Interview with Nick Robinson

Digital Demand Generation Director North America at SAP

nick robinson Digital Demand Generation Director North America at SAP

Interview Highlights:

1. About Nick

  • Nick has an obsessive passion about ABM
  • Nick is an entrepreneur – since he was 14 years old – building Geocities websites
  • Nick fell in love with the intersection between technology and business
  • Nick learned marketing while working in the travel industry in Spain
  • Nick joined the B2B and Agency world in 2008 – right after the economy crash
  • Nick has a 2-month old who teaches Nick the preciousness of free time and of priorities

2. ABM – Strategic Account marketing

  • Get the right people, inside the right accounts, to the table, at the right time – ‘at the zero moment of truth
  • We have more data and tools than we know what to do with
  • There is nothing better than having Facts and Data to present in a conversation to a prospect
  • Determinants of where to put our marketing and sales dollars
  • Drive growth, engagements, new markets, and operating margin growth
  • Let the data tell you what to do
  • Qualitative information is key too – getting out and talking to customers
  • As technology advances, the planning cycle  requires quicker ability to react
  • Leading and lagging indicators
  • Props sent to Sam Melnick, VP at Allocadia re: the Intent of the Plan
  • Trickiness of being in a mature technology company – balancing old world and new world ; and cross-sell and upsell and new acquisitions
  • Needs require automation driving and more digital marketing
  • Attribution Challenges
  • Attribution at the sales rep and events stage (last touch)
  • ABM Success – tripling engagement with the target account universe
  • Crystal Ball Program – identifying key accounts to go after
  • Consolidation of multiple data sources,  ‘intent signals’, & unstructured data/intent
  • Shout out to True Influence, G2 Crowd, Trust Radius for effective Intent Signals
  • Strategy differentiators based on the prospects’’ Geo and Line of Business
  • Key: Ruthless Clarity of what you want to achieve

3. Future of ABM

  • We’re going to see consolidation of technology
  • We are going to see targeting/best-fit sophistication


