Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm) – So, today I'm joined by Heather Adams, who's the Senior Director, Demand and ABM, at Socure. Heather, thanks so much for joining us today.
Heather Adams (Socure) – Thanks so much for having me, Declan. I've been following your podcast for a long time now, and it's just been so helpful with great ideas and so many great people you've featured, so I really feel fortunate to be here today.
Declan (strategicabm) – Well, that's lovely to hear. Thank you, Heather. So, we're going to spend the next 30 minutes or so talking about ABM.
And I think we're going to kick off, actually, a little bit, you know, the work that you guys do there at Socure, I think is actually relevant for anybody who's listening to this podcast, because obviously, if I'm right, I think you talk a lot about identity and fraud prevention. And I think we've all either suffered from it or have family or friends who suffer from it.
So, let's just talk a little bit about that for a second. Tell us something about that in terms of, share something with us perhaps that we don't know about this whole area of identity and fraud prevention.
Heather (Socure) – Sure, yeah. Just a little bit about Socure. We are one of the leading providers for the enterprise for identity verification and fraud prevention, as you said. We work with over 1,500 customers and four of the top five banks to really help them solve the problems that enterprises face every day in this area.
Our mission is really to help them identify 100% of good identities, and completely eliminate identity fraud for every applicant on the internet, which I know is a really lofty goal, but it's something we're really passionate about here.
And I would just say, we just see, as the world has gone more digital, so many vectors of fraud emerging. And the bad guys are always trying to stay a couple steps ahead. And so, really, people taking their own personal responsibility and really being vigilant about protecting their PII, and really evaluating when they see something that seems too good to be true.
And I would say, the bad guys really go after where they can see vulnerabilities. So, it's important for us to also think about that with our parents, our grandparents, our elderly family members, to also help them understand how to really protect their identity, so that they're not taken advantage of as well.
Declan (strategicabm) – So you mentioned there, Heather, PII. I'm not sure if I'm familiar with that term.
Heather (Socure) – So, any of your personal identity factors, your name, your government ID, your date of birth, your passwords and your logins, all of those things are so important to just be very cautious of and not share to someone that you don't know.
Declan (strategicabm) – So, basically, you shouldn't write it down on a piece of paper like my dad does. Is that what you're suggesting?
Heather (Socure) – Yes. I've talked to my mom about that, too.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, hopefully nobody's listing about that. So, let's talk about the ABM program there at Socure. Now, I think you mentioned when we were talking some time back in preparation for this interview that your original ICP, naturally, as you mentioned, was Financial Services. But I think you actually branched out somewhat away from, or keeping Financial Services at your core, but branching out into other verticals as well. What does your current target market look like, or markets, above and beyond Financial Services?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, I'd be glad to share that. Yes, definitely you're right, we built our business on Financial Services and FinTech. That is still the core of the customers that we serve.
However, what we saw with the advent of COVID, is so many areas of the world and the economy had to go digital-first, and had to go digital-first really quickly. I mean, we've even seen that, even in the most traditional Financial Services, they had to immediately have a rapid migration to digital-first.
Of course, there's the same trend in Government and Public Sector. Immediately, they had to find the way to get the benefits and services that they needed to get to their constituents in a digital format, versus in person, which so many relied on pre-COVID. Online gaming, we have seen rapid growth there as well, especially in the US, where it's become legal in state after state, very rapidly.
And so there's great opportunity for fraud attacking that vertical. Two-sided marketplaces, the gig economy, right? They need to be really vigilant about identifying and verifying identities within their ecosystem, so they can keep everyone safe.
So, all of these have one thing in common, is as these verticals and industries quickly went digital, the bad guys are there trying to find ways to take advantage as quickly as they can, as possible. So, we're just really vigilant about wanting to partner with customers to help them make sure that who their customers are, is who they say they are. And it's something we're really passionate about at Socure.
Declan (strategicabm) – And I suppose, just thinking about some of those sectors you mentioned, particularly where there's lots of regulation, perhaps in Financial Services or in gaming, or gambling, rather, that probably has its own challenges as well, that those organizations have to be able to prove that the users are who they say they are, right?
