About Sangram Vajre
Sangram Vajre, co-founder and CMO of Terminus, is a passionate marketing geek who loves to solve problems, both analytically and creatively. Over the years, Sangram has amassed invaluable experience through his work with startups, consulting, and global companies.
Before Terminus, Sangram led the marketing team at Pardot through its acquisition by ExactTarget, and then Salesforce. He’s also the author of Account-Based Marketing For Dummies and is the mastermind behind #FlipMyFunnel.
For this episode, Sangram joined us live in our Atlanta Podcast Studio, and got to see our office (and our rubber duckies, of course) in person.
Buy his book “Account-Based Marketing for Dummies”
Introduction: (00:05) Sangram Vajre, co-founder and COO of Terminus, is a passionate marketing geek who loves to solve problems, both analytically and creatively. Over the years, Sangram has amassed invaluable experience through his work with startups, consulting and global companies. Sangram led the marketing team at Pardot through its acquisition by exact target and then Salesforce. He’s the author of two books, Account Based Marketing for Dummies, and ABM is B2B. He is also the mastermind behind the Flip My Funnel podcast.
Mary Drumond: (01:15) We’re still on season four of Voices of Customer Experience. Today I’m joined by Sangram Vajre from Terminus, which is a great company that’s right here in Atlanta. Sangram would you start telling us a little bit about yourself, about what you do, what you’re passionate about, how you’re trying to change the world?
Sangram Vajre: (01:34) Oh wow. Where do I start how long do we have? I think when I started Terminus, so prior to that I ran marketing at Pardot and I think most people are probably familiar in the world of like Pardot got acquired by ExactTarget and then within six months ExactTarget got acquired by Salesforce for like $2.5 billion or something like that. So I went from this hundred-people company like startup where everybody knows everybody and having tequila shots and stuff to like this gigantic iconic brand where everything is like different and big and massive and scale. And I spent about two years, like I made a commitment, I’m going to be here for two years because a lot of people left after they got acquired and all that kind of stuff. And I learned something along those lines about what scale really means and what customer experience in many ways means because salesforce is very well known for really putting customers upfront. So that was really cool experience. And then started Terminus with two other co founders in 2015. It started as just three of us and now we’re about 200 people based in Atlanta and San Francisco.
MD: (02:44) So you guys are a reference in account based marketing right? That’s the soul of Terminus, isn’t it?
SV: (02:49) That is where we started, that’s what we run. And I ended up, I do books which just so great to think about as part of the journey, but yeah, that’s, I mean I remember, at Pardot, we had every single record when we were running marketing in terms of number of leads, and I remember my sales leader coming in the next day saying, wow, that was fantastic what you did last month. You and your team rock. They’re like, yeah, that’s really cool. I’m like getting pumped. And he’s like, can you generate a thousand more leads next week? And I just sank in my seat because I was like, are we like a coin operated lead machine? Do people really think leads are just coming in from everywhere? What going on? And it dawned on me that we are looking at it the wrong way. We’re always trying to put more in the top of the funnel and we’re not asking or talking about, Hey, how can we improve the experience so we can actually have better pipeline velocity there? How can we expand the deals? How can we do things that will drive business forward as opposed to looking at just top of the funnel? So that’s really what led do Terminus.
MD: (03:55) When I heard about account based marketing, probably 2016 I would say, I was like, wow, so this is customer centric marketing.
SV: (04:07) Yes, 100%.
MD: (04:07) At least for me, customer-centric, let’s call it B2B marketing. So when you look at B2B marketing, people aways have the same reaction every time you talk about the B2B side. Like, oh no, B2B is a different beast. It’s all of a sudden like people aren’t people anymore and you’re dealing with a company, but you’re never dealing with a company. You’re always dealing with people on the other side. Right. But one way or another, with account based marketing, you’re able to kind of focus all your efforts on finding companies that are fit for you as opposed to just being super duper prolific about it and casting a super wide net. You’re sharp shooting instead and you’re making sure that the people that do come in have a much higher conversion rate than in other circumstances. Right?
SV: (04:54) I mean ultimately if you’re in B2B, what’s the makeup of the audience listening? Is it mostly B2B or B2C?
MD: (05:01) For us? For us, we’re all B2B.
