The Kula Ring podcast is essential listening for manufacturing marketers who want to grow their digital presence and compete online.
Sponsored by Kula Partners—an agency committed to helping leading B2B manufacturers craft digital experiences that transform how they engage buyers, serve customers, and outpace their competition—The Kula Ring podcast features conversations about marketing, sales, and technology with top manufacturing executives from across North America.
The Kula Ring podcast is co-hosted by Kula Partners principals, Carman Pirie and Jeff W. White, both of whom are frequently sought after for their digitally-focused B2B expertise. They regularly share their insights with audiences including conferences like B2B Online and HubSpot’s INBOUND, the Gardner Manufacturing Marketer blog, and other podcasts focused on B2B marketing and technology.
To celebrate The Kula Ring’s 100th episode, co-hosts Jeff White and Carman Pirie reflect on account-based marketing insights from exceptional guests. They share lessons from Sangram Vajre, Co-Founder of Terminus, on the strategic nature of ABM; Daniel Englebretson’s 100% win rate using ABM with Phononic; and Fabio Luz’s pilot ABM campaign success at Schneider Electric.
ABM Lessons from The Kula Ring’s First 100 Episodes Transcript:
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie for a very special episode.
Carman Pirie: A very special episode indeed. I guess we’re at episode 100.
Jeff White: Yeah. We’ve been at this for just over two years now.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, it’s like this kind of weird reflection, like you look back and you see how long you actually stuck with something almost.
Jeff White: I know. I mean, and for us to stick with something as a marketing vehicle for more than two years, we certainly have done more of these than we have written blog posts, for example.
Carman Pirie: Ouch. Ouch. I don’t know. Do we want to tell people that?
Jeff White: Probably not.
Carman Pirie: We can decide in the edit later. Well, look. Yeah, I think what’s exciting about, what I’ve been looking forward to as we’ve kind of been looking ahead to our 100th episode is… We should let our audience in on the notion of what we’re thinking here, which is what we really want to do is break down what we’ve seen as some of the greatest hits of the first 100 episodes. And what are some of the themes that have emerged from there, and just reflect on some of the key lessons along the way.
Jeff White: Exactly. Yeah. And I think it’s going to end up being a handful of episodes where we break down some of those key themes, because they certainly did reappear as we interviewed different and phenomenally smart marketers in the manufacturing space. It’s really been interesting to see some of those things show up again and again because they’re obviously on the minds of these exceptionally intelligent marketers.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. And I guess first things first, what seems to be on the mind of a lot of folks lately is taking more account-based approaches to marketing and sales. Today’s show, we’re gonna look back on some of the episodes that have focused on account-based marketing, and what did we learn along the way. The first episode, episode 63 of the show featured the Co-Founder of Terminus, Sangram.
Jeff White: Sangram Vajre. He really brought a very interesting perspective, and certainly has more experience in ABM than most, having coined the term.
Carman Pirie: Indeed, and certainly… I think just helped our audience focus in on account-based marketing and what are the basics or the fundamentals that in some way power it. Here’s a clip.
Sangram Vajre: To set the stage, I still… We really, truly, do believe that we’re just in the early innings of this, so it’s like 5 to 10% of the market, the early adopters are in the game, and are checking out and scouting everything that’s going on, and will essentially drive the mass market in the next few years.
I think there are probably two or three areas that are really interesting. One, we think that this idea of fit, intent, and engagement is pretty solid, which means find the right list of target accounts, you find the right fit. You just figure out, do you know your target account list? You’ll be surprised. Anywhere I go, one of the things I do from the event stage is like, “Raise your hand if you know your total addressable market. Exactly the number of companies you should be closing or selling to that you can serve.” And in a room of thousand people, there are like five people who would raise their hand, and I think that’s because all of them are from the same team, or it’s a peer pressure.
A lot of time people don’t even know the exact number or list of accounts they need to go after. I think that is something that they can literally take away from this, ask themselves, and go back to the team and ask, “Hey, sales, or marketing, or CEO, do we know exactly, not billion-dollar market size. Exactly the number of companies you need to tell, that you can sell, you can serve this year or this month.” Start focusing on that level of preciseness, and I feel like that’s a big challenge, so I feel like getting above the noise, to figure out who you want to go after is a big challenge right now across industry.
