Sangram Vajre is a CMO and Co-founder of Terminus and the author of the first book on Account-based Marketing (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 and host of the top 50 business podcast called FlipMyFunnel with over 100,000 subscribers.
Declan heads up marketing at strategicabm. After some 20 years working as a CMO in the Professional Services, SaaS and EdTech sectors, Declan is now Agency-side building the Strategic IC brand and sharing our clients’ ABM success stories.
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ABM is B2B
The full transcript
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - So, today I'm joined by Sangram Vajre Chief Evangelist and Co-Founder of Terminus, one of the leading ABM platforms. Sangram, delighted to have you on Let's Talk ABM today.
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - Thanks, man. I'm excited to be here.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Well, I don't think this webinar series would be complete without you as a guest. So thank you once again and welcome to Let's Talk ABM.
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - That's very kind of you. I feel like there are a lot of worthy people who are championing this cause, and it's fascinating as we were talking before recording, there's nothing more fascinating than seeing people having ABM in their job titles, people getting promoted doing it, Agencies around it, the ecosystem getting created around it. I think those are, those seeds are the right things that show that it's a true category, it's not a myth, it's something that's actually working. So I'm excited to get into examples, questions around that.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Good stuff. Let's talk some ABM then. So first of all, for those of us who aren't familiar with Terminus, and it is possible, Sangram, that the Terminus gospel hasn't reached all four corners of the earth. Tell us a little bit about the company and perhaps your place in the market and what makes you different.
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - Well, for those who don't know, I think that means as a Marketer, our work is not yet done. So it's always a pursuit of it for the gospel to be out there.
So, for those who don't know, Terminus started in 2015 with this idea of Account-based Marketing that really was about flipping funnels. I remember being, having run marketing at Pardot prior to that, we were acquired by ExactTarget then Salesforce, so I was at Salesforce before starting Terminus. And at that time I remember this very clearly. We had our Sales Leaders, they said,
"Hey, great job. You hit every number of leads last quarter. That's fantastic." And we were rejoicing with our team, as marketing we generated X number of leads for the organisation.
And then he said, "Can you generate a thousand more leads next quarter?" And I just sank in my seat to be honest, right? I just like, well, why are we not talking about moving these deals faster? Why are we not talking about quality of the conversations? Why are we not talking about expansion? Because now we're part of the whole Salesforce ecosystem and all that stuff. And it really scarred me. I think it really made me recognise that I'm nothing better than a coin-operated machine thats job is to generate and spit out leads every day. And I didn't want to be that, I felt like that had to stop.
So, Terminus started with this very core idea that there's got to be a better way. And in theory, we started with this idea of flipping funnels, like the old funnel, where Forrester came out with the research that says, less than 1% of the leads turn into customers.What if we started with the right accounts? What if we started engaging them? What if we turned them into advocates? Wouldn't that be a better conversion? And that theory really lent itself into a really good framework and books and all those things later. So Terminus voted from technology perspective, we started with the easiest thing that we could do, learning from Pardot and all these companies. It's like, if you can help Marketers do Marketing, you'll win. If you think about Marketing Automation, it helps Marketers do marketing emails and stuff. So for us, it was like, well, what is the easiest way to get things started? And we started with advertising in that, and saying, "Hey, if you know the list of target accounts, we can get your message in front of them anywhere they go." Think about it like a digital billboard. Since then, we've acquired Brightfunnel. So now we have encompassed analytics as well, part of it, because that was a big pain point. After that we acquired Sigstr, so that now we have first-party data and third-party data that allows you to see a full view of your customer as you're targeting across Sales and Marketing channels. And last month we acquired RambleChat. So now we have chat. So if you are using Terminus or want to look at Terminus, we are trying to become an end-to-end strategy for you, not a solution because nobody can solve it all. We wouldn't be saying we solve it all, but a strategy that can go from chat experience to a website experience, to an ad experience to analytics, so you can see what's really happening.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - So let's just talk about the last few months. Obviously we've lived through some tumultuous times. What kind of one thing surprised you with your marketing that perhaps you didn't expect, looking back over the last four or five months?
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - That's a great question. There are actually a couple of things. One thing that really comes to mind is that this idea of get me more, get me more leads, get me more people attending to a webinar, get me more all of these things really flipped on its head, and what we are seeing big success, and I would love this as a tip for everybody to use in their organisation. It's really working really well for us, is we started to do this 20 people or so events and not trying to get a thousand people. And those 20 people events, our Lifetimes, our Zoom calls and stuff where everybody's vulnerable, they're open to talk, they feel safe. They feel all these things.
