Why Technology Won’t Solve Your Account-Based Marketing Woes
In this episode, host Shahin Hoda welcomes Justin Keller, Vice President of Marketing at Terminus, one of the big players in ABM technology.
Justin clarifies some common misconceptions about Account-Based Marketing and dives deep into what MarTech in ABM is really about. Join Justin and Shahin to learn why you should focus on creating experiences and building relationships when implementing Account-Based Marketing
This episode’s guest:
Justin Keller, Vice President of Marketing at Terminus
With fifteen years of experience in early-stage startups, mid-cap companies, working cross-functionally, leading virtual teams, integrating sales, marketing, operations, and customer success, Justin has been in B2B his whole career.
A bold, data-driven, and award-winning marketing leader, he builds brands and marketing programs that people love.
Justin is also a public speaker on topics such as branding, digital marketing, and account-based marketing (ABM). When he's not marketing, he's an active musician and producer and insatiable wine drinker.
Conversation segments on this episode:
- [00:42] About Justin's work and Terminus
- [03:30] The history of ABM in tech
- [06:10] Why Justin prefers to talk about creating experiences when it comes to ABM
- [07:27] The four categories in the ABM world
- [08:48] Where the ABM MarTech scene is going
- [12:25] How CRM giants might enter the scene with acquisitions
- [14:13] How to get started with ABM
- [16:05] Moving away from the concept of leads and what tools should do for you
- [20:54] Why ABM feels like what marketing should be about for Justin
- [23:39] An example of a personalised direct mail campaign
Resources mentioned on this episode:
- Some articles and talks by Justin:
"How personalization builds relationships and wins deals" talk at Virtual ABM Innovation Summit
The Relationship Marketing Manifesto
Webinar: Why Relationships Are Your Most Powerful Marketing Channel (And How to Make Them Your Quickest Path to Revenue)
“Dethroning the MQL” at Hard Cops Marketing Show
- About Terminus
- Resources from Terminus:
ABM Blog Articles
- About Sigstr acquisition by Terminus
- CRM giants
- Direct mail campaign example used Barkbox
- xGrowth's Account-Based Marketing guide
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.
Get in touch!
We would love to get your questions, ideas and feedback about Growth Colony, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Episode Full Transcript:
[00:24] Shahin Hoda Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Growth Colony. I'm Shahin Hoda with xGrowth and today I'm talking to Justin Keller, Vice President of Marketing at Terminus about Account-Based Marketing technology stack. On that note, let's dive in. Justin, thanks for joining us.
[00:39] Justin Keller Thank you so much for letting me hang out with you Shahin.
[00:42] Shahin Hoda Well, it's an absolute pleasure and Terminus is one of the main players in the ABM space, super excited to be able to talk to you and coming on the podcast. But for those who might not be familiar with yourself or Terminus Can you give us a quick intro?
[00:57] Justin Keller Yeah, sure. So we are definitely one of the players in ABM as you said, we'll get into this I'm sure. ABM is nothing new, right? I think the level of, the amount of data that marketers have the amount of technology at their fingertips is what's really changed things. And Terminus has really been at the forefront of leading that kind of technological revolution. So, we basically give marketers everything they need in a single platform. We've got the firmographic data on almost 70 million B2B businesses, we offer more engagement channels than any other vendor out there. So, in addition to account-based advertising, we offer companies chat, email, advertising, chat, website, personalisation, social media advertising, and then we give you the ability to measure all of that and more inside a robust attribution platform.
[01:44] Shahin Hoda That's amazing. And what about yourself, can you tell us a little bit of how did you end up here at Terminus and in ABM?
[01:51] Justin Keller Yeah, absolutely. So I've been in B2B marketing my whole career. Got my start, actually in a pretty interesting startup in Indianapolis where I am now in a super high growth company and just kind of got the bug for technology and for marketing. And so when I moved to San Francisco, the heartbeat of kind of all things tech, I led marketing teams out there for seven-eight years. And then came back to Indianapolis to take a role leading the marketing team in a company called Sigstr, which is how I got determined as Terminus.