I think if people can figure that out, the fit part, and then figure the intent, which is as you said, through intent data and stuff is like, “All right, now that I know, let me closely watch any and everything that happens with these accounts that I care to close this month, or this quarter, or this year.”
Then engagement is really where you pull the real data from all these engagement metrics, where I don’t… I imagine a day where marketing and sales are actually looking into the same dashboard, and not walking into a room with two different spreadsheets, or two different dashboards, saying, “We don’t know whose numbers are correct.” I really feel like that’s where the world is going. That’s where I think Terminus wants to go, is to unify that one view for marketing and sales, because quite honestly, I wrote it in the first page of the book, I believe that marketing’s job is defined by sales, which means we need to drive incremental or exponential sales, so in that case, if we don’t have the same view, the same dashboard, the same pain that sales might feel at any given time, then we’re missing the point of this whole thing.
Jeff White: I think what Sangram had to say there about ABM being at the cross-section of fit, intent, and engagement, is really I think at the heart of the fundamental of ABM as a whole. You have these technologies that enable account-based advertising and account-based marketing, allowing you to get a better insight to the top tier accounts that you may be targeting as an organization.
Carman Pirie: And I liked how Sangram pushed us in that episode to basically challenge people to say raise their hand. If you’re an audience of a thousand marketers, raise your hand if you know your total addressable market and all the companies with it. Do you have a target account list, right?
Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, hopefully, more do now. That was 40-odd episodes ago, so-
Carman Pirie: Well, we have been in the middle of a pandemic. Maybe they have other things on the go.
Jeff White: I suppose, but I mean as we’ve seen with a number of our clients and ourselves, as well, ABM has truly been a bit of the replacement and the focus for a lot of marketers as they have had to abandon tactics and strategies that may have worked pre-pandemic.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Absolutely. And I guess as I think about that, and so it almost feels like gotcha journalism a bit, when you ask somebody, “Do you know your total addressable market as a marketer?” Well, they know that, as the marketing lead or a sales lead, they know the right answer to that is supposed to be yes. I guess at that point, where do you go from there if the answer is kind of no? And to me, it kind of spoke more to just getting to the basics and maybe paying attention a bit more to some of those basics, and it reminded me of a conversation that I was in around an ABM program and brainstorming with a sales team about how we could focus on a specific segment of targets.
And the sales leader let slip that those exact people were actually directly contacting him about working with this firm just four or five months ago, but the firm wasn’t ready to take them on as clients. And I just remember thinking, “Well, did you keep a list? Could we go back in the email and find out who reached out to us?”
Jeff White: Yeah, those are tier A1 plus.
Carman Pirie: Right! But I guess you kind of poke the bear a bit and you think, “Oh, that’s obvious.” Right? And I guess I think the lesson to us as marketers is that yeah, there’s an awful lot of this business that’s pretty tough, and sometimes we can make our lives easier by just keeping our eyes wide open to the opportunities that show up and the stuff that is obvious, i.e. we can know who we want to serve. We can identify those target accounts. Why wouldn’t we do that? Or we can at least keep track of the people that call us and ask to buy from us so that we can maybe call them back when we have some capacity.
Jeff White: Precisely. And I think one of the key lessons from Sangram in that episode as well was this idea, you’re not just talking about the target accounts, but you’re talking about the individuals within the buying committee, within those target accounts. And how are you crafting a sales experience, a journey map, the content that’s going to be required in order to address those specific people within that buying committee? Because we may know who our tier-one accounts are, or know who’s reached out after a trade show to speak with us, but we’re not necessarily thinking about the different needs of those different people within that buying committee.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I’m just sitting here nodding my head in agreement.
Jeff White: Nothing to disagree with there.
Carman Pirie: Exactly. I guess moving on a little bit, I think the episode just before Sangram’s show, we had an incredibly smart account-based marketer on, Daniel Englebretson, who at that point was doing a lot of account-based work with Phononics.
Jeff White: That’s right. Phononic. Phononic.
Carman Pirie: Ah, now you’re just making fun of me.
Jeff White: No, I’m not. No.
Carman Pirie: With the word Phononic, you’re gonna bring this up?
Jeff White: Hooked on phonics worked for us.
Carman Pirie: But episode 62 with Daniel really unpacked a very successful tier-one ABM campaign that basically moved, if my memory serves, something like 40 tier one target accounts from being unaware of them to closed-won.
