ABM Playbook

Startup ABM

In this episode of Let's talk ABM, we chat with Davis Potter, ABM Marketing Manager for Strategic Accounts at Scale AI, about the differences between startup ABM and enterprise ABM.

Date published: Date modified: 2022-10-27 strategicabm 550 60

Davis Potter
ABM Marketing Manager, Strategic Accounts | Scale AI

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Davis has been schooled by two of the leaders in enterprise ABM, Pega Systems and Google Cloud. He is now leading the Account-based Marketing charge with the startup Scale AI, where he has stood up an ABM program in less than three months with tangible results.
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:
  • Key learnings from two major ABM leaders
  • How to launch an ABM strategy from scratch
  • How startup ABM differs from enterprise ABM
  • How Sales makes or breaks ABM success
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The full transcript

Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm) – So today I'm joined by Davis Potter, who's the ABM Marketing Manager for Strategic Accounts at Scale AI. Davis, thanks so much for joining us today.

Davis Potter (Scale AI) – Thank you so much for having me, Declan, I'm very excited to be on the pod.

Declan (strategicabm) – Great. So let's kick off then. A couple of things, obviously we were having a chat in preparation for this interview a few weeks ago now. And one of the things that struck me when I was looking at your kind of profile on LinkedIn was that, obviously, you'd worked at Pega Systems and I was fortunate to speak to Matt Kent, who worked previously at Pega Systems on a previous episode of Let's talk ABM. 

And you were also at Google Cloud. And I was very fortunate also to speak to Akriti Gupta who headed up ABM there as well. So, what did you take away from those two roles perhaps, and the approach that they take to Account-based Marketing?

ABM playbook

Davis (Scale AI) – First off, I am extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from both Akriti Gupta and Matt, and not only both of them, but the respective ABM teams in and of themselves, they're both truly world-class. 

And when looking at my experience at Pega, this is where I went really deep in One-to-one ABM. So when I joined, the Marketing side was very much more Demand focused. And we flipped the whole segment over to Account-based Marketing

And so, thinking through the key takeaways that that experience brought, the first one that comes to mind is when you have such a massive ABM team, having a strong Center of Excellence is crucial. Having consistent templates, consistent ways of speaking to Sales, speaking to the business, and even best practice sharing. When you've got your team over in APAC and your America's team, what are they doing over in APAC that we could leverage in America that we're maybe not thinking about? 

The second thing, is definitely how each industry is different, and so, allowing the ABM practitioners some autonomy in how they practise ABM, not just within different regions, but even within the same geographical region, having a loose structure and some fundamentals to follow, but also giving that autonomy is definitely something that worked really well. And then the third, this is where personally, I was able to see how ABM has such an impact on revenue, and also how it's not linked to one specific piece of the funnel. 

Now, flipping it over to the Google Cloud side. This was definitely a different experience from Pega, as the team was smaller. We were really deep in One-to-few ABM. This is where the majority of my experience on the One-to-few side came from. 

And key takeaways from this, the first is your cross-functional ecosystem. It is imperative to success. And if you're able to stand up a really strong one, it is going to make your life as an ABM practitioner 10 times easier. 

And another one of the key takeaways that kind of falls seamlessly with this is, if you need and are looking to execute extremely quickly without sacrificing any of your program quality, that cross-functional ecosystem, that is going to be absolute gold. 

And then the third takeaway is having a great SDR team. If they're right on board with your vision, they're extremely bought in, it's just a cheat code. And especially for the One-to-few side.

Declan (strategicabm) – Oh, just Davis I was just making feverishly notes there actually, just to make sure I was capturing everything. 'Cause I think that's a great list and actually, if it's okay with you, I just want to touch on a couple of things you mentioned actually there, Davis. 

You mentioned at Pega, the ABM Center of Excellence. For those listeners who aren't that familiar with what a COE, a Center of Excellence is, can you paint us a brief picture of what that is?

Davis (Scale AI) – When I think of a Center of Excellence, what comes to mind is it's almost like the operational wing of your Account-based Marketing program. Helping to drive best practices from a templatization, from how you speak on ABM, from your MarTech stack, how you even collaborate and communicate with the Sales teams, just driving consistency and also taking in what's not working. 

At Pega, being such a large Account-based Marketing and very mature program, you'd have some commonalities in terms of what wasn't working across the different regions. And, before we really had a strong COE, there were different things that weren't working or things that were working that the teams just weren't sharing. 

