Sangram Vajre is an account-based marketing evangelist, co-founder of Terminus, and the author of the first book on ABM. He created the FlipMyFunnel Community in 2014 to provide a place for B2B marketing and sales innovators to foster the account-based mindset and to learn from each other. Sangram is an international keynote speaker, big hugger, and host of the top 50 business podcast called FlipMyFunnel with over 100,000 subscribers.
S.V.: That's a good question, Diana. I think the idea of Belongship has always been there, but maybe people haven't put words around it. And somehow we started talking about leadership as a key element. But as you and I know, we can redefine and redefine leadership every day in a different format. But when I say Belongship, I think most people recognize that there is a feeling of community. And I feel that right now more than ever if people can have these three things that I'm about to share, they can truly create a sense of belonging - not only in their work life but also in their personal life, wherever they are right now. So, the three things that curate the idea of Belongship are:
To me, the idea of creating trust, safety, and care truly is a way or a definition or almost a formula, if you will, to create Belongship in your organization.
D.D.: Do you think that's something new? We see that a lot of leaders are bringing that to the agenda and there's a lot of change in organizations, as well. Is the concept something new that we can work with, especially in the light of the current pandemic?
S.V.: I think it is new. The words are not new, but the combination of those three things is new. So, for example, I think until last year, you would see people doing videos like 'hey, I'm on my beach right now having the time of my life. And if you want to make more money like I do and have a life like mine...'. As you remember those were like high-flying videos of people just trying to sell the dream of an incredibly amazing future life, personal entrepreneurship, whatnot. And all of a sudden right now, those videos seem pretty lame because people care about their jobs and their personal safety. People care about their family's safety.
So I think that the safety idea, it wasn't something that people thought about because everybody expected everything to be safe. The idea of truly caring is really important - with so many layoffs happening and so many ways companies are rethinking and reframing ideas. People don't know if they really care if people can trust their employees or trust their peers. So, I feel that trust, safety, and care are no new ideas. But a combination of that in the sense of belonging is a pretty brand new idea given the current circumstances.
S.V: That's a very loaded question, so let me see if we can address it in a couple of different ways:
I believe that the importance of intent data has never been more valuable for business outcomes. When we’re orchestrating data, we can start from not knowing anything about the account and just going after every account that we have in our TAM. Or we can use intent data to say, OK, of all the accounts I have in TAM, is that any intent? So I can orchestrate on the right accounts. I always feel like marketing is doing all the work before they actually know who they're doing it for. And if you flip it and say that we really need to take the time to understand which accounts they are, which industry, and then actually do marketing to them, I think we'll just have much better success and also intent as one part of it.
The other part, I learned that from Tori who was on my team last year, is the data orchestration strategy that he was heading for manufacturing companies where he had about 200 accounts that he was going after. These were in manufacturing because we were and still are doing very well in that sector. We addressed that by focusing on the let’s say 10 companies that were responding to the ads we were running. We added an extra orchestration level that focused on alerting the sales team and starting sales outreach. When that's happening and you see that, let's say, five accounts are engaging with the salesperson, then you could send them, a B2B book or direct mail and to engage them further. His point was that you start with your target account list and you start something with something that you can go across to see where the heartbeat is. Then you focus on them and create even more personalization for them. For the rest of the accounts, let's say 90% of them, you can try something different with them.
D.D.: That definitely sounds interesting because you're starting relatively broad with 200 accounts, then you're narrowing it down, and then you broaden it up – the #FlipMyFunnel approach. What about marketing data? If you're doing one-to-one or one-to-few ABM, there’s perhaps not a considerable amount of data to gather. However, with one-to-many ABM, data can become a challenge.
Right now, if any organization doesn't know or doesn’t have the list of accounts, I don't know why. There are tons of data services available right now that can give you that information. It shouldn't be any secret anymore. For example, on our website, we no longer have a form. And the reason we no longer perform is that we already know the account we need to go after. If we run ads or direct mail or sales outreach, whatever we are doing and they are coming to that website, we know who they are because we're tracking that.
We don't want them to fill the form, we already know who they are now. Now we want to actually engage with them and have them spend more time with our website, more time on that page. I feel that there should be no B2B organization today that does not have a list of accounts and a list of contacts in their database for that. There are enough tools available that will give you that. Now, you don't need to spam them with emails. What you could do is look at any of these accounts to see if there are any alerts, any intent signals, or engagement signals, if they are responding to some sort of messaging that's in the market for you or you're having some social outreach to all of that. I think all commonality there is seeing that these accounts are engaging with you and then you start more of your orchestration play. But somebody not having that, just means that they haven't looked hard enough with the list yet.
There are a couple of questions that arise when you are doing ABM: do you need MQLs or SQLs? Do you really need first-touch attribution or last-touch attribution? In an account-based world, you don’t because there’s no longer credit. The reason all of this was created is that marketing was working on a credit system, but if you share the same numbers with Sales, it is no longer a credit conversation. Which is why all the data should already be in your CRM that you're marketing to so that it's no longer about ’marketing acquired this’.
We don't need to go and look at first and last-touch attribution because we all know that there could be a hundred touches before somebody actually becomes your customer. So, all those disciplines that were created in marketing were all to give credit to marketing. But if you're recognizing that marketing's job is to either incrementally or exponentially grow sales, then you're not worried about credit. You're worried about driving business outcomes because that's how you get a bonus. That's how you keep your job. So, I think we went about for the last decade and a half looking at these metrics, which is almost a crutch, to show value to the business. And the reality is we couldn't be further from the business outcome.
D.D.: Yeah, and it's also about creating transparency, right? Because everything you’ve mentioned regarding incentives and alignment between teams is creating transparency. ABM has revealed that and that's a really important factor.
S.V.: Huge. Huge. I think it has just clarified that the role of marketing is creating business.
S.V.: It’s an interesting question. As I've written Account-Based Marketing, then I wrote ABM is B2B. What is the sequel to that? Well, maybe it is that B2B is not Boring to Boring and maybe B2B is maybe Boring to Belongship. We all need to create communities for our customers where they feel that they belong. If we don't do that, we get into the price and feature war that nobody wants to get into.
I feel like there's a huge advantage for brands that are creating communities. There’s a huge advantage for brands that are incorporating this idea of Belongship. And there's a huge, huge, I would say, almost an unfair advantage for companies who actually will not look like a building anymore because nobody's in a building. It will look like people that are really and truly helping in driving business outcomes.
I think there will come a new era of companies that will take hold and have a bigger purpose than just creating cashflow for their business. And weirdly, they will end up having more money and more business than any other business because they think more about their customers than they’ve done before. I don’t know if that’s the future or not, but looking at ABM, it seems to lead to this idea that because you’re focused on few, you can be more personalized, and you can truly create the environment of safety and trust with them.