Heather (Socure) – Yes, there's nuances to it as you look at each different vertical, and obviously Financial Services is going to be the most stringent for those types of regulations. But for sure, that is part of the picture. There are regulations set in each of those areas that those businesses need to comply with.
Declan (strategicabm) – So, let's talk about the kind of the business you do there. I would say, kind of, that your business is kind of, it's classically suited for ABM. Large deals, long sales cycles. With the work that you do, then, the strategy that you roll out, are you able to, kind of, move the revenue needle faster, deploying ABM?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, for sure. I mean, we've seen incredible results over the last 18 months that we've really been doubled down on Account-based Marketing. Like I mentioned, I came to Socure in the fall of 2021, really with a mandate to build out ABM from the ground up and build out the program and teams to support that.
So, in the beginning, we really partnered with Sales and Sales leadership, in trying to really kind of hone in and define our target verticals and accounts and what we were going to prioritize. However, we also knew that we really needed to have data at the core of that to help guide us.
And so, we really used a combination of that to really understand where the opportunity was in our space, how it aligned to our use case and fit, and where we were seeing the most intent and engagement, so we could kind of prioritize our targets from that aspect.
Declan (strategicabm) – And so then, have you got any data you can share, not necessarily financial data, but more kind of percentage numbers? We typically talk about ABM impacting deal velocity, average contract value, et cetera. But have you got anything that you can share, wide, broad numbers around that?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, so our first priority was really looking at pre-opportunity, the pre-opportunity funnel, and really sourcing new deals in our top accounts that we knew could move the needle the most. And so, throughout 2022, partnering with Sales, we were able to create 51 million in new pipeline through our program.
And so, that's kind of the marquee number that we were able to put up for 2022. And then, as we kind of gained maturity and are evolving, now we're looking at, not just the pre-opportunity funnel, but the whole funnel. And so, for this year, we'll be focused more on how can we increase deal velocity and average deal size within those large opportunities that are already open?
Declan (strategicabm) – So, what's the reputation then of ABM and your team within the organization? What do people say about you?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, I think so much so that everybody kind of calls everything ABM, so we all are still working on that definition. But yeah, we've seen, through the processes that we ran in '22, just great feedback from our Sales leadership and many of our Salespeople. And so yeah, we've gotten a lot of new evangelists on board through the programs that we ran in 2022.
Declan (strategicabm) – That's great to hear, Heather. Let me ask you a question, rather, around your approach to ABM. I think when we were chatting previously, you mentioned that you were piloting a One-to-few program to your top accounts. Can you talk us through a little bit your approach there, about how you go to pilot, or One-to-few, as you mentioned, into those top accounts?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, sure. We had a smaller team, especially from the start. So, we really had to make the most of our resources and our programs to move the needle the most.
So, we started with a One-to-few approach, where we were really looking at our verticals, where we believed, from our intent and in-market data, that we could make some traction quickly, and then really identified a cohort of accounts that fit that use case, that had similar pains and challenges that they were trying to solve, and then developed our messaging and our program from that. That allowed us to, kind of, move quickly, get to market with a larger group of accounts than we would if we took a One-to-one approach.
And then we could learn quickly what was resonating, what wasn't working so well. And then we could optimize to what we were learning and just move more quickly, we felt, by incorporating a One-to-few program instead of a One-to-one.
Declan (strategicabm) – And with the One-to-few program, you were obviously targeting, what was it, one vertical, Financial Services, or one segment within the Financial Services? Was that the, kind of, pilot you were doing?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, that's kind of the format we followed. We started with Financial Services and FinTechs 'cause we knew, while that's where we built our business, there was still so much more potential.
So, we wanted to start with that, and then we quickly moved on to these other use cases where we had seen early success. Maybe we had gained a big brand customer and we knew that we had solved this group of problems for them, and then we kind of just tackled those additional verticals one by one, as quickly as we could.
Declan (strategicabm) – And, I'm just thinking, as you're talking about that, did you have a mix of digital/physical strategies in there, as well? Because, obviously, coming out of the pandemic, and you were able to do, kind of, face-to-face, did you mix that up a little bit?
