One of the most repeated sentiments I’ve heard during “this bear market” is that crypto companies, protocols, and DAOs are all a lot more cautious with their spending than they were a couple of years ago.
The arteries through which the VC and retail money gravy trains flow have clogged. Those of us who have jobs want to hold on to them as long as we can, hopefully until the next “bull run.”
This baffles me. I spent a few months in 2021 yield farming 30,000% APY (3,3) shitcoins until I couldn’t sleep at night because clearly, I was just a simpleton gambling my life savings away.
Surely some people had been around longer than me, were smarter than I was, who knew this was a state of Euphoria bound to collapse into Despair.
These scions of good sense were surely having a bit of fun while times were good, but also saving their seedstock for the next Crypto Winter™️.
And yet here we are, organizations large and small, filled with some of the world’s most intelligent and risk-tolerant people, are noticeably as tight-fisted as the rest of us.
While I wouldn’t expect anyone with a couple of intellectual and financial cents to toss around USDC like it’s ‘21, I thought we’d see a bit more counter-trading the narrative in an industry known for high amplitude cycling.
On the bright side, this presents an opportunity for those of us who want to take it.
- Bears are for building
- What is Account Based Marketing?
- How to Build an ABM Pilot: Accounts, Tiers, and Contacts
- How to Build an ABM Pilot: Research + Journey
- Where does ABM fit in the web3 landscape?
- ABM Example 1: Dune
- ABM Example 2: Blockworks
- ABM Example 3: Ethena
Bears are for building
Bears are for building, but building what? Let’s lay down some new lines of code, sure. What code and why?
I think a lot of participants in this market space over index on smart people epiphanying their way to the next great innovation, and that this innovation will keep them alive and help them thrive once we’ve done enough diet and exercise to unclog the veins through which our sweet sweet liquidity will once again flow.
SaaS figured out a long time ago (like 1.5 whole decades) that Lean Startup and Customer Discovery were the rituals that lead to 10x Exit.
The Business Model is the Product, however, is a topic for another time.
For today, my speculation is that Business Development is the name of the game for the “non-technical” among us. While the coders code, their business partners partner.
While there are still quite a handful of on-chainers around, ready to slush funds into the next 100x hopeful, there won’t be floods of new users from this group for most companies and protocols.
If you’re already of size, there are only marginal gains at best.
If you’re not of size, you’ve got to come in hot with a real innovation and/or spicey narrative (and/or a killer referral program) to unseat TVL from its current safe havens and big bets into your “next great ponzi.”
Friend.Tech, Pepe, Unibot.
So where does “growth” come from if you’re already playing those cards to the best of your ability?
Find potential allies and customers, start building the kind of relationships that can bring fresh cash in - sooner and later.
With this in mind, I recently dove into some material on Account Based Marketing, which is a sales meets marketing technique for landing new business, but also has applications along business development lines as well.
Let’s take a look at what ABM is, how it maps to web3, and a couple of examples of how it could be deployed in blockchain organizations.
What is Account Based Marketing?
The definition of Account Based Marketing offered in said course is:
“A sustained, coordinated, strategic approach to identifying, engaging, closing, and growing the accounts that we know we should win.”
Bonus points for crafting a genus-differentia definition; most people don’t know these are the only valid definitions, but I digress into high philosophy.
Steve breaks the parts down for us too, for which I assign him more bonus points:
- Sustained - ABM takes time, it’s not a couple of tweets here, zoom call or two there kind of system.
- Coordinated - sales, marketing, and exec leadership all need to be involved, this is a blend of sales and marketing and won’t work if those teams aren’t all bought in.
- Strategic - it’s mid-range, 2+ steps ahead work, not just throw a thing over, gut instinct whether you won or lost.
- Identifying - selecting the right accounts is essential to the approach.
- Engaging - this isn’t a “brand building” exercise or a high stakes ad -> landing page -> email list -> buy approach. We use all these tactics to build real interactions, real relationships that lead to real business-won.
- Closing - not just lead gen, we are aiming for dollars in the bank at the end.
- Growing - can (and should!) be applied to extending/expanding existing accounts too.
- Accounts - B2B work isn’t one-to-one, there are always multiple people involved in the buying decision either directly or indirectly. We’re building relationships with them all, not just the first point of contact who accepts our LinkedIn connection request.
- Should Win - Having a broad inbound net that brings business to you is great. Having outbound playbooks that grab more market share is good too. But ABM is spear fishing, identify your white whales, sail straight for them, thoughtfully but with the biggest spears you can find.
Account Based Marketing is also
Some implications of that core definition are that ABM is also multi-threaded. The conversation with “an account” is with all of the stakeholders you can engage at once. Not just a single point of contact, but their teammates, their bosses, their grandmother if she’ll give him that pat on the back he wants in order to feel good about buying your product.
It’s also multi-touch and multi-channel. Not just one display ad or a deluge of them. Not just a handshake at a conference or a Zoom call ending with “wen buy?” You do it all. The goal is the relationship, then the sale, so meet them in person, connect on LinkedIn, invite them to webinars, target their office with your display ads, send them a Lego set to give to their kid.
And it’s highly targeted. If your team is 5 people and one BD guy, then maybe you have 3 target accounts. If you’re working in a mid-sized org maybe it’s 100. Either way, we’re not just broadcasting on channels that we generally think or know have the attention of the people who match our buyer personas.
We pick specific names of companies, find the specific people we want to talk to at those companies, then we start running plays.
Three levels of Account
The consultancy that claims responsibility for coining the term “Account Based Marketing” in 2003 suggests there are 3 levels of account in a full-fledged ABM operation.
