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Personalization is better than custom & how to work with sales to win ABM | Corrina Owens @ Gong

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Episode Description

In this week’s episode of Demand Gen Chat, I spoke with Corrina Owens, Senior ABM Manager, Enterprise at Gong. If you’re in B2B, you probably know Gong and see their marketing content everywhere so I was excited to meet Corrina and learn about what goes on behind the scenes and how they measure success. Listen to this episode to hear Corrina’s take on why true personalization is always better than customization, how us marketers could be better at working with sales on ABM, and how the marketing team at Gong is structured. We also swap hot takes on what we’d love to see change on our LinkedIn feeds.

Show Notes

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About DGC

Demand Gen Chat is a Chili Piper podcast hosted by Tara Robertson. Join us as we sit down with B2B marketing leaders to hear about the latest tactics and campaigns that are driving pipeline and revenue. If you’re looking for tactical ways to improve your marketing, this podcast is for you!

Episode Transcript

 Welcome back to another episode of Demand Gen Chat. I'm your host, Tara Robertson, and I have a fun topic for you today. We're talking all things account based marketing. So I have a special gust, Corrina Owens. Corrina is the Senior ABM Manager Enterprise at Gong. If you're in B2B, you definitely know Gong. Gong enables revenue teams to rev- realize their full potential by unveiling their customer reality. Corrina, welcome to the podcast.

Hey, Tara. Thanks so much. I've been a long time listener so thrilled to be here with you.

Thank you so much. That's so nice to hear. I'd love to hear just really quickly what your team is up to at Gong. Obviously, you're on the ABM team and just what you're working on these days.

Yeah. So at Gong, we are having quite a busy year. We are full of focus on new industries, uh, as you- everybody knows, tech is our bread and butter. But we are seeing use cases beyond such as in recruiting and staffing so we are expanding, um, our use cases and messaging quite a bit. As well as launching a lot of new product features and taking Gong on the road for the first time since 2020 so we are quite busy here, uh, but having a great time and a lot of fun creating, uh, new creative ways to engage with our audience.

That's super exciting. And, obviously, I'm super familiar with the demand gen funnel and kind of metrics on that side of things but curious what are the main KPIs that your team is working on driving at Gong? And if you could also get into a little bit of just people that are brand new to ABM, what those metrics are that they should be looking at.

Yeah. And I love the way you phrase that question because it's quite a different landscape for ABM at Gong than it can be for a lot of organizations. Uh, for us, we- our north star is pipeline but also velocity. So we're, uh-


... aggressively measuring how are we performing and moving our accounts through the funnel? Uh, so that's a key focus of ours but I think for many people, account based marketing, um, you know, especially depending on your sales cycle, it can take a while to show the fruits of your labor so I really encourage people to focus on engagement metrics at the start. Uh, so you can start to show some incremental success, uh, some leading indicators of what that north star could eventually be and that can be, uh, things from what see- may seem seemingly small.

But are we increasing the number of target accounts on key pages on our site? Like, our pricing page or a demo page. So I like to really encourage people that are looking to expand their capabilities with ABM to think about starting small with some engagement metrics before you can start to show some of those, uh, north star metrics that kind of tie a bit more to revenue.

Yeah. That makes sense. So get some measurable wins under your belt and then try to build up from there as you're [laughs] building up that team.

Yes. And communicate those wins early and often. [laughs]

Yeah. Early. And I think that's a common thread with marketers is we don't shout out our wins quite as much as some other teams might. So that's definitely [laughs] good advice. Early and often, show those wins and kind of build momentum internally as well, not just with your customers.


And where does the ABM team at Gong fit in with the rest of the marketing team? How is that structured?

So right now, we sit in the, uh, the revenue team is what we call it and we are a, essentially, a subset of demand generation. So demand generation, uh, and the digital teams are their own function and them ABM is as well. Uh, what I like about that structure is that it does help us to be much more aligned. So of course, I'm going to be touching our accounts in a very unique and specific customized way. But demand generation is also going to be focusing on them for, um, more of that broader reach, right?


And so I like to often describe the differences, uh, between ABM and demand gen is one is more so about creating and I think the other is more about, uh, nurturing and capturing. Right? So making sure that we are making it as easy as possible once we have identified a interest or a need, make it as easy as possible for that buyer to have an informed decision about, um, the buying process and- and access a solution.

Gotcha. So the creating, in your case, is on the demand gen side of the house.

Absolutely. Yes.

Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. Creating demand. [laughs] That's the name of the game so that makes sense to me. Um.


One thing I wanted to make sure we talked about is I saw a post of yours on LinkedIn. I think you were quoting Kevin Dorsey but it was basically, the gist of it was that some people say customization is better than personalization but, really, when you say personalization, this- that's content that only this one specific person could make sense of or could get something out of. So I'm curious, obviously, it resonated with you. I thought it was really interesting too but have you ever done that-


... in practice and applied that to a campaign?

Yes. And it really resonated with me because it was such a simple way of explaining the difference. I think a lot of times, marketing technology likes to put, uh, marketing tactics into a box. Right? A box that fits their specific use case for their technology. And personalization, for a long time, has been a part of that. First name token, company name token, enter here. So we really lost our creative mindset around what should personalization really mean.

Um, so I loved his quote that Kevin shared, uh, Kevin, I'm in your inbox. Please give it a quick look. Uh, so I do love what he shared where he said, "If it can't only make sense to that one individual, then it's likely not personalized." So a lot of times, what we'll do here is because Gong is such a great product and we have so many raving fans, um, and which are so talented as well that they often move jobs and it's just been an incredibly volatile market.


So it's really important for us to keep tabs on are those different raving fans moving to and making sure that we stay engaged with them. Uh, UserGems is, what I like to call, sales, uh, new favorite intent signal. They are just absolutely obsessed with it and, as a marketer-


... any time you can get sales spawned into data, [laughs] you just run with that. So we've been running with it and it's helped us to quickly identify who our raving fans are and where they've landed with their new job changes and-


... we do personal and, uh, outreach. Not quite at scale yet so it's not a templatized workflow but we do make sure to reach out to them, um, and again, try and create that raving fan experience. Congratulating them on their new job, giving them helpful tools and kits to get them set up for success depending on whether they're NFCS org or more traditional revenue, new business org, um, and generate that excitement and experience to hopefully carry that Gong user experience with them into their new role.

Um, but it's all about being personalized for them. So it's not something that we could just blanket and do in a templatized way. It is, you know, making sure we know their individual interests, what motivates them. So there's a lot of work behind the scenes, too, of us talking with the former, uh, CS team and getting to better understand them. Uh, so to wrap it all up, [laughs] we do a couple of different things to make sure we're being personalized. But, uh, it's- we're really grateful as a team to see these experiences prove fruitful.


So it's something that our entire organization kinda rallies behind. Is to create those really memorable experiences that you can't necessarily replicate, that it is very individualized and very personalized. So yes, to wrap that all up, it, uh-


Take a step back when you're doing any kind of campaign or outreach and make sure that, is this something that only this person can read and this'll resonate with? That's how you- you know you're doing something that's memorable and personable.

Mm-hmm. And have you ever seen that work on the account side? 'Cause I'm curious. Uh, a couple years ago, account based marketing was basically just like, display ads and like, insert logo-


... here. And that was kind of it.


But I am curious-

It still is for some.

... how you think- [laughs] Yeah. I'm curious how you think that's evolved 'cause I- I do think some people are still stuck in that mindset.

Yeah. It- it's interesting for me too. I've never quite seen it that way. Again, I tr- I try and remove myself a lot from the- the tech vendor view and how they want me to look at things but-


... one of the ways I've tried to create those personal experiences is actually within, um, like, a pilot launch, as an example. So, you know, when you're... Uh, evaluate any kind of serious technology. There's so many different people you have involved. There's so much paperwork. There's so much minutia that people just forget at that stage that people like to have fun at this- at this stage as well.


So we would often do things for the account where it was almost like a, um, a R- RFP buying committee party where we stepped away as a vendor but we would set them up for, you know, uh, I'll just say something broad like, you know, champagne and, uh, pancakes, [laughs] uh, to enjoy while they-


... go over things. So I think that there's this- there's a way you can kinda rally the account and the teams at these accounts to enjoy and have memorable experiences together so that when they do walk away and they're discussing the different options they have on the table, hopefully, you, as a company or as a brand, come up and make them smile. So I always try and look at it as how can we create experiences for these- these groups or these accounts that make them want to come back and talk to us? Make it easy, make it fun, make it human.

Mm-hmm. I love that idea. If you- that if you have an hour block to review a contract or review an RFP, make it fun.


Nobody really wants to be in that room anyway [laughs] so maybe, uh, if you bring some champagne-


... or send them breakfast, that's a great way to wrap it up into a nice experience.

