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Humanizing Account-Based Strategies Helps B2B Brands Drive Authenticity, Engagement

Featured Humanizing Account-Based Strategies Helps B2B Brands Drive Authenticity, Engagement

As the maturity of account-based strategies within the B2B marketplace continues, practitioners are finding that a unified organization around account frameworks and goals consistently leads to more authentic relationships with current and potential customers.

This was the main topic of discussion amongst attendees and speakers at the 9th annual #FlipMyFunnel Conference in Boston. Speakers and industry thought leaders agreed that while the tech landscape enabled many practitioners, it also prevented many from offering authentic, human-like customer experiences. The adoption of account-based strategies has helped organizations begin to reassess their go-to-market strategies to increase efficiency.

“Account-based, at the end of the day, is all about customer lifetime value,” said Craig Rosenberg, Co-founder and Chief Analyst at TOPO Inc., during his session. He added that companies now are trying to specifically answer, “How do we retain our teams and help them grow with these account-based strategies?”

Speakers agreed that the reason B2B companies are striving for more authentic relationships with customers is because the technology landscape over the past two decades has removed the human out of the equation.

“Over the past 15 years, we’ve been given tools after tools after tools,” said Sangram Vajre, Chief Evangelist and Co-founder of Terminus. “But the reality is that they are just tools; why ABM is being talked about so much today is because it is a strategy — it’s not a tool and it’s not one-size-fits-all — that’s helping businesses grow faster.”

During his opening keynote, Vajre discussed a three-point “authenticity curve” that highlighted the historical and forward-looking view of how B2B brands go to market based on the technology being provided to them. This includes:

  • Transaction-based: Marketing focuses on driving leads, MQLs and opportunities without thinking to understand customers’ pain points and specific needs;
  • Allbound: Marketing focuses on accounts and engagement and how it all impacts the customer experience; and
  • OneTeam: Bringing marketing and sales together to become a customer-centric organization that builds a unified framework for targeting, engaging, activating and measuring account-based initiatives.

“ABM is B2B; it’s a better way to do marketing,” said Vajre. “But the question is: what is the future of marketing? I believe that the answer is that the future is in authenticity-based marketing.”

Taking The Proper Steps To Marketing, Sales Alignment

Industry experts presenting at the event agreed that marketing and sales alignment continues to be a struggle within B2B organizations. This can be attributed to a lack of strategy and planning to promote change within their companies.

LogMeIn, for example, went through multiple phases of its ABM strategy, aiming to better align with their sales team on target accounts and business goals. During a keynote presentation, Lindsay Becker, Supervisor of Corporate Marketing at LogMeIn, shared how initial conversations with 80 reps on the sales team led to marketing receiving their entire account list — versus accounts based on an ideal customer profile.

“Sales was eager and marketing was eager, but we launched around too many accounts and it wasn't sustainable within our organization,” said Becker.

In the second iteration of rolling out ABM at LogMeIn, the company built an “ABM Tiger Team” that worked with sales and marketing leadership to align and refine its target account list down to 400 accounts — instead of just requesting a list of accounts from sales. They also repositioned reporting tactics around overall pipeline and account penetration.

Since the start of the second phase of its ABM rollout, LogMeIn is seeing 71% account penetration, as well as a 17% account-to-opportunity conversion. Marketing also is being attributed for driving 20% of the company’s overall pipeline.

“By focusing on the account level, you can get a lot further with your marketing dollars to support sales,” said Becker.

Moving From Lead-Focused Measurement To Robust Analytics

Experts also stressed the importance of developing an account-centric metrics model to properly understand the impact ABM programs are having on pipeline. Traditional marketing measurement —based around MQLs, click-through rates and other lead-based metrics — are not suited to properly measure and understand account engagement.

TOPO’s Rosenburg suggested five metrics that should be considered for an account-centric measurement model:

  • Account engagement rate: Engaged accounts divided by total target accounts;
  • Opportunity rate: Accounts with new opportunity created divided by total target accounts;
  • Account win rate: Accounts won divided by total target accounts;
  • Target account pipeline: Total pipeline created within target accounts; and
  • Bookings or Revenue: Value of new closed-won deals with target accounts.

“You have to believe that not all pipeline is created equal,” said Rosenburg. “The goal is to create pipeline in the target accounts.”

Quantifying Account Relationships With The Right Metrics

Tying ABM efforts to pipeline is vital to quantifying marketing’s worth, but these types of metrics do not provide detailed insight into the overall relationships companies are building with decision makers at target accounts.

“MQLs are a good stat to have at the top of the funnel, but when you get to the latter stages, it becomes pretty useless because it doesn’t help build those relationships with target accounts,” said Justin Keller, VP of Marketing at Sigstr, during his session. “If you want to scale relationships, you have to measure.”