And so, when we implemented the COE and a few practices around this such as we'd have, oh, I'm blanking on the term, we would, it was like almost like a round table where we'd bring in different ABM practitioners from different regions, all from different levels. And we'd chat through what's working well, what's not, what's on your wishlist. 

And the funny thing is, is you tend to see the same things pop up from your Europe side to the Americas. And we'd compile that list and that's where we'd really go deep into, what are the priorities to help fix and where are the priorities on the wishlist that we should really look to implement?

Declan (strategicabm) – And in terms of the Center of Excellence, was it just Marketers who had access to that or was it actually available to the wider Sales team or other people in the organization?

Davis (Scale AI) – So, this is something that we were just looking to stand up and I'm sure that they carried this through past my time, but involving Sales in some of those conversational chats around what's working and not working is something that I think was going to make a huge difference, especially getting their perspective. 

Because I'm sure it would be the same across the regions as well, where they would have some of the commonalities and that's where we could pull from our list on initiatives, also.

Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, no, I think that's great. And then just to mention, when you mentioned Google Cloud there, what was interesting I love that expression, a cheat code. You were talking about having a great SDR team. Tell us briefly, what's the importance of having that SDR team plugged into the ABM motion?

Davis (Scale AI) – Having an awesome SDR team is unbelievable, and it makes your life on the ABM side so much greater, easier, and also allows for your program to execute at such a higher level. 

When they're very much bought on, bought in, they can do some of the outreach in the accounts that you can't really do from a personalization standpoint. And they can help provide feedback on the program that maybe you are not hearing or collecting as there's chatting with key contacts all the time. 

So, from a messaging standpoint, from a outreach standpoint, and from overall insights, they really have a great pulse.

Declan (strategicabm) – Well, I think we'll talk maybe a little bit about Sales later in the conversation, Davis, but it's fascinating to see what you've learned, both from Pega and from Google Cloud, two companies that are both leading the way in the approach they have to Account-based Marketing. 

So let's talk about where you are now. Obviously you're heading up ABM at Scale AI. Now Scale, I think when we were talking, you were saying that Scale AI rather is a classic startup. What would you say is probably the greatest difference when doing Marketing and ABM at a startup as opposed to working at Pega or at Google Cloud?

Davis (Scale AI) – When thinking about some of the challenges, the first thing that is probably coming to your mind and all of the listeners' mind: the budget size. And this is very much true. On the startup side, you definitely do not have the dollars to execute that you would at that larger organization. 

And so some of the challenges that come with this are investment and the ability to bring on some MarTech solutions. You have to get really specific in event sponsorships and where you put your dollars, along with content curation and a lot of other pieces on the tactical side. 

Another challenge that comes to mind is resources, for sure. Not having as many agencies able to support the program, and also cross-functional support from both a head count and program maturity and depth perspective. 

And the third thing is also head count from the ABM team side. When thinking about what has worked really, really well in the startup space, the first thing that definitely jumps out is being able to align the teams. And this is mainly due to the size, there's not as many people. So it's really easy to bring the full Sales team together and the cross-functional ecosystem and be able to drive some of the initiatives. 

Second piece is moving quicker. There are less roadblocks. So if you have an idea or you need to iterate, you can do this pretty quickly, given there's less red tape and internal processes to go through. 

And then the third piece is bringing in new MarTech or an agency. We might not have the budget to bring in a bunch all at once, but one of the main things that has been awesome is that we can bring them on really quickly, versus having a very long time for them to go through security checkpoints and make sure that they're integrating with massive legacy or massive internal systems, 'cause it's just so much smaller in the startup space.

Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, it's interesting actually, if I play that back to you, what you're saying in effect is that in a startup space, you can be more agile, potentially more innovative in your approach because you can get people together, because it's a small organization, you can move quicker and obviously you can onboard agencies or other resources or MarTech without perhaps all the documentation and legal forms and everything else you have to go through when working for a much, much, much larger organization. 

But on the other side, on the flip side, you obviously have issues around resources. You can't necessarily do everything you'd like to do. And you can't obviously, you have to be quite careful where you put your Marketing dollars, right?

Davis (Scale AI) – Absolutely.

Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah. So let's talk a little bit more about the program there. So, when we were speaking earlier, Davis, you were telling me that, within a relatively short space of time, I think it was three months, you managed to launch quite a large part of your ABM strategy. Can you share how you went about this? Let's start at the very beginning. So you landed in Scale AI, you opened up your Apple Mac and you said, right, let's start an ABM strategy. How did you, what was your thinking?

Davis (Scale AI) – So, the first thing that I wanted to do was listen, learn, gain a grasp on how the business operates, and think about what would drive the greatest business value from an Account-based Marketing program to start. And so, this was a lot of meeting with our Sales and go-to-market leaders across all roles to really gain that fundamental understanding of what's going on at Scale. 

The second part was to meet with our cross-functional leaders, from a Marketing standpoint, and start to build that ecosystem and learn who is going to be some of the key partners and also start to chat with them around what ABM will look like and really plant the seed of how it's different from your traditional growth or Demand Gen. 

After doing this, figuring out how ABM will align to the business needs. And this was really thinking through and chatting with our Marketing leadership and our Sales leadership around what we need and how we should approach the different flavors of ABM, which one we should ultimately pilot first. 

After doing this, it was, let's start at least a first iteration of an ABM Center of Excellence. So, drafting out your initial ABM playbook, what is this going to look like? What is your go-to-market strategy going to be? 

For us we have a nine-step strategy and touching on those steps really quickly. First, we set our ABM objectives. After this, we gather account intel, determine the ABM play, build our custom messaging house, draft some stakeholder mapping. Then ultimately, we will build the ABM plan, execute it, measure and refine and optimize. And this is very much focused on our One-to-one side of the house. 

Also in the ABM Center of Excellence, thinking through how we can build some repeatable go-to-market templates, given that our Account-based Marketing program is so new, we're in the pilot phase. 

And we want to ultimately expand this, having a strong foundation of templates that, when we ultimately expand the team, can pull from and use, this was really huge. And then understanding what we have and what we don't have in our tactical toolbox. And then really creating that list of the gaps that we need to fill. 

After working on the ABM COE, then taking a turn and chatting with our Marketing Ops and Analytics teams around what a timeframe and what a first pass at an ABM analytics dashboard would look like. 

And starting this conversation really early because ABM analytics, it's definitely something that has always taken a while. And it's something that the business isn't necessarily used to, given that we have different metrics such as contact engagement, measuring the three R's. 

And then after having that conversation and the previous steps, the last thing was to educate and socialize with the greater teams around what we ultimately would like to do and launch from an ABM perspective.

Declan (strategicabm) – I mean, that was a long, I mean, what I was thinking when you were explaining that, Davis was the amount of work involved and at the same time you managed to get something up and running within three months. So that's quite an amazing achievement to do all that planning, preparation, get everybody on board. And at the same time, get some form of strategy up and running, some form of campaign up and running. 

Let me ask you a question there, Davis, was there a previous attempt at ABM at Scale AI or was it new when you joined the company? Did you bring it to the company?


Davis (Scale AI) – So this was our first time having an Account-based Marketing function. And so starting it from the ground up at Scale AI, which has been really fun.

Declan (strategicabm) – So that makes it even more rewarding really, the fact that it's obviously starting from the ground up and you are bringing something new to an organization that obviously, in a startup mode, is obviously keen to generate revenue, generate ARR, generate very quickly repeatable revenue. 

So let's talk a little bit more about the ABM program there. Talk us through what, what was your thinking around the industries that you selected? What was your thinking about which industries you should go after and why?

Davis (Scale AI) – Our go-to-market strategy made this incredibly easy from an Account-based Marketing standpoint. What we ultimately landed on is piloting a One-to-one program and also a One-to-few to start. 

And our long term vision is, launch ABM in three phases. First, your pilot phase, then your standardized phase, and then scale. So, when focusing on the industries, the way that our business is set up, we have four primary accounts that are, from a go-to-market focus, our top priorities and all of these accounts actually align to the same industry. 

So from an ABM standpoint, it was like, wow, this is perfect. So, we're running One-to-one ABM within those four. And then from a One-to-few perspective, this is where, we really wanted to go deep in an industry or a product that made a lot of sense and had a lot of commonalities across these accounts from a funnel perspective. 

And then also, from what would make sense from a program where we could leverage some scale. So, after having some conversations with our go-to market-team, our Marketing leadership, and then also diving into some data, that's how we were able to land on the different accounts and the different industry segments.

