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Chief Evangelist Officer @ purple cork | Former head of AMB @ Gong | Podcast host @ Direct
As brands move towards efficient growth, aligning the sales and marketing teams on an account-based marketing strategy is a logical move.
Most SaaS companies either already have a plan in place or are considering adopting an ABM program to drive revenue.
But more and more are considering a new strategy focusing on the entire customer journey (sales, marketing, AND customer support). It’s called Account-Based Experience (ABX).
In this episode of Closing Time, Corrina Owens, former head of ABM at Gong, compares AMB and ABX, talks through her 3-step playbook on building a powerful ABX program, and shares two successful champion-focused ABX campaigns at Gong.
If you’re looking for a guide on how to get started with account-based experience in your organization, this is it.
You’ve heard of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) as a popular marketing strategy, targeting specific high-value accounts with personalized messaging. But have you heard of Account-Based Experience (ABX)?
ABM serves as an extension of a deal team and focuses on simplifying the buying process for customers. In the case of SaaS companies, this entails personalizing marketing efforts, communications, programs, and campaigns to fit the needs of the best-fit accounts. ABX, on the other hand, is a broader approach that encompasses marketing, sales, and customer success as part of a company’s go-to-market methodology.
Unlike traditional demand generation tactics that treat customers as one-time interactions, ABX recognizes the importance of engaging different buying groups within an account throughout their customer journey– particularly beneficial for organizations prioritizing customer retention and acquiring new logos.
The shift towards ABX aligns with the current focus on efficiency in growth strategies. In an era where ad spend has decreased significantly, businesses are becoming more thoughtful and deliberate in their marketing and sales efforts. Successful marketing and selling have always required a clear understanding and targeting of the intended audience and the value proposition of the product or service. ABX, viewed through the lens of efficiency, is a crucial element in achieving sustainable growth.
The first step in Corrina’s ABX playbook is taking stock of your current customer base. By doing so, you gain a deeper understanding of your customers, what motivates them, and the value they derive from your product. This step involves honing in on your ideal customer profile and identifying the individuals who are passionate advocates for your product.
Another important aspect within this step is tacking and nurturing champions within your customer base. What industries are they in? What products have they purchased? Have they changed jobs recently? What are their intent signals? Tools like UserGems offer valuable insights into tracking these champions, specifically when they move positions or change companies. By directing your attention towards activities that have the greatest impact (instead of trying to convince individuals who don’t fully understand your product or offering) can significantly impact factors like NRR with current customers. Additionally, monitoring the movements of potential champions within your accounts can provide valuable opportunities to engage them effectively.
By taking stock of your current customer base, you can leverage the knowledge gained to refine your ABX strategy, prioritize your efforts, and focus on delivering value to those who already appreciate your product. This initial step sets the foundation for driving revenue through ABX by targeting the right accounts and key individuals within them.
Step number two of the playbook focuses on identifying repeat winning opportunities by narrowing down to a specific niche. Certain accounts or roles within those accounts have unique use cases and derive exceptional value from your product or service. The goal is to tailor your messaging and approach to resonate deeply with this targeted niche.
The niche can be industry-specific or specific to certain roles within organizations. Marketers should recognize that opportunities for engagement exist across multiple departments, not just within a single division. This applies not only to enterprise accounts but also to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Finding ways to create stickiness and foster relationships with various roles within customer accounts is crucial for long-term success.
For example, here at Insightly, we are running ABX campaigns that target the solar industry due to the unique value Insightly CRM brings to that sector’s sales, marketing, and project management processes. We’ve observed compelling results from the power of niche targeting and catering to the specific needs of a particular industry.
In addition to industry focus, the playbook emphasizes the importance of understanding how different people think and respond to messaging. This requires actively gathering data through customer interactions, such as joining calls and listening carefully to customer feedback. By gaining insights into their thought processes and what drives their success, marketers can create content—such as e-books, webinars, or live events—that resonates with their target audience.