According to the above graphic this distinction was driven by “the need to scale” which, as something of a consultant myself I translate to “we’re doing great with this ABM thing, how can we call more things ABM so we can claim those are also reasons to pay us.”
Nevertheless, I do like a well-labeled triangle diagram and the dark carnation pink chosen for the base layer is especially delightful.
So I’ll extend them some trust.
Essentially at the peak of the triangle, you have one layer of ABM where you’re investing a very high amount of effort in a relatively small number of accounts.
At the second level, you choose a small number of target segments in which to cluster accounts that you’ll craft custom strategies and messaging for, but we’re not sending the kids legos at this level.
The last level is described as “one to many” and while I can imagine a large organization where there are some nuances between “One to Many Account Based Marketing” and simply “Marketing” I think this is a small set of companies and for most of us it’s likely to be a distraction in the way of actually implement ABM for (fun and) profit.
Below is some data from ITSMA that Steve shared. It’s helpful for perspective but also confirms my suspicions that 1. the third level might be useful for some organizations and 2. dark carnation pink may have world transformative powers:
The broad strokes outline of an Account Based Marketing program is as follows:
- Identify target accounts.
- Identify the decision-makers, influencers, and blockers for whatever deal you’re looking to strike within those accounts.
- Develop account-specific insights to locate opportunities and relationship-building activities.
- Build and test your multi-channel, multi-touch engagement plays and playbooks.
Step 1 can and should be done upfront, the last 3 will go through a lot of iteration as you chase down your account-level wins.
Before committing to building a whole ABM department and multi-year timelines around these activities, Steve (smartly) recommends you first conduct a pilot to learn fast and prove there’s value in these waters for you and your team.
The ABM Pilot
Like all good test projects, your ABM pilot should help maximize learning what it takes to succeed with ABM while minimizing the risk you’ll get fired for having suggested resources be spent on a massive failure (should it come to that).
You want to start big enough that the wins you get will be meaningful to your org and build internal stakeholder trust while being small enough to not tank the company and your career.
This isn’t a generational wealth play you just want to feed su familia.
Be very focused; too broad with this and you’ll just end up marketing and not generate any meaningful results. Do things that are inefficient and unscalable, it’s learn fast and get traction inch by inch time.
And have clear objectives and measures that you constantly communicate about to everyone involved so there’s no wondering what’s happening or why we haven’t generated millions yet.
What are your objectives?
Depending on your org objectives could include:
- New customers
- Improving close rate, velocity, deal size of existing opportunities
- Expanding product or service current customers
- Improving retention
- Increasing referrals
- Closing strategic customers (new industries, new company size, new company time)
- Developing strategic partnerships (BD as the endpoint)
With these in mind, it’s time to start building your target accounts list.
Choosing the right accounts
Your “ideal account profile” should be optimized for moving meaningful needles in your business.
Don’t just average existing customers or decide you want to work with only the biggest and best companies. More of the former almost certainly leads to boring results that will feel like a failure.
Concentrating on the latter will likely lead to floundering because you’re not the only one who’s chasing the big money and until you learn how to outcompete you’re going to end up like the average player who chases whales with desire, not strategy and skill.
This end involves drowning in the depths of the cold and unforgiving North Atlantic. And it’s thunderstorming. Your mother still doesn’t love you enough and your father still won’t respect you. Sure, the crabs will eat well tonight but you can be more than crab food!
How many accounts should you go after? How do you decide who makes the list and who’s too big/small for you?
A few factors to consider:
- Deal size - again, big enough to matter, small enough you’re not just dreaming.
- Strategic importance - especially for BD; will this account help you get a foothold in a new sector or unlock meaningful doors outside of the cash flow it may or may not directly generate?
- Current perception of your org - what conversations will be easy for you to start? Where will you need to work harder on messaging or starting conversations?
- Internal factors - what’s your budget? How big is the team working on this? How much alignment do you have in pursuing the pilot?
- Size/complexity of the target - does “account” mean two contacts? 20? What can you manage?
- Complexity of solution - will getting to your endpoint require a lot of education and relationship building? Is the value to your target account fairly obvious so the case just needs to be made over time?
- Competitive environment - do we want to take market share directly from competitors vs. closing accounts that don’t currently use a competing solution?
With a list of target accounts in hand, let’s separate them out into those top two layers of our pyramid, Strategic and Lite.
As mentioned above, I think most protocols and companies can benefit from implementing the top two pyramid segments (no dark carnation pink for you!). There are a handful of large blockchain-related companies with big enough markets in Tradfi that the bottom layer of many-to-many ABM might be valid.
However, I think even for them, an ABM pilot should be limited at most to the top two segments with X number of one-to-one accounts and 2-3 clusters broader reach accounts for the sake of focus.
Even for the largest players that are in-industry focused like, say, Alchemy, there just aren’t a ton of companies in the space as a whole at the moment and there’s a good amount of churn with protocols coming and going every week.
So I’m not sure if there’s much benefit in doing the work to generate a list of names/logos to target broadly vs. simply “marketing.”
Now, to stratify accounts, pick our select set of 1-1 targets, our clusters, and the accounts that go into those clusters… how do we do that?
Gates, Weights, and Clusters
Our fearless course leader Steve Watt suggests using “gates” - pass/fail criteria - and “weights” - prioritization criteria - to filter through our accounts.
Gates tell us whether companies go in one of our tiers or move off our list. Weights tell us which accounts are top priority within tiers.
The operative question underlying all of this is “how much capacity do we have at each tier?”
