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The move from SMB to Enterprise

In this episode of Let's talk ABM, we speak to Daniel Dong, Manager of Expansion Growth at Samsara, about the transition from SMB to Enterprise, and why data is at the heart of ABM.

Date published: Date modified: 2022-04-06 strategicabm 550 60

Daniel Dong
Manager of Expansion Growth | Samsara

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Daniel is a full-stack marketer, business strategist, and casual developer who is currently Manager of Expansion Growth at Samsara, the connected operations platform. Daniel recently won the 'ABM Nerd' for his heavy emphasis on data in his ABM campaigns.

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 moving from SMB to Enterprise
  • The building blocks of Samsara's ABM strategy
  • Why data is at the heart of any ABM program
  • Advice for anyone starting out with ABM
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The move from SMB to Enterprise

The full transcript

Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm) - Okay, well today I'm joined by Daniel Dong who's the Manager of Expansion Growth at Samsara. Daniel, thanks so much for joining us today. 
Daniel Dong (Samsara) - Thanks for having me Declan, excited to chat. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Okay, well, we're going to talk for the next half an hour or so about ABM and learn a bit more about your ABM journey. 

To tell a bit of story, actually, I came across Daniel, there was some news release about some awards, not too long ago, actually, and I saw that you were awarded the 'ABM Nerd' Award, which kind of jumped out at me a lot. And I started digging around, started looking at your profile, started learning a bit about you, contacted you to say, “Hey, would you like to be a guest on Let's talk ABM.” 

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So, first of all, congratulations on that award, which I think was from the ABM Leadership Alliance. The award I think was all to do with a heavy emphasis on those B2B marketers and those ABMers that have a heavy emphasis on data in their campaigns. 

So, let's talk about data if we can just for a second. We'll start off with a big topic and then we'll be a bit more kind of wide as we go on. But let's talk about data for a second. I mean, data is a huge part of any ABM program. Do you think that investment is valued or do you think people actually undervalue the importance of data in ABM?

Daniel (Samsara) - That's a very interesting question. I think maybe a better question to ask would be, how do you know the investment is the right kind of investment, right? For the organization, because every company is at a different stage and so if you are earlier startups looking for product-market fit, maybe you don't need to invest too heavily in, say intent data, as the category isn't there yet.

If you are looking to expand into new customers, maybe the right move is to invest in some third-party data in addition to kind of having robust first-party, like lead gen, website tracking – all those kind of things. And if you're kind of saturated your new customers, maybe it's about collecting data from your customers and build new insights for, kind of, upsell cross-sell. 

So, the investment really depends on the stage of your company. But, what I do think that everyone can kind of benefit from and I've kind of learned this along my journey as well, is to think about the end picture of like, if everything is perfect and you could have everything you want for the customer's entire lifestyle cycle, entire journey, what would that data roadmap look like? What kind of data would you need? 

And then build a kind of like an 'architecture-surround' that can eventually support all of those things, because there's a lot of data and you can't get all of them, all in one place in one day. So, you kind of put it on a map and then fill it in as your organization is mature enough to get to those points, would be kind of how I would approach it if I were to approach it again today. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Well, so I think we'll dig a bit more into that a little bit later actually Dan, and we'll talk a little bit more about data. But let's just talk about your ABM program there. My understanding when we were chatting earlier was that I think you started your ABM program about a year and a half or so ago. 

And it was obviously, I think the idea was to support your move from the kind of SMB space into the enterprise space. So, what have you learned in that move from winning smaller clients to try to win larger clients? What's been your learning there? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, that's a great question. So, I think when you think about SMB versus enterprise, SMB is about volume so, a lot I think that the framework to approach problems – funnel optimization, conversion rate optimization, sourcing kind of new top of funnel impression – those are more similar to I would say a B2C than enterprise, right? 

And so there's kind of a shift in mindset when, at least our team started to support more of the enterprise initiatives at the company. Enterprise I think is more about the strategy of defining the set of accounts that you want to pursue and get as much data points, get as deep as you can into those accounts, collect as many data as possible. 

And then eventually think about, almost like a regression model, think about what data points are truly important in moving the lever. And sometimes, like it kind of depends on qualitative feedback. I have more of a quantitative background, so I like to think of everything in data, but there is a qualitative kind of component to it and you just need a lot more time to collect those data. 

And so, as you kind of progress, it's also good to think about what are some leading indicators that you can capture in your project? If the sales cycles are, I don't know six months, a year, or longer in some cases for larger companies, and so think about what leading indicators you can capture to give more immediate feedback on the things that you're doing, could be helpful as well. 