Jeff White: Yeah. 100% win rate.
Carman Pirie: Indeed.
Jeff White: Just incredible.
Carman Pirie: Here’s a little clip from Daniel.
Daniel Englebretson: In optoelectronics there, when we started, we thought there was about 40 accounts, so the world engagement was 40. As we got into it, we learned there were closer to 90 accounts. It took us a while to figure out, so the campaign we would run there, or that we are running there, is two tiers. There are about 15 accounts in tier one, and the remainder in tier two of the 90, and that’s what we’ve been running with. And that’s actually an excellent use case for ABM. When you have a small TAM, and you need to win a large percentage of it, being as relevant as possible when you’re doing your marketing to those accounts is always going to improve your likelihood of converting it, and also putting in place the listening and the structure to pay attention to what’s going on at those accounts helps your win rate.
So, that campaign, the tier one campaign, you had referenced digging around on my LinkedIn, that was actually the campaign that we won an interesting award with from Demand Gen Report. We achieved 100% win rate in that tier one campaign over 10 months, and that was absolutely part of what makes ABM awesome.
But moving out of that, life sciences, there’s about 6,500 hospitals. When we were breaking down the targeting… I’ll jump to the end. They map back to what’s called IDNs, integrated delivery networks, and there were about 65 that we were targeting, which represented about 2,200 hospitals. From an account perspective, we were organizing it by IDN, but from a physical location perspective, it was the 2,200.
Then in food and beverage, we have many different sub-verticals that we get into, but all of the campaigns that we’re running right now are tier one and tier two structured, and usually, there are 20 or 30 tier ones, and then there may be 150 or 200 tier twos.
Carman Pirie: And you know, Jeff, the thing about Daniel’s approach to ABM, yes, very much a holistic approach, very much connected to the sales organization and if you will, seeking the validation and support and ongoing coordination with sales, I think that’s a great lesson for marketers seeking to take an account-based approach, is to be eyes wide open to the fact that it’s going to involve knocking the wall down between marketing and sales at some point.
Jeff White: And I think, too, the other part, obviously he was very well invested at bridging the sales-marketing divide, as it were, in terms of making sure that they were well aligned. But also, really looked at what could be offered to people as an asset to get them engaged. If you’re targeting these tier one accounts and you’re going after people who are going to be very valuable to your business, maybe you don’t just repurpose an old piece of content from somewhere else. Maybe you think about what is the one thing, the interesting thing that we can create, or craft, or say in order to truly convert those visitors. And I think what they did was just next level.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, I mean so folks, they built an augmented reality app to show the product in situ at their prospect’s retail locations. A highly, obviously highly interactive piece of content. Very useful to prospective buyers. And one that takes a bit of investment. It’s not simply, like you say, repurposing an old white paper or something like that. And you know, and that’s so instructive, because it’s not like… I guess the old equivalent would be like a marketer, some marketers approached account-based advertising like they just discovered television. And they say, “Oh, okay? Like it’s TV? And wow, well, TV’s a really big thing these days, so all we need is a TV ad.”
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: “And then it’s gonna be on the… We’re gonna be on the moving picture box and things are gonna happen.” Well, the quality of the ad matters. The quality of the assets matter. And it certainly matters in account-based advertising, and that’s something that Daniel got right out of the gate.
Jeff White: Absolutely, and not just creating the impressive augmented reality app that is going to capture the attention of the people within their tier-one accounts, but also thinking about, and this goes back to the tie in with sales, but what are the touchpoints that come after that? What are the things that we’re doing after they’ve tried out that augmented reality app that led to a 100% closed rate? You know, because you don’t just put out one interesting piece of content and then sit back and wait for the money to roll in. You have to have a structured and well-considered journey for those people to move through and a sales team that is on board with actually executing that and obviously seeing the results at the end of it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, and if all of that seems like it’s the polar opposite of a magic silver bullet that’s really easy to fire, that’s because it is the polar opposite.
Jeff White: Yeah. It’s not like, “Okay. Well, now that we’ve heard that he had a 100% success rate with that, that every time we do an ABM campaign that we’re looking to roll out an augmented reality app.” That is not the solution. It was the solution in that one particular case and it worked beautifully. He certainly had a number of other campaigns that were perhaps more traditional, I guess, in terms of what was offered, and they did very well, too. But you know, it’s certainly the case where there’s a lot of planning going into each one of these campaigns from the outset in order to ensure the best possible result.