As we saw in the above “Three Types of ABM” Triangle diagram, among companies surveyed the median number of high focus 1-to-1 accounts is 13, and tier 2 clustered accounts is 50.
I’m betting the companies surveyed are all mid-to-enterprise-sized shops, with large, globe-spanning target markets and mature ABM practices.
Translation - those figures are almost certainly way too large for a pilot in a blockchain company to start with.
You’ll have to do some thinking and hypothesizing based on your company size, the amount of budget and team resources you have for the pilot, and your level of executive buy-in to pick your numbers.
My instinct is at least 3-5 Tier 1 accounts and 2-3 clusters of 5-10 accounts each is probably a good starting point re: big enough to matter but small enough to not die by wheel spinning.
Now, for gates and weights, here are some criteria to think about; whether these are gates or weights depends on your org. You should use your sales and marketing team’s insights along with external data to do your decision-making.
- About the Company
- Firmographics (size, industry, vertical, geolocation, etc)
- Technographics (what kinds of technology do they need, use)
- Market position (leader, mid-market, newcomer)
- Present and past usage of products/services like yours
- Org structure
- Our Perception of Them
- Is there an opportunity to do great work
- Prestige value in having their logo on our list
- Likelihood to retain and grow them as clients
- Culture & people (are they cool/fun to work with, mission/values aligned)
- What They’re Doing
- Intent (are they actively in the market for what we offer)
- Behavior (what kinds of conferences are they going to, what news and updates are they sharing, what's their company working on)
- Observable marketing outputs (how are they positioning themselves, working to grow their own market share)
- Our Path to Them
- Relationship proximity (do we know people who know them)
- Engagement (are they already connected to/engaged with us)
Related to your gates and weights are your tier two clusters. Knowing how many of these you have, and how they bucket accounts is needed to do your stratification.
A couple of obvious ways to cluster accounts is by Industry - e.g. Hedge funds and Node Providers.
Or by geography: EMEA, APAC, NA.
The endpoint here is to deploy strategies and content that build relationships with these groups, so your clusters should create leverage and help with decision-making along these lines.
While APAC might be a useful cluster as it could inform the decision to create Mandarin-language content, this may or may not be the most important factor in your clustering.
Likewise, Hedge Funds have different goals and jargon than Node providers, but perhaps some overlaps make this distinction less important.
I’m a big fan of Jobs to be Done and more specifically the Value Proposition Canvas because these focus us on how we’re solving problems for our target customers rather than demographic-style data that might help with channel identification but does little to help us craft messaging or build products and relationships that matter to the people we can serve.
So if you’re building yet another proof-of-stake chain you could cluster by “wants to earn a return on capital” and “wants to work with the most cutting edge technology” to filter Hedgies and Node Pros into one cluster, Open Source dev communities and payments companies with R&D budgets into another.
Once you have your accounts listed and stratified, it’s time to identify contacts within those accounts.
Again, your capacity and number of accounts as well as the tier of account factor into how much depth you get into here.
For your tier 1s, you’ll want to map as many relevant contacts as you can find, anyone who might be a decision-maker, stakeholder, blocker, or champion.
For your tier 2s, you’ll want at least a few contacts identified but perhaps not all the relevant ones, or on the opposite end of the spectrum or maybe you hire someone to get you a lot of contacts at the target account and you’ll let them filter themselves down to the relevant ones as you iterate your ABM.
Riffing on that last point, if you have CRM data already now’s a great time to clean that up to see who you already know at which accounts.
For your high-value accounts, lean into quality and spend a lot of time and attention building those contact lists by hand.
For your tier twos it’s a bit of scale, hire someone to do some scraping for you or spend less time internally identifying contacts.
How to Build an ABM Pilot: Research + Journey
Now that you have your list of Pilot accounts and contacts identified, stratified, and clustered, it’s time to research those accounts and outline the journey you’ll take them on to get to “account won.”
Are we building personas?
At the end of the research process, you’ll want two broad kinds of outputs: some sort of research report, document, or dashboard and a corresponding buyer (partner) journey map.
The former is a living artifact that captures your initial research in an easy-to-refer-to-and-modify format. Maybe it’s a Notion page or notebook, maybe it’s an organizational structure inside of your CRM or a set of Google docs and folders.
Likewise, the journey map is a verbal or visual document that shows your initial strategies and playbooks for making contact, building relationships, and “closing” your target accounts - which is then refined as you put it into action and learn more about what works and what doesn’t.
For your 1-1 accounts, the “research report” isn’t abstracted like a Customer Persona is. It contains actual facts and specific details about the companies and contacts you’re connecting with.
Likewise, you should start with a journey map for the account as a whole, but at scale you might even plot out paths for individual contacts (schedule phone calls, meet them at specific conferences, send them specific messages).
For tier 2, cluster-level personas strike a good balance between breadth and specificity.
Research and planning for Tier 1 Accounts
For your top-tier accounts, it’s time to go deep. Here are a few research questions and activities to build the specific account-level knowledge that will help you craft a highly effective buyer journey and develop strong relationships:
- What are their top priorities for the next 1-3 years?
- How and why are they performing as they are compared to competitors?
- Do SWOT from their perspective - where do you fit into that?
- What tools/tech do they use - where do you fit in?
- What are the execs saying in the press and at conferences?
- What’s their company structure (LOBs, geo, etc.)?
- Who are their stakeholders, influencers, and blockers regarding our relationship?
- What are their key new hires/exits, what roles are they hiring for?
- Who’s actively speaking about and following them on social media?