And then that's something I learned about how you would approach it differently for between SMB and enterprise, yeah. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I think it's a really interesting point there around… 'cause obviously the word data has been mentioned several times in this interview already and I suspect it's going to be mentioned several times as we go through this interview. 

And interestingly, obviously the leading indicators sometimes aren't necessarily data sources in the traditional sense in terms of measuring the relationships that you're building in those accounts at an enterprise level or measuring or trying to measure the reputation that you're building in that account, right? 

And those two indicators will lead through to revenue, but sometimes you need to have a little bit of, kind of more of a qualitative approach to the data, as opposed to, as you said, a quantitative approach, right? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, I think it's definitely a mixture of both, right? You can't just rely on qualitative feedback because data does tell some sort of truth that humans are not able to capture and so deciding what is a balance between the two, I think that's the tricky part, that's very interesting. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah. So, when we spoke earlier Dan, you talked about and it kind of struck a chord with me, you talked about your ABM thinking and you broke it down into four categories: strategy, data, tools and tactics. And once again, data is appearing there again, right? Strategy, data, tools and tactics. Could you expand on each one of those a little bit more for the audience? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, absolutely. So, when I think about strategy, I think about what is the kind of Total Addressable Market that you have with the products or services that you're offering and how do you think about what accounts within that portfolio to break into? How do you prioritize accounts, either based on qualitative feedback from people from Sales, or think about kind of if you already have some data, what are the kind of segments that have already gained traction, that still have a lot of potential? 

That's kind of what I would think about, right? 'Cause you have a lot of accounts in your CRM – hopefully, I presume – how do you prioritize them? How do you go after the one that's the biggest bang for your buck? And so having that alignment at the beginning, across all of the go-to market teams, I think that's a very important thing, right? Like aligning on that strategy. 

And then from there, that's when you ask the question around data, right? Like do we have the right data in place? Like I mentioned earlier, if you are after looking at your strategy or going mostly after new customers, then you would need a different set of data than say if you're going after expanding on your existing customers. 

And so within those there'll be different kinds of like data that I'm sure everyone is plastered with all these kind of data vendors and like different kinds of articles and you just have to categorize, what kind of category does this data belong to and really think about their importance and what kind of value they could add both immediately and down a long term. 

And so I think that's kind of the data piece that everybody's heard a lot about, first-party data, third-party data... 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah. 

Daniel (Samsara) - All those sorts of kind of things that people are probably pretty well versed at today. 

And then thinking from there, once you have the accounts that you want to kind of tackle. You have the right data to figure out how to prioritize, what kind of messaging are you tailoring? I think it's important to think about the tools, right? 

Because for ABM, you're not just a marketer talking directly to your audience, you want to be able to connect that experience for your prospects and your customers, so, it involves kind of cross-functional collaboration. So, sometimes when you think something works, like you need to make sure that other teams also have the tools that they need in order to kind of carry on the same messaging and the same experience, right? 

And so that really depends on the organization. On the Growth team at Samsara, we're very lucky that we have a lot of people who can be technical and can build MVPs for things, so, we iterate really fast and build tools for maybe the SDR team, maybe that's a Sales team, to kind of get stuff rolling more quickly and so that can help really drive alignment. 

And then finally, thinking about tactics, I think this is kind of where marketers are really paid to do, thinking about what creative messaging can you kind of get people's attention? What channels and ways can you kind of ignite that kind of conversation, whether that's through more deeply insightful content, whether that's through kind of a nice nudge, like a direct mail or like in-person events with some sort of like twist.

I think there's a lot of tactics that you can kind of try, but that's where marketers can be a lot more creative. Yeah. So that's kind of how I think about those four areas. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Well, I think it's very useful actually, that people think about those buckets in a funny kind of way, that they think about those four areas where they you have to, depending as you said, on their maturity where they should lean heavier on or where they can actually invest more on depending on which stage they are on their ABM journey, right? 

And it's interesting you mentioned about the intent there and it made me think about a conversation I was having with Danny Nail, who's Head of the ABM Center of Excellence at Salesforce. And he was talking about the difference between intent and interest and he was basically saying that a lot of people lean on intent when actually it's not intent, it's just interest. 

And I think going back to your point around data, trying to pull together those data points to say, well actually, is this account showing intent or is it just showing interest, which is a completely different thing to intent, right? So, I think if anybody hasn't heard that or listened to that interview with Danny Nail it's definitely worth listening to, 'cause it has a lot of parallels with what you are saying as well here. 

