Podcast: Account-Based Marketing Before and After COVID-19

Shahin Hoda 14  mins read Updated: July 12th, 2024

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Podcast: Account-Based Marketing Before and After COVID-19

Episode’s topic: Account-Based Marketing Before and After COVID-19 - Examples on how to adapt to the new normal

In this episode, host Shahin Hoda welcomes Natalie Mendes, Head of Account-Based Marketing at SAS, to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted ABM.

As they go through what ABM is really about and the coronavirus situation, Natalie’s experience in SAS will provide priceless advice on how to re-think tactics and strategies. A fabulous episode to learn from practical examples and understand the mindset behind them.

This episode’s guest:


Natalie Mendes, Head of Account Based Marketing (ABM) at SAS

With a passion for developing strong customer experiences and a data-driven culture, Natalie is currently leading a global council at SAS. Her team’s goal is to implement and scale a framework to focus on large, strategic accounts.

She is a member of the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) and the Institute of Analytical Professionals of Australia (IAPA/ADMA). Natalie has an extensive career behind her, including a background in data science, and loves to discuss the philosophy of analytics and customer success.

Connect with her on LinkedIn


Conversation segments on this episode:

  • [00:51] About Natalie's role at SAS and what they do as a company
  • [02:45] How SAS defines Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
  • [06:39] SAS's ABM strategy before the pandemic
  • [09:11] An example of how SAS adapted their actions to clients working from home
  • [10:44] Including empathy while adjusting the strategy
  • [13:41] The importance of direct mailat's next for B2B campaigns
  • [15:46] Another example on an action done during lock-down and what's next on ABM
  • [21:45] The process involved in ABM

Resources mentioned on this episode:

About the Growth Colony Podcast:

On this podcast you'll be hearing from B2B founders, CMOs, marketing & sales leaders about their successes, failures, what is working for them today in the B2B marketing world and everything in between.

Hosted by Shahin Hoda & Alexander Hipwell, from xGrowth

Get in touch!

We would love to get your questions, ideas and feedback about Growth Colony, email podcast@xgrowth.com.au

Episode Full Transcript:

[00:23] Shahin Hoda  Hello, everyone. Welcome to another show. I'm Shahin Hoda with xGrowth and today I'm talking to Natalie Mendes, the Head of Account-Based Marketing at SAS, about how Natalie and the SAS team's account based marketing strategy has changed and transformed because of COVID in the past few months. On that note, let's dive in. Natalie. Thanks for joining us.

 [00:43] Natalie Mendes Hi Shahin and thanks for having me.

[00:45] Shahin Hoda  Absolute pleasure.

[00:46] Natalie Mendes  Always, I've been looking forward to talking to you about ABM.

[00:51] Shahin Hoda  No, thank you so much for for being here. It's ABM is a passion topic of mine. So every single time we have someone who we're going to have a chat about ABM it gets, we get into the nitty gritty and totally nerd out on it. But now look, for those who might not be familiar with yourself or might have been under a rock and don't know about SAS. Give us a quick background and an intro.

[01:20] Natalie Mendes  Sure. So, Natalie Mendes, my role at SAS currently is looking at implementing the Account-Based Marketing strategy, not just within Asia Pacific, but I'm also leading a global council where we are using a framework taken from some agencies where we pretty much focus on our large strategic accounts. But in recent years, we're looking to scale that capability. It's been a journey to implement ABM, but we've been meeting our goals all the way.

[01:57] Natalie Mendes  Now ABM at SAS. Who is SAS? SAS is one of the largest privately owned software companies. And really, if I was to explain it just in a couple of words, were all about data and analytics, artificial intelligence. And while we've been around for 44 years, we are the pioneers in that space. And you'll notice there's a lot of new companies coming up in the world of artificial intelligence and machine learning. But um, I can confidently and passionately say that we've been around for a long time and we know our staff and we're the leader in this space, so very proud to be part of it and implementing the campus mark in there.

[02:45] Shahin Hoda  I love it. I love it. And you mentioned that you're with Account Based Marketing at SAS, you're kind of been doing strategic now you're looking at moving to scale, which is always a very interesting transition of you know, previously saying, you know what, we're really targeting 50 accounts. But now can we, you know, to some degree, expand that level of personalisation to maybe 1000 accounts to 2000 accounts. So that's an interesting journey and I, the one that I'm very, would love to follow and see how it goes. But before we maybe go deeper into that, can you maybe tell us a little bit about how you define ABM at SAS?

[03:28] Natalie Mendes  Yeah, sure. And I know Shahin, you're aware that there's lots of different types of definitions out there about ABM and especially with organisations that focus on I suppose that large scale ABM, it's like, let's just target everyone. The way we define ABM and our definitions come from ITSMA, we follow the framework and the methodology. So that's one of the assets that we use, but we define it as really focusing on building relationships where it counts, having a reputation with their brand that significant to that account, and making sure that we can help drive revenue and pipeline.