- What’s your team’s social proximity (went to the same schools, care about the same causes and interests, share former employers or other in common relationships)
Research and planning for Tier 2 Accounts
Here we’re doing cluster-level research and can bring in the aforementioned Value Proposition Canvas to help capture our cluster-wide knowledge and assumptions.
A few of the questions you might want to answer here:
- What are the key challenges impacting this cluster as a whole?
- What are the biggest threats they face?
- What are the biggest opportunities?
- What tools/tech do they tend to use - how do you fit in?
- Do they have a common behemoth competitor?
- What roles/titles tend to be champions, decision-makers, blockers for us?
With your account and cluster-level research in hand, you’ll need to craft buyer or, in the case of “ABM for BD”, partner journeys to map out your initial strategies and assumptions for leading them from your current stage of relationship to your endpoint.
This isn’t inbound marketing, so you have to earn their attention, engagement, and trust.
And it’s not outbound sales or advertising, so you’ll need to get more clever/strategic than interruption and persistent outreach.
Our boy Steve* shared the following current-and-future state analysis questions to help us frame the work by understanding where our target accounts are now to where we want them to be.
*Note: Steve is actually a seasoned professional and clearly an adult.
Where are we with them today?
- They are customers and we have significant share of wallet
- Or a small share
- They’ve been customers but don’t appreciate where we’re headed
- They’ve heard of us but don’t really understand what we do/offer
- They’ve heard of us but know our old product
- They don’t know us but know our competitors
- They’ve never heard of our category
Where are we going in the near term?
- We want to communicate that we’re just as relevant going forward as we have been
- We want them to use us in a larger way
- We want to expand beyond the one region, LOB, use case
- We want to get on their radar and into consideration with key leadership
- We want to demo for as many people as possible to build upward pressure
- We want to showcase our new product
- We want to get a small pilot going
- We want them to visit our booth at a conference
- We want to begin building a relationship between sales and their decision-makers
How about the long term?
- We want to capture most or all of their spend in this category as a core tool/provider
- We want to become a true partner and advisor, not just a vendor
- This is a one-and-done, not land-and-expand game; grab as many new accounts as possible
- This is defensive; if we don’t deepen or broaden we’ll get eaten by a current or future competitor
Some other questions to ask yourself more broadly about your Tier 1 accounts and clusters
- How does your solution map to your targets’ priorities?
- Where are we with them today?
- Where can we go in 1-3 years?
- What’s in the way?
- What’s the order of operations?
- How do we know we’re making progress?
The From -> To journey is the canvas on which you paint channels, messages, content, campaigns, and metrics.
These are organized into Plays, not silver bullets. Account Based Marketing isn’t a one-off tactic to show an ad to some people at a company or go talk to them once at their conference booth.
We also don’t optimize for these things in isolation.
You might run IP-targeted ads, along with sending a direct mailer gift (Steve sent a bunch of investment bank guys little model Ferraris in one of the CXL course examples), along with a demo + follow-up email sequence.
But we’re not focused on optimizing ad clicks or the number of follow-up emails opened - the optimization point is our end objective.
For example, perhaps no one clicks on our IP target display ads, but accounts that we show ads to book more demo calls than ones that don’t so it helps achieve the end goal.
Or maybe we mail out handwritten webinar invites. We don’t see the specific referral links we included used very much but overall webinars that had handwritten invites sent see greater attendance than ones that don’t - fine, we won, no need to hound our analytics guys about the stats being off or wishing we’d had better source tracking.
Where does ABM fit in the web3 landscape?
If this blog post were part of an Account Based Marketing play my target cluster would be “companies and protocols in the blockchain industry.”
This could use a lot of refinement as a cluster but is good enough for an introduction to this new section, one that’s all about sharing a couple of high-level thoughts about ABM as it applies to web3.
From the conversations, research, and work I’ve been doing the past year, I think two broad categories of crypto organization can benefit from ABM.
The first is the handful of software solution and service providers who have something of value to offer companies that still have cash - namely Tradfi players or big infrastructure like node providers or L1/L2s.
Here you should already have some sort of sales or “BD” or “GTM” team that’s driving revenue (otherwise you’re probably already dead and not reading this RIP kings). For you, ABM certainly has applications in reorienting your strategy and tactics on the sales and marketing side.
If you’re a DeFi protocol, DAO, or other retail-user-facing product company, you might have market share to grow into at the moment. But the bigger prize is getting yourself set up to capture an outsized share of the attention, usage, and TVL that comes in the perpetually impending, ever-ephemeral “next bull run” (Soon™️).
Assuming I’m correct in my analysis/instincts, the move for you is to deploy ABM to build relationships with complementary companies, DAOs, protocols, and base chains now to build reputation, technological, and distribution advantages that will help you later.
With this in mind, let’s 👏 do 👏 examples 👏.
ABM Example 1: Dune
Dune is one of crypto’s favorite unicorns and leader in the “crypto data provider” space. They’ve got great brand recognition, having achieved fame thanks to swaths of Dune Dashboards embedded in viral threads during and after the 2021 bull run.
While that foundation provides Dune with a great brand, community, and nice pile of cash to leverage, going forward their mission to “make crypto data” accessible combined with their infrastructure product composed of abstracted data sets, roll your own queries, and API access implies movement into B2B is their future.
As a general-purpose piece of blockchain infrastructure, Dune sits somewhere between Google Big Query or node providers and more specialized products like Nansen or Amberdata.
The former (Big Query/node providers) allow customers to ingest raw blockchain data which they warehouse and transform as they see fit - and at their cost.