Heather (Socure) – We did, for sure. What we call it is a 'surround sound approach', so we really try to have a solid mix, because we know, like, in the deal sizes and the type of sale, which is long sales cycle, pretty high average deal size, there's going to be a very sizable buyer group. So, multiple people that are either decision makers or influencers in this type of a deal.
And different type of people are going to resonate with different types of channels and content types, et cetera. So, we really worked to have a solid mix of digital, with LinkedIn and display ads, with personalized web content that was really, kind of, catered to talking about the challenges that they were trying to solve.
Of course, email outbounding, working really closely with our SDR team. And then, still leveraging virtual and live events, but with very bespoke approach. So, we go to many of the industry large events, but in each of those, we try to really take a close look at our top target customers that would be live and in person at those events, and create a personalized experience for them that allows them a component of thought leadership, but also the ability to connect with their peers, that may or may not be our customers, but just to really have that peer interaction I think people are really hungry for, especially after being cooped up so long with COVID.
Declan (strategicabm) – No, definitely. And I think you mentioned something which is very close to my heart there, which is the whole peer-to-peer approach as well, which I think is so important. It plays such a great part of any kind of ABM. Could you elaborate on that a little bit, in terms of the peer work that you do?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, so in a couple of different areas, like anytime we're doing a virtual experience online, we really look to either have an industry expert or someone that is our key persona really brought into the conversation to kind of share, like, what challenges they've addressed, how have they seen results, where did they get stuck. So, we always try to get the voice of their peers, as well as incorporate third-party experts.
And so, we carry that through also in our live events where we put together a roundtable that's a more intimate gathering, but also to kind of bring in those voices that will really spur on that interaction and that conversation.
Declan (strategicabm) – So, the emphasis there is not so much to, kind of, sell or to convince, but to give them the platform to hear new voices and to hear new thinking. Is that right?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, and because it's very likely that they're experiencing the same issues that their peers have been tackling, or may have tackled. And so, we really try to get that incorporated into the experience.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, yeah, absolutely, I think that's a great point for anybody listening, to think about that, kind of, peer-to-peer approach. I know, also, another kind of topic which is really close to your heart is around Sales and Sales alignment. And I think we all know that that's always a sticking point for any kind of ABM strategy, is trying to get that alignment. Is there anything you could share with us about how you think you've approached it at Socure that is different, or anything that you've learned and the, kind of, the mistakes that you've made that you can help people to accelerate their learning?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, I'd be glad to. So, I think one of the key things that we did that really worked, that was kind of unique, is we established what we lovingly call our 'Treasure Ops' process, early in 2022. And we were so dedicated to this that we had a full-time person that was really running and driving this process.
And essentially, what that role was, was to really take, you know, we had a brand new ABM platform, 6sense. It has so much data in there. And really, sometimes the challenges can be to get the broader SDR and AE team aware of all those data insights and then actioning them. So, we kind of took it into our own hands with the Treasure Ops process.
And that role was really, kind of, across the organization, within our ICP, looking for those nuggets of gold – so that's where Treasure Ops came from – that we would then elevate and alert the appropriate SDR, AE, and Sales leadership, by the way, with what we were seeing.
And so, these were great accounts that we were seeing intent and engagement, and then we would really partner with them in helping to source out that buyer group that I talked about. So, we make sure that we understand who we need to now start to engage with.
And then we had, of course, our programs that were driving additional engagement, but it was sort of that white glove approach of, kind of, alerting that, "Hey, company XYZ is on our website, they're engaging with all this different stuff, they're showing this intent, let's reach out in a personalized way and engage with them."
And so, that was really what drove that pipeline number that I was telling you about, really, that tight collaboration. But then, because we saw good success from it, we wanted to scale that process. And it's hard to scale it when you just have one person that is really, kind of, elevating all these insights.
So, now our objective has evolved this year to really enable the whole SDR team, excuse me, and our Salespeople to understand that data. So now, instead of one person really actioning that data, day over day, we've got a whole team of people that understand how to use it, that are actioning it. And so, we are really watching that closely to see how the results can evolve from that.