SV: (05:05) Okay, so if you’re in B2B listening to this right now, the good news is that you should know exactly the number of companies that you can serve. And if you don’t know that, you need to go to the drawing board and figure that out. Because if you don’t know that, then you’re actually– you’re not selling a Nike shoe. The world is not your customer. Like you, you know, let’s take an example. If you’re going after fortune 500 financial services company, guess what? There’s a fortune 500 list. So that should be the starting point and then live in that. Look at all the financial services and then proactively go in front of them and put your message in front of them. That will be way better than creating long form content then somebody might find you on SEO on Google. That’s like why, you know, so how about just go take a digital billboard and be in front of every single company that you want to sell to. You’ll have a better response rate on it. And you’re so right about this whole idea. The very first blog that I wrote on this topic introducing the whole concept of account based marketing was that this is a customer experience model. I can actually send you that.
MD: (06:06) That would be great. We can link it in the details on this podcast.
SV: (06:10) It literally said customer experience model challenging the status quo of B2B marketing and sales. It was like just saying, instead of going broad and finding a few people that might turn into customers, I think the stat at Forester is that less than 1% leads to costumers, which means 99% of what marketing creates is shit.
MD: (06:31) And it’s like expensive shit, too.
SV: (06:35) So instead of that, why don’t we just flip it and start focusing on the best fit accounts that you want to go after, and to your point are still people. There are people in that account. So one of the most common questions I get is that how do I create alignment with my sales team, for example. I’m like, the reason you don’t have alignment is because you’re talking about two different things. A title of a salesperson is still Account Executives, so they get accounts and it’s not like they’re talking to buildings, they’re still talking to people. So if you go and talk to your salesperson and say, Hey, I wanna create experiences for the top 10 accounts that you want to close this month and this quarter, they will be all over it. If you give them leads in those 10 accounts that they need to close, they’ll be all over it. If you create experiences like direct mail, direct advertising or content just for that person or that company and grid landing pages just for that, it will change the game for you.
MD: (07:27) So a lot of marketers would see that as complicated because you reduce the number of leads. Therefore it should ultimately, like the percentages should be, you know, the same as a large scale. Therefore ultimately that you get less at the end of the process. But that’s not really how it works.
SV: (07:45) I mean, one of the stories in the book is about Thomson Reuters. Like most people have probably heard that as a brand. It’s a pretty big multibillion dollar brand, right? And their win rate, you remember what their win rate is?
MD: (07:57) I don’t remember. I probably wrote it down somewhere.
SV: (08:00) Just like, guess what their win rate is for expansion deals.
MD: (08:03) 26%.
MD: (08:06) Go higher.
MD: (08:08) 72.
SV: (08:10) Go higher.
MD: (08:10) What?!
SV: (08:10) Yes, it’s 95%.
MD: (08:12) How?
SV: (08:13) And I made sure that their lawyers reviewed it, because a big company and I made sure that the person, Julian Gardner, was with me on my podcast when we did that, even at the event and stuff. But that’s because they knew exactly who they were going after and they were only going after 250 accounts that they knew that this is where they can serve the best integrated messaging for them. So yes, you’re right. They have to create more very specific messaging. They created landing pages and content all focused on those accounts. They created direct mail and sales support content. Also those 250 accounts, the window was 95%.
MD: (08:47) That’s amazing.
SV: (08:48) So you’ve been in need thousands of leads. They didn’t actually shut it down. They said these are 250 accounts we’re going to focus on. So if you can go in your organization and say we can create a customer experience that’s going to drive us 95% win rate, you’re going to get promoted.
MD: (09:03) Yeah, for sure.
SV: (09:04) And so it’s not the volume gain. And I know it sounds like cliche, you’re like, yeah, it’s not quantity, it’s quality–
MD: (09:10) But it really is.
SV: (09:12) It really is, right? I mean, it’s all personal experiences. If somebody creates a personalized thing for you, you’re going to spend time looking at it, caring for it and B2B, to your point, they are still people with their emotions in it. So yeah.
