In today’s Startup Chat, we talk about account-based marketing and how this function has become increasingly relevant due to the availability of marketing automation tools. It is important to adopt a holistic view and market across the entire organization instead of marketing to individuals. Tune-in and find out how account-based marketing can provide your marketing and sales a framework which can help you sell faster.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:03 – Today, we are going to talk about account-based marketing
  • 00:45 – The term “account based marketing” is bringing to the surface what people have been doing forever
  • 01:32 – Instead of marketing to individuals, you are marketing to businesses
  • 02:33 – There are often redundancies within an organization as the same instructions are sent out to sales, marketing and product teams
  • 03:04 – Bring a framework to what marketing and sales people have been doing for a long time
  • 03:33 – Adopt a holistic approach which making a sale
  • 03:52 – This holistic approach has been a part of enterprise sales for a long time from a methodology point of view
  • 05:08 – Implementing “account-based marketing” in start-ups
  • 05:45 – You can sell to organizations FASTER
  • 06:00 – Marketing is done by sending out automated emails
  • 06:34 – Instead of mapping the organization as a part of the sales process, map it as a part of both the sales and marketing processes
  • 07:05 – Map out the emails belonging to the same domain and trace who those people are
  • 07:41 – Figure out who is your best internal CHAMPION within an organization
  • 08:56 – Analyze behaviors of multiple people within the organization who sign-up with you
  • 09:21 – While working at Kissmetrics, Hiten discovered the importance of using company level data as opposed to individual data
  • 10:08 – Drift has a great, account-based marketing feature where company-wide information is displayed
  • 11:11 – Has turned into a marketing feature because of the numerous marketing automation tools
  • 11:46 – Do not let Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) drive your decision making
  • 12:23 – 99.99% of startups do not do have account-based marketing and are still successful

3 Key Points:

  1. Adopt a HOLISTIC approach while making a sale; instead of marketing to individuals, market your product across the entire organization.
  2. Keep it simple and start off by sending out automated emails to prospects.
  3. Do not let Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) drive your decision making±—most startups do not use account-based marketing and are still successful.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody. This is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: Hi. This is Hiten Shah. Today on The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about Account Based Marketing. It’s one of the new terms that’s coming out in sales. I have questions for Steli, but he has questions for me on this topic. It’s one of those topics where I think it’s a bullshit term, to be honest with you Steli. That being said, this is one of the most bullshit terms I have a lot of respect for. The reason I have a lot of respect for it, is that it’s just bringing to surface what people have been doing in sales forever. I’m going to start like that, and throw that one at you. What do you got?



Steli Efti: I love it. I love it. Yeah, okay. Let me even tell you, I’ve seen this term ABM, a company’s marketing, it’s popping up more and more. There’s a bunch of marketing automation tools. It lives mostly in the marketing and sales loop right now. There’s a bunch of just software companies that start talking about it, and start talking about how they are introducing a company’s marketing features and tools, methodologies. The idea at its core, right? The name actually gives it away. The idea at its core is that instead of marketing to individuals, right, even if you’re in the B2B space, you run an ad and you’re usually very individually focused. There’s users, and views, and email addresses, as marketing leads that are signing up. You’re really thinking of marketing to an audience of individuals. You’re now starting to think about accounts. Account typically meaning some kind of an organization, usually referred to as a business that people work for, right? The B2B space, if there’s a thousand people that work for a specific company, you would do marketing and you would take that into consideration all these people work for one business. You’re thinking about how to do marketing that takes that context into consideration, versus marketing to every single individual as if they’re completely disconnected people. Would that be right? Is that a definition that makes sense to you as well?