So, we mentioned earlier one and a half years of your ABM program moving particularly from an SMB into an enterprise focus. What's the learning that you've taken from it in terms of, do you know what? If I had my time again, I would do that differently. What would you do differently if you had your time again? 

Daniel (Samsara) - That's an interesting question. I think, one thing to kind of note here is... One of my biggest takeaways is like, and I kind of alluded to this a little bit earlier, is that data is not perfect, right? There are things outside of data that, whether it is something that can be captured or are not being captured right now or just some things that really can't be captured in kind of Enterprise Marketing and selling, that you just need to appreciate that and really leverage it. 

But then the other piece is around kind of like, even though it's not perfect, doesn't mean that it cannot be better and like how much time would you want to invest in that? What does that end picture look like? 

Having that vision I think a lot of times we build airplanes as we fly them, but it would be good to think about, eventually where are you going to land and having that kind of vision around if I can have everything I want, where would it be? And start kind of piecing that together, I think that's something that I would've wanted to have if I were to do it again. 

And then I think the other thing is surrounding kind of experimentation and being patient with the data and the results. I think coming from SMB,the conversions can happen really fast in the enterprise, well less so. 

And so how do you have conviction around some of the experiments that you want to run and be patient with seeing it come to fruition, it takes a little bit longer and that's something that I wish I could tell myself earlier when I started this journey, is to have a little bit more conviction about your intuition, stick to it, but be very thoughtful about what kind of results that you need to see, yeah. 

Declan (strategicabm) - I think that's a great point actually, because I think as you were saying Dan, when you're after an enterprise account, I mean ABM, if you had to define it, you'd say it's for targeting enterprise or mid-market enterprise, it's for targeting companies that have got a long sales cycle, that have got a complex sale, that have got a high consideration solutions – so all those things point to time.

Obviously in the world that we live in, not everyone has time or everyone gives you time. So, I think a lot of other guests on Let's talk ABM have said that one of the key things is to make sure people are aware at the beginning of this journey, what the timeframe looks like, what good looks like and for them to make sure that they're not unnecessarily kind of trying to speed you up or demand results that you clearly can't deliver in that timeframe. 

And as you mentioned in the SMB space, things move quickly, people make decisions, the purchase price, the level of consideration is a lot lower, they can put it on a credit card or whatever and then off they go. But if you're selling something into enterprise, there are certain steps that they have to go through, people need to be considered, buying committees, all of the above, right? That we all know and love or not love as the case may be, right? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Right. 

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Declan (strategicabm) - So let's- 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, I think... Yes, sorry, go ahead. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Sorry, go ahead, Dan. 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, and then that's why I think leading indicators are important, right? You also want to set the right kind of North Star metrics at the beginning and really figure out what problem you're trying to solve. Are you solving a pipeline problem? Are you solving a revenue problem? Clearly define that and build expectations around those with your team. 

Maybe you don't have a year or two years to see if the ABM as a program has a positive ROI, so what other metrics can you use earlier in the funnel to give you that indication that you're successful or you're not in the right direction? I think that would be important. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, and I think knowing when... I think also not having everything set in stone, so being flexible enough to say, you know what? We thought this was going to work, it looks like it's not going to work so we're going to change. 

And I think not being afraid to change, I think is a good thing from an ABM point of view, because you can't necessarily give it the 9, 12, 15, 18 months because you'll know from your initial work whether or not the message is resonating, whether your account experience, your creatives, your value proposition, whether that's actually resonating with the market and then you can obviously make decisions, right? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah.

Declan (strategicabm) - Well, another thing that you said to me previously, when we were having a chat before this recording, was that you said something to me along the lines of 'we test and look at the data and then we decide to scale'. And then you follow a first principle problem solving approach. So, that made me think a lot actually about the approach you take there at Samsara. So, talk me through that, what does that look like in reality? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, that's a great question. So Max, the 'head honcho' for the Samsara Growth Team and the first kind of Growth Marketer for Samsara, he's kind of a champion for this first principle problem solving approach, where when you have a broad problem, you should break it down into different components, into different buckets, right? 

Kind of like earlier when we were breaking it down, the ABM program by strategy, data, tools, and tactics. Think about kind of the different buckets of problems and what levers that you could potentially use to solve each of those buckets, right? 

I think it's important to have kind of an analytical mindset because the problem’s very complex, there are a lot of components to it. There are a lot of things that you can prioritize. You will never have enough time to prioritize all of them. 

So how do you kind of break down the problem, think about the levers that you can pull and the levers that have the biggest impact and the lowest effort and at any given time and how do you sequence them? I think that's kind of how we think about a lot of the problems that we solve, whether that's in SMB space and the enterprise or kind of anything else. 