MD: (09:24) Now let me ask you something. Does, does that change the role of the marketer to almost a detective or a researcher as opposed to a creator of ads or a creator of I don’t know, strategy, et cetera? What would you say? Because you have to really do your research. You spend a lot of time researching the market and then researching the people inside the market that you target and finding the best way to reach them. I imagine by exhausting AB testing. I don’t know. How would you even–
SV: (09:54) Well, I look at this as the best analogy for all of this is like the classic dating versus marriage. When you date, you just don’t ask people for like, Hey, do you want to marry on the very first date. You’ll freak them out and they will go away. Nobody does that. You put on your best behavior, you do the right things, and then you take them to the next step and next step and next step, because that’s how relationships grow. That’s how you build trust. That’s how you get to know each other better. Marketing is no different. It’s human emotions. It’s the first time you interact with a future customer, and you will always see me here using the word future customer as opposed to a prospect, because who likes to be prospected? Who likes to be hunted?
MD: (10:35) Nobody. I can tell you from experience, nobody.
SV: (10:39) Right? But if you believe that because you don’t have unlimited number of people to sell to, you only have a few that you can serve if you’re B2B, then you should be treating them as your customers or future customers, because at some point they’re going to be your customers. You just have to believe that. And if you do believe that, then you will do things differently for them. The first touch point wouldn’t be about, Hey, do you want to talk and get a demo? It will be like, Hey, I know based on the research we have done that you just raised money, so maybe we can be of support to you. Or maybe they just put a new job description for a new role in their company that might make sense for to say, Hey, I can help you with this stuff. Or maybe they wrote an article on LinkedIn or did a podcast and you listen to that and say, Hey, I love that thing and maybe we can help you with this. You can find ways to get to them using their own voice and then people respond to you much better. So it is detective, it is all those things, but I think it’s no different than any other relationship that’s worth pursuing in your life.
MD: (11:37) And you’ll have more time to sharp shoot because that is the strategy. So you don’t have to be concerning yourself with all the big huge paper click campaigns because you are targeting individuals.
SV: (11:49) 100%. I think the best things I’ve seen, the biggest change, I think I mentioned this in the book as well, companies went from having about a thousand accounts per sales rep, which you can imagine there’s no way that person can personalize any kind of conversation with a thousand accounts if that’s what they have in their name, to like like 50-100. And when you have 50-100 accounts in your name and you say, my quota depends on engaging these 50-100, you’re going to stop and pause and say, I’m not going to send them just batch and blast emails. I’m going to maybe create a video or maybe do the research as you said, or maybe doing direct mail, maybe do all these different things that matter to them because I don’t get a million chances. I just have this 50-100. And that is one of the biggest changes that I’ve seen companies do.
MD: (12:36) Yeah, I talk about this a lot on this podcast cause I share my personal experiences all the time and I’m very, very targeted because of my role. But the interesting thing that I do is I actually read every email. I read, every cold LinkedIn approach because I’m maybe looking for something that’s different, something exciting, something new, something I respect, you know? And when I see that I’m like, Oh look at that. Like see that’s a good campaign or that’s a good email, you know? And every once in a while you get it. You know, I had one person send me a personalized video that was slightly creepy.
SV: (13:11) What did it say?
MD: (13:11) So it was, I don’t know what it was about it that made it slightly creepy but it was a little bit too like on the nail. Like a little bit weird. Like I saw on Facebook what you were eating for dinner last night. But so, is there a line there as well when it comes to being too personal?
SV: (13:35) Of course, like if you want to talk about the kids and stuff. I think in general, unless the person shares it openly, I think it’s like off limits for you. So for example, the job description or a blog or article they connected or wrote about, there is so much content right now that people are putting out there. So it’s no longer like, people are not hiding behind desks. People are sharing this information. You just have to be concerned enough to know what that is and even if they’re not sharing, their company’s sharing. So you can always connect the dots. One of the examples of one of our customers is that they would look at their 10 Ks, the financial statements of the companies to look at future investments that the company said that they’re going to make next quarter. So they will email the CFO that they were starting to sell to and say, Hey, I know your company objective is to invest in X, Y, and Z. Here’s how our company actually can help you save money in that initiative that your CEO said that he was going to invest. So it’s like being so intentional about that and guess what a hundred percent of the time they get in response to that.
MD: (14:42) That’s wonderful.
MD: (15:13) Now some big tools like Sales Navigator on LinkedIn, they facilitate this a lot, right? They keep track of your leads, if they show up on the news. They keep track of new articles that your leads produced. Do you think that Sales Navigator is the best tool out there for an ABM marketer?