Yeah. Exactly. Yeah.

That's awesome. Um, another post of yours that really caught my attention and I know it had quite a lot of comments. I think it was like, 60 something last time I checked. Um, but you basically put out the question of which roles in marketing would you scale, contract or fire? And I'm curious. I didn't get a chance to s- look through all of the comments. I'm sure you've spent more time than I have but just kind of what trends were you seeing and what really jumped out at you in the responses?

Yeah. I love how LinkedIn is- is becoming more of a place where we can, again, engage in a fun way.


In a more human way and a lot of times, these posts that are, you know, I- I did a- I do a fill-in-the-blank, blank is X, Y, Z and people just go nuts over it. So this was another one of those where I loved-


... to see the responses we got back and there as a- quite a few themes in there, um, for the fire, which, obviously, is more a divisive part of that question. Um, you know, and, uh, the overwhelmingly theme was fire SEO and I think that that, you know, kind of makes sense and rings true with a lot of trends that we're seeing in marketing today, which is stop building content that's designed just to, you know, get ranked number one. Right? Bill content in an-


... individualized and personal way that's going to attract that one person at that right time. So it's interesting to see that these trends that were huge even just five years ago, SEO was still a big topic. Um, people were still building, you know, pillar content strategies all around.

Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Just ranking number one on Google and now, today, that's like, the number one thing that most marketers are saying they would no longer like to focus on or- or put budget towards so, um, it's interesting to see how just what was really hot and in one day in marketing is just completely the opposite sign and thrown out the next day.

Yeah, I think it's interesting that you brought up SEO too because it's almost the opposite of what were just talking about of super personalized for that one person. It's the com- like, complete other end of the spectrum. Right? So I think that is just part of that pendulum kinda s- like you said, it swings either way pretty wildly depending on just what the hot trend that it is that year, that month and also just kinda what vendors are selling realistically. People are pushing different agendas.

Exactly. Yeah. And I think that that's why I do caution people to take everything with a grain of salt. Uh, you know, whichever vendor or influencer has the microphone right now, uh, you know-


... it could be thrown out within a year and, uh, just, you know, caution. Always make an informed decision on what you believe is best for your business. Nobody is really going to know better than you. So keep your ears, you know, glued to the ground, pay attention to trends and themes and be open to new ideas and ways of doing things but, uh, I do caution anybody from ever hyping on trends too much to where, uh, they start to have absolutes about what is the correct way to do marketing.

Mm-hmm. Yeah, I think only you know your audience or you should know your audience better than some influencer on LinkedIn.


So you hopefully can take that with a grain of salt and apply the best practices that you're learning from a bunch of different places. Um.


Sort of on that topic, we were talking earlier, you're pretty active on LinkedIn. I know a lot of your posts, like you said, get a ton of engagement. I'm kinda dipping my toes. I'm not the most active but trying to get there. So I'm curious. Just what is getting you excited about LinkedIn these days and kind of on the other end, what are you kinda getting a little bit turned off with on LinkedIn and maybe would like to see less of?

Yeah. Well, you know, I will say I'll start with the... I'm excited to see that I think people are starting to show up as more of their whole, authentic self on the LinkedIn platform.


And what's interesting is that I do think there's a trend where since this whole work from home digital environment, people are starting to feel like even in their own jobs, I mean, we're here in my office right now, right? That- that used to not be the norm.


It's by proxy just how we work, you're already starting to have a much more deeper understanding of who I am as a person and you're- I'm not just Corrina, career Corrina right now. Right? Like, you're getting more of my whole self. And since LinkedIn is really that digital, you know, workspace, that's also the trend we're seeing on the platform too. So I'm loving that because people are complex and we shouldn't have to just present ourselves in one, you know, one way just because we're working. Um, you know, the other thing that I'm hoping to see more of and absolutely encourage you to be posting more of 'cause this will benefit me, uh, from a selfish perspective but-


... there's not terribly many female voices represented in B2B or in tech and I'm really tired of it. And one of the reasons why I push myself to post and engage on this platform as much as I do is because I want to see other females have that opportunity as well. Um, you know, I think that we have so much value to add. I think that enough is kind of enough with us not having the same opportunities or the same platforms and so I- what I would love to see more of is just more diverse voices. It helps. Right? It helps us to stop-


We don't all need to speak the same language all the time. We can accept different points of views and- and different ways of doing things and so the way we get there though is to have an acceptance of having more different voices and I'm hopeful that we'll start to see more of a trend on LinkedIn as well for that.