[04:11] Natalie Mendes  So if I was going to say, you know, define it as what it's not, it's a, there's an interesting slide that I sometimes say is, if your customers experiencing the same message as everyone else, then it's not ABM, it's going to be highly personalised and customised to that particular account. And our focus at SAS last few years has been just on strategic accounts, where we treat each account as a market of in their own, making sure that we truly understand what the business imperatives are with our customer to make sure we can help them on the journey solve the problems that they need to. Our mantra is make sure that we can support the customer where it counts, and yeah, really do the deep dive on strategic stuff. Now in saying that while we've gone through that journey, we are looking to expand and scale our capabilities and ABM to more accounts.

[05:10] Shahin Hoda  Gotcha. Gotcha. And yeah, the concept of looking at one account as your complete market not from a company standpoint, but from marketing campaign standpoint, it's a it's a very fascinating one, right? Treating that one account as as few, you know, your whole marketing campaign depends on that account makes it turns into some very interesting campaigns.

[06:39] Shahin Hoda  Now, obviously COVID has hit us and there has always, everybody has had to change and adjust. You know, there's been a lot of before COVID we had certain tools in the in the toolbox of events and travel and in person face-to-face component direct mail. Those are some of the things that are not as readily available now as they used to be. But I'd love to get an understanding of how did ABM look like at SAS before the pandemic? What were you doing? What was couple some of the campaigns that you're running?

[07:20] Natalie Mendes  Yay. Good question. interesting one. Everything was in bright, and great, just before the pandemic.

[07:30] Natalie Mendes  You know, one of our key criteria is to make sure that we have our following years plan ready to deliver by, you know, December 2019. So, we're all set to go for 2020. But of course, it's nothing like a pandemic to change the way you need to rethink and reimagine. Yeah, so before the pandemic, we had a good Account Based Marketing playing globally.

[08:01] Natalie Mendes  We knew we were hitting with certain accounts that we've selected. And really our main driver for 2020 was to be able to scale to more accounts. And while we're still trying to do that, it's just some of our tactics and activities and programs have definitely had to be. And I'm going to say, reimagined, to still try and deliver and get the same results that we set ourselves the same goals we set ourselves at the start of a new

[08:35] Shahin Hoda  Gotcha. So how did it look like beforehand, like, you know, can you give us some example of campaigns that you're running?

[08:43] Natalie Mendes  So we were looking at doing like highly personalised direct mail pieces, which included things like video brochures on value propositions that were relevant in key to certain stakeholders within a company. Of course, direct mail is great when you know that your customer is going to be sitting at their office and you can easily send a parcel to the office.

[09:09] Shahin Hoda  That's right.

[09:11] Natalie Mendes  They will get it. Perhaps everyone's working from home now. And, you know, people don't want to give out their own personal addresses and details while they're working from home. So you know, the highly personalised direct mail pieces have to be rethought, you know, it was hard, we had to put a hold on that. They were personalised webinars that we wanted to run for each customer.

[10:16] Natalie Mendes  That hasn't changed too much because we can see there's been an explosion in webinars, which is probably going to be too much noise to run for customers because they've just probably bombarded webinars, but also just having bespoke roundtables, advisory boards that are relevant to those customers and also topics so for example, things around customer intelligence, intelligent decisioning, artificial intelligence in our new roadmap and our new cloud capability that we're offering all those in person events or bespoke, virtual or sorry those bespoke in person events have had to pretty much all be canceled and reimagined we thought of.

[10:25] Shahin Hoda  Right. Right. Geez. And yeah, and in a pretty short period oftime, right?

[10:32] Natalie Mendes  Oh, yeah, definitely. And I think it sort of has made everyone realise how much we probably weren't ready for that whole digital explosion.

[10:44] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, even yeah, you're right. Even companies who claim to be all digital and in all, you know, up to speed with the new trends, you know, they even had challenges, you know, really working with this, with the pandemic and in adjusting to it. So, look, it's interesting, you know, so direct mail was a bit big piece from what you and the team were leveraging, and events were a big piece. So how has these changed? I mean, one of the things you mentioned is looking at webinars, but how have things changed now in terms of your strategy for the market?

[11:26] Natalie Mendes  Yeah. Well, it's been really important to us pose, take a step back and really understand how people are feeling in the times that we're in. You know, everyone's got their own stresses, working from home and if you're a parent, you'll understand homeschooling has been quite interesting and probably a bit of a struggle for people that are working full time and still trying to do that. So from a global marketing perspective. we've had to make sure that we aren't bombarding people with just marketing messages around selling software or services.