Hiten Shah: Yeah. I was talking to someone yesterday, and they have SaaS business. It’s a startup. He was saying that we email sales, and marketing, and product, these three people in the same company all at the same time about what we’re doing. To me, on the most basic level, that’s Account Based Marketing. Again, some Account Based Marketing experts, although there should not be any right now, because this thing does not really exist yet and probably shouldn’t. But I’m going to keep saying that until it actually exists. Because I’m actually a fan of this. The reason I’m a fan of this is it’s really bringing a framework and process to something that great sales people, great teams, great marketing teams have been doing forever in enterprise and B2B. It’s also something that used to work really well in enterprise when you do what they call map the org chart, and all that stuff. To me, the artifacts of why does it exist, come from there. What it means is what you said. It’s an account. It’s not a customer. Not an individual customer. It’s an account. An account is a company. You treat the sale as a holistic approach to the company. It starts by literally almost brute force, emailing everybody in the company. You’ve got to do it smartly, not be annoying. But it does work. Because what happens is you’re hitting multiple people in the company at the same time that are probably a part of the decision.



Steli Efti: Yeah. In sales, you’re really right, especially in enterprise sales, this has been around for a long time. Not from a technology tool point of view, but just from a methodology point of view. People would map out these okay, what are all the different departments in this company? What are all the individuals we already are in touch with? How do we get from there to the other people we think are stakeholders? On a step by step basis, people would always wonder, worry and consider who they’re currently talking to within the overall account, and how to approach this, right? Instead of emailing the same information to the same people, the timeline, instead of setting up full redundant meetings for different people within their company, without telling them that you are having these meetings with other people within the organization, you would really try to take a holistic approach and consider that the entire business is the account that you’re trying to win. The individuals that you are interacting with are the individuals that are going to be all stakeholders along the path. But you’re just not thinking about every individual you’re talking to is a unique person that has nothing to do with the others, and that it has no relationship to the overall organizational account. Now, if you want to bring this back to earth, to today, if I’m a startup and I start reading all these blog posts, and I start hearing more and more people saying, “Can’t we do Account Based Marketing? If you consider our company’s marketing, do this, do that.” Now I understand what it is. How do I take that understanding? What’s the simplest way to actually put this into practice in some way that will help us with winning those accounts, help us with building a better brand. I think you alluded to it already earlier, but I really want to highlight that. What’s some of the most practical, easiest things to do, gaining some of the benefits of Account Based Marketing?



Hiten Shah: The benefit is that you sell into an organization faster. Isn’t that the goal? It doesn’t matter what part of the company you’re in, whether it’s marketing or sales. I think marketing is now starting to get more responsible for this, because they tend to typically send out some amount of email. That being said, if you have an outbound team, an outbound process, a lot of times it’s sales and marketing teaming up to send these emails out. Usually I’ve seen this done via email. I don’t know what you’ve seen. But, a lot of stuff has changed where these email addresses of people are much easier to get and obtain, and really get accurate. You know who you’re emailing in if you’ve never emailed them before. This is a lot more around the outbound sales process to me that has become more and more automated through a bunch of the tools that are out there. My biggest tip is, instead of mapping the part of your sales process, start mapping an organization as part of your marketing process.



Steli Efti: Yeah. The best place to start with that is just your email list, right?



Hiten Shah: Yeah.



Steli Efti: Take a look at the email list. Doing things that are most sophisticated, even if they’re cool ideas and like, how do we show people different landing pages based on IPs that we can associate with a specific … Don’t go nuts on this stuff, right? Just start simple. You have an email list. You send these people emails. How about taking a look and mapping out how many emails you have for certain accounts or that have the same domain, right? Trying to figure who are all these people? Then think okay, who’s missing in the journey? Who do we want to add to that list of email? How can we make sure that we don’t email 10 people in the same account, the exact same stuff at all times? Sometimes it might make sense, but sometimes it might make sense to just customize that a little bit. It moves from the marketing to the sales process, to make sure that you don’t have two sales people that do each two different demos to two different people associated with the same account. But you find a way to bring these together, find a way to identify who is the best person to be your internal champion. Then maybe ask that champion if these other few people that have shown interest from the same company should be invited or one of them should be invited because he or she will be able to help progress the deal and bringing them whatever the right amount of stakeholders to make something happen. Just taking a look at your email list, and even trying to understand how many companies do we have where we have multiple email addresses, where we’ve collected multiple people’s email addresses associated with one company? What can we do with that knowledge? How can we utilize that knowledge? That’s a very, very simple step. Doesn’t need that much. You can just export it and do that in spreadsheet, or do it with a simple query. But it’s a nice first step to start thinking more account based versus just individually based.