Video Transcript

hi this is Bob Samuels founder tech
connector tech connector is a
marketplace and campaign management
platform a Best of Breed account based
marketing lead generation solutions
we’ve partnered with a serious decision
summit to bring a wisdom from leading
account based marketing thought leaders
to that end I’m happy to introduce you
to Nick Robinson head of digital
marketing for SAT North America it has a
great background and perspective as an
entrepreneur and a marketing analyst and
practitioner Nick it’s a pleasure to
speak with you how are you doing hey Bob
thanks for having me on the program I
can’t wait to get into b2b marketing
it’s I have an obsessive passion about
it as my wife likes me tell me so I
can’t wait to get into the discussion
today excellent well I let for our
audience to learn a little bit about you
your background is particularly
interesting you you’ve actually owned
some companies in the past and even
analytics background and not to hear
more about what’s behind all of this and
what you do these days around ABM yeah
yeah I mean when I tell my my career
story I actually I date back to like 97
so I’m I am so I’m 35 so I was literally
like 14 years old and I was building
like geo cities websites and I had my
own business so I’ve always been like
sort of entrepreneurial and the reason
why I mention that and why it’s relevant
is because the moment I discovered sort
of the web I was hooked and I it was
always something that I gravitated
toward and so it was kind of a sort of
this intersection between technology and
business that I really fell in love with
and then right after college I lived in
Spain for a year you know I actually
worked in the travel industry and that’s
when I really started to get into
and right after the the crash of the
economy in 2008 and oh nine that’s when
I got into the agency world and that’s
where I actually fell in love with b2b
and I think one of the reasons why I
fell in love with beated me is because
you think about it it marketing should
be easier than b2b because you know the
the amount of people the amount of
accounts that you market to is very
defined so to me it was it was I bulut
believed it was much easier although at
the time when I got into it you know b2b
didn’t have as many tools and best
practices as we do now I think you know
serious decisions was really just
getting off the ground at that point so
fast forward b2b is it’s an exciting
time to be in b2b and it’s um you know
that we have more data and tools and we
know what to do with now and I think
we’re over the next couple of years
we’re gonna see consolidation and
technology and then you know just more
sophistication around going after the
best fit folks which ultimately equals
more growth and and more efficiency and
that’s that’s like where the real value
creation happens and that’s what I’m
excited about
yeah I share your I share your passion
my wife says bad things about me too but
yeah my background is analytics like
yours and and I spent my first half my
career in the newspaper business and to
be able to do the tracking and the
targeting and the end and the figuring
out what’s working and what’s not with
the digital world it’s just the
beautiful thing hmm
it is yeah there’s nothing better than
being in a conversation with somebody
and and using facts and data and I’ve
I’ve come to I’ve become so reliant on
it over time that sometimes I don’t feel
comfortable and that’s actually one of
the actually my weakness
that I freely admit is that I have a
hard time telling a story if I don’t
have facts to back it up so if you asked
me if I was really good at selling a new
concept you know I’d say I’m probably
not as good at it because I don’t have
as many facts as you probably would have
a fewer selling a solution that’s more
proven so yeah make sense so so ABM
you’ve been around since before they
really term the late made that term I
mean it’s nothing new it’s just maybe
counts as positive accounts right what’s
your what’s your familiarity with it and
yeah different factors that success yeah
I mean it’s so funny
the it’s called account based marketing
I think back and I mean forever probably
in the night like you know I was too
young to really remember this but I mean
whose strategic account marketing and I
you know and that and that that that
word is still around for like the top
tier accounts but that ultimately it’s
at the end of the day it’s it’s getting
really smart about marketing and selling
and developing products for your best
fit customers and in the past it’s been
about okay well who are your top you
know we’re your top 20% customers that
generate 80% and that in our business
that could have been like the Pepsi’s of
the world and the Coca Cola’s and the
and the Walmart’s like these just you
know gangbuster big companies but what
works now what we’re seeing is
especially for us because we’re we
started up market where you know now
we’re looking at okay well we’re very
entrenched up market so how do we get
more efficient at providing value and
and growing those accounts that we
already have but then also how do we
move to the mid market and and and
further down by providing the right
products for those markets but also
better determining where to put our
marketing and
sales dollars and so that like that’s
sort of the big picture and the only way
you can really do that to drive growth
both in the install base would have been
also in new markets is by getting very
very clear on obviously product market
