Marketing Operations faces a unique challenge in accommodating the latest shift in marketing frameworks: Account Based Everything (or ABM or ABS). As a marketing technologist, I’ve struggled with the conceptual shift because everything marketers (and sales) does is related to People (read: Leads). The deeper I work on an Account view, the more flaws I see in the how we market; flaws in the lead only approach; and flaws in how sales teams are leveraging sales automation tools. Ultimately, there is a lack of understanding in businesses on what Account Based means. In speaking with the CEO of one vendor, I learned quite a few people out there agree there is no single consensus on how to do ABM yet.
That may be a good thing because it’s time to shake up marketing again.
Here are some of the steps I see firms should take to begin their journey in an Account Based World. It’s 2007 again and we’re back to Sales-Marketing Alignment.
Marketing Strategy Must Embrace ABM
First and foremost, an Account Based strategy, must be that – a Strategy. Please stop trying to build “pilots” or think that purchasing an “ABM tool” will mean you are doing Account Based Anything. An Account Based approach to business means not just an entire shift in thinking, but entirely new business processes, language, and new alignment between Sales and Marketing.
Target Account selection is only one aspect of an Account Based organization. If one team is deciding on Target Accounts without the others, then this is not really an ABM or Account plan. There’s nothing wrong with a target account team or target account choices, but it’s not the same as a unified Account Based Strategy. Do not confuse Target Accounts as a strategy; it is a tactic.
Enough people have written about the Strategy behind ABM, so let’s discuss the next steps.
Sales and Marketing Must Re-Align
And I do mean start over. The next step is to ensure that Sales and Marketing achieve a new level of alignment on what each does in an Account Based world. I wrote about this a year ago, but now refined my thinking as I’ve spoken to teams around the country about their work. At a minimum, embracing the Account based world, means a re-division of labor and expectations between our two friends: Marketing and Sales. This re-alignment can mean a lot of different things. Today, we’ll explore two key areas: the Relationship Team and the Overall Division of Labor.
Account Based Sales: the Relationship Team
One solution that some firms take is to build a “Tiger Team” that picks up Tier 1 (Fortune 500) Accounts and figures out how to swarm them with the right people and messaging. I personally prefer the idea of a “Relationship Team” that is just as focused, but works to build the relationships necessary to close a deal. Of course, if your leaders don’t get how to organize this team or demand quarterly results from 12+ month sales cycles, maybe it’s time to find a different team.
For our “new” Account Based approach, here’s what I see happening in your organization. There is a shift from a lead flow to a Relationship Team. Yes, you can still have a lead flow, but your focus is on building Coverage and then having Relationship Builders (sales) work the people in those Accounts. I strongly advise against aggressive outbound, cold calling of every person at every Account. Please stop that. Please stop doing that by email only. It’s not helpful. Sure, it works some percent of the time, but it also annoys 99% of the time, ruining chances for cold calls or creating a hidden hurdle. eg:
“Hey Bob, I’m going to have a call with Company X tomorrow, would you join us?
“Cathy, there’s no way I’m going to be in a call with those jackasses. Did you see how they sent 22 year old BDRs after the rest of the team? I don’t trust them.”
I can tell you that a certain martech vendor sent several cold emails until I relented. They did a better job on the intro than some, but once on the call, I was waiting for the pitch and all they could do was tell me how great they were. Sound familiar?
This Relationship Team structure is about changing the workflow. A true ABM program will combine a marketer or “Message Master” with an Appointment Getter, Relationship Builder, Technical Sales, and Onboarder. I even added a special Playmaker or Content Creator if one is affordable.
This entire team should work on assigned accounts for at least nine months before marking them for deferral. The Coach or Leader should work with the Message Master to craft plays from Anonymous to Customer. I added Customer Success here because it’s a mistake to fumble the handoff. Customers who’ve learned to trust you and your team are loath to be handed to an unknown “Customer Success” person who knows little about them. The last thing a client wants is to have to repeat their story 20 times to the same firm. And even if the Closer isn’t involved much after the Close, I would strongly urge firms to keep them involved. I know not every person can be both hunter and farmer, however, if you want to close super large deals, you can’t walk away after the signing. You know your success depends upon milestones and the ability of the rest of the team to keep working for the client.