Carman Pirie: The one additional piece to Daniel’s integration with sales that I think is important to highlight is how he seemed to really view the voice of the sales organization as the voice of the customer. He kind of, he’d say like, “Okay, well, run this by the sales organization. Do my customers…” I think he said, “Do my customers actually think like this?” And have sales validate that.
Now, I’m a little torn, because of course, I’ve also worked with a number of sales organizations that carry if you will an oversimplification and perhaps even a misunderstanding entirely of their customers, and often of prospective customers if they’re a very intensely farming sales organization, versus a hunting one. But I do think that Daniel’s approach there is instructive and maybe as marketers, we’d be well served to believe every once in a while that somebody else might know more than we do. And we could ask sales about our work through the lens of do my customers actually think like this? Based upon your sales interactions with them.
Jeff White: Yeah. And trust their instincts maybe more. You know, there’s a lot of marketers that could probably benefit more from actually asking those questions of the sales team and truly being invested in processing the answer and figuring out how to integrate what they’re learning with the marketing outreach that they’re going to be doing.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Exactly right.
Jeff White: Yeah. Also on the ABM side of what we’ve learned over the last 100 episodes, we had Fabio Luz on the show from Schneider Electric, and Fabio, he’s the Latin America Media Team Leader & North America Digital Media Strategist for Schneider, obviously a huge organization that sells in every corner of the world. But there’s one thing that he said that isn’t necessarily even directly related to ABM, per se, but really applies to absolutely every part of an organization’s marketing and sales, and that’s that if you’re selling outside of purely English-speaking countries, you need to be creating content that is contextual, and translated, and aware of where it’s being consumed.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Exactly. Let’s first listen to what Fabio had to say.
Fabio Luz: They kind of know Schneider, and also because it was a global account, we had different content to approach them, as well. Let’s say we were working with a different language, so we had Germany, French, Spanish, English, so it was kind of different content strategy, just to make sure that we are reaching those accounts for a specific region with their local language, as well. Otherwise, let’s say just using English to reach them, maybe wouldn’t see a good conversion rate for that. But pretty much they knew Schneider, pretty much the sales team somehow, they had in the past interacted with them. But for those specific accounts, we could see that it had a huge potential, so that’s why we started to work with them.
I think even because when we are working with those accounts, let’s say if you are speaking the same language than them, I think the chance to have a higher conversion rate is much higher. And it’s funny, because actually when you start this campaign, like we started this campaign a little bit much smaller, just with basic LinkedIn doing ABM, and it was just English, right? So, we said, “Okay, how we can leverage that, so how we can go to the next step.” And for sure, with that we start to develop… So, pretty much our ABM strategy was not just social media with LinkedIn, but also like working with a third-party database to reach those accounts, and we had not just web banners on the local language, but also whitepapers with local languages, also how people are engaged with us, what kind of piece of content they are downloading, and also here at Schneider we have our customer stories, which usually we see very good performance. Because people watching, okay, what that company’s doing, what is the success, and everything else.
We also translate all those pieces of content for the local language, and with that, we could see very high conversion rates.
Carman Pirie: Okay, so look, we know that marketers, Schneider is one of those organizations that a lot of industrial B2B organizations will kind of hold up as being a marketing leader in a number of aspects. Certainly very well known, et cetera. But, I wonder if those marketers are gonna be willing to take Fabio’s advice. I sure hope they are. It has been something that I have felt that I have just… It’s been a drum that I’ve beat for what feels like 20-plus years.
Jeff White: Same.
Carman Pirie: Which is to say, so let’s just be honest. This is a counter-argument: “English is the language of business. In our industry, almost everybody does business in English.” And I get that may indeed well be true, and then the implied next comment there is, “Well, what would be the real business benefit to us of translating all of this content, anyway? What would be the real benefit of talking to somebody in their native language?”
Jeff White: Hmmm. I don’t know.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
Jeff White: What would be the real benefit?
