Top Takeaways from the 2019 High Alpha Marketing Flight School

Design by Eric Grzeskowiak

On Thursday, January 17th, we hosted the first High Alpha Flight School of 2019. Marketing Flight School brought together 30+ leaders from across our portfolio to Indianapolis for a day of learning and networking hosted at VisonLoft. We kicked off the day unveiling our 2019 Flight School brand — a wonderful coincidence that the marketing crew got the first look — and dove into a jam-packed day of content. Below are some of the top takeaways from the day:

Scaling Lead Gen: 5 Lessons in 5 Years

Liz Cain, Partner at OpenView Venture Partners, kicked-off the day as the first session speaker with contagious energy. Liz shared her top five lessons from leading the lead generation arm at NetSuite, laying out practical takeaways for our companies as teams expand and marketing becomes responsible for SDR teams. Her five lessons included:

  1. You can learn from your peers. When managing BDRs/SDRs for the first time, ask those that have done it before. Ask for feedback and best practices for specializing, training, and aligning your new team to avoid common mistakes early on.
  2. Never stop hiring. Liz shared “It is better to spend one hour a week interviewing, than 40 a week when you are desperate”. Establish a consistent interview process, coach management on what you are looking for on the team, and get comfortable firing folks that aren’t the right fit. Understanding that hiring should be continuous will allow your team to grow with your vision.
  3. Retention is everything. Lay out clear guidelines for what needs to be done to move up. If you certify everything and have a clear outline, there will be no question when team members are ready for the next level. Train at every moment and train the trainer to ensure success as your team moves upward.
  4. Align at all levels. Implement shared incentive plans where everyone is part of revenue generation. Structure your communication to ensure all team members get regular face time with aligned teams and have all team members share milestones & plan next steps.
  5. Plan for BIG. Make sure what you’re doing today makes sense for the big, long-term company goals. Some examples of this include focusing hard on hiring the right people, being strategic about your decision making in your team, and holding back from implementing technology too soon.

Marketing Career Journeys

Amanda Leet, former VP of Marketing for ExactTarget and Salesforce, sat down with High Alpha Partner, Kristian Andersen, to chat all about her unique career journey into marketing leadership.

Amanda has moved through a variety of unique roles and spent time in San Francisco and Indianapolis. She had fantastic reminders applicable to any career stage. Some of my favorites included:

Don’t get set on what you are (in terms of role). Having a holistic view of the business make you a better professional.

As a marketer, you are a storyteller professionally, so make sure you know your story.

What do you uniquely do to set you up for success now & later? Every interaction builds your personal brand — what will be your legacy?

Understand values vs. directives. Values can be buzzwords, directives help you make decisions.

Operationalizing ABM

The second half of the day began with Justin Keller, VP of Marketing at Sigstr, breaking down how his team began implementing Account Based Marketing into their strategy over the course of one year.

Start with one account. Do everything you can to land one account. Spend time finding the weaknesses of the competitors. Perfect the language around the benefits you offer.

After the Sigstr team targeted one account and did not land it, they moved forward with some vital takeaways:

  • Sales and marketing alignment is vital
  • Personalized content makes an impact
  • Engaging the right individuals is more important than the account

Next, the Sigstr team expanded their ABM strategy from one account to just a few. As they refined their strategy they learned even more:

  • The Ideal Customer Profile makes sense to you, but not everyone in the office. It may seem obvious, but refer back to it often.
  • Personalization at scale is hard but worth it. Show the value as you add accounts so folks get behind this strategy.
  • Make sure sales knows how to treat ABM leads (they are different than inbound leads).

As the number of accounts scaled from a few to many, Justin shared some final takeaways:

  • Implementing ABM is a long and hard process.
  • Marketing Ops is a valuable part of the team!
  • Budget will look radically different with an ABM strategy.
  • You can’t prescribe a playbook.

And finally….

ABM is more than Account Based Marketing it’s Relationship Based Marketing! The focus is moving from accounts to people for 100% account alignment.

Fireside Chat with Ryan Bonnici

To close out the day, High Alpha Director of Marketing, Drew Beechler, sat down with G2 Crowd’s CMO, Ryan Bonnici.

Ryan comes to the table with experience beyond his years and was especially passionate at Flight School about diving into a discussion around content marketing. Sigstr’s resident content guru, Brad Beutler, shared:

“I Loved hearing from Ryan Bonnici on how he thinks about demand, brand, and building a technically sound content program. His team at G2 Crowd is doing some really cool things so it was super interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look directly from Ryan.

Ryan shared that the goal of content marketing should be to win hearts and minds. Thought leadership is all about winning minds — getting folks to your website. The content doesn’t have to be revolutionary if it accomplishes the goal its supposed to. “State of XYZ” or report-style pieces are about winning hearts — making people get your industry, product, solution etc…

When writing a blog post, Ryan suggested the importance of knowing the “why” behind your writing. Find the top of funnel topics to drive organic traffic. Validate the demand behind a topic instead of just filling a post with keywords you believe will drive traffic. Just writing a blog alone isn’t going to be a huge win. Blogs alone have a <1% conversion rate to subscribers. Consider other tools to get that content in front of folks.

“I love being at Flight School because I leave thinking differently about my job. Liz encouraged us to think more intentionally about people development, Justin inspired us to build meaningful relationships with our prospects, and Ryan sparked ideas for more creative marketing strategies. I know that the conversations that started in Flight School will help us do better work in 2019.” — Ben Battaglia, Marketing Manger, Lessonly

Overall, our first Flight School of the new year was a success. You can follow High Alpha or my personal account on Twitter to stay up-to-date on more Flight School recaps in the future. Special thanks to VibenomicsKaitlyn Sawin for her contributions to this post.

Flight Schools are an exclusive opportunity for our portfolio companies to come together to share learning and collaboration between companies, fully leveraging the benefits of the High Alpha network.

Look out for more High Alpha Flight Schools in 2019. In the meantime, you can learn more about High Alpha here or learn more about current job opportunities at High Alpha and our portfolio companies.


High Alpha is a venture studio pioneering a new model for entrepreneurship that unites company building and venture capital. To learn more, visit highalpha.com or subscribe to our newsletter.