Find and Fix These Three Mistakes that Get in the Way of ABM Success. 

We surveyed 393 senior marketing leaders in US-based, B2B technology companies and found that in some areas what marketers think they’re doing and what they’re actually doing is quite different.

In this coffee break, we explored three key areas where we found disconnects, including in accounts versus leads, marketing and sales alignment, and the unified customer experience. 


Key takeaways.


ABM is not black and white. Embrace executing more than one style of ABM and lead gen, depending on your targets and accounts.


Account intelligence comes first. Before starting any ABM initiatives, you need to understand first party data and augment insights with third party data.


The ABX Stand-Up.
To maintain effective sales & marketing alignment, try holding a quick biweekly meeting between the account executive, the SDR, and a marketer to touch base, share ideas, and plan.


I’ve been on a campaign recently preaching against the concept of marketing-sourced and sales-sourced metrics… I really do encourage us to change our metrics as we move into this ABX world…throw away our individual team-based metrics and goals and look at the total.

Jon Miller • CMO, Demandbase

Questions from the audience.


"Can you talk about some of the different marketing tactics used across the account journey? Particularly, how can marketing support the later stages of the journey?"

You’ll use some of the same tools– programmatic media, social lead gen, content syndication, publisher programs, email marketing–the difference is using intent data to inform your messaging and who you target. When you know a little more about your target, you can be more contextualized about how you talk to them.

ABM platforms, where data is being integrated and shared, when set up correctly, allows you to have that similar conversation across those different tactics and channels, which is fundamental for lower-funnel optimization.


“My firm has never done ABM before. What would you say about us getting some early wins to prove value for senior leadership by simply targeting a short list of key accounts using LinkedIn and programmatic on our own, without a platform like Demandbase? Pros? Cons?”

Yes, absolutely. Create micro audiences, utilize your first party data and personalize messaging for those audiences. Just know that it will take its share of elbow grease to refine this without the platform.

As far as trying out ABM platforms, you can opt for shorter trials, in order to get you the opportunity to prove ABM to leadership before scaling. Alternatively, you can buy a smaller slice of the platform without committing to a huge amount of spend, allowing you to ease into it.


“Should it not be AGB - Account based growth, where both sales and marketing are joined up in the approach for growing the accounts rather than seen as a marketing only tool?”

I’ve actually used this label before. However, I think the name is less important than what it actually does. No matter what you call it–ABM, ABX, ABG–someone is going to find a problem with it.

Instead, focus on what it does: It’s processes and technology that allows us to integrate and connect the dots to do more in a personalized way.


jon miller
Jon Miller • Chief Marketing Officer, Demandbase

Jon is a marketing entrepreneur and thought leader. He is currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Demandbase, the leading account-based marketing platform. Previously, Jon was the CEO and founder of Engagio (acquired by Demandbase) and was co-founder at Marketo (Nasdaq:MKTO), a leader in marketing automation.

Jon is a frequent speaker at conferences including Dreamforce, MarketingProfs B2B, Marketing Operations Executive Summit, OMS, and the Marketing Nation Summit. He is also the author of numerous e-books including Complete and Clear Guide to Account Based Marketing and the Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation.

Uzair Dada • Founder & CEO, Iron Horse

Uzair built Iron Horse from a startup to an award-winning growth marketing agency helping global brands build scalable integrated marketing programs. Uzair is regularly featured in Wired.com, CNET, Demand Gen Report, DM News, eMarketer, MediaPost, Native Mobile and Retail Integration, and has spoken at TechWeek, Marketo Summit and other key industry events.

Episode Transcript

Uzair Dada: Thank you very much, Stephanie. Thanks for the intro. And Jon, always awesome to connect and chat and learn from the best. And I'd say it's an honor to have you on here. I think the attendees will enjoy a lot... sort of this conversation, and learning about where the world ABM is today, because you are definitely one of the founding fathers of ABM, and have a lot of good to say about it. So, I'm excited. Thank you.

Jon Miller: Again, the respect is mutual and looking forward to the conversation.