And what has been really interesting is in the last three months, we have built more, deeper,
stronger relationships with our customers than we did ever before. And it's unfortunate that it happened within these circumstances, but I feel grateful that actually we were able to do that during this time. So I'm surprised by the level of intimacy that this has created within the organisation, as well as with our customers.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Yeah. And I think that kind of lends itself to the whole idea that for the first time perhaps ever in human history, we have something in common, right? We're all in the same boat. And that human connection is there because we all realise that we're all sharing this common, this common venture, so to speak.
So, talking about that a little bit more, when normality, for want of a better word, returns, what one thing perhaps do you think that you'll not do again, that perhaps you were thinking about doing at the beginning of this year.
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - Yeah. That's another great question. I feel like, I was in a conversation with Joe Pulizzi, he's the President of the Content Marketing Institute, literally this week. And one of the things he mentioned that resonated with me a lot, and that's something that I'm thinking of like, he's like, "We should be un-gating all the content, every single piece of content." And it sounds crazy for people like, "Woah, wait a minute, What about all the people that come to our website?" "We'll capture it, so we get the sale." No, no, no, no. I feel like that's the one thing I really took away from that conversation that has been seeded a few months ago, is that helping is the new selling, helping is the new selling.
So, create one great piece of content that is your anchor content, that you say, Hey, we're going to do an annual research report on this or survey or industry stand or whatever that is, and make that gated if you want to so that you actually capture people, actually wait for that. You want everything around it, it's not just blogs and podcasts, it's like all pieces of content. And we did this now recently with Terminus, everything is open. People can go to Terminus right now, go to resources and see every piece of content that is like eBooks and stuff open for anybody to download, read, no emails needed, but then there's this one piece of content that we have. So I think, walking into this year, I'm realising the importance of creating one great piece of content versus 500 just ordinary pieces of content.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - It's funny you say that because we've had the same experience, Sangram, in terms of, you know, like many companies having gated content and looking for those downloads and having that kind of like adrenaline buzz of, ‘Hey, we've had a new download, a new lead’ and you'd go to the database and you have this kind of, this ritual every day of looking at the leads, right. But actually they don't necessarily mean anything.
And we've actually, using Drift obviously, which we use an awful lot of and doing Drift bots, We've actually just spun up a whole load of content, making it available and then using a Drift bot just to provide more and more content.
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - So that people get deeper-
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - It helps.
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - It helps, man. People recognise the value in this. People realise that you are in it. I mean, I think the reality is that people are smart. And sometimes we say, well, you know, let's just hook them up in doing this. And yeah, the people can figure it out, people know what's going on, and selling is not bad, but you just need to do it the right way. And think people would be more than happy if it solves a pain point or problem then why not? The unfortunate thing that I'm seeing happen over and over again, and I think you're probably alluding to that, but it's that people with Marketers, specifically Marketers, we're putting great, amazing effort into that one piece or the pieces of content that we're creating every day. And they don't even realise that when nobody's liking, nobody's commenting, nobody's engaging that piece of content, you wasted your organisation's time and money. But even worse, people are watching that there is no engagement and it actually looks bad on your brand. You're killing your brand.
So, we all need to flip it and really think through this and say, you know what? We don't want, if nobody's going to cry if your newsletter doesn't show up on a Wednesday morning,
then drop that newsletter. Like, it's not good. You do instead of once a week do once a month. I think our metrics needs to be more outcome-centric as opposed to activity centric.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - And that's very, very good. It's very, very good advice.
Let's just talk about Martech. Obviously, there's been an absolute explosion of Martech and including that within that, ABM Martech, do you think that's all good news?
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - Oh, I love the… as a Martech company ourselves, I think it's like, oh my God, that's like fantastic. Right? At the same time, I would, I'd get on at least five or six different calls every single week on ABM strategy. With companies, with their CEOs or Executive like, it's fascinating, and the more Zoom we have been doing, it's like, oh great, I don't have to spend three days to do this one hour conversation.
So it's actually been very productive in some ways. But the common thread, the common thread is still the same. What is my strategy? I get this tool can do this thing, but what is my strategy? And I constantly recognise and share with people is that I literally say, "You don't need Terminus." I say that all the time. I'll say that to people right now listening to this, I'm a Co-Founder of the company, I have equity, obviously, if there's business done, I'll be a happy married man for a long period of time. So it's a good thing for me personally, but I'll say you don't need Terminus to do Account-based. What you need is a very sound strategy of who you're going after, how you're going to engage this target.