fit but also using all the data that we
now have at our disposal to to make the
very best choices for for the capital
that we’ve been allocated in marketing
and sales and product really but as a
marketer that’s what I’m interested in
because if you do that really well and
you say the right things to those people
and those accounts you’re gonna drive
growth and you’re gonna drive operating
margin because ultimately that’s that’s
what we’re trying to do as a business
we’re trying to for example sa P we’ve
promised to the to the street that we’re
gonna drive 40 percent growth in cloud
but we also promised that we’re going to
drive one percentage point increase in
operating margin per year until a 2023
and so it’s like that’s a that’s like an
art to get that right it’s an art and a
science but to drive growth and the
margin that’s like you have to do a lot
of things really well and as a marketer
I I sort of know what I need to do now
to to contribute to that no matter how
small the pieces that’s what I’m most
excited about yeah and I think you
mentioned I’ll have to listen to the
tape again that that part of this is to
try to have the product change the
product or modify the product and match
their client’s needs or interest as
opposed to the other way around trying
to talk them into liking your product
right right
so that is I mean one of the things that
we’ve been talking about it’s a team
lately is how do you how do you better
plant like how do you better develop a
marketing plan in a program and
ultimately execute a
a better campaign and it all starts with
you have to let the data tell you what
to do and data comes in many different
formats there’s there’s obviously
quantitative which most people equate
but then you also have you have
qualitative and it’s actually getting
out and talking to customers and so you
have to you have to do that work upfront
and it sounds so simple to say it but in
a large enterprise like ASAP you’d be
very surprised on at how you know as we
become a bigger business we’ve certainly
stayed in the building so to speak we
stayed in the glass building and it
becomes harder to really understand what
jobs the customers trying to get done
and so you have to do the work upfront
to really understand what they want and
back and I think that goes for product
for marketing content for sales and the
reason why it probably isn’t happening
as much as it should it’s good it’s hard
yeah and it’s
and it’s really hard to wrangle all the
information and synthesize it without
doing the doing a lot of really hard
work so it sounds like a lot of the work
is upfront and the planning and figuring
out what you want and how do you can
write the information you need to be
able to act on it yeah and I think the
challenge really is you only have a
certain amount of time to plan so that
the the planning cycles are getting
quicker and the ability to react is that
needing to be more reactive is getting
quicker so how do you how do you Jam all
of those data points into the least
amount of time possible to react quicker
that’s like if we can figure that out
then we can drive growth and we could
drive operating margin because we’ll be
able to react quicker I don’t think any
company is has really figured that out
yet but whoever gets as close as they
can to that reality is gonna is going to
provide a lot of value next Center
and I said so at the end of the day how
are you able to measure the success I
mean I assume you’ve got you know a 6 12
6 9 12 month fill cycle yeah so we so of
course it becomes an exercise in looking
at leading indicators and lagging
indicators typically for large
enterprise deals in the you know the
upper part of our account segmentation
it could be 12 to 18 months so so you
can’t really optimize a given calendar
year something that will turn into
revenue 12 months 18 months from now so
what we have to look at is what are we
doing to one increase the overall and
engagement of the account now
engagements a really broad category so
we’ve actually created an I mean it’s
really exploring it’s a it’s an
engagement score and so we want to see
that go up into the right as a result of
our marketing campaigns but we also look
if you peel that onion back that the
scoring onion we also look at are we are
we meeting the intent of the plan so
there’s a guy from ELQ Cadia hello Katya
rather Sam Melnick I don’t know if you
know him but I’ve listened to him speak
a couple times and he talked he talks a
lot about the intent of the plan and and
he talks about return on intent and
their work so the way that you get
return on investment is by always
referring that to the plan and
understanding are you meeting the intent
of the plan so for example I was talking
before about going after your best fit
customers so you have a list one are you
getting engagement lifts in response
from people inside of accounts on that
list that’s like the first question then
if the marketing plan was designed to
engage a specific buying center well are
you getting people to engage
from that buying center and then you
know so like you keep on peeling the
onion back on the different layers of
the plan and so we measure all of that
but at the end of the day it’s about are
we are we as a result of these touches
are we influencing pipeline creation and
and and booked one revenue but a lot out
some but the majority of our day is
analyzing engagement and are we moving
the needle there because in our complex
selling motion a lot of the work we do
