ABM Playbook

Demand Gen + ABM in action

In this episode of Let's talk ABM, we speak to Adam Holmgren, Head of Demand Generation, Europe about how ABM and Demand Gen can work in tandem.

Date published: Date modified: 2022-08-04 strategicabm 550 60

Adam Holmgren
Head of Demand Generation, Europe | GetAccept

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Adam has become a leading figure in the world of Demand Generation, both through his work at GetAccept as well as with his community - The Demand Generation Movement. He is taking GetAccept's Marketing on a journey from SMB to mid-market and share his journey with us.

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 strategicabm brand and sharing our clients’ ABM success stories.

Watch this webinar and learn: 

  • GetAccept's journey from SMB to mid-market

  • His learnings from launching an ABM motion

  • How ABM and Demand Gen can work in tandem

  • His personal project of building a Demand Gen community


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Demand Gen + ABM in action

The full transcript

Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm) - Today I'm joined by Adam Holmgren, who's the Head of Demand Gen at GetAccept. Adam, thanks so much for joining us today. 

Adam Holmgren (GetAccept) - Yeah, great to be here. Great to be here. 

Declan (strategicabm) -  So Adam, this interview is I think, going to be a little bit different. Obviously, the podcast is called "Let's Talk ABM". And when we were doing some prep work for this and talking a few months ago now, actually, you said, "Well, look, part of my work is ABM, but the other part of my work is obviously Demand Gen." And so, I think it's going to be interesting to see which way the conversation goes. So let's kick off by talking about GetAccept and your kind of go-to-market strategy there. How would you summarize a little bit your target audience and kind of what your value proposition is? 

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, so I think it's quite funny with GetAccept, I've been there for about one and a half years now, or so, something like that kind of came in there as Head of Demand Gen, started up their demand generation efforts. In three years now, we have grown from a three people Marketing team to a 27 people Marketing team. So, there have been a lot of changes also. 

GetAccept and the Marketing team and especially the value prop. I think we've been part of seven different categories or something like that. But now we finally have a pretty clearly defined category, which is really nice. So basically, what GetAccept does is help companies solve their buying experience, try and improve their buying experience, obviously, all the way from when you create an opportunity and down into a signed deal. 

And we call that a 'Digital Sales Room' now. We've iterated a number of those words over the years, but now actually G2 created that category for us, which really helps, because now we have more of a real category that's also public and there is a lot of different companies popping up in that category. 

So it's growing a lot and currently we are leading that category, which is super-exciting, 'cause it's also, creating a category, which is cool. But in the past we have been part of electronic signatures, enablement, Sales engagement, but we never really found our home, because we were kind of that, but also kind of different. 

So it's really exciting. And our ICP I would say normally is in the SMB segment, IT tech companies such as ourselves, which is also helpful when we talk about go-to-market models, we are more or less marketing to ourselves. And we are, our Sales reps are using our product every day. 

So whenever they have an issue, we can kind of understand that and kind of ask them how we can overcome it basically. So yeah, it's a super-exciting time. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, and then you mentioned there Adam, about your ICP and SMB and you mentioned to me previously you on a bit of a journey moving from SMB to mid-market. What do you think is kind of the most challenging thing you're finding in that kind of movement on that journey? 

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, I think that's also natural as a company when you're growing. I guess. We took in our Series B maybe a year ago, looking to move on and taking our Series C eventually. And eventually, the natural path of a company is maybe, in the beginning you just want to get in all the ARR you can get, but eventually, you want to grow your SMB and you want to grow your ARR as much as possible. And then it just becomes natural that you're looking at the mid-market segment as well. 

But I think, the most challenging part with the mid-market segment is that first the companies are larger, so there are so many more touch points you need to, I think they say on average, you need to reach a person seven times or something like that, to influence them. And I think if we take that and then multiply that by the amount of people at a mid-market company, then that's a big challenge. And, I guess that's also where we haven't really done a lot of, we can come into that later, but we haven't really done a lot of ABM in the past. 

But now we are kind of starting to iterate on our first maybe couple of ABM efforts. And it's very aligned with us going more into mid-market as well, it's not just us trying to tell the world anymore about our product. We want to do that as well, of course. But we really want to be narrow in the sense of targeting our spot-on prospecting in the maybe more mid-market segment and yeah, naturally also this SMB segment. 