SV: (15:32) This is really interesting. So I ran marketing at Pardot and marketing automation is a huge part of obviously my career, my life. I preached about it before I became an ABM-oriented person. And I recently started to hear more and more people not using marketing automation. They are saying, Hey look, we’re just doing emails for webinars and newsletters. We can just use constant contact or MailChimp or something cheaper, not spend $100,000 on a full blown marketing automation platform. And that actually means that people are saying that these things are not working, not driving revenue and we need to create these one-on-ones. And what they’re using instead is a cadence from like SalesLoft or Outreach and using the sales navigator connection and hooks to say every touch point that we’re going to have with our customers or future customers, we’re going to make sure that it’s personalized from a rep to that person. And so you can’t send them mass emails. So Sales Navigator is a good tool. I think a marketing and sales team have to just work together.
MD: (16:32) That’s what I was going to say. So like the pillar of ABM is that synergy between marketing and sales as if they were a single department not having that definition of ,Oh we’re sales, oh we’re marketing. It’s seamless.
SV: (16:47) Yeah and in many ways, the reason they’re different is because the metrics that they measure success on are different. So if you go to a marketer like, Hey you need to generate a thousand leads a month, guess what? They’re going to go to generate a thousand leads a month.
MD: (17:00) They’ll be crap leads, but sure,
SV: (17:02) They are going to figure it out, figure out a way to do it. But if you tell your marketing like, Hey, your bonus and everything depends on us hitting a revenue goal, which is actually the case. Like for example, when was the last time your company didn’t hit revenue goals and marketing got way more budget? It doesn’t happen.
MD: (17:17) No, it doesn’t happen.
SV: (17:19) In a way, it’s already connected, but ig we just take like two seconds to connect that. But if you say, Hey look, your bonus depends on it and we just need to hit whatever the pipeline number and revenue numbers for our company for this quarter or this month, whatever that is. Once you set those guidelines, you don’t have to pull them in a room. I think people have started to see grid SLA as like service level agreements and stuff between, Oh, get a lead today, we want you to in five minutes or 10 minutes. Otherwise your manager would get an email or a day later your CRO will get an email. That just means the trust has fallen off so bad that nothing can save it at any given point. So rather, I would just change the metrics and say that we need to focus on this as our metric and you need to figure out how you’re gonna help them achieve that. You would automatically see marketing sitting with sales. You’ll automatically see more meetings between marketing and sales. So I think it’s the metrics moreso than than anything else.
MD: (18:12) In this case, if you’re going to unite those two departments, you need CEO buy-in.
MD: (18:16) 100%. Without that, I think one of the truths I mentioned in the book, like it started with like seven, one was the value of marketing is defined by sales and I get a lot of flack for that.
MD: (18:26) Nope, I agree.
SV: (18:27) And I think marketing’s job is to either incrementally or exponentially grow sales. Otherwise, I don’t know why we’d do what we do.
MD: (18:33) That’s what it’s for, yeah.
SV: (18:35) That doesn’t mean you have to like track every single thing, you just have to make sure you’re doing intentionally what it means to drive the business forward. And the second one is actually that your CEO has to fully buy into it. This is the only thing where you need to see a buy-in. One of the reasons is your outcomes, the metrics that you would report on, are business outcomes. So you would never see, a typical ABM program should not say, Hey look how many downloads we got. Hey look how many people visited our website. It should never say that. It should never go after the the vanity metrics that marketers are always doing. I was always looking at that and saying this is awesome. But nobody cares. The CEO cares about, okay, how many meetings we set for our sales team. That’s the business outcome. Everybody would care.
MD: (19:20) So where do you think these vanity metrics started to begin with?
SV: (19:24) I mean I did it for 10 years, I’ll be like the first person to say it. And that’s because that was the heyday of marketing, I would say, where marketing was like so high, they’re doing all these things, we are getting more tools and if the business is going good, yeah, whatever. If the business goes bad, that’s when the real metrics come out. Like that’s when the real questions come out. But so the majority of the time people have just been looking at these false metrics. So in an example, a story in the book is about a company called Parramatta. They essentially did ABM for about two years. And after about two years, they were looking at the numbers and what they saw was that traffic to the website dropped by 70%. Now what’s going to happen in your organization if your traffic drops by 70%?