And so once you kind of have that – like you have an understanding of the different areas where you can make an impact, then you start kind of testing out different hypotheses of, what levers can you truly pull in order to solve kind of those issues, right? 

Is it paid advertising? Is it a sales experience kind of optimization? Is it different kinds of like door openers? Is it peer-to-peer kind of programs to get people involved, right? Like are you trying to create pipeline? Are you trying to accelerate pipeline? Are you trying to improve close rate? Or are you trying to upsell and cross sell, right? 

Think about what is the problem that you're trying to solve. And then from there, test out different things to kind of always have a mindset of like, if you were trying to present what you've done to somebody else, talk about kind of what is the incremental value of the lever that you're pulling, right? 

So always have a mindset to have an A/B test going to have ways to kind of measure the impact that you have, and you can do this with Account-based Marketing too, right? Like you just chop the addressable accounts into two separate buckets and one you run with a sequence that you're designing and then the other is control and see how to kind of place that over to longer term. 

So, we do a lot of these tests to figure out, what is the incremental by value of these kind of different tactics that we have. And once we have that, we can extrapolate that to the larger universe and then decide if that's something that you want to focus on scaling right now, right? 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah. 

Daniel (Samsara) - 'Cause with any kind of programs in ABM, there's a lot of enablement components going on, there's a lot of automation components that can go into it, that takes a lot of effort, but you don't want to be doing that stuff before you can realize if there's true value in the thing that you're doing or if there's enough value for you to focus on right now. 

And so actually there's this book called 'Traction', it was written like 2014 I think by a guy named Gabriel Weinberg, who's like a serial entrepreneur. And he's talked about how like startups kind of test different channels when they're going and then they go deep into one channel to figure out if there's kind of actually traction in there and if there is then they kind of scale it. 

I think it's kind of the same principle that we use, although that book may have been more for B2C I would think, but the principles-

Declan (strategicabm) - The principles are the same, yeah. 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Now, I love that idea and I think there are a lot of learnings there actually, for anybody looking to launch an ABM program and thinking about that kind of, as you said, a lot of the testing, a lot of the A/B testing, testing messaging, as you said, testing control groups, A versus B – there's an awful lot of good thinking in there, Dan. 

You mentioned there your Growth team and your colleagues – you mentioned previously that it was a real kind of interdisciplinary team, in terms of the makeup of that team and that there was some... What do you think it takes to make a great Growth team? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, I think there are a couple components I can offer my opinion, but I'm sure there are a lot of people who would be better at speaking about this more intelligently. But I think there are a couple of things. 

So, one thing is, what is kind of the North Star metrics that you are trying to improve and pursue, right? Like going back to the first principle, what is the problem that you're trying to solve? Is the first thing. 

And then the second thing is, do you have the capability to iterate really quickly, right? Do you have the mandate and the liberty and the skill sets to do all of that? And so the Samsara Growth Team, we're very lucky that we have our own kind of Growth Engineering team as well, so, when we need to do more complicated stuff, that team is super helpful in like helping us to get everything kind of running, in addition to scaling a lot of like really critical projects for the company as a whole. 

And our marketers are also, I would say pretty well versed in all sorts of different things, right? Like you don't need to hire necessarily a data science person in order to do a first iteration of say, like an intent model, for example, right? Like there are things that people can kind of do to basics and have an MVP and I think that encouraging that kind of creativity, having a latitude to do things, that's very important to get those experiments set up really quickly. 

And then when you measure those results, having people who have analytical mindsets really helps with proving those kind of business value to larger stakeholders and then get them to kind of be on board with you scaling them. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah. I think I'd agree there's an awful lot of data, as you said, a lot of analytics involved in ABM and there's also, I think if you'd agree, a requirement for a lot of commercial acumen. And a requirement for people to maybe actually come from outside of the classic marketing background and come even from an SDR commercial background to have experienced the sales, because you need to obviously work really closely with Sales and having that credibility is really important, Dan, would you agree with that? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, I would say having people from diverse backgrounds help you not kind of be entrenched in the way that you kind of always solved a problem, right? Not, what is the saying, like ‘not everything is a nail to your hammer’, I don't know if I say that right. 

But yeah, I think having people with diverse backgrounds help look at problems differently, maybe there are things in kind of their previous experience or industries or skillset that can help solve the problem in a new way that you can't necessarily be done if you just put all kind of the traditional people in the same room. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, we're at the beginning of... We're in February now coming to March, 2022, which sounds a bit weird to say that but it's 2022. What does the rest of the year look like for you there and the team, what can we expect from you this year? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, that's a great question. So, I think there are a lot of very exciting things going on with kind of the ABM programs. I think we have better alignment than before. We have better infrastructure than before. We have more confidence with kind of a lot of the experiments that we've run, so we know what directions that we can kind of focus on and keep on scaling. 