The latter (Nansen, Amberdata et al) are geared toward specific use cases like specialized metrics and dashboards or piping marginally abstracted data into their client’s internal databases for proprietary use.
This leaves an open space for Dune to own in builder enablement; “incorporate on-chain data into your products, we’ll do the heavy lift of data management and transformation.”
There’s likewise a space on the data analysis front - some teams will want public and private charting, more bespoke than a Nansen with less of a lift than raw data from nodes.
- their brand recognition,
- community (useful for getting help with your querying and for marketing support),
- the specific niche in which their datasets sit,
- fairly recent, significant raise,
I think the best move for Dune is to concentrate on owning the blockchain data space, inside the industry.
They should have enough capital to ride out the next couple of years of bear market to grow their ARR as best as they can with the customers that still have the cash to pay them inside the industry.
And the relationship building, sales process, and ability to provide a real business solution will be the lightest lift when concentrating on the current web3 landscape.
If this is the case, the game is one part concentration on building their codebase and infra from a user-first perspective; not “this seems cool, let’s build it” but “this is what our evangelists and early adopters are telling us they need to use our product more.”
And one part ensuring they’re right in the middle of pipelines for new customers that might come through now (we’re still seeing a trickle of raises coming in) and in the future.
Let’s look at a few key accounts and clusters it might make sense for Dune to get after.
Tier 1 Accounts
Coinbase’s L2 is in front-runner position to capture outsized market share next bull run - and even before.
Plus EV factors include a massive user base that’s already taken the first giant leap into crypto by buying and holding on CB; marketing, partnership, and product rails to bring in many more users in the next wave of attention; pre-TGE so plenty of airdrop speculation to generate hype.
All in all, it’s a no-brainer to look for ways of working with Base if you have a B2C product or B2B product that supports those B2C players.
For Dune, the “To” with Base is a partnership to support and access their developer community - get Dune API in the hands of current and future builders.
More research is needed to deeply understand the goals and challenges of the Base team specifically, but it’s safe to assume this kind of developer support ecosystem is something they’ll value as facilitating developer adoption is the key to building the application set that brings users and thus fee revenues.
I think offering free Dune API credits and perhaps other support in the form of educational materials are great endpoints for a “deal” with the Base team that benefits both parties.
By making sure as many Base developers have tried Dune API before alternatives, I think Dune sets itself up for a lot of benefits in co-branding and user growth with this one.
LayerZero is an interesting and unique infrastructure player that sits in a similar space as the Cosmos Interchain or Optimism Superchain concepts. Assuming a multi-chain or multi-rollup future, LayerZero is building a communications network that allows application builders to efficiently and reliably communicate across chains with lower overhead and higher transparency than internal infrastructure.
They already have a sizable ecosystem, and while the aforementioned other cross-chain systems are competitive, LayerZero mostly sits in a “we can play nice with anyone” position which means they have a strong ability to build partnerships - as do any of their partners.
I think Dune’s endpoint here is twofold: 1. Same play as above - partner with LayerZero for distribution to developers (that’s free API credits for and connections to those dev teams).
Second is to incorporate LayerZero data into Dune.
This is definitely a research-needed move as I’m not sure what the lines of proprietary information are with LayerZero (aka what do they not want to share), but making Dune a sole or even just first source of easy access to LayerZero data further builds Dune’s product use cases, adding another “layer” of win here.
A long time coming, Dune finally added Bitcoin data to their platform in early 2023.
So let’s partner with Stacks - a leader and pioneer in interesting use cases for Bitcoin to solidify a position as the go-to data tool for the once-again-growing Bitcoin ecosystem.
Ordinals and BRC-20s have been the darlings of BTC-chain attention this year, and anyone can build on those open standards.
With Stacks, you have a well-funded, somewhat incumbent company player you can build a relationship with to get leveraged distribution into the active side of the Bitcoin dev community.
Starting with Stacks gives you the beachhead with which to expand into other Bitcoin projects.
Hedge funds and other trading-desk-type Tradfi players are almost certainly going to want data piped in and stored on their servers in a fairly raw format so they can run proprietary analysis at high speed.
Thus it’s unlikely they’ll want to use Dune’s API and expose their analysis techniques or have to account for the extra lag that will inevitably come from relying on non-use-case-optimized external infrastructure.
VC firms, however, might be less sensitive to these shortcomings since their value propositions and moats aren’t dependent on making fractions of a cent in fractions of a second to beat their competitors.
However, even if that’s not the case, there’s once again a distribution play here for Dune - we help you, you recommend us first to your portfolio projects.
A key challenge here is the investor/non-investor dynamic. Will VCs who haven’t invested in Dune be willing to work with them, and will their VC investors be okay with that?
Node Infrastructure Providers
Since Dune is looking to value-add on top of raw blockchain data, and is focused solely on the data analysis endpoint (rather than staking-as-a-service, RPC, or other use cases that require nodes), there’s an opportunity to partner with Node providers to offer partnered or white labeled service to their clients.
I think there are two key questions to research and test in this case, though.
One, do node providers feel somewhat competitive with Dune because either they or a parent/sister company (a la Infura/Consensys) see the abstracted data service Dune provides as a current or potential future line of business they want to develop in-house?
Even if they don’t think so, this is a potential pitfall Dune needs to be wary of - be careful of training your future competition.
Two, will node providers other than whichever one(s) Dune uses be wary of working with a company that uses their competitor?
There are slightly different “To” endpoints for Dune, so perhaps these should be different clusters. Again, further research is needed; I’m not sure about the size of these markets or how often Consumer or Enterprise wallet/custody services are distinct from wallet-as-a-service providers.
