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.
D.D.: You've worked closely with global enterprises both as the founder of Terminus & FlipMyFunnel and the Head of Marketing at Salesforce's Pardot.
Why is ABM important and why are companies investing in ABM, now more than ever?
S.V.: That's a really good question. You know, I initially thought, like most people, wow, this is really going to be a bad year when everything started to hit the fan. What's interesting is that ABM has now become more important than ever before. And I didn't really think about that. I didn't even say that in the first two or three months, Diana, because I felt like that may not be a good message to put out when people are worried about all these different things.
But as businesses are coming back up and I'm seeing some businesses struggling more than they ever did before and some actually going away, I thought that if I don't share something now, then I will be advocating for loss of business. I needed to get on the offense of this thing.
So I started talking more about why I think ABM is truly more important now than ever before, primarily because the time of ’let's go after any and everybody, let's just do whatever it takes, let's just have more money spent and have less than 1% of the leads turn into customers’ programs that organizations ran can no longer exist. Because companies have less money, the CMO budgets are getting slashed, marketing and sales teams are getting squeezed. So, in that realm, you only have limited bandwidth and limited resources and a limited opportunity to make an impression.
Relating it to the idea of belongship - creating trust, safety, and care, I feel like brands need to show to their target accounts that they can trust them, that they're important to them, that they care about them because they're targeting them, not any and everybody, and that they can actually have a relationship with them.
I feel that ABM by definition, which is focused, targeted, focused engagement with the accounts that you can serve the best, is going to ultimately drive that business value. I'll give you a couple of additional thoughts on that that I've seen work really well lately in why ABM is even more important now:
You might have heard me say this before or read some of the articles I've written lately around the idea that people didn't think retention was as important for account-based marketing because everybody was going top of line. Well, that works only if you're focused on net new and you don't worry about the health of the business because you're just constantly growing at the top and kind of dropping at the bottom, but still growing. So the industry is going to give you a pass.
The reality is that if you don't have retention, those businesses have gone out of business or will go out of business if they don't fix that. And that's only going to happen when you're taking a very account-centric approach on the accounts that you have to retain.
The second thing that I have realized, and I think the 1000+ companies that we serve at Terminus realized as we found out from doing a lot of surveys, is that most companies don't have a demand problem. What they actually have is a pipeline problem, meaning that the demand problem was created because people in companies said that we need a 10X, 5X, 7X pipe. So one in ten deals will close. One in seven deals will close as opposed to focusing on the existing pipes and the accounts that have said that ‘hey, we're going to buy from you or your competitor’. If you focus on them, the chances of you winning those deals as a marketing and sales team working together are much higher.
But we keep leaving them and going after the shiny new accounts or shiny new tools. We leave the ones that took so much effort to convert into pipe and go after the next ones. As opposed to focusing, nurturing, and moving those accounts forward, marketing is actually going away from it. I think that if we can focus on the pipe, we can actually solve the demand problem that most companies are facing.
D.D.: I completely agree, it's a laser-focused approach compared to spreading out your efforts. Especially now when resources, as you've mentioned, are quite tight and a lot of companies are struggling.
We can see that there’s a trend of transitioning from the more traditional inbound to a laser-focused approach where you’re actually nurturing and establishing those relationships. We can see that it drives results, it drives revenue and it works.
S.V.: That’s what we’ve realized ourselves as a business, as well. We advise our customers to focus on retention. If you can grow five new accounts and keep five, that's a great business. If you can only grow two and keep two, that's great business, too. But what's not a good business is if you grow five and lose three or four out of it. A lot of people don't do the math on that. It can really hurt the business.
D.D.: Also, because it's an alignment question, right?
I'm wondering if you agree, but I see ABM as a business approach more than a marketing approach because there needs to be some alignment in terms of what our targets are, what we actually try to achieve and how long do we want to keep these customers. And that requires a lot of synergies in the company.
S.V.: It does, indeed. You make a really good point, Diana, because I think that a better definition of ABM could be that it's a go-to-market strategy. As we all know, most companies who are doing ABM and think that account-based marketing is important, know that it's not a marketing thing. It is actually a go-to-market strategy, which means your marketing, sales, and, almost forgotten, unfortunately, customer success alignment. A lot of people think of marketing and sales. But really, CS is really important right now to make sure that you're focused on the right accounts.