Declan (strategicabm) – So to summarize, the One-to-one is focused more on, would that be more on existing customers that the One-to-one, is that customers that you wish to grow more?

Davis (Scale AI) – Definitely. So the One-to-one is focused on existing customers, and the One-to-few is very much focused on greenfield accounts.

Declan (strategicabm) – Greenfield, okay. And then, and I think what was interesting there was you talked about the data. Can you just shine a light on data? What kind of data would you pull in order to make those decisions?

Davis (Scale AI) – So we wanted to make sure that anywhere that we put our resources, given that they're relatively scarce and in everything that we do, we want to make sure it's going to have the greatest business impact. 

Some of the things that we wanted to look at were, what's the total addressable market within these accounts, how does our product, or our program align to this? A few of the pieces that we didn't quite have very mature, but ultimately we'll look at in the future are, what does contact engagement look like? Are we talking with the right people currently, what does that buy-in group engagement tell us? 

Also, from a greenfield and revenue perspective, are they existing customers or what have conversations been like within these accounts? And so, those are a few points that we wanted to look at, or we'll definitely explore in the future.

Declan (strategicabm) – And you mentioned, obviously, what's interesting, obviously, is you've chosen a One-to-one into a select number of existing customers, which makes perfect sense. Then you've selected a smaller group to go into your One-to-few. For the time being, I don't think you've stood up any One-to-many, is that correct?

Davis (Scale AI) – We haven't, but that is absolutely on our roadmap.

Declan (strategicabm) – In terms of the next stage, in terms of the piloting, the standardization, and then the scaling, right?

Davis (Scale AI) – Definitely.

Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah.

Davis (Scale AI) – So--

Declan (strategicabm) – Can you share, sorry, go ahead, Davis, go ahead.

Davis (Scale AI) – Oh no, no, you go, you go. I'm getting a bit of a lag over on my side.

Declan (strategicabm) – I was going to ask you. That's okay. So what I was going to ask you was with regards to, it's very early days, but are there any results that you can share with us in terms of what's been achieved to date?

Davis (Scale AI) – Totally. So we were able to find some quick wins in our One-to-one ABM programs. And this came in the form of personalization. We had some great success with personalized ads, and this came in both revenue sourcing and generating some pipeline, which was an amazing, quick win and early ABM success. 

Now, definitely not having the lens of, this is going to be something that happens all the time, given how ABM is more of a long term play, but I think it was really great, especially as we're just starting our program, to be able to show the business, hey, this is the power of Account-based Marketing and personalization and this is just the beginning.

Declan (strategicabm) – And sorry, let me just ask you a question and go into that, because that sounds really interesting. When you say personalized ads helped you to drive revenue and pipeline within those One-to-one accounts, what exactly do you mean by personalized ads? What kind of personalization were you able to achieve?

Davis (Scale AI) – So, it wasn't anything crazy robust, but speaking directly to these accounts on both LinkedIn and Facebook ads, including their name very relevant. 

For example, one of the ads that promoted very well was focused towards our strategic account and promoting a event. From the copy perspective, from the creative perspective, we very much made it pop for this account and it performed very well. And we saw the same across the board.

Declan (strategicabm) – That's great to hear, that's great to hear. So let's talk about something which we mentioned at the beginning of the interview in terms of Sales. I know when we were talking earlier, you mentioned that, you put an awful lot of time and effort and education and relationship-building actually into working with your Sales colleagues. And that's obviously in your past at Pega, at Google Cloud. And now obviously at Scale AI.

And one thing that struck me when we were talking earlier, is you also mentioned that there can be the case that some Sales colleagues are more on board with the program than other Sales colleagues, in general, not necessarily at Scale, but in general, in your experience. What do you think you can do potentially with those colleagues that are less on board?

Davis (Scale AI) – If you have been practising ABM for a bit, I'm sure you probably run into some challenging partners. And this typically comes in the form of, maybe they're continuously pushing back on meetings. Maybe they are not executing some of the Sales-led tactics on time or providing some timely insights into the account and are just not bought in. 

And this can be really challenging, especially when, from an ABM perspective, you're putting in so much time, effort and resources into running the program. And so, if you run into a challenging Sales partner or a challenging Sales team, a few things that I would first recommend. 