Carman Pirie: You know, can you say a 10% lift? Can you say 15? They want you to put a hard, quantitative number, like there would be an ROI of 6%. Now, there is no way to know that. But there is a fundamentally human way to think about this, and if you can just for one minute imagine that you worked in an industry where English isn’t the most common language, and the most common language is actually, in that industry that you now work in, is one that you don’t understand. Or you only have a marginal, passing understanding of it. Which, by the way, guys, if English isn’t your first language, it’s a tough language.
If you can try to put yourself in that position for just a moment, you can begin the thought experiments around, “Wow, what could be the benefit? What are the possible connections that I could make with the marketplace? How much richer could they be if I just chose to respect them enough to communicate with them in their language? Because I kind of want their money.”
Jeff White: Well, and if you think back to what we were just saying about what Sangram was talking about, about all the different personas in all of those different accounts that you’re going to be targeting, English may be the language of business, and perhaps the CEO and the CFO speak English beautifully in the Latin American company that you’re targeting. But there are probably engineers, there are probably other people who are as important a part of the buying committee as anyone who may not speak English at all, and may be Spanish speakers, or Portuguese, or German. Who knows? And if you are providing content in that language and your competitors aren’t, you’re already going to have a leg up simply by being aware that English isn’t the only language spoken by your customers.
Carman Pirie: Then also, just think about what if everybody that you wanted to sell to actually did speak English just fine, but it wasn’t their native language for a huge percentage? What does it even say about your company that you make the choice to speak to them in their native language? To me, there’s a base level of respect associated with that, that the benefit of bringing that to market would be impossible to know in advance, but-
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: We’ve gotta just… Of all the things that you ought to just trust your gut on here, guys, this is one of them.
Jeff White: Well, and we’re talking about Schneider Electric. It’s not exactly a small company, and if they’re doing it and seeing success with it, I think that a lot of us could probably follow their lead and expect to see good things. One of the episodes that we’ll be recapping some of the other themes from The Kula Ring that we’ve heard is just the cost and the time of creating content, like we all know that content is expensive to produce and we’ll be talking about that soon in another episode. But at the same time, the cost to translate content, while expensive, is not as expensive as creating that content off the top net new. You’re taking it and translating it and moving it into regionally-specific language or what have you, so there actually is a savings there for the cost of translation versus the cost of creation.
Carman Pirie: And I really want to challenge people to, because it’s easy to look at Schneider and say, “Oh, of course, they do it. They would have almost unlimited resources, such a big company, but my company can’t do it.” It’s like yeah, but you also don’t have the same number of SKUs that they have. You’re not selling to-
Jeff White: Yeah, you don’t have as much content to translate from the get-go.
Carman Pirie: Right, so there’s a scale that applies in the other direction, as well. So, I don’t… You’re not gonna get away that easy. Don’t use that as the excuse.
Jeff White: Part of our vehemence here is being from a country with two official languages, so we’re just used to creating things in both French and English so often for our clients, and it is certainly the kind of thing that if we were targeting more manufacturers in Quebec, we would probably look to translate more of Kula’s content, for example.
Carman Pirie: Indeed. Yeah. No, that’s a great example.
Jeff White: Yeah. So, we don’t currently target those companies, so that’s why it’s all in English.
Carman Pirie: Indeed, indeed. Well, yeah, and it’s also difficult for us to service entirely a francophone account, given that if I just successfully buy a bottle of wine in a Paris wine shop in French, I think I’ve just cracked the code, you know? But it’s a far cry from being able to do that and offer reasonably sophisticated marketing counsel en français, but in any event, I think this is… Look, we’ve kicked that around enough. I hope we’ve convinced our listeners to take a good, hard look at their translation practices and how they serve their customers in their language of choice. It is a global manufacturing world and maybe we ought to act that way.
Now, and so I hope you’ve enjoyed the show. I’ve really enjoyed kind of reflecting on this, Jeff, and going back over some of these key lessons. I think that those guests brought an awful lot of value. It’s just great to have a chance to reflect on it even more.
Jeff White: Absolutely, and I also look forward to the other episodes, where we will be recapping some of the other lessons that we’ve learned over the last 100 episodes or so, and we’ll be back with more very soon, and great to chat with you.
Carman Pirie: Until next time.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring, with Carman Pirie and Jeff White. Don’t miss a single manufacturing marketing insight. Subscribe now at kulapartners.com/thekularing. That’s K-U-L-Apartners.com/thekularing.