Several years ago, I encountered a situation I continue to reflect on. I was asked to create demand for a fintech firm that had built an interesting product on top of existing technology. As I learned more about the business they were in, I saw tremendous opportunity to make this area scalable for financial firms, and thus make us money.
Or so I thought.
The CEO eventually explained to me that he believed his market was “50 companies and 500 people.”
I thought we needed a scalable SaaS play that went beyond 50 firms. There were hundreds of possible customers who wanted to reduce costs in this area, and do it at scale. And if it were my business, I would have built the product for that scale. A company that serves 50 other large firms? Seemed limiting to me for the solution and sector we were going after.
Now there are some solutions that do only have 50 organizations to sell to. I knew a salesperson who went to such a firm where their sales cycle paid out on each stage of the sale they advanced, even if they didn’t close. That’s how valuable these projects were.
As I’ve thought more and more about ABM, my sense is that while I might have been right from a product perspective, the CEO was also right. What he wanted was Account Based Marketing. He wanted me to get those 500 people for the sales team and have those 500 people excited to consider us. His company provided customized solutions for this space, not large scale SaaS. Doing so required a completely different mindset than typical demand/lead generation I was building out.
When we think about ABM, we need to consider the firm’s strategy, the product, and the TAM.
- Size of TAM
- Product Scale
- Marketing Scale
While the Product-Market Fit stage may be an ideal place to focus on that “50 Company” group, are you planning to go beyond that? If so, your decisions about the product and how to deliver it will be very different than if you decide your firm services 50 companies vs. 5000.
There are many companies that do well with highly custom solutions for 50 companies. Those service providers, however, are not very large.
I suspect many of you reading this work for companies that are building scale, or at scale, providers of a product. If so, your approach to building ABM operations will be very different than going after 50 companies.
The 50 Company Approach
The summary of the 50 Company Approach is that the small number of marketers required are going to be embedded with Sales, almost as solution consultants. The marketer will be a visionary or a consultant, and a part of the sales and customer process. Some firms will have the CEO do this instead. In this world, you do not need marketing automation or large scale MOPS. You will need personalized service.
The 50,000 Company Approach
In this large scale world, your product and marketing operations work at scale. Most marketers, sadly, will be at a distance from Sales and Customers because they are attempting to tell the company’s story at scale, automatically. This type of work provides Sales “cover” and a library of stories for the buyer personas, verticals, etc. The product itself will have a level of customization that can be done at scale with settings. Large customers will always want personalized service through professional services.
Ultimately, the difference is in the company’s strategy and the implications of that choice on operations. As long as that choice is deliberate, there isn’t a wrong answer.
Operational Implications of Strategy
Since most of us are in Marketing Operations, we are faced with the implications of the company’s strategic direction. If the Company made a clear choice and communicated that well, the business operations (MOPS, SOPS, Finance, etc) can make the implied choices well. If the Company doesn’t make a clear set of strategic choices, you’ll see that in muddled operations.
Other examples include the operations required to service 50,000 small companies vs. 5,000 larger size companies. Each side of the business will require almost an entirely separate set of operational paths and people to deliver the service well.
- Servicing Companies under 100 people implies
- limited or no professional services
- take it or leave it product
- customizations in the product
- some APIs or out of the box connectors with limited support
- lead generation approach would be effective
- Email and web based support, self service.
- Inside sales only.
- MOPS works more like e-commerce funnel to, high scale personalization, larger batches.
- Martech choices will look toward scale, integrations, product connection, and data quality rather than ABM.
- Servicing Companies Over 100 People implies
- ABM setup
- SDR and Field Sales
- Live support or paid support options
- Ecosystem of VARs or Consultants
- Limited in house consultants for largest clients
- Heavily supported API or connectors
- MOPS develops personalization based on Accounts, flow is more traditional SiriusDecisions model.
- Martech choices will look at ABM more and focus more on Sales enablement.
Of course, there are plenty of options here for a company to select from.
As you progress in your MOPS role, it’s important to work closely with executives and product teams to design the most effective setup for your strategy.