One, having a strong relationship with your VP of Sales, starting this in the beginning is where you'll be able to leverage it for success when you find a challenging Sales partner. Because your VP of Sales, they might be able to explain ABM in a way that might make more sense to the Sales team than you are, or they can really help to show how it will fall into the account plan and the overall go-to-market strategy. 

Secondly, maybe it's just not right for ABM from a timing perspective and maybe the account or few accounts might not be a great fit. So, if you have a Sales partner that's not fully committed and maybe the accounts aren't right, my recommendation, do not be afraid to pivot and switch accounts. You will 100% thank yourself later down the line. And you'll also be able to drive a greater business impact.

Declan (strategicabm) – I think that was a couple of great pieces of advice. And I think one thing that I would also add is that Sales people love success. And they are desperate for success and they want to learn what works. 

And so, I think the more that you can communicate success to those Sales colleagues about the other programs you're doing with other Sales colleagues, they will then want to jump on board and say, hey give me some, give me some, give me some. 

And I think what ends up happening very often with these successful ABM programs is that, you have to be careful that you don't die from your own success. That if all the Sales teams are asking for you to run ABM into their accounts, you may, going back to what you mentioned at the beginning Davis, you may have a real resource issue because you're not able to spread yourself that thinly across so many accounts. 

But my advice to anyone listening is over-communicate with Sales, give them as much good news as possible and share their good news, 'cause that will really breed that kind of teamwork, and that kind of alignment between you and your Sales colleagues. 

Three rapid fire questions, Davis, to finish off on. We often talk about ABM as being a journey, and I don't know about you, but I've been on some terrible journeys where you've took a wrong turn, you got lost or whatever, but what's been the greatest learning from your ABM journey?

Davis (Scale AI) – The biggest piece from mine is, don't be afraid to pivot. If an account isn't right for ABM, messaging isn't working. If you need to change some piece of the program, do not be afraid to do it and make those hard decisions.

Declan (strategicabm) – I love that, I love that. I think speaking to your ex boss, Akriti Gupta at Google Cloud, one thing she was saying was one of the big things at Google, one of the tenants they have is fail fast, learn fast. 

And I think that's definitely something that, from an ABM point of view, is experimentation is key and not being afraid to say, you know what? We were convinced that was going to work, but it hasn't worked, for the timing, for the audience, for the campaign. We just not, but it's okay to learn from that mistake. And just to keep, 'cause you'll get better and better. So I think that's a great learning. 

Second question. What do you think is the hardest part of ABM?

Davis (Scale AI) – Educating and aligning the business. ABM, it's such a prominent buzzword and everyone is so eager to implement it from a Marketing perspective, from a Sales perspective, and across everyone's journeys, ABM can mean something different to each individual. And so, having that single definition and continuously reminding and educating all along the way has definitely been a challenge and something to continuously go back to.

Declan (strategicabm) – Mm, let me just throw, I just thought of, you just said something there, which made me think let me just throw another question at you that I've just thought about. What do you think is the greatest misconception about ABM?

Davis (Scale AI) – 'ABM is ads and landing pages'. It is so much more robust than those two.

Declan (strategicabm) – Definitely, I would definitely agree and also, I hear some people saying that ABM's all about sending Starbucks coffee vouchers, which it definitely is not right?

Davis (Scale AI) – Yep, yep toss direct mail right in with those two. And that's usually what people think of. It's like on-demand ads, on-demand direct mail. But truly doing ABM right, it is such a comprehensive, multi-touch, six, 12, 18 month plus program and that is really where the majority of the education comes from. 

And Declan, to your point earlier around showing Sales an example of this, that alone can make such a big impact.

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Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah I definitely agree with you there, Davis. Very last question just to finish off with, what's that one piece of advice you would give to anybody who's looking to launch an ABM program?

Davis (Scale AI) – ABM will take a village, especially if you're just starting off. So make sure you have a strong cross-functional ecosystem, have those conversations, set those recurring meetings and just make sure that everybody is aligned to that single vision because ABM is not done in a silo.

Declan (strategicabm) – Okay, that's fantastic. Fantastic advice to finish off with Davis. Davis, thanks so much for sharing your ABM journey with us today, and I wish you and the whole team there at Scale AI every success for the future. Thank you very much.

Davis (Scale AI) – Thanks so much for having me, Declan.