For wallets, there’s an endpoint play in in-wallet analytics: expand your feature set beyond swapping, storing, and smart contract interaction to retain user attention and open up future revenue opportunities.
For wallet-as-a-service, it’s that plus our old developer distribution play - incorporate Dune API data into your product (white labeled or partner-badged) to the benefit of your commercial customers or offer free credits and access to Dune as a named partner service.
Yes, once again a reminder that the real gold will be found in deeper research than I’m doing for this already massive post. It’s taken longer to ship than I wanted and might be a longer read than you wanted 🙂.
But at a high level, when thinking about the buyer/partner journeys above, here are a few thoughts tailored to Dune.
First, in a lot of cases, the above accounts are partnership plays not customer plays. Combine that with Dune’s brand recognition and I think:
You can get contacts made and conversations going quickly.
You can get into direct conversations about working together fast, too.
It’s likely less a game of “we need a lot of touchpoints and interactions to prep them for the ask” and more “how can we ensure we don’t just get a lot of ‘yeah that sounds great’ responses with no follow through.”
In that, I think the initial conversations need to revolve around getting in the heads of the key stakeholders and decision-makers at those orgs to learn more about what their current needs and challenges are.
Ensure you have a good grasp on that as well as conversations started with all the people who can say yes or no, and know how to position the Dune partnership so they clearly see how it’s a win for them. This is the crux of the work.
Along the way, if it’s possible to leverage Dune and it’s community to create content (webinars/presentations) that help answer some related problems for those partners, all the better. Use your advantages to solve their problems, learn what’s important to them, then leverage reciprocity + a highly tailored “what's in it for you” and you’ll close a lot of deals.
ABM Example 2: Blockworks
Founded in 2018, Blockworks is a blockchain news and research media company.
Full disclosure: when I’m scanning crypto-related headlines in the elevator on my way to the proverbial office I’m looking at Decrypt solely due to the superiority of their mobile UI.
However, more and more Decrypt is expanding its scope to include nonsense about AI and celebrities so one day soon I’ll probably turn to Blockworks, who seem to be staying true to their roots.
Part of that is due to the way they’re expanding. Decrypt is sticking with the “eyeballs on news style content” approach (they do have some Guides and opinion posts as well), while Blockworks has been building a research and now a broader scope Analytics platform a la Bloomberg.
The Bloomberg play is interesting and viable; years ago while reading Value Proposition Design (maybe Business Model Generation) I came across the concept of “business model transfer” - taking a model that works in one industry/geographical area and bringing it to a new one.
At the very least “The Bloomberg of Crypto” has a nice ring to it when set above the background noise of a high-class NYC cocktail party.
Assuming this is at least close to Blockworks’ internal thinking, what ABM objectives and accounts should they chase down?
While they did invite Erik Voorhees to give this gem of an opening speech at Permissionless II which suggests they’re hardcore blockchain or die folks, I think moving to either operate as the Bloomberg of Crypto in perpetuity or be acquired by them is directionally advantageous.
In either case, especially since BW has a fresh batch of funding, I think the move for them is to build market share with non-native companies for whom their news + data model is appealing.
That combination is a good moat that leaves them with a nice bit of whitespace compared to data competitors that don’t have as clear a path to piping news along with their data feeds, or the data-first companies whose customers have to do more work to render raw data useful to their org.
Tier 1 Accounts
Yes, if I were Blockworks I’d look to kindle a relationship with my business model daddy directly in a Luke/Vader sort of way.
Bloomberg’s professional product already includes news feeds from ostensive competitors like the Financial Times, WSJ, Dow Jones, and Marketwatch.
So at the very least, become the go-to source for blockchain-related news for Blomberg Pro subscribers.
Beyond that, with an endpoint of either integration and partnership or acquisition, there might be space to incorporate Blockworks Research or Analytics data into Terminal as well - something BB might want to do themselves but if you move in fast enough with a strong cost/benefit proposition, they may just take you up on the partnership offer.
To that last point, I think you’re going for “Bitcoin and Ethereum are probably here to stay but so much isn’t; we’ll save you the costs and headaches of trying to figure out what specific crypto data is worth building infrastructure for and cover the risk that you’ll build pipelines for data which become obsolete in a matter of months/years.”
Law firms. I’ve spent a bit of time around the blockchain data space and spoken with enterprise-grade as well as mega crypto native micro analysis-as-a-service shops and haven’t heard the legal use case come up once.
Perhaps because law firms really just don’t care. Or perhaps because of set perspectives and assumptions.
Either way, I think there’s an avenue here and our Bloomberg model indicates this is worth exploring (a la Bloomberg Law).
The basic concept: news + data + legal library all focused on blockchain is a niche product that just might work as a subscription service to firms that do a lot of web3 work.
As one of the earliest international firms to work in the industry (early legal advisors to Ripple), PC is a big enough account that they can afford to pay sizable subscription fees for a fairly niche product without thinking twice.
And they’re a top-tier logo to put on your Blockworks Law landing page to convince other firms to subscribe.
Corporate treasury managers are another Terminal customer segment, so let’s go after those with an interest in crypto.
While Microstrategy and Tesla are the most famous firms with BTC on their balance sheets, how much interest is there in keeping an eye on anything - other than an occasional look at spot and/or futures prices? There’s just not a ton to keep track of, its number go up or down with legal and macro influences.
KPMG (Canada), however, is the biggest name I could find with ETH on their balance sheet. Now there’s an entire universe of “world computer” news and factors to keep an eye on, “that’s why you sirs need a Blockworks Research subscription to help mitigate risk and properly manage that treasury.”
