Marketing Nation S1 E3

The ignored hyper-growth channel

26 Oct 2023

Enjoy this 50-minute podcast where Arvind and Varun get on a call with Ankit Oberoi to decode the dilemma of ABM, or Account Based Marketing. 

Ankit, being a proponent for documentation and structure, talks about his journey with AdPushup and how they discovered the untapped potential of ABM in a world filled with inbound marketing companies. 

Having cracked the ABM playbook methodically, Ankit shares some gems of wisdom with Arvind and Varun as the three of them nail down the specifics of what ABM is and how to leverage it to engage prospective clients in ways that really matter.

Hide Transcript

Why Account-Based Marketing instead of something typical like SEO? 

For a lot of companies in the market right now, SEO and inbound sales tactics seem like the default for any budding business, because of how responsive these channels are. You can keep generating leads through a system that feels almost automatic. The philosophy of “build it and they will come” goes hand in hand with these inbound channels of sales, so it makes inbound marketing, SEO and PPC models seem very attractive.

But these only work when someone is specifically looking for you or the services you provide. 

The same end goal of selling can be achieved with Account-based Marketing, but since most of the success stories coming out of India have been inbound marketing or Pay Per Click dependent, ABM as a concept has taken a back seat. 

The ABM funnel is structured almost the opposite way that the inbound funnel is. For inbound marketing, you start with a large sample space and refine your leads until you find your customers that you can sell to. 

For ABM, however, you start with identifying your customers and then use them to expand your reach. The sale isn’t the end of the line. It opens up more opportunities. 


Getting over the intimidation of approaching large clients

Approaching big and established companies might seem intimidating because their expectations might feel larger than life. But by benchmarking and diving deep into their operations, Ankit found out that there’s nothing larger than life about the way big companies operate. They are as mediocre or exceptional as any other small company, just… bigger. At the end of the day, the larger company space can be disrupted just as effectively as the smaller ones.

Nailing down the ICP

Before your company hits your first one or two million, clarity on who your ICP can be is usually a little vague. So spread your company over the market to reach out to as many potential customers as possible. Once you know who’s out there, you can identify who you want to sell to.

Your front-line force (support, customer service, and sales) is a lot better equipped to discover your ICP rather than the product team since the product is not usually in touch with the ground reality of the market. The front line gets their feedback directly from the market, and that is invaluable. 

But after the first one or two million, it’s important to clearly identify your ICP so that the sales team doesn’t sell to customers that might change the intended growth path for the company.

  • It is common in new companies for different departments to have a different version of the ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) in their heads. The entire organization needs to identify and accept who exactly your ICP is, and who isn’t. Protip: find your negative ICPs too, so you can avoid selling to them.
  • Get deeper with your research. What forums are your ideal customers visiting? What websites do they frequent? What does their decision-making process look like? Who are their consultants? Find out anything and everything you can about your customers.
  • Expand your playbook by looking at what other companies are doing to find out their ICPs

How do you optimize the organizational structure for ABM?

Ankit’s marketing team and sales team own the funnel together. There is no handoff from one team to another. The marketing team runs parallel to the funnel through the whole length of it while doing different kinds of work at different parts of the funnel. 

For example, the inbound marketing team does macro work, while the ABM marketing team focuses on personalizing communication with each account. 

For incentives and accountability across the funnel, make sure that there is at least a 20% overlap of OKRs of the sales and marketing teams. This helps align the interests of both teams instead of encouraging finger-pointing from either side. 

If you’re not a fully mature company yet, make sure that you’re focussing on leading indicators of marketing (like engagement) instead of lagging indicators (like revenue or conversions). Pick a leading indicator metric and build your targets and matrices around it. 

It takes a lot of time to get your first customer through ABM, but once the sale is made, the returns are worth the wait.

Ensuring that engagement (or any other leading metric) is meaningful

OKRs for employees need some qualitative reviews on top of being quantitative. You should be able to measure the OKRs with the usual metrics like CTRs and minutes on call, but it is also important to have qualitative reviews to assess how effectively they are performing their OKRs.

Follow a maker checker model. Build your team with high-integrity people — people who are intent on raising the bar for performance and bringing in quality leads and creative solutions. 

Have a revenue operations team (RevOps) to manage the metrics for the OKR reviews. They would be in charge of setting targets, conducting sanity or hygiene checks on the process, and running the pipeline reviews frequently to ensure the engine is well-oiled and running smoothly.

The RevOps team can also ensure leading indicators are followed up on by double-checking all “disqualified leads” from sales and making sure that they are worth being disqualified. 



Organizational Structure of AdPushup

The structure at AdPushup is built with “retargeting” in mind. Once you have your list of ICPs, focus on how to engage them and make them aware of your company’s existence. AdPushup did this by sending out really useful content that targets specific ICPs or decision-makers. This is not to sell anything, this is just to make them click on the link and to get them to be part of your display marketing campaign. 

Once you have a decent number of people clued into your display marketing campaign, you can position yourself in the ICP’s mind as a possible solution when a problem comes up for them eventually. 

You also need to keep your organizational structure nimble enough to change and shift gears when the ICP demands it, to realign to a common goal.

In a nutshell: target a list of ideal customers → display ads wherever they go.

Database Organization

It’s important to have a very comprehensive and exhaustive database of your ICPs with all kinds of information. Hire marketing professionals (not freshers) who can get their hands dirty to dive as deep as possible into the customer profile. 

At AdPushup, the entire organizational structures of client companies are recreated using information available in the public domain. 

Be aware that you’re selling to a person and not a company. Companies are run by human beings and human beings can be won over with emotions. 

AdPushup curates experiences and gifts that make a lasting impact on the clients’ minds, based on the profiling done by their marketing professionals. 

That is why logging all information in a central place for visibility throughout the company is very very important.

Closing thoughts—Beyond ABM!

Events and partnerships are a great way to boost your presence in the market. Tie-ups with big companies such as Microsoft, Google, or Facebook will lend a lot of credibility to your events and will grab a lot more customers. 

The trick is to incentivize the partners. It doesn’t necessarily need to pander to the entire partner company. Even if a decision maker inside your partner company is personally aligned with your goals, the event and partnership are sure to be a success. In the best cases, their OKRs will be to make sure your events run smoothly.

A high-profile partnership with a large company takes a long time—maybe even years—to cultivate, but the credibility that you get in return is well worth the time investment. 


About the host

Arvind Parthiban

Co-Founder and CEO,

Varun Shoor

Founder, Kayako

This episode’s guest

Key Takeaways

01:45 – Meet Ankit Oberoi!
03:50 – The Power of ABM
05:52 – Ankit’s tryst with ABM
08:42 – Big companies are intimidating!
11:38 – Identifying the right ICP for you
14:49 – Pick an ICP for your roadmap or pick a roadmap for your ICP?
18:38 – Outbound vs ABM
21:06 – Structuring the Organization for ABM
25:12 – SuperOps’ journey with ABM
27:28 – Using a RevOps team
33:48 – Building the ABM machine
35:35 – Database Management at AdPushup
39:45 – AdPushup’s channels beyond ABM
45:48 – Planning for Zelto’s acquisition

Key Mentions

01:16 – Zelto 

02:04 – AdPushup

03:39 – SGx

08:41 – Kayako

39:05 – Almabase

41:32 – Microsoft Azure

41:42 – Google

44:05 – Facebook