[12:08] Natalie Mendes  We really we have to be empathetic of everyone's current needs, in the situation they're in. The approach in marketing in general, is to look at things with empathy. We've seen ABM, we've realised, and I have to use this as an example that when the pandemic hit, and we were told that we aren't allowed to go and meet customers, there's no in person events, pretty much 2020 got canceled for marketing. And we thought, oh dear, I felt the suppose I had empathy for our sales team because their main tools are to go out and meet for a coffee with the customer and have a chat to them about you know, their needs and all that had to stop.

[12:56] Natalie Mendes  So we have to think about, well, how can we start making sure that we stay connected with our customers, on an empathetic level, given the current situation, and we're all in that space? How can we still engage them though? But in that time, make sure we can excite and delight them as well, to make sure that, you know, during this pandemic, we don't completely lose touch because I think if we don't stay connected and in touch in six months time, they'll forget you.

[13:32] Shahin Hoda  That's right.

[13:33] Natalie Mendes  Why didn't you think about this six months ago or your competitor come in and be smart and grab their attention?

[13:41] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, it's the concept of share a voice right? If you feel some drop it from your end and your share of voice in the market drops, then somebody else is going to pick that up. So how are you going about and making sure that there is that you you keep that fire going?

[13:57] Natalie Mendes  Yeah, yeah. So without giving away too many secrets.

[14:02] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, that's fine, only you can share.

[14:06] Natalie Mendes  Umm, you know, of course, making sure that we still very aligned with the sales team. You get the sales team definitely need to make sure that they're still connected to their customers, we've been seeing some great stuff in the market where direct mail is still possible in these times. And so, if you, and again, I'm not gonna go into too much detail, but I can't, but there is still the possibility to offer care packages to your customers that you want to stay connected with, and make sure that they're still on top of, you know, the, the program that we've set for them. So I probably would say, and you know me Shahin, I believe in direct mail, if it's used well does work well. I feel the direct mail is not dead during COVID, it's still working well, it's just how you go about doing it.

[15:05] Shahin Hoda  Gotcha. That's, that's really interesting because a lot of people have that perception, right? That, okay, we can't do direct mail anymore. But it's awesome to know that there are definitely strategies to leverage.

[15:20] Natalie Mendes  Hmm, yeah.

[15:21] Shahin Hoda  I know that, you know, there are ways that a you can virtual gifts are definitely one way that I've come across and companies are leveraging but also asking for if somebody wants to get the gift at their home or they want to donate an equivalent of that to a charity.

[15:45] Natalie Mendes  Exactly.

[15:46] Shahin Hoda  And there's been all the strategies that that I think I've seen in terms of some delivery companies that would kind of go to an office and if the person is not there, they would kind of take that package and then get the home address and deliver it home if that person is fine with it. So there's definitely some interesting ways to go about it. Now, Natalie, what do you think is in store for SAS in the next couple of months? Like what are you looking at? You know, what are you keeping a close eye on? And also, you know, how do you think your approach to ABM marketing is going to be impacted in the next few months?

[16:39] Natalie Mendes  Well, I thought there so I'm based, obviously here in Melbourne. And I thought that we were coming out of this pandemic and going back to normal, hopefully quite soon, where we could start doing some meet-ups with customers. But as you know, we're in complete lockdown again for six weeks. So while we were throwing ideas around virtual breakfasts and virtual cocktail functions, that kind of stuff we need to bring back in terms of the planning, because, and I will share this example, we had a sales team that was running a virtual workshop with a customer, and typically when you run workshops with customers on site, you know, you do provide some breakfasts, and maybe some collateral and things to go with it as well.

[17:33] Natalie Mendes  But because this was virtual, everyone was sitting at their home and it was a small group. So the numbers worked well. I said, well, why don't you try and make it as as real as possible by asking them what they would like during this workshop for breakfast. So it's a breakfast workshop. And if they are happy, if they give us the name of the local cafe that they want to support during lockdown, and they give us the order, we will go and get Uber Eats to pretty much, we put an Uber Eats order in and have the meal delivered to them 10 minutes before the workshop starts. Very simple basic idea. without any hesitation, those customers through many personal details, the order and the cafe, they wanted to support and they loved it. And apparently the first 10 minutes of the workshop was talking about what that we're all having for breakfast.

[18:29] Shahin Hoda  That's so cool.

[18:30] Natalie Mendes  So from a, I suppose a sales and customer relationship perspective, it broke down those formal barriers which you want to do when you're doing workshops. I think you don't want to have to look like you truly selling. You just wanted to make it casual, informal. And one of the metrics of the ABM is to build that trust and relationship, and reputation. And again, small idea easily executed, but a big impact with being able to , you know, build that trust relationship and follow up strategies.