Declan (strategicabm) -  Yeah, so let's talk a little bit about Demand Generation, obviously, that makes up the bulk of your marketing strategy there at GetAccept. Talk us through a little bit, your team, the roles, responsibilities, what your kind of main strategies are and maybe you can share any kind of results that you've had. 

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, yeah, sure. I think, as I said previously, the Marketing team at GetAccept have grown tremendously, I think in the last year only we're gone from 15 to 27. So it's growing a lot. So kind of divided up into Global teams and Regional teams and the Demand team that I lead is a Regional team. 

So I lead the Demand Gen team for the European efforts. And then we have a similar, but a bit smaller team that just focuses on the U.S. market, because it's a bit different in how we approach the U.S. market since it's so much more competitive and a completely different ball game. And then, we have a bunch of different global teams supporting our Demand Gen teams. And that is, Brand, Partners, Product Marketing, Web, and all of those goodies. And in our Demand Gen team, we have obviously people focusing on campaigns, SERM, SEO, we have Paid Social. And then now, we have actually just created a role, very aligned with our mid-market efforts, where we have a Demand Gen Manager only focusing on this segment. 

So we are looking instead of just creating roles now for maybe tasks, like having someone do paid social, having someone do Google Ads. Instead of that, we're trying to do it more based on segment. Okay, who is it we want to target? Okay, obviously, here it's the mid-market segment within our ICP. How can this person make sure we do the right things to target those? And that is initially, that's a lot of research. 

Understanding where they come from, where they hang out, how we can influence their decisions, what their usual problems are, and so on. That is kind of the journey we have now started, the research phase, I would say.

Declan (strategicabm) - And what are the results looking like for you? 

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, I know, initially when I joined GetAccept, there are certain changes you usually do when you want to go towards more of a Demand Gen model. You want to look more at revenue, less on leads. You want to look more at pipeline, less on deals and so on. And that is kind of, so what we did initially was the more classical that you do, you split out the funnels based on the intent you see of the buyers. 

So we did that pretty rapidly. So we did one funnel with only what we call our 'high intent buyers'. So with people that have actually raised their hand, they have asked for demo, asked to contact our Sales team. Then we did one, we also have a freemium model. So we did one funnel for the freemium model. And then we did one funnel for our events and our more 'low-hanging' activities, so to say. And after we did that, it became quite obvious. Most of the ARR is coming out of the 'high intent funnel' here, but most of the volume is coming out of the more freemium funnel, the more low intent funnel, if we say, so that's kind of a mismatch. 

So that was kind of the initial finding. And also, that we used to bring kind of the Exec team onboard. We are doing our high intent funnel looking really great here, if we could increase that, that would be amazing. So we kind of redirected our efforts a little bit and I can talk more about how we did that. 

But the result we saw initially was the more worrying results maybe, like yeah, the leads went down, the deals went down and maybe the ARR also went down a little bit at first. But now what we're seeing, our high intent funnel has exploded while the other two funnels have gone down quite a lot. But in the end, it has really resulted in, in a much higher output, both ARR and pipeline. 

So I think, it has been quite a long journey. It has been, one and a half years I've been here now. And only last month we hit an all time high in all our most important metrics like ARR and everything from Marketing. So it takes time and you also need, I think it's hard sometimes when people recruit for Demand Gen or something like that, but they want results tomorrow usually, that's really hard. So I think you also need to have some need to get some faith from the Executive team, definitely. 

Declan (strategicabm) - And so, you mentioned there about your kind of high intent funnel, as you said, kind of where people raise their hand. What tips could you share with your audience to help kind of drive more raising of the hand? 

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, I guess, one of the issues I see in most companies I've been at really, and usually most companies I talk to is people spend so much money on Google ads. It's quite insane actually. And they don't really spend it only on like... Because there are you can divide keywords in Google Ads in various ways. But you can usually divide them into keywords that are more, okay, here we have some buying intent and then we have all of these other keywords. Take the CRM space for example, if you Google for 'CRM', which is probably by far the most volume, and the most searched one. It doesn't really tell you anything about the intent of the buyer. It could be someone that's really, really looking to buy now, but it could also be someone just looking to know what it is. 

So that was one of the first realizations that we needed to look into that. So looking to historically, what keywords are driving pipeline and ARR, and obviously, what they're driving leads, because then we saw that a lot of the keywords, we are paying a lot of money for, they are driving leads, but they aren't driving anything else. 