Step number three of the playbook focuses on aligning roles and responsibilities within the organization to ensure the success of the ABX program. While this step may seem more operational, it plays a crucial role in creating a well-oiled machine that can effectively execute the program.
No individual can achieve all objectives alone – success requires buy-in and collaboration across the organization. When investing resources, such as budget, time, and research, it’s essential to create visibility and ensure that everyone understands who the target audience is, what the metrics of success are, and what constitutes a desirable outcome.
By identifying both leading and lagging indicators of success (defining what “good” looks like) it becomes easier to hold individuals and teams accountable for their contributions. For example, if a target account visits the website and requests a demo, there should be service level agreements (SLAs) in place to ensure timely follow-up. This alignment extends to outbound sellers and department leaders, where everyone agrees on the priority of engaging with the most valuable prospects.
Transparency and open communication are also important elements of this alignment. If a targeted vertical or account proves to be a poor fit, it should be openly acknowledged and shared with relevant stakeholders. Overcommunication is encouraged, as it allows for the ability to pivot and adjust strategies when necessary. Achieving metrics for the sake of metrics is not the goal; instead, the focus is on delivering value and making meaningful progress toward the shared vision.
The success of our ABX campaigns at Gong lies in leveraging data to identify champions, engaging with personalized and timely outreach, and creating opportunities for meaningful connections among their target audience. Corrina shares two specific champion-focused campaigns that were successful during her time there:
1. The first campaign leverages data from UserGems, allowing them to identify champions who have changed accounts. Through this campaign, they engage with these champions by celebrating their success, offering personalized gifts, and providing helpful tips for their new role. The timeliness of the outreach is crucial. They often hear expressions of gratitude and even request to schedule calls to discuss pitching Gong to their new team. This not only provides valuable intelligence about their challenges but also fosters brand loyalty and positive experiences.
2. The second strategy is intentionally connecting Gong’s target audience with their peers. While attending networking conferences may not be feasible for everyone, Gong has found success in creating unique virtual events that make participation accessible and enjoyable. By bringing people together and providing memorable experiences or valuable information, we create meaningful moments that have a lasting impact. These initiatives are designed to give back and enhance the overall customer experience. Gong sellers connect with their audience on a human level by personalizing their approach and acknowledging significant milestones such as company changes or product usage. This deep level of understanding fosters a sense of trust and helps create the best possible outcomes for their marketing and sales efforts.
If you’re looking for efficient growth methods, put account based marketing on your list. In this episode of Closing Time, we’re getting a step by step playbook on starting an ABM program. Thanks for tuning in to Closing Time, the show for go to market leaders. I’m Chip house CMO at Insightly CRM and I’m joined by Corrina Owens, senior ABM manager at Gong and co-host of Reveal the Revenue Intelligence Podcast. As well as a podcast called Direct that highlights the unsung heroes of teams everywhere. Welcome to the show, Corrina.. Thank you, Chip. I love the introduction.. Thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me. So you and I kind of had the happy accident of just meeting sitting next to each other at an event. And it was great to meet you. And we started talking a little bit about ABM at the event and a little bit about SaaS and go to market. So it’s exciting to finally have you on the show. I’m thrilled to be here. And yeah, you’re one of my favorite people to meet there actually, was the Go to Market Partners Roadshow and yeah, just instant synergy and they put on such a fabulous event and it was just so easy to just riff back and forth on, you know, war stories and lessons learned and what does this acronym mean. So happy to go even deeper today with you and your guests. Yeah, it’s true. So,. I mean, let’s start out with that actually, let’s start out with terminology a bit because I’ve always called it ABM and I’ve seen you refer to it as a ABX. So let’s drill into that a bit. Why ABX? What does that mean? ABM or account based marketing or ABX, account based experience, is just a way that technology vendors have tried to differentiate themselves in the market. But essentially what account based marketers are doing is they are, it’s an extension of your deal team, right? We are focused on making it just super simple, easy for all of your buyers. And if you’re in SaaS, you know that that means upwards of six to 12 to 