after Business School at a company called Epiphany. And after that, when we sold Epiphany 2005. That’s when Phil Fernandez and I started Marketo. Which is really take advantage of the software as a service revolution to provide marketing technology. Yeah, been with Marketo for nine years through the IPO. And I left in 2015, about a year before the sale to Vista.

And I left for two reasons. You know, the first was just, nine years at Marketo. And the company gotten kind of big. And I was craving that startup again. But secondarily, I really saw an opportunity that was being driven by account based marketing. And just changing dynamics to create a new a new platform. One that I thought could one day be is bigger. Even bigger than Marketo. So that might be in 2015, to found Engagio.

Which we grew for about five years to be one of the leading ABM solutions. In the early 2015, we’d been doing some strategic work about kind of where we thought the market was going, and where we thought our platform needed to go. Coincidentally, Demandbase had actually just been doing some of the same work on their own. And I happen to know Gabe Rogal, who is was the new CEO at Demandbase, and he and I got met for coffee again in early January.

And had enough of a good relationship, that we were able to kind of comfortably share what our vision was for the market. It turns out, we had basically the exact same identical vision. And then we also shared where we thought our own platforms needed to go. It turned out that effectively, everything that Engagio wanted in our platform, Demandbase was already great at.

The reverse was true also of everything that Demandbase wanted in their platform, Engagio was already the leading solution for. So it just made too much sense not to combine forces merge the platforms. So in June, we closed that deal. I joined Demandbase as the Chief Product Officer. And together, we believe we have the most complete and deepest ABM platform out there.

Billy: So tell me a little bit about Demandbase and how it’s different from the other ABM platforms.

Account Based Marketing

Jon: Well, Demandbase was really the first company to really define an ABM platform. And Demandbase really innovated a digital style of ABM.

You know, that, that was inspired first enough. First and foremost by being really great at finding accounts that you should be paying attention to. And doing that using a combination of intent data and machine learning. To build effectively predictive models about which accounts in your ideal customer profile are kind of in active buying cycles are about to enter into active buying cycles. And that’s the first piece. Is finding these sort of interesting hot accounts before they ever even come to your website or raise their hand. The second piece was then engaging with these accounts. And Demandbase was also an innovator around building their own DSP that was really optimized for b2b companies.

You know, maybe just as a quick sidebar on that. What’s interesting is most everybody else uses either a b2c platform like Trade Desk. These really are centered around optimizing your bidding and advertising to a set of cookies. Effectively individuals. When you want to advertise to an account. There’s obviously multiple individuals at that account. And the problem that you get into is that a big account has way more individuals. And a medium or smaller account.

So if you try to run an ad campaign that has both let’s say, IBM, and also a company like Demandbase in the same ad campaign, IBM is going to suck up all the budget, because there’s just so many more people. And so when you build a b2b DSP, you have the advantage of really saying, Okay, yeah, IBM should get more because it’s bigger. But I still I don’t want to get 10 times or 12 times more, I want to be able to kind of spread it out.

And so what we see is that with a b2c bidder, the top 10%, accounts end up sucking about 85% of the budget. Whereas with with our approach, the top 10% in accounts get about 25% of the budget, so you get better spread of the budget across different platforms. So anyway, that was a little bit of a deep, deep, wonky dive there. But it just gives you an example of why kind of it’s important to have your own DSP, if you’re a b2b player.

Billy: Yeah. And for those that aren’t familiar, could you just define DSP?

Jon: Um, that’s an excellent question. So digital display platform, oh, it’s a demand side platform.

And I should probably have known that off the top of my head. And it’s basically what connects the ad publisher, the ad networks, where you can show ads to the advertisers who want to bid on that advertising inventory.

Oh, anyway, and then and then the last piece of this sort of digital ad well, so that’s really the core of the digital ABM, right? Advertise them. And the last piece was when they come to your website, actually recognize which account is visiting you, and then be able to personalize that experience.

Billy: And then how do you how does Demandbase help you personalize that experience? Like I’ve been driving IBM to my website, I want to get their attention. They’re finally here. What does Demandbase gonna allow me to do as a marketer to engage them and make them feel like they’ve got a personalized experience?

Jon: Well the most important piece is just recognizing who’s on the site. The account ID, if you will. And it’s like, Demandbase has long been a leader in doing that using IP lookup. You know the IP address of somebody visiting you, and with and then say, Okay, well, that IP address matches to this company. So boom, must be IBM. But not surprisingly that technique, which maybe worked pretty well even a year ago, has really fallen apart with the dramatic move to work from home.

