Thinking of implementing an Account Based Marketing strategy?

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a client’s 2017 Sales Kickoff meeting here in Toronto. The client sells enterprise security solutions to Fortune 2000 organizations. Some of their challenges are unique to their industry, while some are common challenges experienced in most industries including long and complex sales cycles, several decision makers per organization, and difficulties in accessing executives to name a few.

Topics throughout the two days were largely based around tactics and strategies to grow sales and gain momentum within their target accounts. With only so many (new) leads that can be generated from such a specific audience, a good chunk of time was spent discussing Account Based Marketing (ABM). I thought it would be interesting to highlight a few of the discussion points that came up for this tech company considering implementing an Account Based Marketing strategy.

Sales and Marketing Alignment
ABM requires a new level of alignment between Sales and Marketing. In order to do ABM properly, there can’t be gaps between departments. In this company’s case, the two departments are fairly aligned and are starting to share the same revenue goals. That’s a great first step to developing an even tighter, matured process. Other immediate improvements could include eliminating lead “handoffs” (ie. Marketing “tossing” a lead over the wall to Sales somewhat blindly) and individual department measurements to enhance group accountability. From there, marketing planning and strategy should also be synced with sales strategy to further align efforts, but that’s a much larger undertaking worthy of its own blog.

Measurement and Metrics
A true ABM strategy will see Sales and Marketing working towards one shared goal: new revenue created. In Account Based Marketing, it’s about “Accounts”, rather than “Leads”. Instead of generating “Marketing Qualified Leads” or “Sales Qualified Leads”, it’s now about developing “Marketing Qualified Accounts” and – you guessed it – “Sales Qualified Accounts”. That doesn’t mean recreating qualification guidelines, but using different terminology like this will likely require organizational buy-in for ABM (or at least full buy-in from Sales and Marketing). The group I spent time with last week didn’t necessarily view this as a hurdle (beyond getting “MQL” out of their vocabulary), but other concepts such as looking at contact/account engagement in terms of minutes (cumulative time spent on a website, reading an email, etc.) were more of a challenge. Thinking about “how do you measure this” or “how many minutes is a lot”, plus the timeframe to measure are complex metrics to consider.

Witnessing this conversation, and other ABM conversations before, you see why many organizations are slowly easing their way into ABM adoption. In addition to process and measurement, it’s clear new technologies are required for this new model of Sales and Marketing. At Goose, one way we overcome this is approaching ABM with a “crawl before run” mindset of looking at tactics for select accounts first, before moving into macro elements like metrics, organizational structures, etc.

Approaching Accounts
Part of the Sales Kickoff featured a guest presentation from software vendor Engagio. The solution provider, founded by former Marketo founder Jon Miller, had a great metaphor for ABM, calling it a coordinated set of “plays” between two teams. Their concept is your Sales and Marketing departments make up team 1, while team 2 is comprised of the key executives and decision makers within the organization you are trying to sell into. The concept suggests creating visual diagrams of each team and matching members of team 1 with team 2. For example, CEO’s with CEO’s, Sales leader with CIO’s, etc. Certainly some organizations do this today, but for the group I was sitting with, this is a new approach. It’s a progressive approach that reinforces team strategy and doesn’t put all the accountability on the Sales person – something I think resonated well with the Sales directors in the room.

I could go on in even more detail, but that’s enough for this blog. It’s important to understand that ABM isn’t just a campaign for a quarter or two. It’s a significant and potentially permanent change to the way your organization approaches Sales and Marketing. As you’ve read, the tactics differ from traditional approaches, but you can really see the merit of them if you’re part of an organization targeting a relatively small audience. Thanks for reading!

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