Uzair Dada: Awesome. So, one of the things that... Stephanie alluded to it when we did the survey is, we found we've been on this ABM train for a while. And it started with sort of a concept, interesting. People started piloting certain things. Then, it became sort of a campaign idea. And now, it's sort of become mainstream. So, when we surveyed in our survey, we found out... I think the number was somewhere in the high 70% of the people have established ABM programs. So, it's synonymous with mar... If anyone's doing B2B enterprise marketing, they have an ABM program and strategy in place. But when you sort of unpeel and unravel what's underneath it, you sort of find a lot of interesting scenarios. One is fairly immature still in a lot of organizations.

Uzair Dada: They're still calling things ABM, where all they're doing is sort of account centric email marketing, or they're doing programmatic to people who are in their Marketo or databases, sort of there. So, I want to just start out, because you sort of have a lot of things to say around this category, both in just kind of your previous background of where you came from and being a founder of Engagio and Marketo, and now at Demand base, which is a premier platform in this category. What do you think for enterprises who are trying to do it right? What does it take to be successful? What does a good successful ABM program look like, or strategy look like?

Jon Miller: Yeah. I mean, a couple thoughts I'd love to share on this, right? The first, as you implied, is ABM is not a campaign or a tactic.

Uzair Dada: Yeah.

Jon Miller: It's a way of running your go to market. But I think where one of the misconceptions fall in is people tend to think that it's sort of a black and white, you're either doing ABM or you're doing demand gen. It's either account based or lead based. And I actually think a better way to think about it is more of a spectrum of styles, where you might have true bespoke one to one ABM for your most strategic seven and eight, nine figure deals, or a slightly more scalable one to few style for your high six low seven figure deals, a one to many style for your six figure deals, down to even what I call targeted demand gen, which is kind of like what you talked about, where you're like, "Yeah, I'm running a webinar or an email campaign, but I'm focusing on specific accounts."

Jon Miller: And it continues down to an inbound marketing, even PLG. And so, I think, some companies, the deal sizes they sell fit into a very narrow band. And they may only practice one style on that spectrum. But I think most companies, like Demand Base, for example... We sell deals ranging from 25 K to four or 5 million. Right? So, we're going to be practicing a spec... more than one style along that spectrum.

Uzair Dada: Right.

Jon Miller: You know. And as you embrace that mindset, it becomes less "I'm doing ABM" and more "I'm just doing the right kind of go to market for the deals I have," which often means focusing on a set of accounts.

Uzair Dada: Yeah.

Jon Miller: So, that's the first tip I have is don't think about this black and white. And then, the second, where I think people need to sort of really embrace success, and maybe people don't spend enough time up front, is on what I call the account intelligence aspect. There's so much... You can do all the marketing you want and campaigns or whatever, but if you're not sitting on a foundation of really understanding the accounts, both which ones you want to go after, but more importantly, what's going to be the most relevant and resonant to the accounts and the people at those accounts, you're bound to be less effective.

Jon Miller: And so, I really preach, for my team and for our customers, that you want everything you're do... to be sitting on a good foundation of accounts intelligence which, to me, is both covering a good view of the first party data that you have about those accounts, because there's so much good stuff that ends up getting locked in just Marketo or just your outlook server, and how you really bring all that together. And then, augment it with quality third party, additional data, whether that's intent or technographics or just hierarchies, and good clean data. So, that investment in account intelligence, I think, is key.

Uzair Dada: You know, another interesting survey result that came out was around use of intent data, was spiked ridiculously high. But what was more surprising was that almost high 40% of people were using two or more intent data sources. So, the whole layered intent model was taking in place, which is awesome. Right? And there were, I think, 15 or so percent, if I'm not mistaken, somewhere there in the teens, were using four or more intent data sources.

Jon Miller: I totally believe it.

Uzair Dada: Right. And so, what's your take on sort of layered intent and how people should be thinking about that?