The bonus opportunity here for Blockworks is that a Research subscription is very easily the camel’s nose that leads to becoming a preferred vendor for KPMG client projects.
E.g. Bloomberg. But even before you get to a Bloomberg integration, there’s space to win market share and build a case to convince Bloomberg to sign papers.
You’re the trusted partner for blockchain news and relevant data, if you stick to that lane I think you can make the case to WSJ, CNBC etc. that you can enhance whatever level of blockchain coverage they want to have with the shortcut that is your insights and info.
“Blockchain Research Desk as a Service” so to speak.
There might even be a sweet spot where a smaller firm with a larger share of its clientele in blockchain is more keen to subscribe than a big firm like PC.
That being said, my instinct is that crypto native firms might be too deep in the stream to value a curated crypto legal news feed.
Adjacent to Law Firms, there are a handful of Nonprofits that might be interested in the data and news curation that Blockworks can do.
Corporate Treasury Managers
KPMG is our beachhead, but Tesla, Microstrategy, and a bunch of other companies with crypto on their balance sheets are all worth going after.
There’s also the old “keep an eye on it” category, so researching corporations who go further out on the risk curve with their treasuries but don’t yet have crypto and become a trusted advisor to them for longer play pipeline.
Insurance and Financing companies like Synchrony might be targets since the money is made for them in treasury mgmt, maybe (MAYBE) online-first banks like SoFi.
They might be too deep into finance, though, and use other vendors or in-house solutions compared to companies for whom treasury is less of a key competitive advantage or revenue generator.
There’s also perhaps some space to play in Private Equity here.
With the above strategy, Blockworks is making moves outside of the space so brand quality can help them but they won’t have recognition to leverage. Perhaps there are some networking connections to open doors, but that’s not as clear a path as in our Dune example.
They do have the journalist and researcher angle, however, and I think there’s a strong move to do some double-duty lifting here: start by reaching out to contacts at these firms using the “we want to learn more for a research report” angle. I think that can get you into inboxes and on calls pretty effectively.
Also, actually produce those reports because 1. done right they’re interesting and useful to your existing Research subscribers and 2. they’re easy and obvious follow-up touch points for your target accounts e.g. “hey, here’s that report we put together including your insights.”
As ever, do more research to get more striking ideas than these developed but the obvious starting points for those reports are “state of the industry” e.g. “the Blockchain Media Landscape”, “The state of blockchain case law”, “How and why KPMG and Tesla treasurers bought Bitcoin.”
Here, the “To” for everyone as I see it with the light research I’ve done is “Blockworks Research Subscription.” And I think for the rates BW charges those are all fairly easy sells since they’re so relatively small for bigger businesses.
So the sales conversation can probably happen fairly quickly BUT there’s real work to be done in understanding how to shape the value proposition for the above verticals and accounts.
And there might be some product development work to be done there as well - so the legwork in understanding the needs these accounts have and delivering up-front value on that to shape USP and product will involve real effort.
ABM Example 3: Ethena
Spawned from Aurther Hayes’ Naka Dollar concept, Ethena Labs is a substantially backed upcoming LSDfi protocol building USDe - a delta-neutral stablecoin backed by one part staked ETH, one part ETH short.
In addition to the “ banking system independent” and 100% collateralization ratio benefits, Ethena also aims to provide an “Internet Bond” - a USD-denominated, real yield return delivered through the LSD returns + Basis from their short positions.
With backing from big-name VC firms, high-profile individuals, and all the major derivatives exchanges, Ethena shouldn’t have much issue getting the core conversations and partnerships it needs to operate going.
They also might not need some of the ABM supporting concepts and elements like multichannel, multitouch point approaches to get the other conversations they need going (or have the capacity to manage more complex funnel work as a small startup team that needs to be concentrating on getting launched).
Nevertheless, I think where they could go in the future makes them an interesting case study focus for “DeFi protocols” more broadly.
Let’s look at some of the post-launch objectives and accounts that could be useful for Ethena to chase down.
Some of the more interesting bear market projects the last 18 months:
Pendle and Beefy - automated and maximized yield generation
Radiant - cross-chain borrowing
GMX - on-chain derivatives
Unibot - Telegram trading bot/Dex
Swell - newcomer LST
Pendle, Radiant, and Beefy are perhaps the most partnership-dependent of the bunch as their core products rely on integrations with other protocols that have to cooperate to some degree.
GMX and Unibot mostly stand on their own, but partnerships can help them with marketing and product.
Swell doesn’t necessarily need partnerships but even if they outcompete Lido on delivering staked yield returns, to really get adoption going DeFi use cases are integral to grabbing market share.
What does any of this have to do with Ethena? They’re in a somewhat unique position compared to the above in that they need business partners to function e.g. Fireblocks and Copper for on-chain custody, Bitmex and Binance for options trading access (not enough open interest on chain atm to scale).
Beyond that, their protocol can theoretically stand on its own; their smart contracts ingest stETH, extract the yield from that, run the perp shorts and extract the yield from those, do some automated accounting to return yields to USDe holders, as long as those yields are juicy enough in either APY or RR ratio you’ve got yourself a DeFi protocol.
That being said, similar to Swell maximizing their share of the stablecoin market (which, at time of writing is a market that’s 11.06% of the total crypto MC aka a $123.87B SAM), I see two lanes to swim in:
Get USDe into treasuries
Develop the USDe use case ecosystem
Get treasuries to swap at least some of their USDT/C/DAI into USDe and you lock in steady hands demand for your product while also signaling to your average anon their faith or FOMO in you is well guided (fail to ape at your own peril).