And then, also, we had a few Salespeople and SDRs that were really, kind of, the leaders of that. They were the early adopters, and really bought in, and were really utilizing and kind of mirroring some of these Treasure Ops processes. And so, we really gave them a platform to present to their peers and say, "Hey, this is what's working for our team, this is how we're using it, this is the results we've seen." And it's just so much more effective when it's coming peer-to-peer, from a Salesperson to a Salesperson.
And so, we're really, kind of, on the ground with those teams every day, partnering with them to both create new opportunities, and then also, the opportunities that were open, really making sure that we're broadening the sphere of influence there as well, because we know, especially in those big deals, if we're single-threaded and we're not at a high enough level on top of that, there's so much risk in the deal.So, really partnering with them to help identify that full buyer group, get our programs and our thought leadership in front of them, and have that tight collaboration with the selling teams.
Declan (strategicabm) – So, would it be fair to say that the Sales team are quite excited about this approach?
Heather (Socure) – Yes, and in fact, when we are putting some of these tools and things, and my team is doing a great job of it, and enabling the SDRs, they're just so excited, 'cause it just opens up so much more potential for them to be successful.
Declan (strategicabm) – And do you have a special communication channel that you use? I know I've spoken to previous guests who create special Slack channels, but do you have any particular way where you communicate everything that's going on within the ABM program?
Heather (Socure) – That's probably one area that we are working on. We communicate in many channels, because, I mean, a lot of people are probably aware, anytime you're driving a new process, it probably takes seven times of repeating it before people are fully grasping it. So, we do use Slack, we do use email, but we are working on, how can we continue to have that communication be more effective and more widely seen by the broader org?
Declan (strategicabm) – And I think it's interesting, you mentioned a point there around technology, and you mentioned 6sense as one of your key technology partners. Let's talk a little bit about technology in ABM for a second.
I'll say a lot of people think that ABM and technology are synonymous, and that the technology vendors invented ABM. So, they've obviously done a very good job on their Marketing. Clearly they did not invent ABM; ABM was invented, I think we're going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ABM, now. But, what's your take on technology?
I suppose I've got two questions, really. One is, what technology do you have there, and I suppose, what could you not live without? And I suppose the second point is, do you find that the technology is a must-have and a real enabler of what you're trying to achieve?
Heather (Socure) – So, that's a good question. So, our tech stack looks probably similar to many others. We have Salesforce, Marketo, like I mentioned, 6sense is our ABM platform where we really do a lot of our segmentation and our data insights. We have Outreach for outbounding email, we have Drift, to name a few.
I would say this is the first role where I've had an actual full ABM platform. So, I think, definitely, people shouldn't feel like they can't do ABM without technology. You can definitely do grassroots. I've run it through spreadsheets before, right? So, I don't think people should get stuck and feel like there's any technology that's going to solve the problem.
In fact, if you're going to move forward and make the investment in a technology, you have to have the resources, and not just for the setup, but the continual monitoring and making sure that everything is fine tuned. So, I wouldn't say that any of those technologies are necessary, but they're all helpful.
I will say, if you can get a model set up that's really going to be fine tuned and help you understand the aggregation of all your intent and your engagement, like we've done in 6sense, that we really do rely heavily on it. Because once it's fine tuned, then it's, kind of, the place where both Marketing and Sales can work from to drive new deals and drive things forward using those in-market insights.
But, it does take a commitment of both dollars and resources to get it set up, and then a continual, continual fostering the engagement with it, so that those insights don't die on the vine.
Declan (strategicabm) – But, would it be fair to say that the technology, or 6sense, as you mentioned, as one of your primary technology pieces, it's not a silver bullet? Without a solid strategy, you're going to be leading with technology and fading with strategy, right?
Heather (Socure) – One hundred percent.
Declan (strategicabm) – So, I think the key thing there is to make sure that you get the strategy. I mean, we tend to talk about strategy first, technology second, and making sure that you've got everything right first before you even attempt to start scaling, building technology, building that tech stack. 'Cause you're going to need a whole bunch of people to run it for you as well, right?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, hundred percent agree with that.
Declan (strategicabm) – So Heather, just a quick one, really, about your Marketing and ABM journey, really. What would you say, from your experience of doing Account-based Marketing in different companies, what would you say is the one thing that you've taken, the, kind of, the greatest learning that you've taken, you can take with you and share with the people that you've kind of brought along, from an ABM point of view?