Jon Miller: Yeah. Well, I think first... Whenever we talk about intent, I'm always struck by the stat I heard from Gartner, which is that 67% of companies say that their biggest challenge with intent is kind of understanding how to use it.

Uzair Dada: Oh, 100%. Yeah, that's it.

Jon Miller: It's just the operationalization of all this stuff...

Uzair Dada: 100%.

Jon Miller: ... is critical. But I'm not surprised by the layering of multiple vendors because, when you think about it... I mean, if we go back just half steps, where does intent data come from? Right? It starts with there's a person on a page. And what an intent vendor will do is, first, they're going to figure out what company that person works at. And then, they're going to do some natural English processing on the content of that page to figure out the topic. And then, you're going to start looking for patterns and trends.

Uzair Dada: Right.

Jon Miller: The reality is almost every intent data provider is running that same methodology, but on different websites, different input data. So, at Demand Base, we're doing ours by looking at the B2B bid stream. So, what are people reading on the New York Times and CNN and things like that? Whereas, G2 is doing it off of their own website. And Bombora is doing it off of the Madison logic network. And so, really, you're going to get different signals because you're mining the intent off of different input sources.

Jon Miller: So, I always tell people more intent is better. If you can afford it, it's like having more leads. Why wouldn't you want more signal?

Uzair Dada: Exactly.

Jon Miller: But I would focus first on making sure you can operationalize it before you started layering on more, because otherwise you're just layering on more and more less useful stuff.

Uzair Dada: I totally agree. So, let's come back to operationalization. So, you talked about sort of what people should be doing. Can you share maybe one or two good examples of who you think is doing it right?

Jon Miller: Yeah.

Uzair Dada: What is it that they're doing right?

Jon Miller: Yeah. So, I'm an advisor to a company called Matillion, which is in sort of the cloud ETL space. And I think what they've done really well is kind of two things. First, they've taken their account intelligence and used it to tier their accounts into four levels, very much like the spectrum that we were sort of talking about before. And they've defined entitlements for each of those tiers. So literally, they've written down, "If an account is in tier one, marketing's going to do this and sales is going to do this. If they're in tier three..." et cetera, et cetera. And that ends up literally being the contract between the marketing and the sales team about, literally, "If we agree this account is like this, this is what's going to happen." And it also gives them the constraints. Because they've written down the entitlements, they know they can only handle, I forgot the number, but let's just say, so many tier ones. And that forces them not to pick too many in that account.

Jon Miller: Then, the other thing they've done is a nice job of defining out... mapping out the account journey, the stages that they want to track where an account might be, ranging from a qualified account that they might be interested in, but is totally cold, not even aware of the category, down to maybe they're showing awareness for the category, but not for Matillion, to engagement, to kind of hot accounts, to opportunities and beyond. And then, they adjust their messaging, the tactics they're using, to be appropriate for where that account is. If an account is somebody you're interested in going after, but is otherwise totally cold, you need to focus on brand. And that's really an emotional play more than anything else.

Uzair Dada: Right, right.

Jon Miller: Whereas, okay, they're starting to show some engagement. You still don't want your sales people knocking on their door, but you want to move from emotion to logic and start bringing your thought leadership and things like that to the table. And then, if they're actually hot, like the algorithm says, "Hey, they look like your other accounts looked when they were starting to enter the opportunity stage," now you want to kind of make sure that you're focusing your sales team and your SDRs on that effort. So, it's really kind of the, each step, being thoughtful about, "If it's a tier one, at this stage, we do this," and then just putting all that into practice. So, they've done a really good job with that. And similar... I mean, if I may say, I think we've done similar at Demand Base too in terms of kind of aligning all that. The other thing that we've done, I think, nicely at Demand Base, in addition to tiers and journeys, is really made sure that we are orchestrating those messages across different channels and touchpoints.

Jon Miller: So, when we see an account, a tier two account, in the what we call MQA or a marketing qualified account stage, we're going to use our own product to change the ads they see on display, but we're also going to push that into LinkedIn, so LinkedIn sees different ads, and pushing to outreach, so our sequences are going to change, and into Marketos so our nurture tracks or our email campaigns change. And yeah, we've put a lot of time and energy into setting all that up. So now, it's totally automated. And that kind of intelligent account journey keeps everything orchestrated. So...