[02:18] Justin Keller Terminus acquired Sigstr late last year, and what Sigstr did was inserted targeted ads inside the one-to-one emails that you and I send every day with Gmail or Outlook emails. But out of that, and this is kind of I'm sure we'll get into this too, the data that Sigstr was able to unearth that kind of quantified and match the relationships of everyone in your company with the rest of the world is a really interesting first party data source that was kind of the main driver for Terminus making acquisition because as you know, being where you are data, data, privacy laws are tightening up all over the place and marketers that are looking very forward are trying to figure out how can they get their hands on really good first party data, and that's where the Sigstr acquisition team is and been lucky enough to come along for the right at Terminus and lead up, their brand marketing efforts.
[03:03] Shahin Hoda That's amazing. I always understood the value of what Sigstr brought to the table with email advertising. But I actually didn't realise the data component that you mentioned. You have an amazing set of data. And how valuable that component just realized that when you when you mentioned that, that's, that's really cool.
[03:22] Justin Keller Everyone does business via email, right. And there's so much data that has just kind of sat there and so Sigstr got really good about figuring out how to mine it and turn it into useful information.
[03:30] Shahin Hoda That's awesome. Now, obviously, as you mentioned, you have a very strong background in marketing technology, especially marketing technology in B2B. I'd love to get a bit of understanding about what has ABM martech or marketing technology history has been like, what have you seen in the past? Maybe it kind of started around 2014, 2015? What is that journey been until today? What have you seen in the market?
[03:59] Justin Keller It's a really good question. First of all, I think what we know ABM as today is no longer ABM. It started out as targeted advertising, right? So, budget conscious, smart marketers didn't want to do the spray and pray thing they wanted to get very intentional about the companies they were getting out in front of and the message that they were putting in front of them, right. And, you know, marketing one-on-one is telling the right story to the right people. And so, in a world where we're hit with 8 million brand impressions a week, being able to get really personalised with the message you're putting in front of someone is a difference between a good marketer and a great marketer.
[04:33] Justin Keller And so that's where it started. And then as that kind of competency has become more sophisticated, more and more data has come into play, right? So it's not just about figuring out how to put my message in front of the right company, starts with okay, what is the right company? How do I figure out exactly who the right accounts for me to be targeting is, right? And it's not just kind of the demographic data. It's also the intent data who is looking for solutions like my product or service provides, who is more likely than another company based on data to buy, based on any number of data.
[05:03] Justin Keller So getting really good about understanding your potential market is, been a big innovation for ABM being able to drive that message across multiple channels is kind of the next thing that's really developed essentially about display ads anymore. It's about kind of creating a very immersive customer experience. And then kind of where I started where I said, you know, ABM is not ABM anymore, it's really about kind of, it's just a go-to market motion, right?
[05:28] Justin Keller So it's not just marketing, its sales having to be very tightly aligned, and understanding exactly what the marketing team is doing to create interest in target accounts. And knowing when to start making the moves to start an opportunity to start starting, not even an opportunity to start a conversation or relevant conversation. And so that's kind of the third way. Skip to today, it is I'd say completely about creating an experience, right? It's not just about pumping a bunch of money into ads. It's about delivering a very personalised, thoughtful experience that clearly proves your brand's value and let you work with the rest of your customer facing team to turn that interest into an opportunity.
[06:10] Shahin Hoda Gotcha. Yeah, I mean, I can see where you're coming from, so you're saying today ABM is being a lot more focused on experience? Or I know some brands now call it ABX, right? Account based experience? Is that what you're saying that today's landscape look like?
[06:26] Justin Keller I think so. I don't even like the account base part because that sounds so like alien to a lot of marketers, right? Account based, what does that mean, right? And it's really not, it's just you're finding your right future customer and creating a really thoughtful experience for them, right? And that's like, as a marketer, that's what feels so good, right? You're not just kind of trying to game the system, you're not trying to trick people into giving you their email address.
[06:49] Justin Keller You're trying to create the kind of experience where people want to come along the ride with you. So that's where I think we are today. And it's super, super exciting to be a marketer for that reason, but it does require a lot. I guess see change in the way marketing thinks about how they're going to market with their measuring, you know, you can have a kind of plan of what they're going to do for the year.
