Here is a transcript generated by of the The Content Mix podcast interview between Carlota Pico from VeraContent and Ross O’Neill, senior ABM manager at Cloudera:

Carlota Pico 0:13
Hi everyone, I’m Carlota Pico from The Content Mix. And I’m excited to be here today with Ross O’Neill, who is EMEA senior account based marketing manager at Cloudera, which is a computer software company. And he also has 15 years of experience in marketing and communications. Welcome, Ross. And thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix.

Ross O’Neill 0:36
All right, thank you. It’s great to be here.

Carlota Pico 0:39
Our pleasure. I can’t wait to learn all about your experience and journey so far. Okay, to get this interview started off, I would like to ask you a little bit about your background, a bit about Cloudera and also how you got into your current role.

Ross O’Neill 0:53
Yeah, sure. So I think as you mentioned, I’ve been working in marketing for a fair time. I joined Cloudera four and a half years ago, as a regional marketing manager based out of the UK, looking after the North EMEA region. A couple of years back, I moved into an EMEA-wide role focusing on account based marketing. Essentially, Cloudera is a technology company. We offer data management software. And you know, our customers use us through a data management platform in order to do analytics and AI on large volumes of data across many different sources.

Carlota Pico 1:35
So let’s focus on account based marketing, which you’ve identified as your area of strength. To get this section started off, could you define it for audience? What is account based marketing?

Ross O’Neill 1:47
Thank you. Yeah. So I think there are lots of definitions out there. There’s an organization called the ITSMA, who specialize in account based marketing. They’ve got a really succinct definition used internally. But I think the key thing for me is that, you know, really ABM or account based marketing is a strategic approach to marketing. And I think that really manifests in three ways. The first one is alignment with sales. And I think you have to drive that connection with the sales team, with the account teams. I think the second thing is to make sure that it’s very insight-driven marketing. So what you want to do is be looking at very specific accounts or group of accounts. And I think the more that you can get to know the needs and challenges those accounts face, the better your account based marketing activities will be. And I think the third thing is how that kind of manifests in actual activity. And I think that’s to make sure that any kind of campaigns, content or activity that you run with these accounts comes back to that insight that you’ve gained and it helps to resonate with those accounts. So I think a bit of a long winded answer to the question, but I think for me that that’s really how it plays out.

Carlota Pico 3:02
And can be implemented by any type of company or is it more useful for business to business companies?

Ross O’Neill 3:12
I think it’s typically a business to business thing. And I think the reason for that is the buying behavior, right? So when when an individual buys a product, they tend to be the sole decision maker, or at least the decision making unit, if you like, of a family or whatever that might be. It’s a lot smaller. When you’re targeting large enterprise organizations as we do at Cloudera, you’re typically talking you know, upwards of 20 plus people that can be involved in that decision. And I think that’s where the account base and really getting a deep understanding of those different parts of an organization and different people that are involved in that decision making process is why it makes more sense from a b2b point of view. I guess there’s probably a b2c equivalent but it’s probably not account based. I’d say it’s probably customer based. And I think there’s a lot of great stuff we can learn from b2c in terms of customer experience.

Carlota Pico 4:07
Definitely, definitely. So your recommendation would be for marketers to use ABM when they’re working within a large corporation, or at least trying to target large corporates, and always within the b2b sphere.

Ross O’Neill 4:21
I think typically, yeah. The way b2b marketing has always been set up is, you know, marketing supports sales, that’s changing a bit. I think, you know, the customers are going to the wider world to find out about products and services before they engage with sales more and more, you know. It has been that way for a while ever since the internet really came about. And I think, you know, there’s just so much opportunity to understand what people are looking for and what their needs and pain points are before you engage with them. So I think a lot of it is about educating the wider team and working with that account team to understand the account, the relationship, etc, before you engage and when you’re engaging. So that’s how I see it. I think to be honest with you b2b marketing is a little bit catching up with sales here. Sales has been account focused for a long time, you know, you have an account manager dedicated to a set number of accounts, but marketers tend to have, you know, hundreds of accounts under their radar that they’re trying to tackle at one time. I think, you know, we need to start thinking a bit more focused in the way that sales has for some time in b2b.

Carlota Pico 5:35
So I understand you’re working very closely, obviously, with our sales department. We will touch upon that later in our interview, but I do first want to talk about the first steps towards creating an account based marketing strategy.