Heather (Socure) – Probably two things. I would say the first big learning, and this is early on when I started doing ABM, is making sure that you kind of have a balance in your strategy, in who you're going after.
I learned early on that, when you are only taking feedback from Sales, and your target and your strategy is sort of a 'Sales wishlist', without understanding, is there data to support that, and really from the product perspective, too, from having the Product team validate, like, do we have a strong use case fit there? Because if you don't, you're not going to get very far.
So, really making sure that you're incorporating input from Sales, the data you can bring to the table, as well as use case fit from Product, is kind of a key triangulation into getting that strategy right, in my opinion.
And then, like, pilot, pilot, pilot. Always approach things as a pilot. I think with ABM, there's so much there, it can be overwhelming if you're just starting out thinking that you have to over-engineer all of these components.
But, really starting with a pilot, where you have a defined audience, you have a defined objective, and you really have, kind of, your use case fit and messaging really fine tuned, and then run that pilot and see your results, get your learnings, and that allows you to get to market more quickly, rather than spending the whole year building out a program. If you can do a pilot and get it to market and start to see results right away, that's also going to give you groundswell within your organization and support.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, 'cause you might end up building this, kind of, huge program, and then people might say to you, well, you've been a little bit too long building that program, and they might ask you to update your LinkedIn profile or whatever, right?
Heather (Socure) – Yes.
Declan (strategicabm) – I suppose actually that's an interesting point, because, on the one hand, there's always this pressure internally within any company to deliver, right? And obviously, depending whether your company is quoted, not quoted, whether you've got to do quarterly results or not, there's these pressures, be they internal pressures or external pressures.
How do you see ABM fitting within that dynamic, when we know, going back to what we mentioned earlier, you've got long sales cycles, you've got complex sales. You can't change your business, but how does ABM sit comfortably within the fact that there's always this pressure on you to deliver?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, I think that's a really important thing to think about as you're launching a program, and as you're launching your pilot. It's so important to have, even if it's a very basic measurement system, have a way that you can show success, and show results, and report on it right from the very get go. And I think that's really what helped us with this Treasure Ops process I explained earlier.
Obviously, at the end of the day, our goal is revenue, and we're very tied to revenue, but knowing that the sales cycle is going to be, maybe, could be 12 months long, having some additional, sort of, early indicators that you're reporting on.
So, some of the things that we were surfacing is showing that body of engaged accounts that we were going to go after, and then demonstrating that we were identifying that buyer group and sourcing those people that we needed to have conversations with. Then, when we got those conversations, highlighting the new meetings that were happening. From there, if those meetings were turning into opportunities, highlighting that as well.
And so, we were really just kind of highlighting our progression of success within those accounts, and at the end of the day, our high level measurement was, what new opportunities have we created together with Sales that were showing intent through this Treasure Ops process, and how are they progressing in the deal cycle? Which was a very simple, high level measurement that everybody could understand, but we also had these indicators along the way, so that people had visibility into how we were making progress.
Declan (strategicabm) – So, to that point, Heather, obviously, we kind of use the Three R's methodology, which you're probably familiar with, about relationship, reputation, and revenue. And obviously, the revenue will come based on the reputation you build and the relationships you make within those organizations and those accounts that you're looking to grow into, to target, and to win, and to retain.
Do you think people buy into the whole, these are the relationships, these are the buying committees, these are the new contacts, these are the relationships we've made? Do you think people that you're, not reporting into, but that you're working with, whether they're in Sales, whether they're in the C-suite, do they buy into that methodology, because they can see that the revenue will follow?
Heather (Socure) – Yeah, I really think they do, and I think, especially from the Sales perspective, our Sales team and our Sales leaders know that there is a buyer group that is going to drive this deal, either from a decision-making or an influencing perspective. And we know from our data, that when we're single-threaded in a deal and we're not really in enough of the areas of the business to get that deal over the finish line, that we get stalled or we could actually lose.
So, 100%, I think they're on board with that, and just from that Sales methodology, they're bought in, and then they can see those indicators, as we're making progress, really contributing to driving the deal forward.