And then you can use tools like Terminus to scale that programme, to actually see all those things. So I think people spend too much time thinking about the technology piece without thinking about the strategy. So Martech explosion is a good thing. I would say the best companies that have done ABM they actually have reduced their Martech stack into less companies. So one of the companies that we have as our customer, they only have six tech stack, like their tech stack is six companies, that's it.
So this is fascinating, they went from 22 different technologies that they use, to six. Now, you know, that means that their cost of acquisition has dropped significantly because they are not using 22 other technologies, and their CFO is happy, their CEO is happy,
and they have better control over all of it. So I will recommend everybody go and audit all of the tech stack and actually start compressing it, find the best, but start compressing, start testing and use other things, but start compressing them. 'Cause I think the explosion doesn't necessarily mean you have to have 50, it means that you need to explore other things to find the best that you need.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Yep. So, ABM, it's one of the hottest topic, tickets in town at the moment in B2B Marketing. Why do you think that is? What's making ABM such a trending topic?
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - Oh, man, and I love that, right, because that is like, how
many times you can drop a coin in the bucket and expect something to be at the right place at the right time and all those. So I'm eternally grateful to God that that's actually a good thing and people are having jobs and stuff. But I'll go back to the evolution of how it came about. You look at the 2000s, it's all email, right? The ExactTargets of the world came out at that time. I don't know, you and I probably remember the days where you used to get like
80, 90% open rate on emails. Like those were good old days on emails. You fast forward that to 2005 and you start seeing that, Whoa, wait a minute, Marketing Automation companies came about and said, we can capture those leads and automate them and email stuff. Pardot, Marketo, Eloqua, all those companies started to come up. You go to 2010, fast five more years. And in 2010, what started to happen is they're saying, you know what, Sales are saying, Marketing, you've got so good at leads and content and Inbound and syndication, and all these things that I'm getting too many leads from you, give me the right leads, because I don't want to focus on everything, it's wasting our time. So predictive came about and saying, we'll predict which leads, you the Salesperson, needs to start working on.
And what you see in this is that each time it's technology-driven innovation, not strategy-driven innovation. So in 2015, I feel like that's when really ABM started to become the big thing. I feel like that happened because for the last 15 years, we as marketing and sales organisations have not looked at the strategy, but rather the tactics that drove all of our activities.
And I think finally, ABM is a strategy. Like no company, I would assume no company. And I hope no company would ever say, we got everything. You don't need anything else. You come to us and you've got ABM. Marketing Automation said that for Marketers, and that's just not true. So for us, if anybody wants to do Terminus, you do ABM. And they say, all they got is Terminus, and we got it. We'll say, "no, that's BS". You need a Sales Automation tool where you can have One-to-one, you need direct mail, some high-tech and
high-touch connectivity. You need all these things in order for ABM as a strategy. So I feel it's hard because people are realising they need a better strategy, not just a better technology. And I think it's just the right place, right time thing.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Yeah. And so looking forward now to the future, what does the future look like, ABM 2020, '21, '22, what does that look like for you?
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - You know, as an organisation? At Terminus? Or just-
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - As a subject of ABM as the methodology of the approach in the market, what do you think that future looks like?
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - Well, I mean, that's one of the reasons I went ahead and,
you know, I wrote the first book on Account-based Marketing. And then last year I just wrote "ABM is B2B" because I didn't want to go be the person in the history saying, oh, that guy wrote the very first book on Account-based Marketing, but it's no longer true. Because I feel ABM is becoming B2B. As a matter of fact, I will go ahead and put it on the record here
is that two, three years from now, there won't be any ABM. Like people won't even say ABM, they would say, Oh, so you're just saying you need to go after
the right accounts at the right time on the right channels. Like that's, no, that's B2B. So I feel the trend is ABM will never exist after, like, it will not exist after three to five years, what will exist is a better, smarter marketing way of doing things and that's what it will be called, B2B. And I feel like that's just going to happen in the next few years. So I'm seeing more and more organisations having this as a core discipline, the idea of isolating Demand Gen and product marketing and content marketing, and web guides, and the rest, as opposed to isolating Marketers in all these things, I think there will be micro CMOs of, "Hey, you are the person responsible for Tier 1 accounts, do whatever it takes to make those Tier 1 accounts
our customers", Tier 2. So I see the micro CMOs happening within the organisation and they may have different titles for that say, but I think that's what's going to start making a big income, a big movement, I think in marketing organisations.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - And just actually linked to that. A lot of ABM, and a lot of marketing is obviously linked to revenue, but how important do you think is ABM when it comes to building relationships, building reputation, which is obviously
two of the key strands of an ABM strategy. How do you see that when you're talking to clients and they're saying, "Hey, we want to grow our revenue by X." Do you also talk to them and say, well, that's great and we can help you there, but we also need to make sure that you're also growing your reputation in those companies, you're also growing your relationship. How do you see that balance?