20 in some cases. Right. And we just make it very personalized and we make sure that our marketing, our communications, our programs, our campaigns are super hyper focused, tailored to the accounts that are best fit for our business. So it’s really just a fantastic way to go to market. And I think the future of this kind of discipline is really just going to be know around something like titles like Go to market professionals or go to market strategists or go to market, you know, market leader. So it’s the best way to do marketing is smartest to do marketing, and it makes both the easier to buy for your future customers and current customers to keep them. And it makes it easier for sellers to sell. Yeah, especially in SaaS. We definitely love our acronyms that way. You know, even SaaS is an acronym, so. So but ABX versus ABM. So ABX is intended to be more all encompassing, right? So this is not just marketing. This is like a a partnership and it’s a go to market methodology that can be used across marketing, sales, customer success really holistically for a company, correct? Absolutely. And it’s something where it’s like, it’s always on. Right. It should be something where, you know, typical demand generation tactics are okay we’ve got that MQL, that marketing qualified lead, or we’ve closed that business and it’s off we don’t talk to that customer again if we’re in marketing until they have a case study for us. Right? So account based experience is really about tapping into all the different buying groups within an account. And people typically use ABX if they are doing things beyond just net new logo acquisition, then they’ll say that they’re doing an account based experience, which typically will mean for organizations that those types of marketers are not just focused on net new but their focus on retention as well. Yeah, makes good sense. So, you know, when I was thinking about it, I just recently saw an article that said ad spend was down 59% this year, which doesn’t surprise me at all. You know, it makes me kind of long for the days of growth at all cost when most of us had budgets that were two or three x what they were today. But we’re all being more smart now. We’re all like thinking about our business and what we’re really trying to accomplish. And in a way, good marketing and good selling always relied on marketing and sales being really, really crystal clear about, Hey, what are we trying to do? Who are we trying to target? Who gets value out of our product? But through the lens of efficiency that most people in the go to market space are thinking about, why do you think ABX is something that has to be included in the mix when you’re focused on efficient growth? To me, it’s the you know, I like to call any marketer, whether they’re account based marketer or not, but if you if you’re worth your snuff, you have to be the steward of account data. And that is ultimately what becomes a unifier between all the different functions that make up a go to market team internally. Right? So I start by sharing that data, that can be as simple as first party intense signal. Hey, we have a new, our target account has spent X percent more time on the demo page than they did compared to somebody that’s not a targeted account, but it’s also super crucial that it’s setting the strategy in motion for how you’re going to go to market for the year. So I’ll start planning two quarters in advance of our next fiscal year of who those accounts should actually be. And that means that I have to work with the RevOps team for the data, right? That means I have to work with the CS team who currently is managing those accounts or I have to review who what does a best fit company look like with the customers we have? If we’re trying to get new ones, then I need to go and get that data and identify what makes the most sense. So it, done are the days of growth at all costs,. It really has to be efficient. And so account based marketers, you know, it’s it’s intended to be focused marketing just to put it simply. So that’s a great segway to the playbook that you’ve put out there. Right. Which is really, kind of starts with understanding your accounts. And so you say step one is really to take stock of your current customer base. And I would assume that’s just so you can understand more about them, what makes them tick, what value do they get out of your product really honing in on the ideal customer for your product. Is that true? Yeah, absolutely. And I think, so to add on to that, it’s also focusing on making sure that you’re looking at the individuals that are raving fans of your product, because I think there was a data that UserGems released recently, which is a fabulous intent, I think it’s like sales favorite and intent signal that I’ve had as of lately. But what they do is they help you track your champions and like. I’ve seen that.. Yeah that could be like your eNPS score or you know just general knowledge that you have about the account. But they’re changing jobs like 2 to 3 times a year. Look at how volatile the economy is, the market is. So it’s about, to me it’s the 80-20 rule, like where are we going to spend the most of our time? Like, are we going to spend the time where, you know, we’re having to