[19:06] Shahin Hoda  I love that. I love that. And that's, you know, that's always a, that physical touch. It's just, it's very hard to beat it. When somebody's sitting down there and they're having breakfast, breakfast that you got them at their home. It's it's a very intimate feeling. And I think it's very interesting to take that approach. That's a great example, Nathalie.

[19:30] Natalie Mendes  And it's mo it's, you know, it's exciting delighting, you know, playing back on the embassy, you're working from home, we understand. So here's something to enjoy while you're part of, you know, thanks for your time at the workshop. And that's just one small example that we trial and with all, this has got some good feedback. But globally, you know, there's some great ideas coming out of the regions where they're looking at doing wine and cheese tasting virtual events is part of a no strategy workshop that will do the big customers. Do you think there's some really cool ideas about hiring chef doing class online with ingredients, but then tie it back to our topic and themes and value prop that we want to get to the customer.

[20:16] Shahin Hoda  That will be interesting. So the chef is talking about how to make a beautiful lasagna and you, I would love to see that of how you tie in analytics with a lasagna.

[20:31] Natalie Mendes  I've seen something similar years ago that SAS used around the ingredients for success. You notice that you can tie it into a grill. So again, given that we're in lockdown, I think, you know, lots of people around the world are in a wave twos, part of the pandemic. We have to be confident that we can do this stuff. And in being able to run these types of virtual fun events, you are building trust and relationship with your customer is your reputation is and brand has been recognised. And ultimately, I think the other side of it is the fact that we're still supporting the local economies as well. Which is what I'm passionate. That's why I'm like you choose your local cafe that you want to support and let's support and try these.

[21:22] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, no, I love it. I love it. That's really good. Now, Natalie, that those are most of the questions that I had before we wrap it up. Is there anything that you think we didn't cover and you think listeners would gain value from with regards to ABM? You know, what was happening before? What's happening now? What's working now? Do you think there's anything that I kind of missed?

[21:45] Natalie Mendes  Yeah, I don't think you've missed it. I think I have a topic for another discussion. And you know, that I've always focused initially on large accounts, strategic accounts, but going forward, how can we start scaling what we do is just few accounts to more accounts and, you know, things around and I talked about the ITSMA methodology and framework. The first two steps of the process is doing deep research and gathering those customer insights and getting the stakeholder profiles.

[22:17] Natalie Mendes  That's a lot of tedious work for, you know, a resource to do. And I think covering off the process of what's involved in ABM, it's not just all about running events and doing tactical campaigns. There is a big approach behind the whole concept of ABM. But in saying that, I think Shahin, you might have another session on more what are the steps in ABM? Because the first two steps are probably the biggest where I know personally, I need support and help from you know, agencies like yourself to get us good results. 

[22:59] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, I mean, you're right. The research is a big component in ABM and if you don't get that information, if you don't get that insights right, and everything falls apart, right? And the other, but then there's the next step is, alright, how can we generate hypotheses and how can we and then turn those hypotheses into campaigns? Right? And I think in a lot of situations, when you look at scaling and ABM, you got to be very careful in terms of the resources that you spend because previously, you didn't necessarily need as much. You definitely needed process and systems for a strategic ABM. 

[23:44] Shahin Hoda  But they were not as crucial when it comes to scale ABM. Cause scale ABM, you can very easily things can get out of hand and you can spend all of a sudden a lot of money on accounts where you shouldn't be. Because you're targeting a lot more accounts and if you do that, all of a sudden you have a much narrow focus on the number of accounts you're going after. 

[24:08] Shahin Hoda  So, what I've seen is having the proper, systemising the process is very crucial to drive costs down and being able to target that, you know, 200 accounts that you want to go after, 500 accounts you want to go after, that it's not all manual work and in you know, human touch basically but that's definitely a very interesting topic to look at how do you scale your ABM approach and thank you very much for that title idea for for another podcast or webinar, so I'll definitely take that on board. Now. Natalie, if anybody wants to reach out or want to connect with you, want to know more about yourself or SAS, what's the best way for them to do so? 

[24:58] Natalie Mendes  Sure. Um, well, I'm quite active on LinkedIn. So just connect with me on there and send me a message and I will respond and looking forward to connect because it is a passion of mine. And, you know, I won't say I am the expert I'm always learning and I love to hear from others about what they do, and brainstorm ideas as well. 

[25:20] Shahin Hoda  Well, Natalie, I always enjoy our conversations and totally nerd out on our ABM chats. So thanks a lot for joining me on this episode. 

[26:12] Natalie Mendes  Thanks, Shahin.

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