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - Oh, that's a great question, man. Really good, because I'm a big believer on brand drives demand. It's just how it is. Like, you know, nobody, if somebody's calling you from Salesforce, you know what Salesforce is, and that is a big deal. There might be other companies that do what Salesforce does. But if somebody gets a call from Salesforce, they know it's Salesforce, they know Mark Benioff, people know in the industry, right? So brand does drive demand. Every Salesperson's job is going to be so infinitely easier, if then they do an email or a call, they know, oh, I know this company, they're good, right? The G2, having the G2 quadrants and stuff has been really really helpful because people can just go in and say, okay, let me see what real customers are saying, I don't want to hear from you, I want to hear from the real customers to do that.
So I feel all of that is really, really important and good. What's interesting is that if you truly do Account-based, a few things will happen. You will dramatically reduce the number
of accounts you're going to go after, because you're going to realise that not all accounts are the same. One of the things I wrote in the book is that some accounts deserve champagne and some deserve sparkling water. And I didn't mean any disrespect there, I'm like, well, if it's a million dollar account versus a $100,000 dollar account, I expect you to do different things for a million dollar account than a $100,000 account from an acquisition perspective. Your service, it's just the way it should be. So it's necessary to treat each account differently depending upon what it is. So I feel like what's interesting about brand driving demand is that if you don't have a great brand, you won't be able to create big business revenue for it.
And in order to have big brand, you can't thinly focus on everybody, you have to start focusing on a few. So they know that you are the best company for that particular problem that you're trying to solve. So I think if you do ABM, the number one reason you should do that is either for driving the deals forward. Not necessarily net new but driving the deals forward.
And from a long term perspective, building your brand presence, because now you are like, you're everywhere where they are not to everyone, but to them, that can be your best customers.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Finally, Sangram, a question for you. What advice would you give any company looking to start an ABM programme? How should they start?
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - The best way I say for a lot of people is like, go find your Joe and Sally Sales Team that you go to drinks with. You hang out on the happy hour in Zoom or personally, however you do it. Go find Joe and Sally, like every organisation has them. They are your bubbly, they're amazing, they are big supporters of marketing, you have relationship with them, go find them. And don't announce to the company you're doing ABM at all. Never ever, that's like the curse word to you use in organisation, like, I'm going to do ABM because people have unrealistic expectations. Go and find Joe and Sally, ask them, hey, what are the 5 or 10 accounts you need to close this quarter, this quarter or this month of this quarter? Probably for a quarter so that you have enough time to address that, that you need in order to hit your quota or exceed it. I promise you Joe and Sally will not even look at anything and say, hell, here are the five accounts I got, because account is their title, they focus on accounts. And do whatever it is you can to help them win those deals. Now that might mean you might have an eBook, and one of the accounts is in Manufacturing so you just changed that ebook to sound and address Manufacturing needs and things and make it only for that one account. So I'm talking about doing un-scalable things for those accounts to win,
that's what Account-based will do. It's not just scale everything. It's like, you want scalable things for some accounts and surround them, you might have to create a deck specifically for that industry. You may have to do a webinar with five people and have a personalised thing. You may have to do some really interesting direct mails to those accounts, whatever it is, just do something that will help those accounts move to the next step and hopefully win.
I guarantee you, if you do those un-scalable things, one, you'll win the hearts and minds of your sales team because they will see the effort that got into it. Number two, 9 out of 10 times, I've seen deals actually been won because of this level of personalisation that comes through it. And then three, and the most important thing for you, those Salespeople will go and tell the CRO, the CEO, the CFO, that what Marketing did for them. And then the CEO will come down to you. And the CFO will come down and the CRO will come down and say, why are you not doing for my rest of the Sales Team the same thing you did for Joe and Sally? And you say, great idea, let's go do it, right? And that's how you start creating meaningful changes, foster the Joe and Sally.
Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Sangram, fantastic advice. A great way to end this interview. Thank you so much for your time today, it's been an absolute pleasure learning more about you and Terminus.
Sangram Vajre (Terminus) - Declan, thank you so much for having me, man.
I always love topics. If anybody wants to connect with me, just hit me up on LinkedIn.