force a message and a belief system and changing a way of doing business to people that don’t really understand our product or our offering, or do we just make sure that we are always like paying attention to things like NRR, net revenue retention with current customers and paying attention to when those potential champions within those accounts move around. Yeah, I just thought of something there as you were speaking. I know that about 7 to 10% of our business actually comes from former users who take our product and they say, I loved Insightly, I’m going to bring it to my next company and to figure out who those people are and learn more about their roles, how they use the product, what kind of industries they’re in, etc. It could be a great way to like, figure out who I should next focus on for my APX program. Right? Exactly. Well, let’s move on to step number two. And it’s niche down to identify repeat winning opportunities. And this resonated with me a lot because often there’s a specific set of accounts or roles that will have a special, you know, kind of reaction or use case where they get unique value out of your product or service. And I’m assuming that’s what you’re trying to do here is just really hone the message to a certain niche. Exactly. Right. So and that could be industry specific. That can be roles specific. I love that you bring up the roles element of it because it’s actually what enables us to do upsell opportunities, right? So when I’m putting out or my team is putting out pieces of content, I can’t make assumptions that is going to resonate with a sales executive the same way would resonate with maybe like a product marketer, which for our tool is also really well-suited for. So you have to be I think that’s what that’s what your ABM and ABX marketers are there for, they’re there for understanding the different personas and buyers and the makeup of them. And what makes them tick, what are their metrics. And it’s not just, you know, great, we have one division and done, there’s multiple departments that I think people just miss opportunities of trying to get involved in. And I know that that’s maybe more common for enterprise accounts, but I think that there’s definitely ways to create stickiness, even as little as SMB, right? Like there should always be a way that you’re finding to create stickiness across your customer accounts with different roles. We’re doing this right now because we have a number of companies in the solar industry that get unique value out of our application because of the way they use it to market their services, sell it, and then install solar in somebody’s home and then manage the project on our CRM as well, kind of throughout the process. And you know, solar is a super fast growing industry. And so we’re niching our ABM campaign, as a test anyway, out to that specific industry. And thus far the results are really compelling. I believe it. It can be as simple as even just how do you word and phrase things to different people. So I’m constantly like, you know, joining calls or listening to calls and just getting any data I can on my customers about how they think and what what makes them successful and and how can I lift them up to make sure that, you know, whatever content I’m putting out, whether that be an e-book, a webinar, a live event, what have you, that it resonates. So I’m glad that it is becoming a rise and I think it’s just going to be the norm and that’s why I think these acronyms of account based marketing are probably just going to go away and organizations are just going to get more intentional about who they’re going to market with. For sure. So your step number three here, Corrina, is a little bit more operational because you talk about aligning the roles and responsibilities and so can you talk more about that? I mean, clearly you have to have a well-oiled machine to make your ABX program really perform. But talk to me about the alignment of roles and responsibilities. Yeah, well, I’m a big proponent just as a professional of, I can’t achieve,. I’m one individual I can’t achieve all my objectives by myself. I’m going to need buy-in myself across the organization, if I’m going to invest X budget and X time and X research, I am ensuring that we have a place for us all have visibility into who are we targeting? What are the metrics? What does good look like? Right? Because there’s going to be leading and lagging indicators of what success is and then holding people outside of just myself and my team accountable to, let’s say, Chip, I had you as a target account and you came to my site and you requested a demo, The SLA or service level agreements. There is my using an acronym, the Service level agreement, I get buy-in from with the outbound sellers, the leaders of those departments, is that follow up time should be not our normal follow up time because we have agreed as a business that these are the people that matter most. I’ve had programs where we targeted an entire vertical at a certain company and we found out that we were not a good fit. And so I didn’t hide that or not make that known. I shared that often. You know, I think there’s no such thing as over communicating because there’s no sense in, you know, achieving a