MD: (20:11) Well in my organization, not much, but in the normal organization, I can imagine it would be pretty intense.
MD: (20:20) But the revenue pipeline numbers are growing, the CEO is like, Hey, what’s going on over here? And they looked at it and said, Oh, because we’re doing ABM, we were only focused on these 500 or so accounts. That’s all they care about because they’re making deals. And we only get traffic from these 500 accounts. We don’t get traffic from all the other places we used to do advertising or whatever they did at that time. So the traffic steadily went down to like the worst 70% but their win rate and their pipeline revenue kept going up. And I think that is a classic example of vanity metrics that traffic up into the right. I’ve always thought that it was a great thing, but they proved that no, that’s actually a bad thing if you’re not going after the right audience.
MD: (20:59) Yeah, that’s interesting because even though the way we do marketing here at Wortix, we focus very much on the results and we’re not so concerned about the vanity metrics, when site access doesn’t go up, it’s not like following an upward trend and it somehow spikes down, we’re like, something is terribly wrong, right? Something is terribly wrong and it’s really difficult to ignore these analytics, especially because so much of digital marketing as we know it today is based on analytics. You know, you sit on your computer, you open up your dashboard, you’ve got a million different charts in front of you, how can you see through all the noise and be like, no way, I’ve got to focus. I’ve got to stay set on my goal and accomplish it. That’s difficult as well. It takes gut.
SV: (21:47) Yeah. It takes intentionality and it’s not just a thing that all the metrics are bad. It’s like what are your primary metrics that you want to set your organization for? So if you start reporting on what people are going to ask questions on, if you state that as a as a truth, then they’re like, alright, I’m not going to report on website traffic, I’m going to look at it because I need to know what’s going on and what traffic is coming in as a secondary metric. That may be a marketing department internal metric that you’re looking at. But with my CEO, my CMO, or the executive team, on my board, I’m going to show them business outcomes because that’s what they care about. So what conversation you want to drive in our organization is set, the tone is set by the metrics, they are so important. So if you showed traffic month over month, every month they’re going to keep asking questions on traffic and it’s not going to give you either the budget or the things that you need. So the metrics should be clearly the ones that they care about so you can get what you want out of it.
MD: (22:44) So measure is the final step in your team framework concept. So you start off with target, then engage, activate and finally measure. So if we were to break that down a little bit and get into each one, you start off with target, that’s focusing on the leads that you intentionally picked out with your team. You talk about, I’m going to read a quote because it’s amazing for me and it was my favorite part. It says that ABM is customer centric marketing and just taking the focus off the metrics you think matter and reaching your customers where they stand by addressing pain points that your team has painstakingly mapped out. So you understand every single moment of friction, and that’s so customer centric, that’s like essentially everything that we are about because you’re taking into consideration everything that the customer is going to up until the moment that they should meet you and you already understand what their pains are and you already have a solution to that.
SV: (23:44) Your messaging, right? I mean at the end of the day, words matter and words have the power to create amazing things. Until you know what the pain is, I think a lot of times the messaging that we create in our marketing function is like, here’s our product, here’s what we do, here’s something you’re good at and here’s what we can do for you. And to the customer it sounds like, Okay you’re saying you’re great, awesome for you. As opposed to, just switch that and say that, Hey, we understand the challenges that comes with putting together this type of dashboard and we understand that it requires more than one person to pull this together. Here’s how we can help you make it easy. I think just flipping that script changes the conversations. I feel copywriting, for example, is so important in marketing and I feel like all of that is because it has to be customer centric. So I look at our copy all the time. I’m very self critical about our own website our own emails that we send out. It’s like, is it saying me, me, me, and Hey, I can actually be helpful to you. Or is it saying you, you, you and we can help you with this. It’s like really flipping the script completely.
MD: (24:48) And then it comes to engaging. So in the engaging portion, you’re providing these solutions to the pain points. What is the main way that you suggest reaching out to these leads?