Ross O’Neill 5:49
Yeah, it’s interesting. I had a conversation with a peer at another company. And I think the first thing I would call out is it’s not easy, right? I think a lot of a lot of b2b marketers are doing ABM for the first time or just starting out on that journey. And I think even, myself and my colleagues were kind of two years into it in EMEA at Cloudera. And how we’re doing ABM within the field marketing team there. Our corporate team has been doing ABM in a different way through demand generation for quite some time and digital marketing. But what we’re looking at really is that more kind of one to one ABM where we’re looking at specific accounts and helping the sales team to build better relationships and grow the business in those accounts. And you know, you’re always learning new things I’d say for me, you know, that in terms of the first steps is just being really clear about what you want to achieve. You know, why are you even looking at account based marketing in the first place? I think the next thing is to set some real milestones and goals to achieve and try and agree on them as soon as possible with sales and with sales leadership. Because I think if you get their support, and you show that there’s value to be had, from a sales point of view, through account based marketing, that helps tremendously. So I think that there’s a whole lot more than that. And I think, you know, the way you’ve got to look at ABM is it’s a way of being strategic with marketing. So it is about strategy. So a lot of the work with ABM is in the planning to be honest. So you know, just being really clear about what your goals are, and then setting out how you want to achieve that and bringing people on that journey with you. It’s what I would say.

Carlota Pico 7:33
Okay, you have spoken about your sales team very often throughout this interview. So I do want to address this topic. What is the relationship between an ABM marketer and their sales team?

Ross O’Neill 7:46
Yeah, I mean, I think you know, it’s one team, really, I mean, it sounds a bit cliche, but we work very collaboratively. It’s not a kind of marketing and sales. It’s just one team, right? We’re all part of an account team. You know, I might be involved in a number of different accounts, but I’m certainly a part of that team that works on that account. And, you know, I think we really do work well with our different teams. It’s not just sales and marketing. There’s other aspects as well, like customer success, professional services, we have like inside sales representatives, as well, who work very closely with us. There’s lots of different parts of the business that come together to target our customers and talk to our customers. Because I think, you know, for us, we’ve got a lot of customers, a lot of really good customers and a lot of exciting use cases on the platform. We just want to make sure that we’re sharing that with the accounts and the people in the account so they’re aware of what’s possible with data and with Cloudera because I think, you know, there’s just so much opportunity out there at the moment to use data for good.

Carlota Pico 8:54
Okay, what about the relationship between account based marketing and inbound marketing because earlier on in our conversation you were touching upon how important it is to create value for your audience as well through thought leadership or different types of content that will create trust in your brand. And that sounds a lot to me like inbound marketing. So could you talk to me about the relationship between the two?

Ross O’Neill 9:22
Yeah, I mean, I’d love to hear what your view of inbound marketing is because you know, it’s one of those terms as well that I hear a lot and you know, I’m not hundred percent clear on what the definition of inbound marketing would be, to be honest, so it would be great to understand a bit more about what you mean there and then I’ll be happy to align ABM.

Carlota Pico 9:41
Okay, yeah, no, definitely. So for me, inbound marketing is based on marketing methods that attract leads to a company through material based on their interests. So for example, events, webinars, social media marketing, blogs, etc. So it’s really content that provides value to your audience and to your potential clients.

Ross O’Neill 10:01
Yeah, I mean, you know, I think it’s interesting. I think for me ABM is all about that. So I’m not surprised that there’s a synergy. You know, I think the whole purpose of account based marketing is to understand an account, a customer or a client, try and relate what you do to help solve those problems, and then produce campaigns activities that resonate with people who need to know about what you do in order to help them solve problems. So, you know, in terms of kind of what we do activity wise, we run a lot of campaigns on LinkedIn, for example, LinkedIn advertising campaigns, where we are segmenting audiences using LinkedIn’s demographic tools, which are pretty comprehensive. You know, we look at things like people’s member skills to get an idea of what their interests are. So we’ll look at the account, what the people interests are, how that aligns with the content that we have. And then we’ll serve that content to those people. So yeah, I mean, I think you know, marketing has a habit, I think it’s probably because we’re in marketing, of creating labels for different things. But for me, good marketing has always been about, you know, resonating with the customers needs, you know, and yeah, I’ve done courses several years ago that said that and I don’t think they called it inbound marketing or ABM. But at the core of what marketing is, find out what the customer wants or needs are. Find out what your products and services are and then find the meeting point in the middle of how those come together and then target those people with different activities and tactics. So that’s how I would answer that question.