Because I’m not on my corporate IP address, unless I’m on my VPN. I’m on my, my personal. And so the account ID also needs to look at a bunch of other interesting things. So for example, if we see a particular user’s constantly checking the stock for Acme company, as well as my driving directions for around the area where Acme’s headquarters is, that’s a pretty good clue that that particular cookie, person with that cookie, works for Acme company. Or if you if you have somebody who’s cookied and again, regardless of the IP address, if you have somebody who’s cookied, but then all of a sudden you see this huge change in the in their behavior pattern, that’s a good signal that maybe they’ve changed where they work and you can need kind of a different set of, of pieces.

And then also we connect into tools like Marketo, and other marketing automation systems, which have their own cookies, that tells companies. So it’s really a, it’s house, it’s a lot of pretty sophisticated data science, that sort of, is looking at IPs and cookies and behaviors, and really interpolating it all together to sort of come up with the visitor ID, if you will.

Billy: And, yeah, it’s, it’s very interesting what you guys are doing, and especially the challenge now, where you have so many people, they’re not in the office anymore. How is that has that forced you guys to change your models a little bit, so that you’re still providing good data to your customers?

Jon: Yeah, so you know, again, like we’ve always used kind of IP, and cookie. And cookies, some of the other sort of special things I was just talking about. With COVID, and the move to work from home, we did tweak things to sort of be more cookie first more than IP First, if you will, okay. Like, it used to be like, if the IP said something, we trusted i. But now we sort of rely more on the cookie than the IP, and just some other underlying tweaks to kind of make it work. The other thing that we’ve done is, I also alluded to, with the Engagio acquisition, we brought in the integration to the marketing automation systems, a whole bunch of other information that we can use for account ID as well.

Billy: Great. Okay.

Jon: I didn’t know we’d be talking quite so deep about DSP bidding optimization algorithms and machine learning, cookie identification, but it’s good stuff.

Billy: Yeah, let’s just go with it, where the conversation takes us. So this is something I wanted to talk to you like, the original reason we reached out, is everyone’s talking about ABM marketing, like we just hosted a virtual summit this week. And when we were talking to speakers, hey, what do you want to talk about? I almost half of them want to talk about ABM and what they’re doing with ABM to the point where we had to be like, do you have something else because we already have a bunch of people talking about ABM.

Jon: There’s a joke I heard the other you know, how do you know a b2b marketers are talking about ABM. It’s because their lips are moving.

Billy: Yep. Yep. And one of the thoughts is, as we as I watched all these presentations, is, isn’t ABM just the kind of the right way to do b2b marketing? Rather than just spray and pray? So how would you, I want to get your thoughts on what really is ABM marketing? What it what does that mean to a marketer? And how would you suggest they go about doing that?

Jon: Yeah, so we sort of went right to the grad course. So to your question is, is ABM just going to be to be? I would say, I don’t necessarily agree, and I’ll explain why. To me, like, the analogy I like to use is that you have different ways that you can go to market. You have a fishing with nets, which is you have your campaign, and you throw it out there, and you catch fish and you don’t really care which specific fish you catch, you just care did I catch enough total fish?

You can also do fishing with spears, right, where you are going out and you’re looking for the big fish and you’re kind of proactively going after them. And you know, you only need to catch a couple of them because they’re really big and valuable. And again in that and that sort of case, you’re not waiting for them to come into your net, you are proactively going to them.

So to me, the analogy is your traditional demand generation model that Marketo helped to pioneer, inbound model that HubSpot pioneered that’s kind of like fishing with nets. ABM is fishing with spears. Now, personally if you need to, if your business wants to catch a whole bunch of small fish, you probably shouldn’t go out there with a spear. You should go out there and that you know, whereas if your business needs to catch in a really big, big big fish, you’re going to do it with a spear.

So I think it has a lot to do with honestly, the size of your average customer deal. And you know, anything under $25,000 a year. I’m just using subscription because that’s what most businesses are these days. Anything under $25,000 a year is probably more appropriate for a net. Unless you’re like so hyper focused on like a sub niche industry, and that case, we should talk um if that’s actually true, you, you have small deals and a very small target market, you may not have a great business.