SV: (25:01) Yeah, that’s a great question because I feel like one of one of the truths is that every account, you can’t treat them as a champagne. Some accounts you have to treat them with champagne or tequila shots or some accounts you have to do with sparkling water and that’s just the truth. And if you’re treating every single account the same way, then you’re missing what needs to happen. So for example, if you’re a million dollar deal, you’re probably going to do things differently than a $50,000 deal. For example, you might go to the location, you might send your executive team, you may have an executive outreach, you may have a customer dinner that you plan for them, maybe you create an ebook or webinar just for them and do all these things because that matters to you and them and this deal is bigger and all the things that go with it. A $50,000 deal you might actually be on a zoom call to see if you can close it. So you have to figure it out. I think the mistake that I’ve done a lot is I would send the same messaging and same conversations in my past experiences to all the customers, no matter if they’re the top tier customers or the second or third and when you do that, in some ways you feel like you’re doing the right thing by creating all customers the same, but you’re actually doing a disservice. Actually not focusing on what matters to that customer because of the size of the deal and the value that they are looking to get out of you. So engagement is 100% dependent on how you perceive the value of the deal is for them and for you. And in terms of how you engage. We had Megan who was one of our SDRs, became an account executive. She did 3000 one-to-one doing videos, 3000 to different personas in the company cause she was just great on videos. Pat, who’s another AEE, he, he’s incredible at storytelling. So he writes incredibly beautiful emails that the outreach is amazing. Lindsey who is one of our inbound sales reps, she would essentially made sure that she looks at, Oh, you went to so-and-so school or you went to– so she will always draft up an email and follow up so quick and she sent me an email a couple of days ago saying that she broke her own record of getting a response in less than 10 minutes. It was just incredible. So play to your strengths. Don’t try to do what I’ve, all of a sudden our sales team is like, don’t try to be like Megan or Sally or Patrick, like you don’t have to do that. Be yourself. Whatever God has gifted you with, use those tools. Use that strategy and then just do a really good job and be consistent around it. So your engagement might be very different based on what you’re comfortable with.
MD: (27:58) Okay, next is activate. Then they’re already in the pipeline. It’s a different thing from accelerate, right?
SV: (28:05) Right. Activation. I think this is the part we missed, probably most organization doesn’t have it, which is the idea that I got to activate my sales team, not the customer, but my sales team. So for example, when somebody comes to your website that most of the time marketing would just give the lead to the sales team and say, Hey, go follow up on this. Right? That’s not activation. That’s just reactive formation, as opposed to there are tools right now where you can say, Hey, somebody from our target company is on the website and there are tons of tools that can help you do that. So before even they fill up the form, you can actually tell your sales team like, Hey, you need to start looking at this account. We’re seeing more activity from your targeted list of accounts, you only have 50 so better work on prioritization. And then within that you’re helping the sales team craft out. So for example, let’s say you have an ebook that’s just beautifully well designed, but it’s a generic ebook and your salesperson’s target account is, let’s just take the same example of financial services, then just take the same ebook, turn it into a financial services ebook, add content that makes sense, keep the generic part generic but the other part you can customize. And That can change the game for that person because now you just customize something so you really activate your sales team and once you help your sales team win, even one deal, they’ll be all over, they’ll be telling everybody.
MD: (29:24) So in the flip my funnel movement, basically your thing is you turn that around where that bottom of the funnel that’s really, really tiny is actually the top. And then instead of being a funnel, it’s more like a pipe that just flows right down. But there’s also that whole playbook of the cycle that is cyclical and it’s never ending, which is the acquisition, the acceleration and the expansion. Right. Get into that a little bit for me.
SV: (29:48) So every organization, I’ve done, like, I don’t know 450 interviews for for this book. And it was really clear that every single organization has primarily three strategies, either acquiring new business, or you’re moving deals faster or you have more than one product so you want to upsell, cross sell, I like to call it up-serving them if you have the right product, right? So the whole team framework, it’s all around these three key strategies. Now I would say 90-95% of the companies are focused on pure acquisition. They miss out ,100% they said if there’s an opportunity, a salesperson should handle it and marketing is not. I think that’s the worst thing you could do because at that time you’ve already spent all this time, money, energy, resources, get over it and actually start helping your sales team. And if you move little bit of budget and time on the pipeline velocity deals, 1% move in your pipeline, it actually made tens of millions of dollars for your business. Most companies have like 10-12% win rate. Imagine if it’s 15%, it changes the equation for your business. It takes that pressure off of your demand gen team. So I think if there’s one thing to take away from all of this conversation, go fix your pipeline. Most companies don’t have a demand problem, they actually have a pipeline problem. They have a low win rate, really low win rate. And the last part is if you have more than one product, expansion is the best thing. Going back to the Thomson Reuters story, the reason they had 95% win rate is because they understood their customers really well. They take 250 that they know they have a chance of winning and they just went all in with them and they’re like, Whoa, this works.