Carlota Pico 11:45
Okay. I also am in inbound marketing, not necessarily account based marketing, but inbound marketing and our company creates several thought pieces so that our potential clients also trust our brand and are able to learn more about our areas of strengths and our expertise as well. We don’t do it through paid advertisement, though, we are generally a very organic type of company, our approach is organic marketing. So I do want to ask you about the value that account based marketing provides to a computer software company.

Ross O’Neill 12:26
Yeah, I think probably comes back to the point I made earlier around the number of people that you have to reach and if you, you know, step right back, you have typically an account team. You know, at Cloudera, we have one account manager, and I know other companies will have more account managers that tackle one account. But typically, we go after big global enterprises, you know, with hundreds of thousands of employees and for one person and like a small team that work with them to try and target and reach that account across the different decision makers that are in that account is very difficult. I think with ABM, it helps expand that reach, you know, looking at how we can help them communicate wider across the account, how we can help them think about the ways to make messages resonate better with that account is really what we do there.

Carlota Pico 13:19
And then how are you measuring the results of that? Because obviously, you have to engage with several different representatives from the same company because large companies with hundreds of thousands of employees tend to have a lot of bureaucracy involved as well when purchasing a new technology or involving themselves in a new product.

Ross O’Neill 13:38
Yeah, of course. I mean, I think measurement is a perennial challenge for b2b marketing. And, you know, I think marketing attribution, marketing measurement is something that we always are challenged with, I think so when we look at measurement, we tend to look at, you know, the same measurement metrics that we always have done, so. You know, we look at things like the number of engagements and interactions from specific accounts with our activities. But we also look at things like how we’re engaging with people through various channels. So we look at, you know, social media, how we’re getting engagements there, typically through our paid advertising activity, you know, we do a lot of organic things as well. But that typically comes out of our corporate engine. So when we’re doing specific things, we’re looking at how many people are visiting our site based off of our advertising. I think, you know, the big thing for us is always about pipeline and how we’re influencing and sourcing pipeline through marketing. And, you know, we look at typical metrics for which we have targets that we set at the outset, and we look at how that’s changing over time. We have CRM, we have, you know, all of the other tools that most b2b marketers have to track those kinds of things. I think the other thing we’ve looked at is, you know, I mentioned earlier the ITSMA, I think, you know, they have a framework, which they call the three R’s for measuring, account based marketing. That’s relationship, reputation and revenue. So we try and align to that, but a lot of the things that we do anyway, from a measurement point of view, align naturally with those three R’s. And I think, for us, we focus heavily on relationships. You know, we work with the sales team very closely to identify who the right people that we need to reach are. Are they people we know already? Are they people that we need to engage with for the first time? And then we work out plans to get to get to that point. I think reputation is a much more challenging one for ABM, you know, because there’s so much outside of the world of account based marketing that can change your reputation for a company. So we look more about you know, who are those people that we talked about previously and what they currently view about Cloudera, what’s their current thoughts and opinions? Do we know it? Can we go and find out what they think about that or if they’re working with our competition. The main for our revenue is predominantly pipeline from a marketing point of view. You know, we are starting to see revenue direct from marketing through the the adoption of cloud technology, you know, so people are downloading and consuming software automatically without being involved with the sales team. So there is that kind of direct to revenue market now in b2b which is quite interesting. But I think for us revenue is more about building pipeline, building opportunities for the sales teams to go and close.

Carlota Pico 16:46
One thing that I would add to your response is regional maturity. So whereas Europe tends to be very mature from a b2b corporate standpoint, Asia is steps behind in terms of digital transformation, and although the technology buyer, in this case computer software buyer, might be facing the same type of challenges, each region is coming at it from a completely different angle. So from a marketing standpoint, how do you or would you cater for different market maturity levels?

Ross O’Neill 17:15
Yeah, I mean, ABM is all about bit resonating with specific accounts, right? So, you know, of course we have an ABM lead in APAC, Asia Pacific, based out of Singapore. You know, I would argue that in some places digital transformation is ahead in Asia Pacific, based on some of the examples I’ve seen. And if you think about some markets like Singapore, they’re incredibly advanced with some of the things they’re doing with digital. So it varies, right? It varies region to region, it varies country to country. I think for us, that’s really where ABM comes in, because you’re starting to think about things in a much more micro environment. So you’re not looking at regions and markets. You’re looking at one company and how different divisions within that company are working with things like data and how they’re driving digital transformation. So that that is something I couldn’t agree more with in terms of, you know, being bespoke and being tailored to market is paramount.