Uzair Dada: That's awesome.

Jon Miller: So, those are some of the best practices.

Uzair Dada: It's awesome.

Jon Miller: intelligence, to tier the accounts, understand the journey stages, and then orchestrate kind of across channels.

Uzair Dada: So, let's touch on three things that were interesting... as you were talking through this. One was the contract between marketing and sales. I think that's a really interesting point. I think one of the disservice that name ABM has done is put the M and the ABM. Right?

Jon Miller: Totally.

Uzair Dada: And so, everyone thinks this is a marketing campaign. And to me, ABM is not a marketing campaign or a sales campaign. It's a growth strategy. And so, if you're thinking this is a marketing campaign, you've lost it already.

Jon Miller: Yep.

Uzair Dada: And so, you sort of need to have that alignment issue. And I think one of the things I've seen a lot is people give lip service to alignment. You know. It's like, "Yeah, we want to do this. This is great." Maybe talks is great, but it doesn't stick.

Uzair Dada: And I love the enterprise approach of rolling things out. "Yeah. We did a couple of zoom sessions or we did a little half hour workshop training." Then, "Ooh, it didn't work. I tried it and they're not there." My best example was someone's like, "Yeah, this person is longer at the company, or this is not the person that I should be talking to." I'm like, "Guys, you have insight you didn't have yesterday." Back to your operationalization. How are you operationalizing it? So, any sort of insights for our attendees today in terms of driving sustained sales and marketing alignment? I think the idea of the contract, I think, is a really cool one.

Jon Miller: Yeah. I mean, I think a couple things. One, as you mentioned, the name is wrong. We don't call it ABM. We call it ABX. It's account based experience. Yeah. And it is literally about using intelligence to give the right experience to each account, kind of at each stage. And that name is the bigger umbrella, kind of brings other people in. I think, two, the contracts, the entitlements are really important. Three, I think the more you can let the sales team pick the accounts, the more they're going to feel ownership of the process. So I say, make that marketing driven, but sales owned. Marketing can give the data, "Hey, here's all the accounts and here's their scores." But now, you get to go pick five tier ones and 10 tier twos or et cetera.

Jon Miller: And then, the other best practice that I've used, companies like snowflake, even Salesforce uses this some, to really drive alignment is what we call the ADX standup. And it's really simple and it's amazingly effective. It's literally, let's just say, every two weeks, have a meeting that doesn't get blown off with the AE, the SDR who supports that AE, if you have one, and a marketer. Don't have any manager. There's no managers in that meeting because it's not a pipeline report or a status or anything like that. But the top...

Jon Miller: Literally, the topic is pick some number of accounts in that rep's territory. What's going on and what are we going to do to further our goals, to help those accounts move down the journey? It can be a 15 minute meeting. It's a standup. And yet, it does... So many ideas come out of it. And so much alignment occurs because sales and marketing are talking about the accounts.

Uzair Dada: 100%. Yeah. We've done something similar where we... We call it sort of concierge services. kind of marketing becomes that enabler to drive those conversations, including putting in digital gifting stuff or other things to enable that thinking process together. And I totally agree. I think companies don't do enough to riff off each other. We run in stove pipes and silos. We don't talk to each other more. And our talking is passing leads over, but we don't really share ideas about it, because there's collectively really awesome marketing and sales ideas on both sides. And we don't do enough of that.

Jon Miller: I'm not a big sports fan myself, but I love using sports analogies. So, what we don't want is the Baton handoff analogy.

Uzair Dada: Yeah.

Jon Miller: You know? I think a better analogy for ABX is a US soccer team, an American soccer team. Or no, sorry, I'll use football, where you've got your different players in different positions. Right? You have your linemen and your quarterback and your wide receivers. And these have a role to play, but they're on one team. They work together as they move the ball up and down the field. And that's similar from marketing and sales. You have different roles to play, but you're working as a single team. And it's the key that what... And the reason I switched to American football is because it works best when there's a playbook.

