By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

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This week’s show is called He Predicted Marketing Automation and ABM. What’s Next?!and our guest is Jon Miller, CMO at Demandbase

I ask Jon how do we get beyond ABM? If this is a marketing exercise, you’re neutering its impact from the beginning.

The account-based revolution isn’t over.

There’s a reason why everybody has adopted account-based, but traditional demand generation is fishing with a net, whereas account-based marketing is fishing with a spear.  You throw your net out, you see what you catch, you don’t know what you catch versus you go after the big fish.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about the limitations of both ABM and fishing with a spear. And partly, it just comes down to…

It doesn’t feel very good to get poked by a spear.

I think, fundamentally the fact that with traditional ABM, we would identify the accounts that we really wanted to go after, and we’d go after them, regardless of whether they were interested in hearing from us or if it was the right time. And so, you end up having this world where we were doing traditional demand gen, which was great, because we only called people who had high scores and we thought really actually were ready to be called. With ABM, we were calling people regardless of whether they were interested.

Is there some way to merge these concepts?

Is there some way to bring the engage-ability of inbounds with the precision and targeting of ABM?

I think I’ve come up with a concept that I’ve been playing with a little bit, and that’s the phrase of account-based experience, or ABX. And I think account-based experience is a customer-centric rethinking about how you go after accounts, but really rooted on that buyer experience.

It’s about engaging with these modern buyers on their own terms, letting them be anonymous when they want to be anonymous, being really helpful and relevant when they’re ready, always based on trust.

And the other cool part about ABX is it fixes the biggest problem in the ABM name, which is it had marketing in there. And as we all know, it’s bigger than just marketing. It’s got a hold on the market team.

This and A LOT MORE! Listen in now or read the full transcript below:

Matt:  Welcome everyone to another edition of Sales Pipeline Radio. Very happy to have you all here. If you are listening live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thank you, as always, for making this part of your work from home work day, or working and listening from wherever you are. If you’re listening on the podcast, thank you so much for subscribing. We’re having another strong start to the year, Paul, in terms of downloads and subscribers, and very much appreciate everyone that’s found us. And if you like what you hear today, and I imagine you will, we have over 250 episodes available on demand at salespipelineradio.com.

Every week, we do this show, and are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today, absolutely no different. Today, Paul, we actually have a little bit of B2B royalty here. People know Jon Miller as the co-founder of Marketo, but his OG status goes beyond that. If you were involved in database marketing, B2B marketing, before marketing automation, you’re probably familiar with a little company called Epiphany, which was all about database marketing, which was all about precision marketing.

So from Epiphany, to Marketo, to being the first person I heard anywhere utter, “This is no longer going to be a lead based effort. This is going to be an account based effort,” when we were all like, “What the hell does that mean?” To Engagio, to Demandbase. Jon Miller, thank you so much for joining us today. Welcome.

Jon:  Thank you very much. It’s always good to talk to you.

Paul:  Is he going to give us any epiphanies today here? I’m pulling out my pad here. We going to have any light bulb moments go on here?

Jon:  Oh yeah. I got some knowledge bombs to drop.

Matt:  Just remember, there’s a quota on puns, Paul, and so you’re starting pretty early.

Paul:  All right. All right.

Matt:  I haven’t seen you in forever. I haven’t talked to you since the acquisition. I always appreciate any time I get to hear from you. It’s not often you can say, any room you’re in, Jon Miller is the smartest person in that room if he walks in. Just your insights, but also the humility you bring to it, and just how you have seen what’s progressed over the last several years in B2B. And I’m not just blowing stuff anywhere, because I don’t have any reason to, but just, it’s been really impressive to watch your progression, your ideas, your career. And so, it’s exciting to have you here. And so, I guess my big question is, what do we all spend money on next? What is coming in B2B?

Jon:  Yeah. Well thank you. I mean, although, before I get into that, first thing I’ll say, those on the radio, they couldn’t see me roll my eyes at some of that.

Matt:  He did. It was fine. Part of his humility.

Jon:  I mean, yeah. I’m thinking a lot about what’s coming next. I mean, in some ways, I didn’t invent marketing automation, but I certainly helped make it popular. I didn’t invent account-based marketing, but I certainly helped make it popular. Now I’m onto my next company, and yeah, I mean, I think, where do things go? The account-based revolution isn’t over. That is the first thing I’ll say. I mean, there’s a ton of reasons why companies adopted account-based marketing. I think, Matt, I think I quoted you in my books saying, “Salespeople don’t close leads, they close accounts,” or something to that effect. You had a good line about it.

There’s a reason why everybody has adopted account-based, but I used to use the analogy of traditional demand generation is fishing with a net, whereas account-based marketing is fishing with a spear. You’ve probably seen me use that. You throw your net out, you see what you catch, you don’t know what you catch versus you go after the big fish. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the limitations of both ABM and just the analogy of fishing with a spear. And partly, it just comes down to, it doesn’t feel very good to get poked by a spear.