So that’s probably not actually relevant. But yeah, so if you have small deals, you should go for kind of the high volume. Whereas if you have larger deals, the fishing with the spear might make more sense. Now, even if we get more fine grain than that, within the category of ABM, the way you do ABM for $100,000 deal, probably looks pretty different then what you do for a $500,000 deal, which is gonnal look really different than what you do for a $5 million deal.

And so even within the spearfishing, you see almost a spectrum. And what really defines that spectrum, is the level of personalization that you’re throwing into it. That $5 million deal, you are truly doing bespoke marketing for them. Yeah, there’s a company that I met once with that literally, they do like 25, 30 million deals, they literally hire a branding agency for each customer, so that you have a unique brand and design that’s specifically optimized to market to that one customer.

But again, that makes sense. It’s a $30 million deal. You know, even for a $2 million deal, making sure that every touch and every interaction is relevant and customized that accounts probably worthwhile. Anyway, so there’s a big spectrum there is I think, kind of the key point about ABM marketing.

Account Based Marketing

Billy: Yeah, I agree with you there on like, it’s the level of personalization. That would make sense. With the smaller deal, it may just be we know your industry at all the way that we know, you, and we know exactly who your needs are on that really high end deal. So how do you go about leveraging ABM to finding the right accounts?

Jon: Yeah, well, so we talked about fine the, to me, the ABM process is find, engage, then close. So find is, we’ll talk about in a second, engage, we talked about advertising, but frankly, what you really want to do is engage across channels. And then close is working with the sales team. So I think we’ll come back to kind of each of those kind of core pieces. For finding accounts, there’s an acronym I love to use which is the fire acronym. You know, and so the F in fire stands for fit.

And effectively, this is which accounts are in your ideal customer profile. If you don’t sell the company’s under $25 billion a year of revenue, then obviously, that’s an important factor to take into account in your account selection. If you focus on certain industries, techno graphics, like Demandbase, we really want you to be using and you have to have a marketing automation platform.

So clearly, we want to know, you’re not a good fit if you don’t have one. So that’s fit. “I” we’ve sort of talked about a little bit already, which is intent. Intent data, a lot is the new lead, in many cases. In fishing with nets, a lead is they’ve come to you and they fill out a form and fishing with spears, a “lead” is a company that’s showing intent for your products or services.

And the way a company shows intent is they signal it based upon the content that their employees are reading out on the open web. So if you’re a particular company, and a whole bunch of employees start doing research about cybersecurity. It is a pretty good indicator there that that company might be thinking about a cybersecurity purchase. And there’s, again, data science you can do to sort of figure out what’s just interesting research. And background from actual purchase intent. But if you can identify those accounts that are showing purchase intent for your products and solutions. That’s pretty freakin cool in order to focus where you’re going to go after.

The R is relationship. And there’s different flavors of that obviously an existing customer, you treat very differently from a brand new prospect. An account that you’ve had an open opportunity in the past for but then didn’t you closed it because they had other priorities, you’re gonna treat differently than a cold prospect. Even accounts where you have a customer that you had a customer at one company and move to another company, right? The fact that they’ve used you before, that’s relationship context. So just you know, all those things are things you want to take an account.

And that the last piece of the acronym E, is engagement. And all things being equal before an account spends the money with you, they’re going to spend time with you. So your want to track which accounts are actually visiting your website, opening your ebooks and your content attending your events. That’s another signal you’ll want to use in your fire to find those quote unquote, hot accounts.

Billy: Great. So within that engagement that leads you into the next, the next step, which is how do you actually engage these accounts?

Jon: So yeah, we I think in some cases, we sort of talked about ads a little bit already. Which is a great way to, ads are most often used sort of take those high intent accounts that aren’t interacting with you. Drive them to your website to get first engagement. But I do want to point out ads can be also useful for while after they’re engaging with you. Because a salesperson is typically only talking to 5,6,7 people at the account. But we know buying committees are so much larger.

And so advertising is a way to just make sure you’re providing some air cover across the account to hit the rest of the buying committee. We talked about web personalization. To me really the key here, there’s so many channels. There’s direct mail packages. Which I’m a big fan of because they break through the clutter better than an email does. There’s the human touch, right, an email from a human, either a sales rep, or an executive at your company, is much more impactful than an email that comes from your marketing automation system.