[017:07] Shahin Hoda Yeah, I see your point. We talked about some of the categories that are now in the ABM world if we want to call it that. Let's crystallise that a little bit more. There are a few that you mentioned, there's advertising, there is intent. But if you want to characterise those ABM technology categories, what kind of buckets would you put them in?
[07:27] Justin Keller I'd say there's three, maybe four. First is data. What does that mean? It can mean anything you want, but it's the more data you have, and the better the tools you have it layering that data together to create really tight segments that allow you to distribute content in a personalised but efficient way is the first part, right. So data.
[07:46] Justin Keller The second part is channels of engagement, or I don't know what you want to call the marketing channels, right? So how are you now that you've got a really tight segment, what's the message you're going to put in front of them and how are you going to get in front of them? And so, Terminus is thinking a lot about that, and you share your ads as part of it, but it goes beyond that, from the time they click with their experience on their website is how you engage with them, how you're tracking their behavior.
[08:10] Justin Keller And then the third thing is the measurement piece, like, how are people engaging with your content? What are they doing? What are the signals that they are passively giving to you to understand their level of interest and their propensity to buy? And that's why I said there's maybe four because I think the fourth thing is part of the third thing, but the sales intelligence, understanding or providing a channel between your marketing team and your sales team to understand. Here's all the things marketing's doing now sales, here's the information, you need to turn all of all the work the marketing's done all the interest and engagement they've created and turning that into a building relationship and starting a conversation. That's kind of the fourth thing.
[08:48] Shahin Hoda I see. I see. The other thing that I wanted to ask is where do you think the industry is going? So we saw earlier in the mid 2010s, right? We saw That these companies start to ABM companies, ABM technology companies started to come about. And towards the end of that decade, if you want to call it, it's a bit nostalgic and weird to say that right now, but we're in 2020. But towards the end of that decade there, we started to see acquisitions and mergers, I mean, Terminus and Sigstr, did Marketo purchase in the general marketing technology. Where do you see the ABM martech scene going from here?
[09:30] Justin Keller I think this is why like, I mean, I'm so excited to be at Terminus. I think where we are right now is where marketing automation was like 2005-2010 in that area where it was just starting to climb up the curve and is about to become kind of the way B2B marketing gets done. So I really think it's kind of the next wave of technology. And I think that there, I think, without being too disparaging, I think that marketing automation as we currently think of it is in its dusk because it is, you know, relies on a lot of antiquated frameworks of doing marketing right?
[10:03] Justin Keller Like that your form is the front door to your business. And that's just not true anymore. People don't fill out forms like they used to, people are doing all of their buying research before they ever raised their hand. So by the time they do fill out that form, their buying journey is mostly done and you had no control over it whatsoever. Skip to today, what I think the big difference is, is that we have the capabilities and the data that we need to understand who our future customer is going to be before they know it. And to be able to get your message in front of them before your competitors are and to create a better, more personalised experience for them that makes them want to buy and pulls them along the buyer journey that you kind of want them to go down not the one that they're going to go down themselves.
[10:44] Justin Keller And so it's a much different way of doing things like marketers are used to kind of hustling that inbound channel in a lead is kind of like what they're being measured on. And that's just not the case anymore. I think marketers are now going to be measured on revenue and that might scare some marketers. It's a good thing, working a lot more tightly with sales to generate because at the end of the day, I mean marketers are getting, they're making their paycheck because they're growing their business. And leads are not a smart, efficient or even predictable way of running your business. Going to battle with your sales team lockstep is the right way to do it. And that's kind of where we are now. And then so Terminus is kind of making a lot of really smart acquisitions, to enable marketing and sales teams to do exactly that.
[12:25] Shahin Hoda Right, you definitely think we're going to see more acquisitions. Do you think some of the big players are going to enter the ABM space? Because not a lot of the you know, you mentioned the martec or the CRM giants to Salesforce to HubSpot, the Adobe's of this world haven't necessarily started in this space. I mean, they talk about they, you know, they offer some ABM features but they really haven't come into the space directly. Do you think we're going to see a movement from their side coming in?