Carlota Pico 18:15
Okay, so your advice to other marketers out there when it comes to ABM marketing from region to region would be really to zoom in to your potential clients on the field rather than focus on a region as a whole. And we can see the same thing in the EMEA region, because obviously what works in Spain may not work in the UK, but what works in my company might not work in another company within the same market. So your approach is much more about having one to one conversations, bilateral conversations, understanding your potential clients and really catering to their specific needs rather than just putting them all in the same boat, right, all of your clients?

Ross O’Neill 18:55
Right. I mean, I think you have to do that kind of more general approach as well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just go for ABM and don’t do anything else right? So you have to think about that market, that wider market, but I think typically where ABM works well is when you’ve got a really clear proposition, right for a specific account or a specific group of accounts that you’re confident in, you might have done it before in other places. So you know it works and then you know, its how you kind of then look at other areas that you can do the same thing elsewhere, right. So I think for me, you know, ABM is just really driving best practice in a lot of cases, right? You’re just thinking about, you know, where can we get the most value back from the efforts we put in, right? So if we target a whole market, we might get some accounts showing interest, but within that market, we might have an already good idea and we can test it with some research before we go ahead and start. Which accounts or which types of accounts might engage with us to begin with. I think the other thing for ABM is it’s not always just one to one, right? It can be a group of accounts with common needs. And it can be things like vertical sectors, but it can even be specific areas of a business or of your own product stack. So, you know, we sometimes look at specific campaigns for people within data science roles within certain company sizes. And then you know, it’s just really looking at how you can segment your audience to put the efforts and the resource and time that you spend as a marketer into the right places.

Carlota Pico 20:35
I do want to focus a little bit on inbound marketing because it’s my area of strength and I’m seeing a lot of overlap between inbound marketing and ABM. So HubSpot says it can take about six months to see substantial results from inbound marketing efforts, which I’m assuming is also a similar timeline when it comes to account based marketing efforts as well. So how do you justify a six months cycle in order to close a deal to your management team?

Ross O’Neill 21:07
I think you know, for us deal cycles tend to be fairly long, right? Where you know, it is shortening again with the kind of birth of cloud you know, you do tend to get quicker wins but typically we’re looking at a large enterprises, you know, big decisions to make, right? Big decisions to make in terms of which data platforms to use or their strategy and data is really like paramount to pretty much every large enterprise in the world right now because it’s such a valuable resource for companies. So, I think, you know, I would agree that you know, the value of ABM does take time, its strategic, you know, that means it needs thinking it needs planning it needs, it needs work, it needs that kind of stuff, but at the same time, we have been able to demonstrate really good quick wins with with account based marketing I’ll try and share an example without giving away any company names, because that could get me in trouble. But we had a customer based out of Europe who, you know had bought user licenses for a part of our software, not the whole thing, but it’s part of our data science remit, and they bought a specific number of user licenses for that product. But we had a meeting with the sales team and heard that actually, they weren’t using the product, there was no consumption. Our champion there said that look, he’d done a couple of internal workshops, but the data science community within that account weren’t really showing interest. So we came together with the account team, and we talked about putting together a virtual event or a webinar, more or less for that account and working with our champions to promote that internally. And we had, I think it was 67 people within the data science community of that account sign up for this webinar. Within a three week period, we ran that webinar successfully, obviously, all 67 didn’t attend, I think we ended up with around 30 to 40 attendees. But after that, you know, people did start to use the software and did start to use the platform. And we started to get feedback and some really positive feedback about what it could do as well and how it helped them deliver. So that was quite a short timeframe, right? It came about after a meeting with the sales team and just understanding where they were getting stuck at that point in time. And then we thought about how we might be able to help that from a marketing perspective. And we worked again, working collaboratively as a team, we managed to pull something off in a fairly short timeframe. So yeah, I mean, if you’re looking at the kind of multi-million dollar, multi-year renewal type stuff, yes, that’s going to take time, but there’s some quick wins that you can get along the way that helps to get people on board with the idea.

Carlota Pico 23:56
As you mentioned, I also think it’s a great example of why it’s so important for sales and marketing teams to be in constant communication, I’ve seen that oftentimes throughout my interviews that marketing acts alone and independently from sales. Whereas I’ve always been an advocate of both departments working as a team, as you’ve been mentioning throughout this interview, because really marketing is what you do to drive sales and sales is there to close the deal. So if both departments aren’t communicating with each other and working with each other, the strategy’s not going to work.

Ross O’Neill 24:30
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. It’s always been pretty good at Cloudera. Lets say we’ve always had a very collaborative relationship and that helps.

Carlota Pico 24:38
Excellent. Well, that’s music to my ears. We are moving into a rapid fire set of questions which is basically your recommendation to our audience to get this section started off I’d like to ask you about your source of inspiration. So an influencer or professional role model?