Yeah, I'm definitely noticing a change and I mentioned that I, in the past, was not very active on LinkedIn and that's a big reason why. I just- I would log in and just see the same kind of maybe five, 10 faces over and over and I just felt like this isn't for me and-


I don't know if it was just this year or just me dipping my toes back into the platform but I've seen such a change and, obviously, it helps 'cause I'm interacting with you so I see your posts more and all that. But-


It... Yeah. It's been a really positive change and I think the more different voices we can get out there, the better and hopefully, we can-

I agree. We'll-

... start to change that ratio [laughs] a little bit.

Uh, well, and you're a part of it. Right? I mean, um, I'm grateful that on my podcast list, you know, I have a female voice like you that I can tune into and I do find that I want to tune into that and just having the option is, I think, really all-


... we're asking for a lot of the time. Just having that opportunity so I'm really grateful that, uh, you are, uh, a host on this podcast and that I had that opportunity to tune in and hear, uh, a voice like yours and other voices like yours.

Cool. And I appreciate you joining so it wouldn't be the-


... podcast it is without guests so that's really nice of you to say. But yeah. The guests make the podcast for sure.


Um, and then on kind of the flip side, what is it that you think... I mean, I already said that I used to log onto LinkedIn and see kind of the same five people over and over. Um, is there any other trends that you're seeing on LinkedIn that you're kind of just over or you wish we could kinda move on from?

[laughs] Oh, god. That's a good question. Um, you know, something I've also shared is how we get stuck in doing the same things for the sake of engagement. Right?


So I think-


... a lot of people were like, "Oh, nobody's doing video content on LinkedIn. I'm gonna do video content on LinkedIn." But all the video really is is you in a Zoom meeting with maybe some text overlay of what you're saying.


That's not video content.


I mean, sure. It is but that's not going to-


That's not the point of the medium of video content. Uh, so I think that I would love... This is LinkedIn specific. Um.


I would love to see us not fall trap to the algorithm in- as much as we do, uh, 'cause it just- it ends up muddying and making noise unnecessarily. So LinkedIn really is strong with text and I'm- I go to LinkedIn to- to read text threads and not-


... to say that video doesn't have a place for everybody on LinkedIn. It can but if you do video, maybe think beyond the- the generic video upload of-


... speaking to the camera with some text overlay.

Maybe just a little bit.


Yeah, I think you're right about the algorithm. People jump on it. They hear like, oh, video is hot right now so we have to make more videos. And I saw that actually on the last post of yours that we were talking about. A lot of people had video in the contract category and-


... I found that funny because we do a ton of video, obviously, at Chili Piper.


But I can- I just can't imagine contracting all of it out because our video team is so just in the weeds on the marketing team and so involved in what we're working on. So I just-


I feel like that's where you end up with those kinds of boring videos or is it someone sending them to like, some contractor to do for them and they just sit there-


... for an hour and make all of these videos probably in a batch and...

You're ri- you're so right. And I was actually just in a community forum where somebody was asking the community members, you know, who would you best recommend to go through and do timestamps to find out what were those key pieces of meaningful content from a podcast episode?


And my mind went to, you know, oh, well, what was the purpose? Well, it's probably- they probably landed somebody that they're hoping to close business with, uh, so go to the seller or the ABM lead. What do they know is most meaningful to getting that account or that person to wanna sign the deal? Um, so to your point right there, if they had just contracted that out, you know-


... it's very, very unlikely that that contractor would've known what was meaningful to that business so yeah.


I think people get confused with, uh, leading too much with getting something done for the sake of getting done, just execution and not a lot of forethought behind what would make that video content really successful.

Mm-hmm. Yeah, and then maybe you can use it elsewhere and not just as like, some kind of hack for the LinkedIn algorithm but it could actually be a good piece of content on your website or elsewhere.

Yeah. Absolutely.

Um, last kind of long-ish form question for you is I know, obviously, working with sales is super important to ABM's success. I'd love to hear if there's any mistakes you've made in the past or maybe just anything that you've learned working with sales that has maybe been not so positive but you were able to turn around into a learning experience?

Yeah. I think it was very obvious to me early on that... My background is actually in education so I'm very familiar with teaching, uh, the same piece of content in a variety of different ways to capture different learning styles. Um, and that's something I really carry with me in marketing and sales and I never assume that my training or my email or Slack message lands. And so what I do is I tend to over communicate, which I highly recommend every marketer do when they're working with sales. I've never heard a salesperson say, "Hey, you've reached out to me too many times with helpful information. Please stop."