is to make the sales teams lives easier
and a lot of its spent in pipeline as
well we’re not just producing sourcing
pipeline but we’re working in pipeline
to make sure that it’s that it’s closing
because of that long sales cycle and and
it also sounds like it’s not just for
marketing to get new prospects but it’s
actually to affect the current customers
are getting them deeper into your
relationship I mean it’s about sixty
it’s sixty you know sixty forty really a
60 percent install base and then the
other forty percent is is new customers
and I moat it you know it new customers
is really the mid-market and and down
that’s where that’s where most of the
growth is coming from and that’s where
the new customer acquisition is coming
from and that that alone is interesting
because they’re two totally different
strategies and and mix of the tactics
and we’re even the way you measure
impact so that’s that’s also an
interesting place to be in in a mature
software company that you put your
you’re often playing an old world and
new world and you’re also playing
between cross-sell upsell and the new
acquisition yes and and so it sounds
like your approach is different even
from enterprise to mid mid level and
also you’ve got the buying committees in
different personas you have to reach out
to absolutely yeah it absolutely yeah
and even the messaging it’s it’s
slightly tweaked but all the all the
are different too which is why we need
to drive you know for example we have to
drive more automation in the mid market
and lower just because going back to
that operating margin we can’t afford
the higher cost of of goods sold in the
lorda mid market like we can with with
the higher margin enterprise sales so we
have to drive automation and and more
digital marketing so it’s so that that’s
something that I’ve I’ve learned that si
P actually is very has a lot of clarity
on time marketing back to those ultimate
those business metrics so that that’s
something that I think s ap does really
well yeah so what do you you don’t need
to name names or or measurements or
specifics but how do you deal with
measuring success of your different
efforts so I assume that you’ve got some
attribution challenges that people get
hit with more than one message or
different different timing different
channels perhaps different mediums and
that’s something so how do you how do
you figure out which effort would you
give credit how do you get credit or
success yeah so today today we do last
touch and we we know from an investment
perspective that using that model we can
optimize we can optimize through a
certain degree based on the fact that if
we say if for example that last touch
model most of the credit would go toward
like an event and an SDR
and we know that’s ultimately everything
else we do in terms of the investments
that we make in the end the the tactics
that we execute are designed in many
cases to make those two tactics better
given the fact that it’s a last touch
attribution model and and that that
notion we know is not perfect but we we
make the investments in those any other
tactics to really support those the last
touch which are often at
the end of the buying cycle so the pro
is that we have clarity and we know that
investing 100% in those tactics wouldn’t
make any sense but we also make the
investments to get the right people on
the lists for those tactics and then we
also have an initiative coming up where
we’re we’re not only looking at last
touch we’re looking at multi-touch so
this is where we’ll start to optimize
the investments that we’re making across
those many tactics and you know a lot of
people talk about credit when we go to
multi-touch but it’s actually it doesn’t
it doesn’t really the credit is not the
point the point is actually to optimize
dollars and to make sure that if we’re
able to spend incremental dollars on one
tactic versus the next to get more
pipeline knowing that pipeline will come
from STRs and events that’s that’s a
much better place to be in than to argue
over who gets credit over the pipeline
like even in marketing I think we know
that for example I’m responsible for
digital marketing a fight I tried to
take credit or pipeline for example it
wouldn’t make any sense because it’s not
the role of the tactic so we I know that
everything that I do is design to
support STRs and events because
ultimately for those tactics to be
successful I have to engage with the
right people in the you know the areas
that I’m responsible for so hopefully
that makes sense
right good so but earlier you don’t need
to name names but you mentioned one
easier content syndication lead
generation vendors the solution
providers perform better than the other
one you say that what are you referring
to when you’re saying they’re performing
better because they’re certainly not the
last touch by definition Yeah right well
that’s the thing that’s what’s so
surprising is that the
but really the role of the tactic is to
get the right people to the table so
that we can then develop our marketing
role multi-touch marketing around those
people so that half the half the battle
in our marketing programs is to get the
right people inside of the right
accounts just to show up and and have
coverage in our database and and so
that’s really the role of the tactics is
are we getting the right enough right of
I’m sorry the right amount of the right
people that was a tongue twister to the
table and leaves and pipeline is gravy
but for some reason this provider not