Declan (strategicabm) – Well I think that's super important for people who are listening or watching this to hear, really, is to get those, going back to your point earlier, and get the reporting dashboard right, report on those early indicators, the reputation and the relationships, and then they will then show that the meeting's booked and the buying committee's identified that they will then show, that will then convert into opportunities and then convert into revenue.
Two or three final questions, rapid-fire questions. Rapid-fire. So, the hardest part of ABM, what would you say it is?
Heather (Socure) – That's a good one. The hardest part. I think it is really just getting that alignment across Sales and across the business, including Product. It's a continual conversation. It's not a one and done.
So, you can set up a program, like I've described, and if you're not continuing to iterate and continuing to engage, you can't just turn it on. You just can't turn on a platform or a technology and hope it's going to go. You have to be continually engaged, continually working, continually iterating.
Because the business is going to change. The go-to-market that we had at the beginning of 2022, as many companies, I'm sure you're hearing, is not the go-to-market that we have in 2023, with some of the things that are going on in the world. So, just that continual engagement. And again, continual optimization. It's hard, but it's also fun, because you're able to change, and do new things, and see new results.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, I mean, just what's been happening in the last few days with Silicon Valley Bank, I'm sure there's a whole bunch of people who've been selling to them that are looking to pivot away from them to other companies now. So, you have to be agile because you don't know what's coming around the corner.
Misconceptions. What would you say is the greatest misconception about ABM? What do people believe that is actually just blatantly not true?
Heather (Socure) – I think that it's a silver bullet. While it's very powerful, you also need to think about, like, it's not the only thing. So, you still need to think about your balance across the other Marketing disciplines, PR, AR, inbound. I think, even with a business such as ours, that ABM is a really good fit, you can't just be single-threaded, because that's a bit shortsighted.
And then, I think, oftentimes, people have different, think ABM is everything. So, it's really defining what application and strategy for ABM is right for your business, and really, kind of, fine tuning towards that.
Declan (strategicabm) – Yeah, I think it's a really good point. We often talk about ABM and say that it's an addition, not a substitute. And I think, when we have potential customers who come to us to talk ABM and talk about Account-based Marketing and how we can help them, one of the key questions that we dig into with them is, what are they doing currently in their wider Marketing? What is delivering value to them?
Because what we don't like to see is, if they believe that ABM will solve all their problems. Because that's just going to cause more problems internally. Going back to our point about how long it takes, et cetera, et cetera. And we like to see companies that have got a very healthy go-to-market strategy, and that they want to add to it, as opposed to replace something they've already got with ABM. I think that's just a bit of a warning sign for us, really.
Very last question, Heather. What's today? Today's Wednesday? I think we're recording this on a Wednesday, but imagine it's Friday, you're just about to shut down your laptop, enjoy a, whatever you fancy, a glass of wine or whatever, whatever your tipple is, coffee, whatever. And an old friend of yours calls up and says, "Hey Heather, you won't believe it, but I've been asked to present an ABM strategy on Monday morning, so I'm going to be spending this weekend writing up PowerPoints." What's that one piece of advice you'd say to them? Make sure you say this, make sure you include this in that presentation on the Monday morning.
Heather (Socure) – I would say, you know, that can be overwhelming, if someone was tasked with that. But, I would go back to that piloting methodology, really, and think about, of all the things you want to achieve, how can you align a pilot that really is going to be going after an area that you know can move the needle quickly, and is really well aligned to your overall go-to-market strategy? And really approach it that way, rather than trying to have this year-long or multi-year plan built out.
Start with a pilot, start with an achievable goal for that pilot. Set up how you're going to report on the success or failure, and that way you can get to market quickly, you can learn. If you're going to fail, you can fail quickly and iterate, and really incorporate that into how you approach it. And I think you'll be able to get quick traction and quick success.
Declan (strategicabm) – Great advice. Well, you can enjoy that tipple now, whatever it was going to be. And Heather, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for sharing your ABM journey with us, and I wish you and the whole team there at Socure every success for the future.
Heather (Socure) – Thank you. Same to you Declan. Have a great day.
Declan (strategicabm) – Thank you.