And so, to me, you use the word earlier, it is orchestration. It’s how do I make sure that all these channels work together, my ads, my direct mail, my LinkedIn advertising, and my other social advertising, and then what my salespeople doing, or my executives are doing. A good orchestra conductor is going to make sure that it’s all in sync in harmony. It’s not easy, but you know, there is technology, including Demandbase that sort of make that stuff work.

Billy: I love it, especially like, you got to keep sending those advertisements. Man, I don’t know how many deals you work on them? And you’re like, Oh, yeah, we got these guys sold. And then you find out there’s like three other people that all get a say in this and they have no idea who you are or what you do. That’s a great point, to keep sending that at least if they kind of know who you are. They’re not coming in cold to this discussion.

Jon: They’ll hear Oh, hey, I think we’re in an evaluation for Demandbase. Like they heard about it, and then they see the ad. Like, oh, Demandbase. Yeah. Okay. And then they click on it, you know?

Yeah. And then they go to the website, they’re like, okay, I kind of get this.

Billy: Yeah. Okay. So let’s talk about the next step, which is they’re engaged. And I think this is really where, people either do a great job or deals fall apart, because it doesn’t work that well is when you’re working together with sales, traditionally, it’s kind of been a baton pass, where it’s like, okay, here they are, like, wrap it up, turn it into a closed one. How do you work together with sale well, to keep marketing to them while they’re in the sales process?

Account Based Marketing

Jon: Yeah, I mean, I think that baton example you just uses a really good one. I mean, like back to the fishing with nets world, and the Marketo world that I helped to create, it was all about that efficient handoff. You know, marketing generates the lead hands it to the SDR they hand it to sales. But in the fishing with spears world, it’s just totally more dynamic. I just talked about like, the salesperson might be the one emailing the account early on, in follow up to the direct mail package you just sent, with underlying support from advertising.

And so to me, instead of a baton handoff, it feels as much more like a soccer team or a football team. Yeah, where you’ve got people in different positions. So there are different specialties. But they they work in a coordinated and orchestrated fashion as they move the ball up and down the field. And to really make that work. What I find is that you really need. First of all, marketing and sales teams. Honestly just be looking at the same data.  I mean, it feels your customers, probably a lot of them use Salesforce. Salesforce has a strange thing where you have there’s a page for the leads in Salesforce. And there’s another page for accounts in Salesforce.

And marketers tend to live on that lead page, and sales people tend to live on that account page. That literally means marketing and sales aren’t on the same page. So just getting everybody looking at an account data, even and then even if once you look at the account, the sales people typically don’t really have visibility into the marketing touches that the people at that account have responded to. Because the way the data rolls up, again, particularly in Salesforce.

And so just getting that common view, the count is sort of step one. Step two then, is to sort of almost like, establish what are the things that you want to proactively be notifying sales about, or put another way that sales wants to be notified about. So if you have one of those accounts I talked about earlier that are in market for your solutions, and are entering a buying process, but you they’re not in your system, right?

Sales wants to be notified like, tell me which accounts in my territory are showing that that high intent. Or let’s say, I’ve got an open opportunity, and then all of a sudden, when those accounts start showing intent for my competition, boy, I want to know about that, too.

So set up those proactive notifications for sales that are really about the insights that are going to help them sell better. And then the third step in moving towards being a soccer team. This one’s pretty obvious. It’s just start talking to each other. And the process I really recommend is something I call the ABM stand up. An ABM stand up, you get the sales rep, and a marketer and an SDR if you have one. And that’s it, just these three people. Every few weeks, they have a 15 minute standing meeting to talk about the accounts. What’s going on at these accounts? How are we penetrating them? What are they interested in? What plays are we going to run?

And literally just something as simple as doing this 15 minutes stand up every two weeks, I’ve seen work absolute wonders. Snowflake, which again, the day recording this, Snowflake had the largest tech IPO ever yesterday. $70 billion. They do ABM standups. So if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you.

Billy: Awesome. that’s a that’s a great idea. You know, especially in a big organization where we all start kind of living in our own world, making sure that we’re talking to each other. There’s nothing better. Awesome. John, I appreciate the time. If people want to get in contact with you and continue the conversation, what’s the best way for them to reach out?

Jon: LinkedIn is pretty good. If you want to send me an In-mail. If you really want to reach me. You can follow me on Twitter at John Miller. If you want to learn more about Demandbase go to our website and check out a demo because we’re building some really exciting stuff.

Billy: Yeah, you guys have a lot of great stuff coming, and excited to see where you go. Thank you man.