To do this, Keller shared the best metrics to collect to understand these relationships:

  • Spread: The number of contacts in an account that have a relationship with us;
  • Scope: The number of contacts we want to have a relationship with;
  • Depth: The number of reps that have a relationship with a single contact; and
  • Strength: A subjective scoring model that highlights the amount of power and influence a rep has on a contact.

“Having this information provides your team a quantifiable way to measure the overall health of a relationship with people at target accounts,” said Keller.

Building An Authentic Brand Is The Key Differentiator To Overcoming Industry Challenges

In a session presented by Dave Gerhardt, VP of Marketing at the conversational marketing platform company Drift, he drilled into how a company’s brand needs to be the number-one channel for driving demand in today’s B2B buying landscape.

“There is only one way to differentiate in today’s marketplace, and that’s by building a solid brand,” Gerhardt said.

Other key takeaways from his session include:

  • Companies no longer sell, buyers buy. Marketing now has to position themselves to help buyers make their purchase decisions.
  • There is more competition than ever. Leveraging an authentic brand can help marketing and sales teams stand out.
  • There is more noise than ever. To get above the noise, companies need a unique and real brand that can help create better chances of having their message heard.

Three Steps For Building Healthy Marketing, Sales Partnerships

Kristen Novak, Principal Account-Based Marketing Manager at National Instruments, shared with the #FlipMyFunnel audience how she and her team worked to form a healthy partnership with the company’s sales team to onboard an account-based strategy. On stage, Novak provided three tips to get marketing and sales on the same page:

1) Sing in harmony. In other words, you must speak the same language throughout the company for ABM to work. When National Instruments created its ABM team, the sales team was restructuring to focus on an account pyramid. So marketing did the same thing. “The company aligned directly with how sales would be structured for strategic accounts,” said Novak. “As this approach become more popular, we grew into a global team across.”

2) Play the same instruments. Working from the same tech stack is vital to helping both teams speak the same language. Novak noted how it was important for marketing to work from the same CRM as sales and have access to the same license. “It lets us see the same reports sales teams see, create contacts and convert leads into opportunities,” said Novak. “Being able to work in the same tools sales works in made it a lot easier to collaborate with sellers and align on target accounts.”

3) Band together. Novak explained that this means to have marketing engross itself in the accounts the same way that sales does. She described how she can meet regularly with her three assigned accounts in person and sit at the table with them as they talk to sales. This ultimately helps them gain deeper insights from stakeholders that sales were not able to obtain. “I have relationships with contacts within accounts, and it’s amazing how much information they are willing to share when a non-technical person is in the room.”

Technology Not Always Necessary For Addressing TAM

Understanding and fleshing out a total-addressable market (TAM) was another common talking point throughout the event. Jeff Marcoux, VP of Product Strategy and Marketing at TTEC, noted during his session how tasks such as understanding TAM have no precise way to address it.

“Nobody’s [account-based strategy] is totally right,” said Marcoux. “It’s iterative and an ongoing journey. If anyone tells you they have ‘completely figured out ABM,’ they are lying.”

When addressing a company’s TAM, Marcoux suggested breaking it down into several groups, along with the technology that can help better understand where accounts stand in that market:

  • The accounts that fit. These are all the accounts that have been reviewed by the company and are deemed a fit for their products or services.
  • Engaged accounts. This includes accounts that you know are a fit, as well as accounts that are engaging anonymously with your programs. Software that helps understand buyer engagement across owned and third-party channels are beneficial here.
  • Actively looking. These are accounts currently not in contact with competitors that are actively researching a purchase that fits into your offerings. These accounts can be identified through intent data providers and other solutions.
  • Your customers. Accounts that have already brought from the company that are in a position for cross-sell, upsell and customer loyalty campaigns.
  • Competitor’s customers. Known customers of competitors that are a fit for your company. Technographic data solutions can be beneficial here to help understand what technology target accounts use.
  • Big fish. A small number of accounts that can be easily targeted with a no-tech, account-based strategy.

Investing In People, Culture To Fuel Account-Based Innovation

Experts concluded the event by highlighting the importance of how mindset shifts for account-based strategies start and end with the people involved in helping the company adopt the strategy.

“At the end of the day, I care the most about people,” said Matt Senatore, Service Director for Account-Based Marketing at SiriusDecisions, during his session. “With the right people, you can figure out everything from data and technology to infrastructure and processes.”

In one case study, the hybrid networking and cloud communications company Masergy shared how it started “selling” ABM within the company by identifying key individuals within the organization that were willing to completely “burn the boats” and try something new.

“The shift we wanted was going to be profound,” said Malachi Threadgill, Director of Demand Gen & Global Sales Development at Masergy. “There was the realization that people would lose jobs if this didn't follow through.”

Similar to how experts say that old and incomplete data negatively impacts marketing and sales decisions, having the wrong people behind these processes can have a similar effect.

“If you hire for culture, fire for culture,” said Threadgill. “Keeping the wrong people onboard will be detrimental and break the boat.”