metric for metrics sake. Like if something is not working, we need to pivot and we need to change our strategy.. We need to change our course. So there’s so much value to programs and functions like account based marketers, because we really are, again, are just stewards of account data and we are the ones that are delivering that back to all the stakeholders involved. So it’s crucial to me that there’s always accountability on not just me and my team and my function and my metrics, but that we’re aligning to one vision and one goal and one metric. And that there’s always visibility into what the success or where we need to maybe make some pivots and changes. So Corrina, are you able to share any sort of specific campaigns or anything like that that you’ve done at Gong, that would be of interest, that kind of build on these, you know, steps one, two and three? Yeah, for sure. The playbook that you’re referencing, hopefully we can drop and share a link with all your listeners, but it’s one of the most successful pipeline accelerators is using the data that we get from UserGems, So finding champions that move and change accounts and then putting them just through a very give program and give campaigns. So what that looks like is we celebrate them and we congratulate them and we personalized gifting strategies with that, but it’s not just, you know, that it’s also like helpful tips on, hey, since we know you so well, we know this role so well, here’s tips for success in the first 90 days. So I have a whole. I created a whole campaign around that for across all segments of Gong actually to use when the second we find out that something happens. I mean the timeliness like we’ve discussed is just it’s so important and the responses we’ve received back have been incredible. They’ll say, thank you so much for reaching out. I’m actually planning to sell you guys internally. Can you hop on a call with me next week and we’ll work through how we can pitch to the team. These are the challenges that I know the company facing that alone is just intel for us. Like, that’s fantastic, right? Forget about closing a net new logo or not, we’ve even gotten compliments just saying like, this just made my day. Right? So that’s just again, continuing that brand loyalty and ensuring that it stays with them. But I think the other thing that just. I’m surprised more marketers don’t do or organizations don’t do is being intentional about connecting your audience that you’re trying to attract or obtain or retain with their peers. Chip, you and I go to networking conferences, but not everybody, not every professional does. You know, you have great marketers on your team to that post on LinkedIn, right? That’s one of the most popular platforms for businesses, but it’s not intuitive for everybody. So something that I love to do is create really unique VIP feeling events, and I love to do them virtually because they’re just so much more accessible for people. If you can create just something where you’re gathering people together, virtually making it accessible, easy, no cost, no brainer, and just bring them together, creating memorable, meaningful moments that are really giving is whether that’s by an experience or by giving just helpful information. Just things like that. Those are the things that make a big difference. I think the intelligence in that, Corrina, is just that marketing and selling is really all about recognizing the individual as close as you can get to them. You know, really personally understanding their needs, recognizing them when you know, they do something like move to a new company or use a piece of your product or, you know, achieve some level of certification, whatever it is, being able to call out a specific individual, you know, just really that’s connecting at the human level. Right. Which kind of creates the best possible outcome,. I would assume, for marketing and selling. And that’s what we’re really trying to do, which is why, you know, most of us that are in this space are extroverts, right? Because we like people. Well, you’d be surprised, though, I mean, and most of us to know when somebody, I guess, in this space is being inauthentic, Right? Yeah. So being very yeah, we can pick we can sniff out a cold email blast from like, you know, within a couple of seconds. Right. So I always offer advice and things that have worked for me in companies I’ve been at to people. But it’s still to your point, Chip, has to be about what are you bringing to the table for them? And you have to be super intentional about how you’re building and treating and building those relationships. What’s in it for me at the end of the day? Right. What’s in it for them? Yeah, Yeah. Corrina, thanks so much. Great discussion. Really appreciate all of your thoughts about ABX. Thank you, Chip. Happy to chat any time and so glad to have been on this podcast with you. Thank you for having me. Yeah, we’ll have to have you back again in the future and I’m excited to dig into some of your other ventures as well. Good stuff there and thanks to all of you for watching. Remember to like this video, subscribe to this channel and ring the bell for notifications so you don’t miss an episode and we’ll see you next time on Closing Time.