[12:55] Justin Keller Yes, is the answer the vector, I'm not sure, right? Are they going to do it through acquisition, are they going to do with for product development? I think that remains to be seen. I think that there will be some mega acquisitions that happen. I'll go ahead and say that on record, but it's not going to be next year. I think it'll be a few years from now. But you know, like, I think about Marketo, they're sitting on 15 years of Codebase, right? And when you're changing that much, you can't turn that boat back quickly, right?
[13:19] Justin Keller So you have a lot of really smart upstarts coming in. And this is where I think things get really interesting and competitive is that you know, Marketo is marketing automation, I should say is great, we use it but it is kind of becoming increasingly more relevant to us, right? For us ,it's a little bit workflows, but it's not even landing pages and emails anymore, right? Like there's just, there's so clunky to use and build emails landing pages through that the value is just diminishing year over year, and so much more of our energy is being put into creating new things.
[13:51] Justin Keller I think that there's gonna have to be some acquisitions because I think that marketers are wising up to it. What I will say is, I think that it'll be interesting to see exactly how the market matures to that level. Because I think building a category is difficult and time consuming. And I can see why very healthy companies like Salesforce, Marketo, HubSpot are letting other people do that for them. And then I think when the time's right, though, they'll make some big moves.
[14:13] Shahin Hoda Gotcha. That's the benefit of having deep pockets, right, actually. Now, we talked about the kind of different categories and some of the different tools that are out there, if somebody wants to start their ABM journey today, where do you think they should start when it comes to technology and tools?
[14:33] Justin Keller It's a good question. I think before anyone invests in technology, they need to kind of come to grips with what they want to do, right? I mean, and I said this already, but all ABM is, is finding the right people and telling them the right story. And you don't necessarily need technology for that, right? If you know that one company out there is your ideal next customer, do everything you can to work with your sales team to go out and bring them home. You don't need technology to do that. Where you need technology is where you start to scale from there, right?
[15:02] Justin Keller So if you go from one company to 100 companies, it becomes a little more difficult to know which of those hundred companies, how are we going to select which ones right? Are we just going to come through LinkedIn that gets a little time consuming and you start to run into some data quality issues, being able to deploy campaigns to them becomes a lot more difficult. So when I did it, this kind of started. I started with one company really hard at them. And then we're like, okay, that worked pretty well.
[15:24] Justin Keller Let's try to do with 100 companies. What we did to build the marketing programs for them is we sat down in a room and built 100 personalised landing pages, we built 100 different sets of ad creatives all by hand, it was extremely manual. And after we were done with it, we were like, okay, let's never do that, again. Let's figure out a better way of doing this going forward.
[15:43] Justin Keller And so as you start to scale it up, and you start to get more sophisticated. You understand exactly how the machines work. You need technology to make things happen quicker. And that goes back to your earlier question like what are the main categories, it's data, so figuring out a better way to figure out who your next customers are, the engagement channels, figuring how to get that message in front of those companies, and then being able to measure it and train your sales team on at the right time. And that's kind of exactly what Terminus has been building.
[16:05] Shahin Hoda I love it. I love it. So what about gimmicks in this industry, there are marketers, obviously, we always love tools, and we get excited about tools. And that's something that we gravitate towards quite quite quickly, which is in a lot of situations, not the right thing to do. But then there are also tools that are very useful, and they could bring a lot of value. And then in any category that is kind of new. There are tools that could be a bit gimmicky and not necessarily very valuable. And it's a bit hard to see that right at the beginning. Are there any category or type of tools that you've come across in the ABM space that you look at that you like? This is cool, but it's not really that useful?
[16:48] Justin Keller Yeah, that's a great question. And you're absolutely right, like as soon as ABM kind of became a hot word, all of a sudden, everything that every marketer was doing was or every marketing vendor was doing was ABM, right? Whether it was true or not. So it's kind of like there's a lot of noise to sort through and figure out exactly what's true or not. I do think that the gimmickiest thing is just account based advertising, right? Like, I think there's some people out there that are saying, okay, we can sell you targeted advertising and it's going to drive more leads, right?