Ross O’Neill 24:59
That’s a good question. I think for me colleagues I’ve worked with over the years I definitely take inspiration from, from many colleagues and in different roles as well, not always marketers, right? There’s people in sales teams that I look up to, for example. You know, I’ve had pretty good managers over the years as well that I’ve been able to learn from. My brother is actually a marketer as well. He’s currently a CMO, at a FinTech. So, you know, he’s someone that I’ve always kind of shared ideas with probably in a more informal way than you might expect for a typical kind of mentor-influencer type relationship, but you know, he’s someone that I’ve definitely looked up to and tried to emulate in many ways.

Carlota Pico 25:41
Well, let’s give him a little shout out, what’s his name?

Ross O’Neill 25:45
By surname is the same course but his first name is Rory.

Carlota Pico 25:48
Rory O’Neil. That’s a shout out from your brother on how you have influenced his life. I’m sure he’ll love that. Okay, moving into a recommended book or publication?

Ross O’Neill 26:01
A difficult one. To be honest I don’t look at too many non-fiction. I studied English at university and I think I’ve always kind of liked to read fictional material ever since. So I don’t read a lot of non-fiction and I keep being recommended stuff and I have them on my list of things to read but never get there. So if I’m able to recommend a fictional book, I did just finish a book called American Gods which is also a TV show on Amazon Prime which some people might have seen, but the book was a challenging read. There’s a lot of detail about you know, Gods and Goddesses through time, which can be hard to keep up with. It’s one of those things where you have to do research while you read it. But you know, I think at the end it was actually a really good book and definitely helps you escape from the day to day which is which is what I love about reading.

Carlota Pico 26:56
Yes, mental sanity and mental health is a new buzzword especially during Corona times. So anything that allows one to break away from anything that can cause stress, and just give them a little break is obviously definitely recommendable, especially now during the health crisis. Okay, and to finish this section up and also the last question of today’s interview will be your favorite app at the moment and why?

Ross O’Neill 27:23
Favorite app? Well, I’ve been using a collection of apps from Adidas recently. And it’s again, it’s not really related to b2b or what I do as a day job. But I think Adidas does do a really good job of connecting their retail app with their training apps. So you know, they’ve got a running app. They’ve got a training app for like home workouts, which is very good at the moment as well, of course, but it also links with the retail app. So when you do run, when you go for a run or when you do training using the training app, it does add points to their loyalty program, which can end up in discounts on the Adidas retail app, which, you know, if you like buying Adidas gear, which I quite like, it’s like an added value. And obviously it does everything else that a normal app will do, you know, in terms of helping you to see products and reviews and that kind of thing too. But I think it’s a pretty neat way of doing it. And I think in terms of kind of customer experience customer loyalty I think there’s a lot that b2b can learn from b2c, I think in the marketing field. And I think, as that kind of converges more and more, with the birth of the cloud model allowing enterprises to buy, you know, b2b products and services in a much more b2c manner. I think that that kind of thing is quite exciting in the b2b space and where that will grow.

Carlota Pico 28:51
Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, the b2b space at the end of the day, one always has to keep in mind that on the other side of a company or on the other side on the screen, there’s always a human. So you are having human to human conversations, although your company selling to a different company, but I think it’s really important to always relate with your customer. And keep in mind that your customer is a human being that will be buying your product.

Ross O’Neill 29:17
Very true. Although one day it probably will be robots buying stuff as well.

Carlota Pico 29:20
I don’t know I’m watching Humans on Amazon Prime and I’m kind of like on the edge right now. I hope a robot doesn’t steal my job. Okay, well, thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix it was an absolute pleasure to have you here and to learn about your experience and account based marketing Ross, I really enjoyed our conversation. And I look forward to keeping in touch.

Ross O’Neill 29:50
It’s great, thanks very much for the invitation. Always good to talk about these things. I think. I like to look at these things online as well. So hopefully that was interesting for people who are watching who are getting started with ABM and working on at the moment.

Carlota Pico 30:03
Very interesting, very interesting. Indeed, Ross, I learned a lot myself, because I’m not an expert in ABM marketing and just being able to pick your brain on the ins and outs of what I would have to do, should I implement a strategy like this was extremely useful. So thank you again for joining us on The Content Mix. And to everyone listening in today. Thank you so much for joining us on The Content Mix as well. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out The Content Mix. We’ll be releasing interviews just like this one every week. So keep on tuning in. Thanks again and see you next time. Bye.

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