So that was one initial thing we did, we just cut them out, started spending more on the things that was driving pipeline and ARR, and usually that's a lot of money for your companies put in there. So that's one thing. And then, maybe an even more important thing is how you use social channels in relation to search. Because I think I did on my social media, I did a survey when I wanted to know how people spend on these various channels. So the spend relation between Google Ads and social, so how much money are people putting in there? And it was quite obvious that people are putting in, 80, 90% of their budget to search, but only this small amount to social. And what we saw when we analyzed our search results is that most pipeline and ARR is coming from branded search. So someone that have actually searched for a brand, and obviously, that's not where they heard about those first. So then it becomes kind of counterintuitive that we are spending more on the 'capture' part when people actually search and not in the social part where they hear about us for the first time. 

So that was also one realization kind of shifting the barriers to focus more on the social part and less on the search part, because that still will happen. And that have also yielded some really, really great results. And that's also a really trending topic now, because now when a lot of companies are, we're entering more of our recession, a lot of marketing budgets are getting cut. We can see that the prices to advertise on social channels like LinkedIn and Facebook, they're dropping by 20 to 40%. 

So the companies that are willing now to spend more on social, they will have such a huge presence. So that is something that would be a tip definitely for this year and for 2023. I think, we will definitely do that. The companies that will have a bigger share of the social market can come out of this with a really good brand and really good brand awareness. 

Declan (strategicabm) - I think that's a great tip there, Adam. So let's talk about, you mentioned earlier about ABM and I think it'd be fair to say that the ABM strategy that you have there at GetAccept is in its infancy somewhat? Tell us a little bit about what you've done to-date. 

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, sure. I think we sat down initially, when we started talking about the ABM, it was kind of in the same discussion as okay, we need to, or we want to move a bit more mid-market. We want to reach a lot of customers, how can we do that? Is it just about changing the targeting on LinkedIn? No, obviously not. We need to understand these companies, because it's a huge difference to target a startup, a scale up and then into a really big company. So that was kind of how everything started with ABM. 

And then, what's hard with ABM also is that usually sometimes you think it's maybe a bit simpler than it is. You just get one of these ABM tools and then it will sort itself out. So we kind of decided early on that we will not get any tools for this. We will trial and error and try and improve on every iteration we do for ABM. So basically, we picked one market, this is going to be our sample market, this is where we're going to test our ABM effort. And then also one issue with ABM, is that it's not a short-term win. So some of the learnings that we share now are also pretty short-term still. 

So I think we need to do it for much longer to really have any clear answers, but we can see some of the results for sure. And then, what we kind of initially decided on was, okay, ABM, how many companies is it then we should target? And I think that was the mistake we did in our first iteration. We still saw it kind of as Demand Gen a little bit in our heads. So I think we pulled up a list of, I don't even know, but say, 500 companies or something, obviously, far too many we realized eventually, because we couldn't have any frequency or any, we couldn't make it personal enough I think. 

We took it based on a number of factors like this are in our ICP, they have maybe a CRM that where we usually see the highest ICP and the ARR. We made campaigns and we made social ads and we made some email things around this specific topic we wanted to talk about. So all of that was great, but then it wasn't that personal, to be honest. And we also, included more than one industry, which I also felt was that also then it wasn't personal at all. We were talking a wide message to our pretty wide audience. So that was kind of the first iteration we did. And what we learned also is that it was for too wide. We needed to narrow it down a lot more, because when we eventually called a lot of these customers, just because that was kind of the survey we did, we wanted to check if they actually knew who we were. Because I think that's a pretty good engagement result to say that we do these ABM efforts for a couple of months to half a year, I don't know. And then, we reach out just to, not to sell our product, but just to know if they have actually heard about us before. Because then we have actually apparently succeeded with something. And that was not the case here. 

So we took a step back toward that result and kind of, okay, we need to narrow this list down a lot. We need to have, we usually talk about One-to-many communication, One-to-few, One-to-one, and so on. It was obviously that we were still going One-to-many. We were still doing the Demand Gen thing. And now, we have done a few more iterations now and now we have a much smaller list. I would say, top 50 companies, and hopefully, as we go even more narrow, but we also want to see some kind of result from that. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah. I think there's some really interesting observations you made there, Adam. And I think the first thing, obviously, I think I always kind of say that the tech vendors, without mentioning their names, have done a very good job of making people think that ABM and technology are synonymous. And that is not the case. And I think, in the market, I see so many times, people saying, oh yeah, well, ABM is all about technology. It's all about getting a tool. You plug the tool in, you send out a whole lot of programmatic ads and abracadabra, you've got a whole bunch of people desperate to buy your product. And that's kind of like the road to ruin. And I think, our advice to everybody that we talk to is you don't need any technology to do ABM. You don't need anything. You need a good pen, a good piece of paper and some good brains and sit down and work on a strategy. And I don't know if you think that? But I think, your decision to not invest in technology was the right decision actually, because... 