[17:18] Justin Keller And they're saying it because marketers know and love leads, they're familiar with it. They're comfortable with it, and they don't want to give it up. And it's simply not true, right? Like, I mean, I'm a marketer. I've been doing display ads for, gosh, 15 years now. And display ads perform miserably in terms of lead generation. It just is not a great channel. But in terms of driving awareness, it's fantastic, right? And so it's not about lead generation anymore. So there's a lot of vendors out there, it'll say it's an ABM thing that grows leads and if you hear those two things in the same sentence, you should raise an eyebrow because those two things shouldn't necessarily be complimentary. ABM is about driving awareness with the right people and then kind of creating a conversation with them. It's not a lead generation tool. And if you've got an ABM vendor trying to sell you, leads really kneel on that exactly what that means.
[18:09] Shahin Hoda I love that. I love that. It is, you're right. Because a lot of companies, as you said, deal with leads, MQLS, and SQLs and all that stuff. And that's and we're talking about some big companies, some of the very well known tech giants out there are still operating on that model. You know, we have a lot of clients who come and say, all right, so if we do this, you're going to deliver us leads. And I'm like, Well, I mean, I think I know what you mean by leads. It's not necessarily what we would call it.
[18:38] Shahin Hoda But yes, there will be opportunities that would come out of this campaign and we will, you know, we will be generating opportunities, but what we would really love to do is to move away from the concept of leads and talk about accounts because one lead doesn't really do anything anymore. There are multiple decision makers. So I love that, I love it. So if they're talking about leads, make sure you stay away. That's not the goal of ABM. Where do people go wrong with tool selection? I mean, we've touched on a few things here. We've touched on some of the gimmicks. We've touched about maybe jumping too early with tools. Is there anything else that comes to mind?
[19:15] Justin Keller You know, if you look at, we've got some data around this about kind of like the ABM adoption curve, right? If you look back three, four or five years, right when the hype cycle was going up, everybody in the world said that they were starting to do ABM. And if you look about two years ago, there was a huge drop off, and people stopped doing ABM and I think that's because people were like, oh, this is the new way of doing things. Oh, crap, it didn't work.
[19:38] Justin Keller And that's because they think if you just buy a bunch of technology, all of a sudden you're doing it and you know, whether they think it's leads or what I don't what they think it is, is going to start working for them. They realize that's not true, because it's not a matter of buying technology. The technology enables what the most important thing is which is working with your sales team and driving revenue. And if you are thinking you know, back to what we were talking about, if you think you're buying ABM to get leads, you're having the wrong conversation, you are getting ABM because you want to have a business transformation where you're working hand in hand with sales to drive revenue.
[20:11] Justin Keller And no technology can solve that for you. There's technology can certainly help. But there is a mind shift or a mind shift that has to occur between your sales, your marketing, even your CS team that says, okay, at the end of the day, all we care about is revenue, how are we going to be smart about going out and getting it?
[20:27] Justin Keller And I think that's where kind of the fallacy kicks in about buying the wrong kind of technology is that they think that if I buy some software, it's going to fix my problems, when a lot of times those problems are kind of interpersonal and interdepartmental between sales and marketing. So getting aligned with you know, and it's kind of a top down thing, your leaders have to agree that this is the right way of driving revenue. And if you've got that agreement, then you can start getting smarter about the technologies, you're buying to support the covenant that those two leaders are developing.
[20:54] Shahin Hoda Yeah. So you have to have that internal shift, that change management, before you kind of start talking about tools and quote unquote, implementing ABM. There are a lot of great points that we've talked about here. Just and I really appreciate it. On the last note, is there anything on this topic that you think I haven't asked, but you think there's a lot of value for us to talk about?
[21:15] Justin Keller We glossed over it. I guess we didn't really. We talked about experiences, I want to like, talk about what that really means. Because this is for me, like in my career, been the most rewarding part of being a marketer. Like when I made the shift from being a marketer that just tried to be as loud as possible, drive as many freakin’ leads into the funnel as I can.