MD: (31:31) There’s a movement in the marketing world in general of reevaluating the funnel. So you have HubSpot, for example, that’s got this new concept of like the flywheel, right. So how do you think that that kind of matches up? Is it the same movement of people saying, Oh, maybe what we were doing before isn’t the best thing for this moment and everybody just has their own version of how it’s switching up to engage today’s audience and today’s market? Is that what’s happening?
SV: (32:01) Well, it’s funny. So Brian and Dharmesh, the founders of HubSpot, they’re also investors in Terminus. And I remember spending time with them when we went through all that. And I think what’s interesting about inbound that became a flywheel movement, our ABM that’s starting to become more of the team framework, these are just evolutionary steps. At one point we just needed a shock to the system that let’s do better. And so if you look at just a timeline, 2000 email marketing: people just to get 80-90% open rate on emails, this is like 2000 I’m dating myself now. Fast forward five more years, 2005 inbound comes up like HubSpot, marketing automation, Marketo, Eloqua, all these tools come up. They said, Hey, we can capture leads and we can send emails, fine. Five years later, 2010 comes up. Predictive companies come out and they say, marketing’s generating too many leads. We can predict which companies, we can help you sell. So there’s all these tools, tools, tools, and then 2015, ABM comes along or flywheel comes along. It’s like you’re still solving the same basic problem, getting in front of the right person at the right time in the right channel. And that’s why ABM is more of a strategy and flywheel is more of a strategy like Hey this is a continuous loop of it. So I think where we’re moving is that tools can do what you want them to do once you tell them to do it, but you’re strategy has to be much more clear. And I think in the last 15 years or so, we lost our path a little bit and I think we’re finding it back. Like no, we need to make it customer centric. So both flywheel or the team framework or flipping files, customers right at the center. And we just lost sight of it.
MD: (33:34) But that’s the amazing part for me cause that’s where we come in. We’re like, Oh Hey, the customer centricity works for B2B as well. You can’t think that just because you’re, you don’t have direct consumer sales that you don’t have to be customer centric. It’s actually the opposite. It’s maybe even all the more reason to be customer centric.
SV: (33:51) Yeah you know in B2B, you actually use your job if you buy the wrong software, so it’s actually way more valuable for you to have that emotional and trust built in that, because their job depends on it. I mean, if you go buy a watch or something, your wife or husband is not gonna be like–
MD: (34:09) If you make a mistake, it’s like ehh.
SV: (34:11) But in this you will actually lose your job. It’s actually more connected to the human emotion than I think most people realize. They look at B2B like, I like to call like boring to boring in many organizations. No, it’s actually blockbuster to blockbuster. Let’s make it really, really cool and to your point, it’s no different. It’s humans.
MD: (34:28) Now where does content marketing overlap with ABM?
SV: (34:33) Content is at the heart of ABM. The way I looked at content before ABM was like let’s just create as much content as we can. We’ll just write three blogs a week, two eBooks a month, one webinar a quarter. Like that’s a typical, standard marketing program. And what happens in ABM is that you say, look, these are my menu of options. We can do all these things, but does that matter to the 10 customers that our salesperson is trying to sell to? So a modern organization, a modern content marketer would typically go and say, we can do all of these things, but let’s look at what the top 10 accounts need. And if they need us to create a webinar and we can only get 10 people on that webinar, and they are the right 10 accounts, awesome. So I think it’s way more valuable and it’s way more intensive to your earlier point. But the results are also going to be just incredibly more. So it’s way more important, but it’s not like you can go and hide behind your desk and create content. You have to come out of your shell and say, here’s everything I can do. Tell me what’s the most important thing we need to do.