Uzair Dada: Yeah. Yeah.

Jon Miller: And I think... Back to your concierge service, I think marketing can and should be the owner of the playbook and come say, "Here are the plays we can run, things we can do." But then, leave it up to the sales rep to be the quarterback.

Uzair Dada: 100%

Jon Miller: And say, "All right, we are going to run this play right now."

Uzair Dada: Game time precision.

Jon Miller: And then, you execute.

Uzair Dada: Totally. The other thing you touched on, on the Demand Base example, which I'm a huge fan of is... The concept, to me, should be, how do I deliver unified account conversations when I'm doing this? Right? So, you talk about experiences, your experiences, which is my prospects are everywhere in today's digital age. There's, on average, 25 to 27 touchpoints, majority of them are happening off domain. And so, how do I enable a conversation where one action in one channel informs another action in another channel?

Jon Miller: Yeah.

Uzair Dada: And this also touches on the operationalization of intent, how people act, yada, yada. You guys sort of... You touched on, "Hey, we have stuff we're doing. We're taking our first party and third party data, doing that programmatically, kind of pulling people across agents, but we're also enabling the retargeting LinkedIn. We're using Marketo. We're using social, whatever."

Jon Miller: Yeah. Yeah.

Uzair Dada: Awesome concept. Hard to do...

Jon Miller: Yeah.

Uzair Dada: ... and operationalize. So even... I challenge... You're saying you've got a lot of stuff. Yeah. You can automate some, but there's still a decent amount of elbow grease required to make it real. Yeah. So, how are you doing it? How are you enabling that? And are there tips and ideas and guidance around what should people embark on? Because what I've seen really is you start on email, perhaps they layer in programmatic, but majority of the people are sort of "That's it."

Jon Miller: So a couple thoughts. I mean, first, your biggest barrier is silos.

Uzair Dada: Yeah. 100% yeah.

Jon Miller: You've got the team that runs digital, your team that runs email, and your team that runs website. And especially in a larger enterprise, those teams don't even necessarily even talk to each other. So, there is just organizational work to get these silos broken down. Let's say you can get the silos talking. Right? And now, you're sort of ready to start doing real cross channel orchestration. I don't want to push... As a technology vendor, I'm always sensitive to pushing technology too much, but a lot of people say you don't always need technology to do ABM, but you do need technology to really do this kind of cross channel orchestration.

Uzair Dada: No doubt. Yeah.

Jon Miller: And not everybody owns that kind of technology. But then, in terms of the elbow grease, the work to actually get it done... I mean, ultimately, I think what you want to be thinking about... If you have a foundation of account tiers and journey stages, that tends to be kind of the start, because you sort of said, "Okay, we're going to want to treat the account like this." And now, you're ready to sort of take those audiences. I mean, look, each intersection of that cell is an audience. And then, just set up the thinking of those audiences into the different platforms. Now, I don't want to make it sound like you've got to have a team of five spending a year doing all this. Like anything, it works... It's always a good idea to think big, start small, and move quickly.

Jon Miller: So, you could start with just one or two tiers in one stage. Only for my hot NQA accounts in tiers two and three, let's start orchestrating and syncing audiences. And then, you can kind of build from there. I mean, I will say though, we've had so much success at Demand Base with this. There's a metric that we track called lift, which is, basically, we look at the baseline of engagement we had from the account before we started. And then, we look after. And lift is, how much more engagement are we getting kind of after? A benchmark that we code our customers is you should expect about a 25% lift. And that's a little conservative because we want people to sort of feel like they can beat the benchmark. But we're seeing like 60 to 80% lift, depending on the journey stage.

Uzair Dada: So, this is a perfect segway and sort of the last question for our conversation, and my favorite one, is metrics and ROI. Right? Even to this date, even though we've all smarter... we believe we're all smarter, we still question marketing contribution into sales. And the MQL/MQA debate, or "Hey, does this... How do I know this really... lift was really because of what you are doing?" Right? "And did this really drive the engagement?"

