Strategic Overlays and the Future of ABM
ABM/ABX 12.08.2023

Strategic Overlays and the Future of ABM

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In this episode of Sunny Side Up, Corrine Kasman interviews Helana Zhang on her role in shaping Atlassian’s ABM strategy. Helena delves into her career from the semiconductor industry to leading Atlassian’s global ABM team. Helena shares her key strategies, such as aligning marketing with sales goals and focusing on top-tier enterprise accounts. She highlights the significance of differentiating between one-to-one and one-to-few strategies, particularly for global accounts with complex structures. Helena emphasises the importance of detailed documentation and goal-setting for effective collaboration across teams and also discusses integrating events into ABM strategies and balancing operational and strategic roles.


About the Guest

Helana is a seasoned enterprise marketer and is currently the Head of Global Account-based Marketing at Atlassian. She has over a decade of experience in ABM, demand generation, and event marketing roles. Prior to Atlassian, Helana led demand gen and campaigns teams at Zuora, Optimizely, and Cisco Meraki, but began her career in the semiconductor space at Texas Instruments in Dallas. Outside of work, Helana enjoys hiking and running around Marin County and chasing around her two-year-old daughter.

Connect with Helena Zhang

Key Takeaways

  • Recognise the importance of clearly defining roles within a team, as Helena does with strategists, campaign managers, and others on the ABM team.
  • Marketing efforts must be closely aligned with sales goals, as seen in the strategists’ role of owning pipeline numbers and aligning with sales.
  • Pay attention to specific areas like top-of-funnel and executive journey marketing to reach the right audience.
  • Deepen engagement with key accounts by developing in-depth strategies for top-tier enterprise accounts.
  • Target CXO and Top-of-Funnel Marketing: Allocate dedicated resources to these areas, emphasising analytics and conversion rates.
  • Shift from broad marketing influence metrics to detailed milestone-based assessments.
  • Consider the entire journey from deal acceleration to customer loyalty and adoption.
  • Coordinate with sales teams to ensure marketing efforts complement sales strategies, particularly in competitive or coexistent environments.
  • Manage the trade-offs between one-to-one and one-to-few campaigns, allocating resources effectively.
  • Use events as opportunities for high-touch, personalised engagement with key decision-makers.
  • Document processes and playbooks diligently to ensure clarity and accountability.
  • Clearly define the goals of collaboration in initial conversations with new teams.


“We really have to start to shift that narrative around ABM to focus more deeply on the milestones that we are delivering in each campaign.” – Helana Zhang

Highlights from the Episode

You have a strong background in B2B marketing, especially in scaling demand generation programs globally, developing teams, and aligning marketing efforts with company growth and revenue. Please give our listeners an insight into your professional journey.

Helena embarked on her professional journey in the semiconductor space, embracing varied roles in media relations, traditional marketing, and events marketing. Her career took a significant turn when she joined Cisco Meraki in San Francisco, transitioning to a role emphasising demand generation and partner marketing for the APAC region. This marked a pivotal moment, broadening her responsibilities on a global scale and becoming a career highlight. Her subsequent experiences at Optimizely, Zora, and Elasi further diversified her expertise. Helena’s strategic decision to join Elasi’s SMB demand generation team demonstrated her commitment to developing new skills in uncharted territories. This foresight and adaptability eventually led her back to the enterprise side, where she now leads the global ABM team at Atlassian.

Can you explain the role and purpose of overlay functions in your team, their significance, and how they complement your ABM strategy?

Understanding and clearly defining team roles, from strategists to campaign managers, is crucial for effective collaboration. Recognising and addressing the challenges in dedicating sufficient resources to specific functions, like top-of-funnel marketing and executive engagement is important. Helena’s approach underlines the importance of aligning marketing strategies with sales objectives and continually evaluating and adapting tactics to ensure they target the right audience. For those in marketing, it’s vital to understand the nuances of your team’s structure and to seek opportunities for growth and deeper engagement in your domain.

Considering the current learnings and resource constraints, do you anticipate significant changes or evolutions in your team’s approach in 2024?

Focusing on deepening engagement with top-tier enterprise accounts, Helena’s team aims to refine their one-to-one ABM approach, moving beyond their current one-to-few strategy. They’re restructuring roles to facilitate this deeper focus and developing targeted strategies for CXO executive journeys and global top-of-funnel marketing. A crucial aspect of their evolution is redefining how they measure and communicate the impact of ABM, moving towards a more detailed analysis of campaign milestones rather than broad marketing influence metrics. This shift aims to clarify the team’s contribution to the sales process, emphasising collaboration over credit.

How do you differentiate between one-to-one and one-to-few strategies in your go-to-market campaigns?

Helena distinguishes between one-to-one and one-to-few strategies, emphasising tailored campaigns for market segments and accounts. Helena discusses the challenges of balancing these strategies, particularly in global accounts with complex structures and varying needs. She highlights the importance of aligning with sales strategies, whether it’s coexistence with competitors or direct competition.

How do you fit events into your broader ABM strategy? Can you share how you partner with your field marketing or event marketing teams today? 

Helena adeptly manages collaborations with field marketing and corporate events teams, focusing on creating bespoke experiences for key accounts at various events. A deep understanding of the importance of personalised engagement in ABM characterises her approach. Helena also tackles the operational challenges of Atlassian’s lack of regional marketing teams. While this situation places additional logistical responsibilities on her team, it fosters a closer relationship with sales teams and a richer understanding of account-specific needs. 

How do you ensure effective collaboration between marketing and other go-to-market functions to drive executive engagement, especially within larger enterprises, and what strategies have you found successful in this context?

Helena stresses the importance of detailed documentation, utilising tools like Confluence to keep track of processes and maintain accountability. Helena also highlights the effectiveness of setting clear goals at the start of meetings to align team efforts and ensure all objectives are met. Her approach involves starting with successful collaboration with one team and gradually integrating more teams, emphasising simplicity and focus in developing new programs or relationships.

Good reads: Is there a book, blog, newsletter, website, or video that you would recommend to our listeners?

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