MD: (35:35) Yeah, I edit our blog as well. Yeah. And that’s one thing that I tried to be very intentional, overusing this word today, making sure that we’re not just putting out content to put out content. So, Oh, you know, today is scheduled blog day, let’s get whatever we have out there. I really try not to do that. I try to make sure that every single piece of content that we put out is hitting some market. Internally we’ve mapped out five different markets that we cater to with our content. There’s a really great content marketer who was on this season of the podcast actually, her name is Melanie Deziel and she came up with this like content matrix and a way for you to build your content around very specific groups. So we try to do that and we try to create very tailored content to each of these industries. But I do understand that maybe one day I’m going to put out an article that’s very relevant to financial services and then the people who are in healthcare are not going to be engaged at all. So if I’m going to be looking at my numbers in a broad sense where I’m like, Oh my gosh, engagement is so low, it’ll be frustrating and that’ll be a big fail of an article. But if I open up the metrics and I look into the specific sources and find out exactly the people who did click on that email on that blog post, and if I did hit my target audience somehow, for me it’s still a win. So it might not be a win in the broad sense like, Oh my gosh, this blog went live and it got 50 views, but if those 50, if they were the right people, then–
SV: (37:19) How many times do we do that? I do this all the time on my like LinkedIn posts and stuff that I normally put out. I look at who are the people sometimes engaging with it and sometimes it’s so interesting, it’s like, Oh, when I write something, this is for a marketer, sometimes this is for CEOs or sometimes this is for like just my personally, I don’t even care if anybody reads or not. I just used to get out of my system Right? It’s an opinion piece like I don’t even care. But to add to your point, you have to be intentional on every single post. Who is it for? I call it like the burden of the customer. So do you have the burden of that one person at all? Sometimes, it sounds kind of crazy, but I will sometimes close my eyes and like try to picture a person that I’m writing it for.
MD: (38:14) No that’s brilliant.
MD: (38:16) If I do that and in the comments or response if I get that kind of person to respond, like if it’s for a marketer and a marketer responds like that really was really good, it helped me. My job is done.
MD: (38:28) Yeah. I, I once heard Ann Hanley talk about that where she gave the example of Warren Buffet and the fact that Warren buffet has six books published and they’re called Letters to Shareholders and like why would anyone want to read the letters to the shareholders? The truth is that people want to read it because it’s actually interesting and Buffet himself says that when he was writing the letters to his shareholders, the person that he was picturing in his mind was his sister who was a grade school teacher. So she was very intelligent, but she wasn’t very informed. She wasn’t part of the financial market and you know, stock and I don’t know what, but she did understand. So when he was writing, he had her in mind and that’s why it was objective. It was simple. It was clear. It wasn’t jargony. You know. So picture your customer in mind and write for them and that’s what will make your message authentic, relevant and engaging.
SV: (39:23) Yeah. At least with me when I write content I go in like a million different directions. I have like 10 calls to action like sometimes in my brain and if you want to get away from all of that, it’s just that one person, whoever, Joe, Sally, whoever you want to picture. At Pardot, as we were marketing there, we actually had a giant human size cardboard cutout in our office.
MD: (39:47) And that was your persona.
SV: (39:50) And we put it everywhere in the office. I forgot what we call it. Like one was Sam, who the sales people were talking to, and Megan the marketing person. So like what do Sam and Megan think of this content? Or we would literally talk, if you’re talking to them, like what is it that, what do they care about and stuff.
MD: (40:13) Refer to them by name, yeah.
SV: (40:15) So like Sam and Megan became part of our team in a way. So I think it had a lot of depth. It creates a lot of detail that sometimes you just miss on just trying to get more views.
MD: (40:28) Absolutely. I think we’re out of time for today. That was great. What are some ways that our listeners can engage with you or follow your content? You’ve got this book. ABM is B2B, which is out now and I was lucky enough to get a copy of it, so I encourage everyone to buy that and read that. How else? What’s your main channel for communicating?
SV: (40:48) I’m on Linkedin. It’s funny, I’m not on Snapchat. I’m not on anything else. It’s like I feel like from last few years. I just made a commitment to post something every day. From last few years and that’s the place where I love to engage with people, so find me on LinkedIn. Just hit me up.
MD: (41:03) Perfect. Wonderful. Well thank you so much for coming in today, Sangram, I really appreciate it.
SV: (41:17) Thank you so much for having me! Awesome office.
Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at survey tech startup Worthix, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.