Adam (GetAccept) -  Yeah, I'm really happy with that decision now, but I have to give it to them, they have taken that category and almost made it so that you need this technology. It's like a must have, and that's quite nice for them to sell their products, obviously. But I think as now with the Demand Gen and ABM growing, I think what you just said with, okay, we need, it's more about what we do and how we do it more than technology. I think that will grow as well. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, well, I think interestingly, we get a lot of customers who come to us and one of the things they say to us is, "Hey, look, we've got this technology and we don't know how to use it properly." Or, "We've got Terminus or 6sense," or whichever one. And quite often what happens is because of how companies are organized, it may well be that kind of the Marketing Operations part of a company or a Marketing department buys some technology and then they give it and they gift it to the rest of the marketing, say, "Hey, here you goes, guys. We've just done our whole research. And we've just chosen 6sense," and off you go. 

And so, very often some of our customers, we're actually helping them to actually use technology in the right way, which it's a little bit back to front really, but it's an interesting thing, but let's talk a little bit more about you Demand Gen ABM. There's a lot of debate out there about are they different? Should they be the same? How they are different if indeed they are different. What's your take on how they... Well, two questions. What's your take on them. And secondly is, how would you see them working together? 

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, I think it all depends on really what kind of target group we're going after to make it valuable. I think Demand Gen and ABM is very similar in how we approach things. I think it's just a matter of, are we going for more the small businesses, the SMBs? Then I think it will be a hard time to really make ABM efforts. I think it will be hard thing to do that really well, but if we are going for more the mid-market the enterprise, I think it becomes the other way around. I think ABM will lead efforts and then maybe compliment it with some Demand Gen, maybe more brand awareness efforts as well. 

So I really think, that if Demand Gen and ABM can work incredibly well when going upmarket. And that's probably the road we will take is I would say now, 90% of our efforts or so I would categorize more as Demand Gen and maybe if we say One-to-many and maybe 10% is One-to-few, where we actually personalize a lot of what we're doing, but I see that changing a lot as we move further upmarket. So I really think it's all about who you're selling to. 

I think, if you're looking usually the small business market and the SMBs, that's a huge market, with a lot of different companies, if you would only do ABM targeting that, it would be hard, I think. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Well, I think, another thing that I like to say to potential customers when they come and talk to us is, kind of I like to know what they're doing already. If somebody comes to us and say, "Hey, we want to do ABM and that's going to be our main kind of focus," that kind sets off some alarm bells for me. And I want to make sure they've got a very robust go-to-market strategy already. And I think the best companies that I've seen doing this are the ones that when they come to us they've got some great Demand Gen working, they've got great Brand teams, they've got great Field Marketing, Product Marketing, et cetera, and they're looking for ABM to be that addition. 

I always like to think as ABM as being in an addition, not a subtraction. So it's not meant to be a substitute. It's not meant to be a substitute for what you're doing. It's meant to be an addition. And I think what you were just saying there Adam, I think is right. I kind of seen them as being filters in a way that demand gen is kind of almost like, as you said, brands, top of funnel, even above the funnel almost. And so, all this activity that's going on, obviously, you're capturing demand if demand exists. You're generating demand in the market, into your Total Addressable Market. And then obviously, then you can then pick off those accounts that you believe warrant more investment, and then they could then go into an ABM motion thereafter. 

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, I also think that's very, very valid to be honest and yeah, I think sometimes both these terms are quite buzzworthy right now. But it's still just a matter of how we decide to target our buyers and how do we feel it's more efficient, but I really like, I think that's something we are going to do now. Obviously, we're going to try to do ABM in more markets. And I already think that it's quite obvious that the more brand awareness you have, the easier it is to see result from your ABM as well. 

So I think, the combination of having a strong brand with personal targeting on a pretty small target list, that's the golden, that's at least something I'm starting to realize now, that's how we really make money. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, and I think you just need to see ABM as being a targeting lens. The more you see it as being a targeting lens, the more you'll understand it. And I think, like I said, the most successful teams I've seen is when they're running in parallel, Demand Gen + ABM and they're working side-by-side. 