- Relationship Leader/Coach – builds plays with Messaging Master; helps shepherd deals.
- Messaging Master/ABM Marketer – keeps team on message, breaks up content and tests play cadences. This role interfaces with the larger marketing organization as well as field marketing.
- Account Executive/Relationship Builder – Tier 1 deal closer; skilled at building relationships and bringing together problems and solutions.
- Technical Expert – understands the solution and how to help the details.
- Customer Success – solution builder, consultant, relationship builder.
- Content Creator – this person helps the Messaging Master craft new or refine content for the Accounts.
Account Based Marketing Means Redrawing the Division of Labor
Now you have seen how the Relationship Team can be built. With or without such a team, Marketing Ops needs to lead the adjustment of the boundaries of lead handoff and technology ownership. The challenge I’ve seen is that with the new sales automation tools like Salesloft, Outreach, and Yesware, is that Sales takes back some of the pre-MQL and post-MQL nurturing Marketing has done since 2008. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with more personalization, there is conflict in which team “owns” the relationship.
If Marketing Operations takes a backseat at this point, there are risks that the demand generation machine you built will begin to crumble. Sales is under pressure to use these new tools and take control of their part of the process. That’s ok! Marketing Ops, though, should lead the realignment to ensure technical and regulatory compliance. Here are a few steps on how to approach this:
- View the funnel from the customer perspective.
- Each Stage has a Goal – one for you, one for Sales, and one for the customer.
- The Owner of the Stage is one group: Marketing, BDR/SDR, AEs, etc…each team is assigned the Goal
- Cadence or Plays – each Stage can have various “plays” designed by and for that Goal and Customer level.
Now, marketing can, and should, help build all plays, but Marketing’s influence will wane as the relationship between your firm and their firm deepens. In essence, the key re-alignment is ownership.
In this example grid, we can see that the redefined funnel stages are from the Lead’s point of view. This instantly changes how you think of content and the funnel. Now you say “We have 10,000 records learning about us, how can we get them to better define their needs using our materials?”
Each stage has a Goal – to get to the next stage! Each Stage has an Owner responsible for helping leads and Accounts reach that next step. And within that stage, the Owner can build a nurture track or set of plays designed to that. From a marketing ops perspective, this helps ensure clear definitions for reporting as well as workflows within the marketing automation platform. This grid also helps define the rules of engagement for Sales and Marketing as you re-align on Accounts and the latest tool for each team. Marketing ops and content creators may only need to tweak MQL nurturing, rather than rebuilding.
The New SLA: Account Based Marketing Metrics
In last week’s post, I wrote about not overdoing it on the metrics, because you’ll create a lot of useless reports that will never guide useful decisions. As part of your ABM realignment with Sales, you will require new service level agreements. Your goal now is less about the conversion rate of Leads or Accounts (still useful), but about Coverage and Engagement of those Accounts. At some firms, I see Sales pressuring marketing and data vendors on the number of matching titles to Personas. I agree this is a key metric as long as Sales understands that:
- You will never have 100% coverage. Ever.
- Failure to achieve 100% coverage does not mean Sales or SalesOps should take back this work.
- Coverage is not necessarily intended to help BDRs do ever more outbound calls.
- You may need to supply better Sales tools like LinkedIn or new data sources that provide more context to Sales.
As a marketer, your goals shift a bit because you are looking at things like:
- Coverage Percent of Buyer Personas by Account
- Percent of Accounts with at least 50% Coverage
- Percent of Accounts with at least 30% Engagement
Engagio’s Charlie Liang and I spoke about some of these metrics at the Marketo Summit in 2016. What I want impress upon you is that this is a real thing now. If you are in a TOFU role, you should be measured on these new ABM metrics. There’s no point bringing in 500 net new leads and 50 MQLs if it barely moves your Coverage or Engagement rates. The leaders in ABM are now looking at campaigns designed to increase both Coverage and Engagement for their chosen Accounts. What types of campaigns should you do?
If you want to learn more, here is a deck describing many of these topics. Much, much more is coming, so be sure to subscribe to get updates on how marketing operations works in an Account based world.