[21:34] Justin Keller It felt kind of dirty and slimy, and it didn't feel so bad then it felt a little bit bad then but now that I'm kind of focusing on creating really personalised experiences, like the kind of experiences where people fall in love with your brand. It is so much rewarding and makes you feel so proud of what you do and makes you even feel cool about what you're doing. That for me is kind of been the biggest internal shift about this kind of, you know, I'm doing air quotes here, ABM it feels better. And it feels like what marketing should be about.
[22:04] Shahin Hoda I love it. Can you give us an example of some of the campaigns that you've done? I'd love to hear some if you can, I'm not sure if you can. But is there something that comes to mind?
[22:14] Justin Keller Yeah, absolutely. So we, I mean, we've gotten really thoughtful with our one to one campaigns. And I think that's probably the purest expression of what I'm talking about here is when it's not like you're doing an industry focus campaign, which we fully recommend you do. But when you have a darling company that you want to earn, being able to create ads that are saying, no, here's how Terminus is gonna support company name to do this thing.
[22:38] Justin Keller And those ads lead to a landing page that not only says, hey, company name, here's what's so great about Terminus, but there's also a little chat window that pops up. And it's not a chat bot. It's the actual salesperson that is responsible for that account, and it's able to connect them directly to the people that are visiting you and you already have intelligence on these people. You understand who they are, that feels really good. It's like all of a sudden, you know, everyone's kind of an old friend. And that even goes down to kind of like the direct mail we send, right?
[23:09] Justin Keller Like we do kind of batch format, direct mails, but we'll also work with our sales team to get really thoughtful, we'll kind of figure out without getting creepy, but we'll try and learn more about the people we're trying to work with and their interests and passions. And we'll try and deliver a gift or an email or what have you that's relevant to them and super personal. And that creates a lot of brand affinity. That is really, I mean, it's a huge competitive advantage because your competitors are probably not doing as thoughtful a job as you are you can do.
[23:39] Shahin Hoda Justin you got to give us an example man, I'm not gonna let you go. Tell us one of the examples about this personalised campaign with direct mail that you guys worked on?
[23:47] Justin Keller Oh, gosh, okay, so we do with direct mail piece, at least what we'll typically do is we'll get on their Twitter and we'll find out what sports teams they like. We do a lot of kinds of sports related things for these sports fans, I'm trying to think of one that's not specially because I'm not a big sports person. So this is gonna be fine for me. Oh, how about this, we had a champion of one of our, our prospects we found out was a foster mom for dogs, right. So she did adopt dogs and give them a temporary home until they found a new owner. We found that out.
[24:19] Justin Keller And we subscribed her to, I don't know if they have this down there. But this thing called BarkBox, which is just a monthly subscription that sends dog toys and dog treats, so that she had a monthly supply of new dog toys coming to her foster puppies and new treats and all kinds of stuff. So not only was it like super land with her passion, it was super thoughtful because she got to take better care of our dogs. It happened on a monthly basis. So we were kind of every month we showed up in her inbox or in her mailbox, and it would be a good reminder of who we are and what we're trying to do. Engaging her on a super personal level. And that felt really good. But that is not a B2B thing at all. And it worked really damn well.
[24:56] Shahin Hoda I love that. I love that. Yeah, it's amazing, when you find information like that, that people really care and you are able to fulfill it or really address it. That's awesome. I did put you on the spot over there. I do apologise, but this was worth it. This is worth it. Justin, thanks so much for jumping on this. This was really valuable. I really enjoyed the conversation and everything around ABM technology. If people want to find out more, want to know more, what's the best way for them to do that?
[25:24] Justin Keller Yeah. Terminus.com if you really learn more about us. You want to learn more about me? I'm pretty much @JustinKelle on all of the things. And yeah, I mean, I like making new friends. But let's keep it personal. Just like you know, we sent the barkbox to the foster mom. I'm always happy to talk to people if they can, you know, get a little bit personal.
[25:41] Shahin Hoda Keep it personal. I love it. Justin, thanks so much.
[25:44] Justin Keller Thank you so much. This was great.