So just a couple of questions to finish with Adam. So technology, we just mentioned technology there, MarTech, DemandTech, ABMTech, etc. If you were going to give some advice to somebody who was going to be starting off in their Demand Gen life, what would that look like for you? What would you say to them to do? 

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, it would not be technology for sure. No, but I would say it kind of depends. Everyone coming into Demand Gen has different backgrounds. Myself, I used to be a Data Analyst coming into Demand Gen. So what I had to develop more was more of the creative - of the storytelling part. Someone coming in from what is a creative part might have to develop more of a numbers game and an analytics game, because I really think that's the golden middle ground in Demand Gen is really, how can you both be analytical, but also, really creative and storytelling? Because I think that's kind of what it's about. How can we tell our story in a way that engages the audience and how can we then understand what's working? So I think that's really, really key. 

So if I would come into a new company and I'm there to do Demand Gen, the first thing is I would do is just look at what they're currently doing, and try to understand what kind of problem we're solving, because in the beginning when you come into a company, you are an outsider, it's the perfect thing. That's usually something we do with new people coming into a Marketing team. Just tell us if you don't understand anything, because that's a problem. And I think it's the same thing when you come into a new company, you should ask questions on everything, "I don't understand this." I think that's really important, because usually I think companies are a bit trying to tell their story and it's usually a bit too advanced, if you say that maybe. Can it be simplified? We really have to say it, tell our story in as few words as possible, but to make it easy, as understand as possible. So I think that's important, the storytelling part. And then I just think to kind of test and iterate on different things, especially social is really where we can learn. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah. So final question, actually, and we were talking about this just before we started recording, the community you've created the Demand Gen Movement, I think is absolutely marvelous. And I saw that it's been growing enormously. And tell us a little bit about that story, 'cause that's a personal story? That's not necessarily connected with GetAccept. That's just your personal community. So tell us a little bit more about that. 

Adam (GetAccept) -  Yeah, exactly. No, I've been passionate about demand gen and topics surrounding that for a while. And I think the initial thing I did was just to start to share on LinkedIn and start to comment on other people sharing. And that was kind of how it all got started. Then I started a podcast where I kind of start before that by the way, because I became a bit frustrated with life then, the only people that were talking about Demand Gen as a concept were usually U.S.-based and working at the U.S. company and so on. Nothing wrong with that - but it's usually kind of different perspectives. 

And I didn't really see these discussions around transitioning more to revenue-driven marketing happen that much in Europe. It does of course, but not as much. So that was kind of the frustration. And from there, I started a podcast where I just wanted to interview European leaders, Marketing leaders on this topic. How are you working with Revenue Marketing and Demand Generation? And then eventually, with I think a couple of people, 10 to 20 people, we started just a group to share knowledge, a Slack group in this topic, because we felt that it was, we could learn a lot from each other. And from that, it just kicked off, it blew off. 

People invited some of their colleagues and some of their friends right in the space. And now we have a pretty vibrant and active community where we talk about our... Most of us is doing the same things, but at different companies, also sometimes competitive companies. But it doesn't matter, because I really think it's about sharing knowledge, even though it's your competitor. And I think that's pretty valuable. And I think what has been in the past is I think community building is going to be the most, I think most companies and individuals, that's going to be the biggest thing in the next year, people seeing that, okay, we need to create a community, how will we do that, do that? And the problem when more and more people are starting communities is that it will be hard to differentiate, I think. And I think before we have seen a lot of large, really big communities owning the B2B SaaS space. And now, I think we see more the rise of the more niche communities, which is cool. I think there will be more communities, but smaller communities in maybe a region. 

My Demand Generation Movement is for European Demand Marketers. I think there will be even more niche ones. There will probably be only targeting the UK market in a specific topic. So I think that's really cool and a way to really connect with people that's in your topic or maybe even in your city. So I think it's going to blow up...it has already started, but even more so in 2023, I think. 

Declan (strategicabm) -  Well, I think it's fantastic what you do there, Adam, and I think I've been following it for couple of years now, actually. And I think, you've really built an amazing community around you. So congratulations on that.

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, thank you. And look forward to seeing what you're going to do for the rest of... What year are we now? 2022. No, I don't even know. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, the rest of 2022, and listen, all the best for the summer and I'm sure we'll catch you again and thanks so much for sharing your demand gen and ABM journey with us today. 

Adam (GetAccept) - Yeah, thank you for having me.