Hiten Shah: Yeah, I love that. I love the idea of looking at the email list you already have if you have one. We noticed some of our email lists, that what happens is in succession, literally within an hour or less, multiple people from the same company sign up. There’s a behavior that’s going on there that you can totally capitalize on when you’re considering doing Account Based Marketing or moving more to a model where you’re thinking of a holistic company. I have one quick anecdote, which has been really interesting, and a plug just because I think it’s a pretty powerful one. Number one, when we were working on Kissmetrics, we had a lot of SaaS businesses using us. They always wanted to know the company data, not the individual’s data. What I mean by that is, we would show funnels and signups, and all those stuff. A lot of times, we would show it most of the time by individual user. What a lot of people wanted to see was the company level of that. Which is, how is the company interacting as a whole with the product. It was one of the most challenging things to actually do, just because the way analytics tools work today and even the ones that I use that aren’t Kissmetrics, they are not based on the account or a company. They are based on a user or a person. What I’m seeing now though is that there’s tools that are not analytics. The one I’m going to plug is Drift. I posted their new Account Based Marketing feature earlier this week, a few weeks ago now, once this podcast goes out. It’s really nice to see that people are centralizing the information about individuals into company wide information inside of tools that are the tools that people take action on, around those customers. They’re able to show you these are all the accounts that you actually have, not just all the users. I watched them to this because I’ve been a user of the product for a while now. I saw that they have accounts that they never really did anything fancy about it. Now they let you do a lot of interesting things around messaging and account, versus just messaging an individual user. We’re starting to see a trend that I saw many years ago that SaaS companies, especially B2B companies really do want to look at account based activity. But now we’re moving it at top of funnel, and they actually want to message on an account level. I can’t stress the importance of this. At the same time, I think people who are really good at sales have been doing it for years, and now it’s turning into a marketing discipline just because there’s 5000 marketing tools out there, and it’s easier than ever to do a lot of these stuff from a marketing perspective, not a just a sales perspective.



Steli Efti: Couldn’t agree more. Let’s wrap this episode out with one last tip that I want to share with people. Because we know that our audience and a lot of our listeners, some of our listeners are running bigger startups already, all kinds of awesome listeners. But a lot of our listeners are early stage startups. But my one thing here is a recurring theme on the podcast, is don’t go crazy on this shit. Don’t let FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out and anxiety drive your decision making. If you’re doing marketing, and if you’re just in the early days, and you’re just focused on getting early traction, getting the first 10, 100, 1000 customers. If you have an email list or you want to take a look and ask yourself, can we do something cool that takes accounts into consideration, please, for the love of God, do it. But if you’re not there yet, don’t worry about this stuff. It’s not like you have to do it to succeed. 99.99% of all companies and all startups I know don’t do this, right? Most of them have succeeded despite not doing it. It’s not a must have. A lot of times we read these new terms. Because there’s a lot of writing, and a lot of hype and buzz around them, we think, especially early stage startup founders think, “If I don’t do this, we cannot succeed.” It’s just not true, right? Often times it’s also … Come on. You guys, you’re two months in, you have three paying customers, you’re like an email list of 800. Don’t worry about Account Based Marketing so much. Do try to come up with some kind of a crazy landing page of customized based on IPs or businesses that visit your site. People go nuts on things that just don’t matter. If you can do it, do it. Think long term. That is the direction the world is moving to. I agree with you Hiten, I am squarely in favor of that. I think that just makes businesses communicating to other businesses, doesn’t matter of it’s marketing or sales, better. But don’t stress yourself out as well. Don’t think that that’s the number one priority in your three-week old startup. It most likely isn’t.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. Good tip.



Steli Efti: All right. That’s it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.