only are they providing the right people
from the right accounts but they’re also
providing people from the right accounts
with the right intent to buy and I I
have a I’m my guess or my hypothesis is
that they’ve they’ve invested a lot in
marketing technology and you know
marketing UPS processes over the last
couple of years and whatever investments
that they’ve made are are paying off in
terms of finding the people at the zero
moment of truth
because that’s ultimately what we want
you know we we know that we know the
role of the tactic will be also at the
end of the day we want people that are
ready so if they can provide people that
are ready to talk to us now that’s
that’s amazing and what they’ve they
figured it out and it’s it it like
literally if you looked at reporting
across all of our solutions every single
time the top of the third the top of the
pack so it’s not just a flu it’s it’s
happening everywhere
and they’re dealing with the same assets
and the same calls to actions anything
yeah same I mean it’s they’ve gotten
this same requirements from our RFP the
same assets so it’s it’s a testament to
the audience their audience development
and whatever they’ve done there it’s
it’s working you know and if they could
sell their secret sauce to us I would
you know I would have to pay some top
dollar so so what are some of the you
know the personal successes that you’ve
seen on as far as ABM goes or any kind
any learning opportunities you could
share yeah so one is quantitative and
then ones that say more qualitative so
quantitative wise we in our lead gen
investments we decided to convert the
the the approach to a hundred percent
account based and we did it for all the
reasons that I’ve previously discussed
which is the business needs to drive
growth it needs to drive more operating
margin which basically means that we
have to do more with less and the only
way I could think to contribute to that
to that imperative is to focus on the
very best accounts and demand from our
partners that we only want delivery
against that that list because in order
to enable that we’ve invested in a bunch
of data science and marketing technology
to help us hone in on the best bit
accounts so as a result of that over the
last twenty four months we’ve
essentially tripled our engagement with
that target account universe and we’ve
doubled direct to return on investment
and when I say return on investment I’m
talking about like for every dollar we
spend in lead gen media we we get back
13 dollars and that’s basic that’s
double where we were the year before so
right away we have the enormous
efficiency gains when we focus on our
best fit customers qualitatively from
the from our Account Executive teams
they they are
we have some anecdotal evidence that we
are seeing some uptick and engagement so
just general feedback from the sales
team there they’re saying that you know
they’re they’re definitely seeing uptick
from the the accounts that we’re both
focusing on so um that’s that that
motivates me to to continue on the path
and really push forward and I have I
have a ton of conviction around this
because I I know have the evidence that
it works that’s how that’s also nice
when you you know and like you said if
you could measure it yeah that’s
certainly a lot better than anecdotal
and it goes nice to write good to be
right measures yes what I’ve seen is is
measuring some of these content
syndication Capilano campaigns with with
like a based on and what the sales
opportunities were created so it’s not a
fail yet but at least the sales accepted
leaps yes exactly
yeah exactly that make sense so so what
is your if you have a crystal ball what
is your crystal ball say as far as you
know we’ve seen a lot of changes in
these last you know five ten years on
technology and around around the data
around the intent signals I think I was
gonna ask you about that
are you using quote unquote predictive
or there are signals to identify and
prioritize yes the accounts that are
worth going after yes in fact our
program is called crystal ball
internally we’ve called our program
crystal ball and it’s it’s super
interesting because we’ve always had
propensity modeling and we’ve had
install base data providers like HG and
and other providers like that so two
things have happened since we know that
we have this new program one is all of
those different data sources are now
consolidated they’re all over the place
before so all the propensity models were
like in different places
same with install base
but then we’re also now we’re adding
this more of the unstructured
information which is the intent from not
just the usual employers of the world
but even like GT crowd and even trust
trust radius and and true influence and
and so we’re that’s the most interesting
part about is because it’s not just one
intent become it comes in different
flavors especially now that traditional
publishers and even marketplaces are
monetizing their data they you know I I
describe it as Bambara might have be
like the arm and the leg of the customer
in terms of the 360-degree view but then
true influence in g2 might be like the
ear and the eye you know they have
different pieces of the customer sort of
digital body language and and we I think
work smart and that we’re agnostic
because it’s only where you’re gonna be
able to fill out the 360-degree view so
by definition these are added these are
not conflicting sources but they’re
they’re very compatible so far validate