Uzair Dada: So, what should the CMOs and CROs and the sales teams and the marketing teams be looking at? Should they be different metrics? Should they be the common metrics?

Jon Miller: Yep.

Uzair Dada: And how should they be thinking about that?

Jon Miller: Well, I'm going to get my soapbox for a second.

Uzair Dada: Yeah. Yeah.

Jon Miller: I've been on a campaign recently preaching against the concept of marketing sourced and sales sourced pipeline.

Uzair Dada: Right.

Jon Miller: Back to my football analogy, when you score a goal, nobody says, "Well, great. The wide receiver scored the goal."

Uzair Dada: Right, right.

Jon Miller: Right?

Uzair Dada: Right.

Jon Miller: We scored the goal.

Uzair Dada: Yeah.

Jon Miller: And ultimately, at the end of the day, all we really care about is, did we score enough?

Uzair Dada: The goal.

Jon Miller: Or a goal.

Uzair Dada: Yeah. Yeah.

Jon Miller: And so, I really do encourage us to change our metrics, in terms of, if we're... As we move into this ABX world, an orchestrated world, that we really kind of throw away the individual team sourced metrics and goals and look at the total. Now, that doesn't mean you can't still measure that just like, at the end of the day, you measure how many touchdowns you scored by running or passing and who caught them and who threw them. You have that data because it helps you improve your team. That's not what you ultimately care about or measure a report to the board. So, end soapbox. But that's definitely kind of a campaign I'm on to push. And very few companies are there today, to be honest.

Uzair Dada: 100% agree with that. So, in the absence of the companies that are not there... And it is a soap box still, and I agree. That's why I said ABM or ABX is not a sales strategy, marketing strategy. It's a growth strategy, exactly for that reason. If you are still thinking about you versus me, you've lost already. Right?

Jon Miller: Exactly.

Uzair Dada: And you're seeing some interesting steps. In some organizations, the CMO is reporting the CRO.

Jon Miller: Not a fan of that, but I hear you.

Uzair Dada: But it's an interesting approach, right? You're seeing alignment. Everyone's aligned to sort of one sort of focus area, which is kind of an interesting idea of alignment that some organizations are sort of thinking about. But from a metrics perspective, what do you think people should be looking at?

Jon Miller: Yeah. So, working backwards from a total pipeline goal, I still think waterfall journey funnel metrics are sort of the most important ones you can look at. So, you should have a model that tells you, "If you need this much pipeline, how many opportunities do you need? How many meetings do you need for that? How many MQAs do you need for that? And how many campaign responses do you need for that?" I mean... And over time, you'll refine that model. And you'll understand it's different for your enterprise segment versus your mid-market segment. And you'll understand that other factors... You can refine that model over time, but once you kind of have it in place, you're now in the...

Jon Miller: You're ready to sort of both set goals, all the way up the funnel, for how many MQAs you need and how many campaign responses you need, as well as conversion rates. And those conversion rates start telling you where there's opportunity for improvement. And marketers, we've been doing that for years in demand gen, ever since the Sears decisions of waterfall. I think what needs to happen, and companies are starting to do, is to evolve to... I'm a fan of the double funnel, where you have both a traditional lead based journey, as well as an account based journey that usually comes together at the opportunity stage. And measure... have goals and metrics across both those pieces.

Uzair Dada: That makes sense. Well, this has been awesome, really really appreciate all the interesting insights and conversations, always a joy to sort of connect and chat about this and learn things. And hopefully, our audience took some good stuff away from it. So, appreciate Jon for all your hard work in this area and...

Jon Miller: Always.

Uzair Dada: ... and thoughts. And appreciate you giving us the time today.

Jon Miller: Well, appreciate you having me. And quick pitch, everybody make sure you check out the survey when it gets sent to you. It's good stuff.

Uzair Dada: Appreciate it. Thanks all.