The 6 Initial Steps to Transition to an Account-Based Strategy

June 9, 2018

Marketing is no longer incentivized to simply generate leads at the top-of-the-funnel and throwing them to sales. The metrics that matter now are account engagement, number of opportunities generated, pipeline ($) and revenue.

Google trends reports that interest in account-based strategy is rising steadily. Instead of targeting a single contact at a company, an account-based model approaches every account like a market of one. An entire team is dedicated to targeting multiple stakeholders at a prospective company in order to provide more personalization when dealing with enterprise clients. For venture-funded startups, focus is the most important asset. It doesn't make sense for early-stage companies to spread the marketing budget across multiple verticals and segments when they know exactly who to target and who their “dream” accounts are.

Our goal at SaaSMQL is to align sales and marketing to target the same accounts, help boost the outreach efforts, and increase conversion rates across the entire funnel, from lead to revenue. A successful account-based approach requires cross-department coordination, especially between marketing, sales development and account executive team

Marketing is no longer incentivized to simply generate leads at the top-of-the-funnel and throw them to sales. The metrics that matter now are account engagement, number of opportunities generated, pipeline ($) and revenue.

Implementing this kind of model calls for a company-wide buy-in. To get started, we like to have to have a clear definition of the target accounts, generate a target persona, and have marketing and sales work together to design the tactics to engage with the target list. We also need to be able to measure attribution in order to know how we are trending and where to allocate the marketing budget.

How to Get Started with ABM

We always recommend starting simple and adding more sophistication at later stages. You want to be able to allocate a defined budget, have a clear goal and target in mind and execute against this target.

1) Establish goals and objectives

First step is to sit down and clearly define goals. What do you want to accomplish with this transition? Your goals will inform your strategy, so it's important that the whole team is on the same page. I focus on these as the main targets:

  • Revenue goal
  • Opportunity goal
  • Qualified lead goal

2) Review and optimize Lead-to-Revenue Cycle:

The next step is to review and optimize your lead-to-revenue cycle. Outline the following:

  • Lead Statuses
  • Lead Scoring
  • Account Statuses
  • Account Scoring
  • MQL/SQL definitions
  • Hand-off process
  • Opportunity Stages
  • Nurture process

Having these more clearly defined will help you focus on highly-qualified leads and take them through the funnel more quickly and efficiently. It also helps you segment your current database and understand where each account sits in the sales cycle.

3) Develop your vertical/account strategy (Mid-Market and Enterprise)

Now it's time to focus on your actual campaign strategy, select the accounts and create processes to measure your impact. This outlines how you will select and score your accounts and plan out your campaigns for each, including which team members will manage them for every segment. It is based on the following:

  • Account selection
  • Account scoring
  • Contact enrichment
  • Campaign planning and execution
  • Result analysis and optimization

Ideally, start with one vertical where you have already existing customers and you know their pain very well. Make sure that you list all the accounts that qualify as potential prospects and identify all their previous interactions with your company. You’ll be able to divide your account list in at least four account segments: 1) Cold, 2) Aware, 3) Engaged, 4) Hot.

Each segment will have its own customized strategy and playbook. It’s also important to categorize the accounts this way to track the engagement increase or decrease after you have launched your strategy.

4) Develop content Strategy, divided by verticals

For each account, we make sure you have plenty of content to deliver to each vertical at each stage of the funnel. Content development needs include:

  • Thought leadership and Educational
  • Whitepapers
  • Webinars

It’s important to develop assets for each stage of the funnel. Your lead and account segmentation should drive this process. If you don’t have many leads at the top of the funnel for your target accounts, you should focus more on developing thought-leadership content to engage with prospects at the beginning of their research. If you see a bottleneck at a later stage (after the demo for example), it’s better to invest more in case studies or solution sheets to validate your value proposition.

5) Identify and Test Acquisition Channels

In addition to developing content, you also suggest you map out a plan for distribution for each account, including:

  • Content Syndication
  • LinkedIn Sponsor Updates
  • Facebook Ads
  • AdWords (basic)
  • Display retargeting
  • Tradeshows

Make sure to segment your audience properly on these platforms. Both LinkedIn and Facebook allows you to target a specific set of accounts with a custom offer. If you are targeting different verticals or solutions, it’s very important to build these audiences upfront. You can use Metadata.io to run Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns, so that you can aggregate all the audiences and run reports for both platforms, while using their machine-learning algorithm to match your Ideal Customer Profile.

6) Track results and report on main metrics

The final step is to track the results of your campaigns and reports on main metrics related to the target account list, including:

  • Web traffic
  • Number of inbound qualified leads
  • Number of inbound qualified opportunities
  • $ Pipeline
  • $ Revenue
  • Targeted accounts engaged
  • Targeted accounts closed-won

While standard inbound marketing is very easy to measure (number of MQLs, number of opportunities sourced, etc.), for Account-Based Marketing it’s less straight-forward. The concept of “Marketing-sourced” or “Sales-sourced” opportunity doesn’t really apply in Enterprise sales. It’s always a joint effort of both departments that can transform a large account from Cold to Engage to Customer. If marketing generates a lead with a big company (ex. Bank of America), that’s just the first step of a long journey. There are several other influencers and decision makers to involve to move the deal forward.

This is why it’s better to look at the overall Account Engagement score and figure out how the marketing investment is correlating to an uplift on that score. It’s always recommended to clarify these expectations with the sales team early on and agree on the metrics that will be measured.

Implementing account-based selling can have a huge positive impact on your bottom line. Spend some time at the beginning to clarify goals and metrics and to establish a "Lead to Revenue" funnel in order to measure stage-by-stage the results of the account-based marketing programs. If you're interested in making the transition to account-based marketing, reach out to us to discuss.

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