And what’s behind that funny throwaway line is, I think, fundamentally the fact that with traditional ABM, we would identify the accounts that we really wanted to go after, and we’d go after them, regardless of whether they were interested in hearing from us or if it was the right time. And so, you end up having this world where we were doing traditional demand gen, which was great, because we only called people who had high scores and we thought really actually were ready to be called. And ABM, we were calling people regardless of whether they were interested.

Is there some way to merge these concepts? Is there some way to bring the engage-ability of inbounds with the precision and targeting of ABM? So, that’s what I’ve been noodling a lot about. And I think I’ve come up with a concept that I’ve been playing with a little bit, and that’s the phrase of account-based experience, or ABX. And I think account-based experience is a customer-centric rethinking about how you go after accounts, but really rooted on that buyer experience.

It’s about engaging with these modern buyers on their own terms, letting them be anonymous when they want to be anonymous, being really helpful and relevant when they’re ready, always based on trust. And the other cool part about ABX is it fixes the biggest problem in the ABM name, which is it had marketing in there. And as we all know, it’s bigger than just marketing. It’s got a hold on the market team. So anyway, we can talk more about it, but account-based experience is, I think, a pretty exciting concept.

Matt:  I like that. I mean, my follow-up was going to be around this, how do we get beyond ABM? I think that calling this account-based marketing from the beginning, I mean, it was a catchy phrase, and I think it helped get marketers’ attention. But if this is a marketing exercise, you’re neutering its impact from the beginning. I was playing around with this earlier this week and doing some searches on LinkedIn, looking at titles and descriptions of people in our space, and I was pleased to see that there are far more people that are using the phrase account-based in their bio, in their title, than using the acronym ABM.

So some of it is just writing out account-based marketing, but more often, I think people are struggling with account-based what. Or you hear TOPO and Craig talk a lot, but they just call it account-based and leave the rest blank. I love account-based experience. We’ve been just saying account-based go-to-market, which I think for us is, even for companies that, quite frankly, I think your phrase and vision is better because it incorporates the whole customer experience. But for many companies that are trying to figure out, “How do I step into this?” Getting the go-to-market team aligned, meaning marketing, sales, sales support, that account-based go-to-market is more important.

Jon:  I would say that account-based experience is a go-to-market strategy, certainly, and it does, again, house that sales and marketing piece, but I think it’s really important to get that experience part into it here. We’re not going to just be reaching out to people no matter what, any time, regardless of their interest. We’re really going to understand where they are in their journey, what’s going to be relevant to them, and use all that data and intelligence to reach out in an appropriate way.

Matt:     Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Jon Miller, who is the co-founder of Marketo, the founder of Engagio, and now leading sales, marketing, go-to-market at Demandbase. And I mean, there’s a lot of people that talk about ABM and a lot of ivory tower folks that are able to write and speak on it, but you’ve been in the trenches, helping make this work and figuring out… It’s one thing to talk about account-based experience. It’s another thing to say, “How do people execute it?” As you think about your time, especially at Engagio and your time over the last, it feels like it’s been a year, but it’s probably been less, with Engagio and Demandbase pulled together, what have you learned? And what are some of those catalysts of insight and innovation that are driving things forward?

Jon:  Well, let’s talk about a couple of different pieces. I mean, so one, branding was never really part of the ABM umbrella, yet the brand that your company has and the way people perceive your brand is, frankly, essential to the accounts experience. One of the important innovations is, how do you really bring that brand umbrella in? And you heard me earlier use the word trust.

I’ve long believed that trust is by far the most important brand attribute in B2B, because as we all know, brands operate on emotions. And in B2B, there’s this asymmetry where a good purchase, a good decision, helps your company, but a bad decision can cost you your job. That asymmetry, I think, ultimately leads buyers to really have fear and other kind of…

Negative emotions dominate the B2B buying process. And so, the more we can build a trusted experience, the better that is for our brand. And you can do that in account-based ways. Obviously advertising, we can talk more about advertising as part of it, but it also has to do with your word of mouth strategy, your customer advocacy strategy. There’s a whole bunch of other things.

Matt:  Yeah. One of the things I want to cover… We may… I’m watching Paul here. We may run out of time before we got to take a quick break, is the fact that you are Chief Marketing and Product Officer at Demandbase. And I think that that’s a really important combination, because whether you think about this as being able to manifest the account-based experience, or simply ensuring that the product and the product roadmap matches the market opportunity, matches the needs that exist in the market.