each other potential yeah so far that’s
what we’re seeing yeah it’s almost like
triple check triple check or filling out
the profile yeah so getting back to what
do you see as the what the world would
look like in five five years yeah I mean
the easy answer is gonna be a lot more
automation but I think we’re already
there there’s a lot of automation now I
think one of the things I believe is
going to transform the profession is
there’s gonna be a lot more maturity
around marketing influence and impact
based on time lag I think there’s the
the everyone will be much smarter both
marketers and sales people like
understanding the time lag of marketing
impact and then and then also just
performance in general on influencer
versus direct sourcing
and then I think that the tool sets and
really like even field marketers they’re
gonna have more access not only access
to data but smart data so data you know
sort of dashboards that are gonna make
recommendations for marketers and the
fly so they can just do more do smarter
activities versus taking four weeks to
analyze something and then making a
decision whereas we’re gonna have
machines that are just going to be able
to recommend next best actions and some
of that will be automated and some of
that they’ll be workflows so I think
it’s just that’s going to accelerate and
that’s you know that ultimately you know
that’s going to contribute to it’s it’s
more growth in more margin think smarter
yep and and you mentioned there about
sales and marketing and you didn’t
mention about any conflict so I assume
that that you and the sales team are
pretty aligned with which the goals and
vision of the ABM yeah I think yeah I
mean everyone’s everyone’s aligned
philosophically I’d say in a big company
it it becomes difficult because it’s
complex because our portfolio is huge
there are different go to market models
depending on the the Geo and the the
line of business that we’re selling into
so I’d say that as a company
philosophically if we took like
everyone’s like yeah totally get it but
then when when rubber meets the road
it’s not a one-size-fits-all and that’s
the most challenging part so that’s what
we’re working through right now at the
end of the day it’s I assume sales oh I
mean yeah it’s called ABM it’s got the M
in there but it’s all about sales and
it’s all about sales enablement so at
the end of the day that cash register
has to ring and that’s the bottom line
yes yeah totally
it’s kind of like there’s this guy marks
Taos I don’t know if you know him really
smart guy you should talk to him if you
haven’t yet I’m working it
he is the CEO of proof analytics okay
I actually think sacrum from terminus I
mean he he actually says the same stuff
but he’s just you know in b2b the value
of marketing is helping sales sell more
faster and more profitably than they
could do by themselves so if they if if
marketing can prove that over the next
five years that we are that that’s
that’s what we’re I think that’s where
we’re headed we’ll be able to prove that
we’re providing incremental value well
the beautiful thing is that it’s it’s a
win-win for everybody right not like the
old days where you know you have
marketing people at the event that they
they get a bunch of leads by handing out
t-shirts or write and see widgets or
whatever but that’s those aren’t those
aren’t even hit accounts they were just
people that like t-shirts and they’re
like yeah exactly I should be Target
makes me focused on the right account
and the right measurement yeah it is and
you know I equate it to okay and this is
a personal story I have a two you know
two month old child and before I had a
child I could get involved many
different things during the work day and
often times it would bleed into the
night and I I just had the luxury of
being able to be a little more lousy
affair with the amount of things that I
was involved with but now I’m like you
used to have a life I yeah so like now
I’m I have a child I literally have like
eight let’s say eight to ten hours give
or take you know it flexes I need to
focus in the very most impactful
activities to be good at my job or else
I would like I just won’t be effective
that’s the only time I have so it’s it’s
I equate it to that
to being focused on your best fit
accounts because there’s only a limited
amount of capital and if you need to
drive impact gross and margin it’s like
it’s among other things that’s one of
the big rocks for me yeah that’s a good
way to look at the scarcity of resources
and being smart about how you how you
use them yes it’s a beautiful thing
yeah all right so this has been great
nicaya science enjoyed speaking with you
any other final thoughts or wisdom or
otherwise I look forward to seeing again
and talking with you again yeah I mean
I’d say leave off with and that’s that’s
the key is its ruthless clarity on what
you’re trying to achieve and so if you
can line up all the activities to really
what’s what the business is trying to
achieve that that’s where the marketing
the marketing value comes in and in it
and if anybody wants to talk to me about
any of these topics I’m on LinkedIn just
let me have to pick Robinson s ap think
I’m the only one or deci P that’s Nick
Robinson and I’m on Twitter as at social
Robinson excellent and I’ll put those on
the interview page and if you’ve got any
other links we can add maybe some blogs
or thoughts happy to include those as
well great beautiful Nick it’s a
pleasure and keep up the good work
yeah thanks Bob we’ll talk later