Live From The Marketing Nation: Day 3 – ABM, Content Marketing, and Leadership

Modern Marketing


Usually, by the time you hit the last day of a conference, you can feel the energy dwindling, but that wasn’t the case for day three of Marketing Nation Summit.  Maybe it was the awesome party and Train concert the night before, but sessions were packed—both with people and awesome content. Here are some takeaways and highlights from a few key sessions:

Be a Champion Leader

Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group, kicked off his session, 2017: The Year of Tough Choices, by setting the scene: we do a ton of stuff. And, according to Michael, that stuff can do more harm than good. In fact, he shared a stat that highlighted this for the audience: after 40 impressions in a short period of time, sales decline. It’s not even that your marketing messages aren’t being listened to, it’s that buyers are actively punishing you for overwhelming them with volume.

So why do we do it? Because the CMO is expected to deliver ROI for the organization. Michael posed that “behind every bad marketing idea is an executive who asked for it,” and then challenged the audience to make tough choices, highlighting that “in 2017, we have a choice to do what our boss tells us to do or what we know will work.”

But it’s not really about blaming your boss. It’s about continuing to do activities just to check a box. We need to stop blaming our boss and instead start proposing new ideas. We are the leaders. It’s our job to hold ourselves accountable to drive impact for the organization.

It is time for us to become a champion leader.  


Instead of trying to stop directives from the top down, we need to start championing ideas from the bottom up.

You can’t create an idea champion—you have to earn that. When we champion other people’s ideas, we earn a supporter for life. So look around on your team, and ask yourself, whose ideas have you championed lately?

ABM School is in Session

Joe Chernov, VP of Marketing at InsightSquared, shared the lessons he’s learned as he implemented account-based marketing (ABM). With simply amazing slides, his real-life advice went beyond high-level strategy and theory to tackle the issues that ABM marketers face in their day-to-day. So, according to Joe, here’s what they didn’t teach you in ABM school:

  • Get out of the gate and win early: Many organizations are in the habit of needing credit for different activities. And for ABM to be successful, you need to abandon the idea of credit. “Credit is a dirty word,” Joe urges, because “the more you think about sales and marketing individually, the farther away you get from working accounts together.” Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, demonstrate the success of your ABM strategy by winning together, early.
  • Bad data will sink you: With traditional demand generation, the cost of bad data is paid in the form of a sender score—something that by itself will not blow up your business. But if you look at the cost of bad data in ABM, it’s exponentially higher and does have the potential to blow up your program. When you are working from a specific list of target accounts, bad data makes that pool much narrower.screen-shot-2017-04-26-at-8-16-06-pm


  • Your best friend is sales: Find your partner in sales—that may be your account executives or sales/business development representatives. Understand which one makes sense to partner with more deeply based on what will create a greater yield down the funnel.
  • Beware of cherry-picking: Sales will naturally want to go after the most winnable accounts first—those accounts where it will be easier to sell. And, according to Joe, “that probably makes sense—they are rewarded for sales, so why not start with the easiest?” The problem here is that you need them to treat the accounts equally, regardless of ease. To solve this problem, Joe and his team have operationalized their target accounts in different cohorts (‘A’ being the most obvious fit, and ‘C’ the least). Their process makes all cohorts of Marketing Qualified Accounts (MQAs) just as likely to be worked by sales as the ‘A’ cohort. Essentially, Joe and his team eliminated the incentive to let those accounts decay.
  • Avoid traps: The biggest problem ABM faces is the denominator size. With ABM, the question becomes do you have enough accounts to be able to wait for the results and ROI of ABM? The second and related challenge is that it takes time to run bespoke campaigns. Joe’s advice is “to divide the accounts you’re going to pursue between personalization and speed.”

Go From Average to Exceptional

“Have you ever just aimed to be a five out of 10?” asked Jay Acunzo, Host and Creator of the Unthinkable podcast. In his session Be the Exception! How Brilliant Marketers Get Bigger Results by Doing it Their Way, Jay challenged the audience to stop working within the status quo and push their own boundaries to create exceptional work. No one aims to be average, but they end up creating average work by simply repeating what’s come before—going through the motions without questioning their intent and purpose.

The leap from average to exceptional isn’t actually a leap at all—it’s a process. And it includes 3 steps:

  1. What’s my aspiration? Your aspiration is a mix of intent and hunger and will serve as an anchor.screen-shot-2017-04-26-at-8-51-33-pm
  2. What’s your first principle insight? Principle insights are basic, but hard to reach truths about what your customer really wants. They help us draw more original conclusions. And, they help us answer a very important question: who are my true believers?
  3. What are my constraints? As marketers, we’d all love to live in a world with endless resources, but unfortunately, we don’t. Constrained projects change your goal from driving results to learning the best way to drive. They also help you answer the question: how can this expand?

Content Marketing Pillars

And then last, but not least, Jeff Bullas, Founder, and CEO of, closed out Marketing Nation Summit with the final session of the day: The 3 Key Pillars of Potent Content Marketing. In this session, not only did Jeff share three key pillars (described below), but he also shared these pillars in the context of how he built his own brand and company, from an initial blog about Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer, to practically a media empire that tops traffic and influencer lists across the globe. Let’s take a look at the content pillars that supported his amazing growth:

Pillar 1: Attraction

Whether you already have a site, page, product, or blog that you’re promoting or you are starting from scratch, Jeff pointed out that a key pillar of success is attracting the right audience to your content. And for him, that starts with traffic. “Without traffic, you don’t exist on the web,” exclaimed Jeff. And to take that a step further, you need to optimize all of your content for search engines. This can take time, but it’s absolutely worthwhile. He noted that 50-55% of the traffic on his site comes from organic search, and that’s because he is optimizing his content for search engines.

Pillar 2: Seduction

Once people have discovered your content, they have to be seduced. What does Jeff mean by this? You have such a limited share of your audience’s attention that you need to make sure your content is seductive enough (read: interesting, engaging, relevant) to keep them interested. “If your content is bland or boring, they are out of there. You are one click away from oblivion,” shared Jeff. So use language that people like, test your images, and test your headlines.

Pillar 3: Commitment

Ultimately, you want your audience to convert. Whether that is into a subscriber, into a buyer, etc., you want to own your traffic and audience as much as possible. Always look for ways to seamlessly ask them to commit to you.

And that wraps Marketing Nation Summit 2017! It was an amazing, energizing experience. There are tons of wonderful sessions we didn’t get a chance to cover here, but what did you find most valuable out of those that we covered, or was there a session you saw and loved? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.