I think that sometimes, it’s easy for companies to start based on market need, but then they evolve based on founder need, or based on inside knowledge, not necessarily as the market evolves. Can you talk about the importance of making sure that product and the go-to-marketing experience teams are really tightly aligned in a company that is still leading efforts in a still emerging and growing market?

Jon:  Well, I think that last thing you said is the key point. The ABM platform, or the ABX platform category feels a lot like marketing automation did circa 2008, 2009, where it’s finally getting to the point where there’s an understanding of what are the capabilities that are needed, and there’s a relatively small, finite set of key players that you need to look at. And that’s not where ABM has been. Even just a year or two ago, I mean, the analysts just were completely perplexed about how to categorize this market, because there’s many different flavors of ABM vendors. But now, there’s really just a few.

Jon:  And again, everybody has strengths and weaknesses, but we’re starting to fit into a very defined bucket. So we’re entering a new phase of the category, where it’s about innovation within… It’s about taking that forward as opposed to figuring out what the hell this thing even is. That is a interconnected thing between your thought leadership, your go-to content, your go-to-market, and what the product ultimately delivers.

Matt:  Yep. Got it. Well, definitely want to talk more about that. Right before we had to get started on the show, we were talking about just how much Demandbase has changed in its approach and its go-to-market strategy. So I want to make sure we get into that, talk about just the evolution of marketing channels and platforms in general, as things continue to move quickly. Jon Miller, Chief Marketing Product Officer at Demandbase, joining us here on Sales Pipeline Radio. We got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be right back. Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Paul:  Okay. Let’s pick it back up with the men who put predictable into marketing. Is there such a thing as predictable marketing anymore here?

Matt:  Well, why not? I mean, I think that there’s an awful lot of variables that can contribute to chaos, but you have to have a guiding light. You have to have a vision. You have to know what you’re trying to do. I love what Jon is evangelizing, in terms of not just having account-based motions, but creating an account-based experience, building trust into that process, knowing that you’re not going to convert someone just because you sent them a pretty email, that that is a body of work, not a single point of marketing.

Probably not ultimately predictable, but if you do the right things, in the right way, in the right sequence, then yeah, I think there’s a level of structure and discipline you can create of that. And I think, Jon, what’s fascinating to me is you’re not quite disintermediating yourself because you’re no longer running Marketo, but where we went from a lead-based world to an account-based world, it changes not just the pivot of who we care about as an object in Salesforce, it changes the very tool set required to execute.

So having something to communicate to as many people as possible now isn’t as important, necessarily, as having a tool set that allows you to do precision relationship management, precision experience building, to the right people, in the right place, at the right time, at the right company. So, I mean, from that standpoint, if you’re building a company from scratch, I don’t want to put words in your mouth or words in anyone else’s mouth, but if I’m building a company from scratch and building a market strategy from scratch, five years ago, I would say marketing automation was table stakes. I’m not sure it is anymore.

Jon:  I think you’re right. I mean, there’s a couple of basic capabilities you need. You need the ability to send email. Maybe you can just do that with the sales engagement platform, but somehow, you need to be able to send emails en masse. You need some forms and landing pages. People got to register for an event. You probably need some other basic concept of a campaign, just to be able to track things. And none of the ABM platforms have those capabilities yet.

But what the ABM platforms have is the ability to create a single view of the account and the people at those accounts, ability to segment them and create audiences, and the ability to start orchestrating interactions across channels, accounts, and to the people at those accounts, and measure the results. So increasingly, I think you are going to see a move towards the center of the stack being the account-based platform, put whatever word you want after the account-based there, with marketing automation increasingly being relegated to just fancy email and landing pages.

Matt:  That’s an expensive email tool. I mean, I would agree with you that, I mean, there’s value in having what we sometimes tell guys is the EFN, is the email effing newsletter. Just have some regular cadence for your broader audience that gets in their inbox, hopefully with value, with a good experience. I mean, MailChimp does that. Constant Contact does that. If you’ve got 40 million people you’re mailing something to, maybe it can’t.

But if I think about all of the predictive tools, and/or the lead scoring tools, and the workflow tools that you’re paying for in some of those better marketing automation platforms, I need those, not for everybody. I need those for the accounts I want to sell to, for the accounts that are in my ICP. So I think it’s definitely helping. I think it doesn’t change the role of CRM, doesn’t change the role of some of the sales engagement tools like the Outreach and SalesLofts of the world. But in terms of where marketing orchestrates at work, I think it does shift the center of gravity a little bit.

Jon:  A hundred percent.

Matt:  So we’ve got a few more minutes before we got to let go our guest today, Chief Marketing Product Officer, B2B marketing OG, Jon Miller. And you mentioned before we came on, it’s a whole new demand base. And we don’t want to make this a product pitch, but I think we continue to see some key players leading the field, and Demandbase has been a leader in ABM for a very long time. The acquisition of Engagio, I think was seen by a lot of people as a further doubling down on just being aggressive, going after the market, and really realizing the more comprehensive vision and opportunity that exists as a platform in the account-based space. Talk a little bit about what the last few months have been like, getting in, combining the products and visions, and creating what I’m sure is some aggressive goals and plans for 2021.

