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Account Based Marketing and The Future of B2B Markets

In the deep sea of B2B selling, you can't wait around for the right people from the right accounts to swim into your demand generation net – you need to hunt "big fish" with a targeted and strategic approach. Traditional approaches in larger, longer and more complex deals is no longer enough. That’s why we recently teamed up with Engagio on a recent webinar to talk about the future of the space in All Aboard! The 1-2-3s of the Account Based Train.

It was a great webinar, but the people have spoken, and they want more! That’s why we decided to sit down with Jon Miller, CEO and Cofounder of Engagio, previously the cofounder of Marketo, and ask him to pull back the curtain even more and reveal the new secret sauce for combining Account Based Marketing (ABM) with Account Based Sales (ABS) to predictably generate pipeline.

As one of the foremost thinkers in the space, we learned a lot talking with Jon. Here’s what he had to say:

The lines for sales and marketing are blurring. How should the two teams be thinking about account based strategies?

In the traditional model where sales and marketing are completely separate, marketing would own inbound, content, demand generation, etc., while sales owned outbound, field activities, contracts, etc., and never the twain shall meet. However, when you’re taking an account-based approach to revenue, it’s not just recommended that sales and marketing work together, it’s essential for successfully closing larger deals more effectively.

One of the main pieces of advice I always give to organizations looking to implement account based strategies is this: stop calling it ABM! When we use these labels, it only perpetuates the misconception that only one department is responsible for thinking and acting at the account level. For complex B2B sales, nothing could be further from the truth. At Engagio, we call it Account Based Everything (ABE). Sales and marketing must work together. Inbound and outbound must complement one another. Organizational alignment is table stakes, and without it, you're setting yourself up for failure.

How do you ensure that sales, marketing and customer success are truly aligned? What can organizations be doing right now to make this happen?

Start with an alignment workshop. This is where all three teams sit down together and discuss the account based strategy and why you need to change the way you do business. This has to be driven first and foremost by your executive team.

Next, orienting your teams around a common objective. Agree on key metrics and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Agree on your objectives, activities, what metrics you’ll track, and what commitments you’ll make to each other. Give everyone revenue responsibility, not just sales! A big part of this is coming up with clear and consistent definitions. You must make sure you’re all aiming for the right deals. Everyone should have a seat at the table when defining your target accounts, especially customer success – they’re the ones who really know what a successful customer looks like.

After that, you can begin to implement an account-centric data infrastructure, including things like lead-to-account matching. Also, everyone must also know the org’s pipeline metrics. Sales, marketing, and customer success teams can come to the table knowing exactly what is needed from a numbers perspective to hit their revenue goals.

Once you have this plan in place, you must meet regularly. Review processes, metrics, and progress weekly. This helps you avoid silos. If marketing, sales, and customer success are using different tools to accomplish similar goals, you should worry. Integrated systems help encourage aligned departments. For us, the core tools are Salesforce and Engagio.

Last thing I’ll emphasize is an ABE playbook. This is where all of our marketing, sales, and customer success plays live. This ensures consistency and efficiency across the entire team. You can take a look at (and even steal) ours. We’ve published our best plays in The Engagio Playbook.

Chatting with your Director of Marketing, Charlie Liang, he emphasizes the importance of Marketing Qualified Accounts (MQAs) and their role in aligning marketing with sales.  Can you elaborate on the difference between MQA and MQL?

In demand generation, companies use Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), to designate a lead deemed worthy to be handed off to sales. But the metrics required for Account Based Marketing are different than those used in demand generation, because instead of relating to an individual person, they align to target accounts.  In other words, while the MQL relates to one lead, the MQA is for entire accounts that are ready to go to sales.  

The definition of a Marketing Qualified Account is at the very foundation of ABE, which focuses our sales and marketing efforts on a relatively small number of high-value accounts that have the greatest revenue potential.

So, rather than giving leads “scores,” which is a very nebulous term, we’ve adopted a new way to think about scoring accounts, which is by minutes they spend engaging with us, or "engagement minutes." If you tell a rep that a lead has a score of 55, that really doesn’t tell them a lot. However, if you tell them that an account has 55 engagement minutes, it’s pretty clear what that means.

What’s the criteria for an MQA? Here’s an example of how we think about it. If two key personas from the account cumulatively reach 35 minutes of engagement with us (from webinars to form fills to live event attendance, etc.) over a 30 day period, they become an MQA.

The MQA is an important milestone for a company on it’s way to becoming a customer, one which your entire revenue team should rally around and prioritize. You must work together to make it happen. I mentioned an alignment workshop earlier – this is the perfect place to do this. In this workshop, your agenda should include talking about things like:

  • How many minutes should each piece of content and interaction get? For example, give a tradeshow booth visit and scan 3 engagement minutes, and give ebook downloads 20 engagement minutes?
  • How much weight should different personas and titles get? For example, for every minute that a CMO get, give them 2x the minutes, or for every minute an office intern gets, give them 0x the minutes)
  • How much weight should different types of content get? For example, for mid-funnel ebook download, give 1.3x the engagement minutes. For bottom of the funnel content, give them 2x the engagement minutes.
  • Are there actions that should automatically make an account an MQA such as demo requests, other hand raises, etc.?
How should companies be thinking about ABE if they want to succeed this year? What advice would you give them?

The industry is starting to realize that ABM (and ABE) is NOT a technology category, it is a business strategy. It is a way of running your sales and marketing machine (just like demand gen and inbound are ways of running your marketing machine). There are technology categories that support ABM, but just like demand gen, there are MANY categories — including account selection, account research, account-based analytics, account-based advertising, sales automation, and more. 

To succeed this year, you must put in place the foundation for account-based success, including the fundamentals of lead-to-account matching, account-based analytics.

Where can people learn more about you and Account Based Everything?

I’m pretty easy to find on Twitter @JonMiller or they can connect with me on LinkedIn. But if they really want to learn more about ABE, we’re cranking out some of the best content on the Engagio Blog. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug The Engagio Playbook one more time.

If you’d like to read about what Lattice’s CEO Shashi Upadhyay had to say when the tables were turned and was asked about ABM, check out the accompanying blog post over on The Engagio blog! And to learn more about hacking your way to a successful account-centric program, check out our webinar.

Written by

Caitlin Ridge
February 21, 2017