At the same time, get USDe + your native yield integrated into DeFi favorites as well as hot new up-and-comers. The result: boosted yields and extra opportunities to spend gas clicking buttons in the crypto casino, the surest path to winning a degen’s heart.
With this in mind, let’s get to accounts and clusters!
Tier 1 Accounts
Scoring a partnership and integration with one of the Blue Chips (beyond Synthetix which the team have already done) is a win-win-win for trust, yield, and hodlr distribution.
Medium term be everywhere, Synthetix, Aave, etc.
I think Maker, though, is the one that warrants concentrated effort as my instinct is it’s a harder lift to get a new asset through their Governance than it is to get accepted as collateral on Aave.
And though Curve is essential for liquidity and peg maintenance, Factory makes that a relatively light lift as well.
So Maker is our tent pole DeFi blue chip target, start playing the longer game with them sooner than later.
While I’ve known about (and have been paying light attention to) Bitcoin since 2010, I still don’t really know the story on BitDAO now Mantle.
What I do know is BitDAO seemed stagnant a couple of years ago when I first saw they had the largest DAO treasury; at the time by far the largest treasury, and even at time of writing Q4 2023 STILL the largest - outstripping Arbitrum, Optimism, and Uniswap buy hundreds of millions.
Good on them for making some moves with a rebrand, L2, and general movement toward doing something useful with their $3.6 billion.
For Ethena the move is to get into their treasury with a few interesting benefits:
- Largest on-chain treasury = convince them to put even a few Ms of that into USDe and it’s a boon for you/easy yes for them;
- Those Ms have multiple Bs worth of room to grow;
- Now that they’re building out an L2 network and ecosystem, treasury is your foothold to further partnership and use case development.
The leader in Yield from a TVL perspective (as well as a high, yet relatively safe and stable ROI perspective), Convex is your best target for concentrated partnership building on the pure yield boosting end.
Again, with the backers and relationships Ethena already has, they can probably get an easy conversation with any DeFi protocol; it’s likely just a matter of Lindy and someone’s time messaging in the TG/Discord DMs to get integrations done.
But, if anyone beyond the OG blue chips will be at least a little bit challenging, Convex is probably it since they have size, brand, and smarts.
At the very least, this is a “secure the bag” play; get your Curve pool added for DeFi cred, positive brand association, a path to multichain distribution, and some juicing of your native yield.
We put Mantle at the top of this list since they’re the big boys, but over time you definitely want to work your way down the DeepDAO list.
And maybe you get more traction in the early days in the middle ground - treasuries that are big enough to not be scared money, but small enough to not be so swampy a wade as the bigger players with lots of Governance.
Again, the name of the pitch game is diversification of your stable tokens; the built-in yield plus crypto native nature gives you an answer to the “why move out of our USDT/C positions?”
“Because we’re more crypto than them and more yield generating than DAI while not being as far out on the risk curve as other DeFi tokens or new-gen stables.”
Off-Chain Treasuries (CEX)
I didn’t list a CEX in the Tier 1 category BECAUSE, assuming Ethena is a small team with always too much on their plates, I think it’s better to focus on DeFi native conversations in the post-launch months.
This is based on the assumption that 1. we’re still pretty bearish Q1/Q2 2024 and 2. in that environment you’ll just have an easier time getting native protocols to close than CEXs who like risk but will be more conservative.
You want to think about this group, you want the treasury conversation to be seeded while you’re talking about integrating on the derivatives side, but the RR on your focused time is probably better spent in DeFi partnerships and integrations until you get some months of smooth operation under your belt and/or macro flips risk on and we get back to the shitcoin rocket races.
Aave, Beefy, build out your yield and leverage stack. Maybe hit those up-and-comer/bespoke protocols like Pendle and Sommelier; Aura. On-chain derivatives for sure but now we’re talking cross-chain with GMX and dydx so you’ll want bridges too, Synapse and Stargate.
This map gets big, fast so it’s likely done in layers; Ethereum use-case, yield, and brand plays. Cross-chain use case and bridging. Depending on the team’s capability/priorities, what their protocol risks are, and how much inbound they get, longer tail Eth Mainnet use cases might come before or after cross-chain.
As mentioned above, I think the combination of industry connections, unique product, as well as DeFi’s relatively small ecosystem size atm, I think Ethena fairly easily gets just about all the conversations they want started.
And with the current stage of their product and team size, I don’t think they need/really have capacity to spend time on higher up the funnel channels and touchpoints. This is more a game of ensuring all the important stakeholders/blockers are engaged in those conversations (no single points of contact!).
The “content” is more bespoke and 1 to few - thoughtful remarks on calls, in those special purpose 6-10 person TG groups. Links to conversation-relevant blog posts, Gitbook pages, podcast interviews.
Maybe there’s room for some decks that get a bit broader distribution (like something they can send to all the long tail DeFi protocols on how they can integrate with Ethena or use cases the team would like to see get built).
Definitely room to build a Twitter spaces platform for co-marketing, wheel greasing.
And there’s governance work in alliance and reputation building as well as proposal crafting for Maker, Aave, etc.
If you read this monster top to bottom, congratulations you’re in the 0.1% of HackerNoon readers!
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And to help you consolidate your thoughts and memories, this is your reminder that the above was about the What and How of Account Based marketing coupled with a few crypto-native examples of how you might think about account targeting and buyer/partner journeys at a high level.
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Also published here.