Jon:  Yeah. Well, I mean, Demandbase is the original ABM vendor, and it’s certainly the largest by revenue and customer count. But I won’t lie, I mean, just as early as nine months ago, Demandbase had fallen behind on the product. There’s no doubt about it. Other companies innovated faster, executed better, and built out more. And the reason I got excited when I saw the opportunity to merge Engagio and Demandbase together was because I know this category inside out, and I saw you assemble these two jigsaw pieces, and it is the most complete platform in every aspect of ABM, and just would let us leapfrog ahead.

I think we did a remarkably good job of bringing the platforms together, and the new unified solution is out there in GA. So it’s a new solution. Any old reviews, or reports, or rankings, or anything on the old Demandbase are outdated. There is this whole new thing. And we’re seeing the momentum in the business accordingly. Based on that product momentum, that’s why I’m taking over marketing. How do we rebuild the brand, let everybody see this isn’t your grandfather’s Demandbase, this isn’t the sleepy 15 year old company that you think you know? This is the new innovator and leader in martech and B2B martech. And so, that’s my goal, that’s my strategy for the year.

Matt:  So talk a little bit about what that means, because I think depending on when people started paying attention to account-based and/or the tools, you have a different idea of what it is. “We’re just putting target ads in front of the target people,” or, “Oh, it’s just giving us signals without execution opportunities.” So for those that either haven’t been paying attention or just haven’t been watching over the last few months, when you say new Demandbase and new platform, what does that do? What are some of the core functions and capabilities that it offers, that people need to be thinking about to do account-based well right now?

Jon:  Yep. Well, it starts by building your account foundation, a single view of the accounts and the people at those accounts. And that’s the fundamental problem that I had trying to do this myself back at Marketo. You can’t be account-based when your systems aren’t, and so, you need something that brings all your data together from all your systems and touchpoints. And then you can use that to then start to build really sophisticated audiences and segments. That’s the first piece.

The second piece is the predictive and AI capabilities, so that you can use intent data to know who’s in market, which companies are actually saying, “Hey, now’s the time to call me. Now is when I actually am interested.” As well as which are the right fit accounts for you. So you’re really finding and pinpointing the accounts that are the ones that your sales and STR teams should be focusing on.

The third piece is then orchestrating the interactions. There’s both the orchestration component of just making sure all the channels work together in harmony, and then there’s the actual end channel execution. The most popular channel for account-based work is account-based advertising. So every ABM vendor has some aspect of this. It’s a real strain for Demandbase.

Our customer list is ridiculous when you look at the major B2B companies that rely on this tool for advertising. So you have advertising, you have website personalization, and then you have integration to the other channels, whether it’s direct mail, we talked about Outreach and SalesLoft for sales orchestration, and making sure those all work in harmony. It’s almost like marketing automation, but at the account level.

The next piece then is really working closely with the sales team, sales intelligence, sales insights, making sure that they know what’s going on and have the ability to coordinate the interactions with them. And then last, but obvious, piece in any one of these things is the ability to measure everything that’s working with an account-based lens, moving from a lead waterfall to an account funnel, doing multi touch attribution at the account lens, things like that. Really, everything I just told you could have been describing a complete marketing automation platform, except it’s the account based lens.

Matt:  Yeah. Well, there’s a lot to be excited about in there. I think, especially if you’ve been thinking about account-based platforms as something that is mostly an advertising and marketing platform, I think you’ve heard some stuff there that really wholly expand the way you think about the impact this can have, not only on the sales organization and the overall go-to-market motion, but also on how to build and create those experiences. So Jon, just real quick, where can people learn a little more about the new Demandbase vision? I know you’re also well-known for just big books of value and great assets to these people. For people that want to just better understand the potential for account-based right now, where can they go and learn?

Jon:  I mean, I guess the main thing I would encourage folks who think they know Demandbase to really come check out the new Demandbase. Get a demo, see, take a look at this thing. You’re going to be really surprised by how much is there, especially if you have any preconceived notions about this platform.

Matt:  Well, even though you’re probably not getting in any more planes than I do, Jon, right now, you’re a busy man. I really appreciate you doing this. Jon Miller, Chief Marketing Product Officer for Demandbase, definitely check out what they’ve got going, definitely one of the leaders in this space. And if Jon is running product and marketing, they will very likely continue to be so. Paul, this has been fun. Well, tune in next week to see if I figure this out or if I’m still yelling into my webcam. So on behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz, thank you for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel.  I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing.  If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.