So, I think there's a lot of like pretty exciting projects, ideas, orchestrations on the roadmap. There's also kind of more kind of different data sets that we can use than before to kind of leverage that like holistic picture of things that come. 

So yeah, lots of really exciting things I think on our roadmap. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Well, I’ll definitely obviously be looking out for you and your posts on LinkedIn to talk about that as you share them, no doubt throughout the year. 

So just a few more questions just to finish off Dan. So, Demand gen and ABM. There's an awful lot of talk about both strategies, whether one is a subset of the other or whether they are standalone strategies, where do you stand on this? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yeah, I think different companies name their teams kind of differently and they could have the same name and do completely different things. But I think the principle is the same, if you just focus on creating kind of touch points, if you just focus on improving the engagement of the specific touch point, then it's harder to kind of see the holistic picture, right? 

Because you can do a lot of different touch points, but like who are you really targeting? What are you really trying to educate them on? What are you really trying to get them to do, right? 

So, whether that's like ABM team or a Demand Gen team, I would hope that they kind of start from that question before diving into the specific kind of tactics to run, right? Because there's no shortage of creative ideas, email headlines or campaigns that you can run. But where are you really moving the needle? Where are you really making an impact as a team? What metrics are you trying to improve? 

Those would be the questions that's more helpful and then as a team you have those skill sets to kind of leverage the marketing experience that you have to improve them. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, great answer, great answer, Dan. So, what do you think is the hardest part of ABM? 

Daniel (Samsara) - The hardest part of ABM? I would say, like we build the airplane as we fly them and it's pretty interesting like problems to solve. I don't really necessarily know if there's like one area that's harder than the other. 

But I would say the critical thing to kind of get right is alignment with other Go-to Market teams that's beyond Marketing. Surprisingly, that's a way to do Account-based Marketing, right? 

And then the other piece is kind of around making sure that people buy into the value of data, not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term, right? Like how do you convince people to be okay with a three-year roadmap of data when you're just there starting out. 

So, you should be able to like strategize on those things, prove incremental values, get trust, get buy-in, also validate kind of your own hypothesis of whether something is right. But always have that kind of end goal picture in mind and then reverse engineer what steps that you need to take right now based on kind of the maturity of your team and the maturity of your business. 

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Declan (strategicabm) - Great answer, Dan. Last question to ask you. 

The way I kind of frame this is that you're about to kind of shut down your laptop, it's a Friday evening, you've had a tough, tough, tough week and you're looking forward to enjoying the weekend, and suddenly up pops a message, phone call from a friend who's working for another B2B tech company. And they say, ‘Dan, I've been asked to create an ABM program, I need some advice’ and you...it's Friday evening, and they say, ‘what advice can you give me? I've got a meeting on Monday morning’, what's that one piece of advice you would give them? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Hmm, well, there probably would be a couple of qualifying questions like what is this meeting for, right? What are you trying to get out of the meeting? Are you trying to get buy-in? Are you trying to get approval? Are you trying to get budget? Like what precisely are you trying to get out of this meeting? 

And then the kind of advice would kind of be different, but one thing I would say is Account-based Marketing is kind of, I feel like the framework approach that you should think about enterprise marketing. 

So, if their business is trying to get into this space, it would be good to have some sort of program around it, but everybody is kind of different, so, you'll need kind of time and space to figure out what the ABM program at the specific company that you're working for means to them, right? 

Different stages of the funnel could be totally different and so think about that piece. What is the most important thing at the moment for your business that the ABM program can help address?

Declan (strategicabm) - I think that's a great answer. So to summarize, what are you trying to solve with ABM? And then try to document that and also get agreement on that and then you can actually start to build out an ABM program, and ABM strategy, right? 

Daniel (Samsara) - Yep, that's a great rephrase. I'll tell my friend to call you. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Well, I'm just summarizing what you said, it's your knowledge and my- 

Daniel (Samara) - Much shorter and succinct! 

Declan (strategicabm) - Well, Dan, thanks so much for sharing your ABM journey today and we wish you every success there at Samsara and we look forward to learning what you're going to do this year. 

Daniel (Samsara) - Thank you, Declan, It's a real pleasure talking to you and hope to chat with you soon. 

Declan (strategicabm) - Thanks Dan.