[laughs] Unsubscribe from me.

Exactly. Right? [laughs]


Um, so I would say that especially with ABM too, I think a lot of times, sales is a missed component of forming who that target account list is, what the strategy is-


... what the content is. So also, my advice would be invite them early and often to collaborate with you. I mean, they- they have just as much of a stake in- in this, if not, more, sometimes than the marketer does of, you know, these accounts landing and getting these across the finish line. So the more often you can involve sales in your campaign planning or your new content creation or your account list strategy for the year, the better. You will see that you're gonna get that buy in from them much qui- much more quicker because you've already shown them that you've-


... vali- validate their experiences and their expectation. You provided them to the table to help make those a success.

Yeah. I think that's really solid advice, especially for ABM but I mean, any kind of marketing. If sales doesn't know what's happening, it's always a missed opportunity. So-

If they don't- if they don't even know where to find your content, that's a missed opportunity. Right? Like, you've spent all this hard time trying to get something out in the market. They're the ones, they're gonna be your biggest champions for shepherding that piece of content. So, uh, simple things like making sure they all know where to find a- a case study or a specific, uh, content piece is- is critical.


Boring, maybe but critical.

[laughs] Yeah. That actually just came up the other week. Um, a newer sales rep on the team pointed out that it took him like, I think, five clicks to find out where our customer stories are on the website. He was just poking around and we're gonna probably re-change all of our menu on the site and put customers just front and center because it was so hard to find [laughs] before.

What a good piece of advice too.

But we're just so close to it. Right? Yeah.

That's right.

We're just too close.

That's right.


I think, too, that's an excellent point that you guys hel- uh, made that available and listened to them and are now acting upon that but if they can't find it, uh, it's so much harder for your prospects to find it and sales is so close to them at any given point. So-


Yeah. Keep- keeping that- that- that on, like, always listening with your sales team, it is critical.

Yeah. For sure. Great. So just a couple quick fire questions to wrap up our chat. First one, is there another marketer that you follow that our listeners should go check out? Maybe give them a follow.

Yes. Liam Moroney. He is a fantastic marketer, incredibly seasoned around all things demand generation. Uh.


He has his own podcast as well called Marketing Revisited and he just does a really excellent job at, uh, breaking down very complex topics and, uh, he's incredibly inclusive as a marketer as well. So he's definitely somebody I would recommend you check out.

Great. Yeah, I've seen his name come up a bunch lately. I wonder if it's from commenting on your posts. But [laughs] um-


Definitely someone that we should all go check out. And what's an under the radar, it could be a channel or a tactic, that your team is loving right now?

Yeah. So I- I do think that that UserGems data signal is a really big one. Um, I even hesitate to share it out because it's, uh, somewhat-


... of a best kept secret, I feel like, right now. Um.


But, again, it's their capabilities of being able to track many different data signals, so LinkedIn, sales navigator, your own data about, you know, MPS scores, etcetera and then following them around and surfacing that information, uh, in your CRM is, uh, critical. And then generally, too, I just think, uh, we're still under utilizing communities and forums and so things like, Reddit and Quora. Those are- there's so much, especially for sales professionals. There's so much content and questions being asked in those forums and just showing up with helpful content that I'm sure most vendors have. Um.


In a way that's not spammy. So, you know, don't just drop in your bitly link here but actually helping-

Yeah, especially on Reddit. [laughs] You'll skewered for that. [laughs]

Yes. Oh, oh, yes. Yes, you will. But yeah, just offering up and digesting or distilling down, I should say, that- that information in your content piece and putting it in those forums, that builds up so much trust and credibility and you'd be surprised at the amount of eyes that you're- you're getting on that.

And lastly, where can we go to follow you and find out more about you?

Yeah. I am very active on LinkedIn, Corrina Owens.


C-O-R-R-I-N-A. Very commonly misspelled so that's the only reason why I [laughs] spelled that out.


And then, um, I'm also experimenting with TikTok. Um, so you can also find me on there @featuring_corrina.

Great. And we'll put those links in the show notes for anyone who wants to give Corrina a follow. Thanks so much, Corrina, for your time.

Thank you, Tara. So appreciate it.

Great. And thanks, everyone, for listening. I'll see you back here in two weeks for a brand new episode.