It might seem weird, but marketing teams used to measure their success on lead generation. They would analyze where leads came from, how qualified they were, and whether or not they became customers as a part of some weird calculation of bringing in more leads as cheap as possible. Crazy, right?
Now let’s skip ahead to the present (and future) with an account-based strategy. If leads are now not the main goal for your marketing and sales team, what should you focus on instead to measure success? And how can you optimize your program to create more qualified sales opportunities, faster? We’re so glad you asked.
First let’s look at what a basic funnel looks like for account-based teams (a more in-depth overview can be found here). This funnel might be a little more complicated or nuanced for your particular business, but this should be foundationally similar to most sales processes.
Sidenote: While we’ve had many requests for average baseline conversion rates, we want to go ahead and say it out loud: every company is very different and establishing baselines would do more harm than good. Rather than look at what others are doing, find out for yourself. If you’re just getting started, choose reasonable baseline conversion rates. If they’re too low, congratulations, you just blew past your target. If they’re too high, you’ll have a good sense of what areas you need to optimize the most.
Target Accounts: The number of accounts you’re targeting when running a coordinated campaign. This could be a number in the thousands if you’re going after a broad set of companies with low commonality (e.g. ‘manufacturers located in the US) or just a few companies (e.g. your ‘white whale’ account list).
How To Measure Target Accounts: Easy! Count the number of accounts on a given target account list.
How to Optimize Target Accounts: It’s important to remember a main priority of any account-based program: focus on tight segments of companies to which you can deliver personalized campaigns. If your list is too broad, the conversion rates that cascade from here will be weaker. Here are a few ideas that can help:
Run a Content Audit:
Understand the marketing content you currently have and the types of industries or personas for whom it was created. Be ruthless in your appraisal! You might think your content is great for everyone but the golden rule in ABM is: if you’re marketing to everyone, you’re not really marketing to anyone. This can help you filter out companies in your target account list or create a more specific segment of similar companies.
Diversify Your Segments:
It’s okay (and preferable even) to run multiple simultaneous campaigns at varying levels of personalization and investment. The ITSMA ABM pyramid can give you an idea of how to invest into different segments, which will help you tighten up your target account lists.
Leverage Intent Data:
Target account lists don’t have to be static. In fact, they’re better if they’re dynamic with target accounts automatically flowing in and out of campaigns based on the various intent signals they’re demonstrating. Whether they’re researching topics germane to your business, researching your category on G2, or putting out psychographic signals, you can harness all of this data to create razor-sharp, dynamic target account lists.
Engaged Accounts: The number of accounts in a given target account list that are clicking your ads, visiting your website, opening your emails, or showing any other digital interaction with your brand.
How To Measure Engaged Accounts: [Engaged Accounts / Target Account List]
How to Optimize Engaged Accounts: This particular conversion rate is the most volatile and, at times, unpredictable stage in the ABM funnel. Let’s look at some of the things that can cause engagement rates to fluctuate.
Not all targeted advertising vendors are created equal. Even in normal circumstances, the match rates (the companies attempting to be targeted and the companies successfully targeted) can fluctuate based on the volumes of data that go into that targeting process, the automation in place to keep that data fresh, and even the means by which they’re targeting (IP vs. Cookies). However, in the new paradigm where work-from-home is much more common, it’s very possible that your ad vendor’s match rates have plummeted. Terminus was almost eerily prepared to adapt to COVID.
This is where the art and science of ABM comes together most beautifully. Your ad creative is limited to your imagination, giving you endless possibilities to improve. We don’t have time to run a full ad creative clinic in this blog post, but the copy you use and the design of the ad can have an incredible impact on engagement rates.
Target Account List Size:
Personalization drives engagement, full stop. If your target account list is too big it almost certainly means that your ad creative is too impersonal, causing low engagement rates. Tighten up your target audience and provide them with more tailored content and messaging.
Take a Surround-Sound Approach:
The average professional spends an absurd amount of time online and the bulk of that time is spent in three places:
- Their inbox
- Social media
- The rest of the Internet
Don’t constrain your brand awareness campaigns to just one of those channels, spread it across all of them. The more places your ads show up, the better chance you have of engaging with someone.
Opportunities Created: The accounts that have engaged with your brand (both digitally and in person), have shown interest, and have been qualified as a legitimate revenue opportunity.
How To Measure Opportunities Created: [Open Opportunities / Engaged Accounts]
How to Optimize Opportunities Created: The tricky thing about optimizing your opportunity creation rate is that it doesn’t all happen in the vacuum of the marketing department. Creating an opportunity almost always involves intervention from the members of your sales team (or your customer team if it’s a customer-facing campaign). However, there are a couple of things you can do to help your sales team help themselves to improve this rate.
Retargeting your ads to contacts and accounts that have already visited your site is a great way to further saturate them with more economical ads. The more engagement that’s being created by your marketing team, the more context and urgency your sales team will have in reaching out to them and striking up a conversation.
Account Engagement Modeling:
Just like old-school marketers have built MQL criteria, account-based marketers should build similar frameworks to help control the number of accounts your sales team is working on. Work collaboratively with your sales team to help establish a shared definition of an engaged account. Does an account clicking on a single ad count as an ‘engaged account’? Probably not. Does an account with dozens of clicks, visiting several different web pages, including two ‘high value’ pages count as an engaged account? Probably! When sales and marketing agree on this, identifying and creating legitimate opportunities becomes a smoother process.
Create Better Outreach Strategies:
Successful marketing teams work hard to create highly personalized and immersive experiences for their target accounts, and so should the sales team. Marketing can help sales by giving them as much relevant information as possible about their engaged accounts. Do the website pages they visit establish a pattern about what aspects of your product/service they’re most interested in? Do you already have relationships with other members of a visitor’s company that you can leverage for a warm intro? Are you creating direct mail or gifting strategies together to get more people to take a demo? This is the moment where sales and marketing teams create new pipeline together, so give 110% of your energy to this stage of your funnel.
Sales Velocity: The average number of days from when an opportunity is created to when they become a new customer.
How To Measure Sales Velocity: This can be measured simply by averaging the number of days an opportunity existed before closing, but you may want to apply some more measurement discipline to this. Consider creating cohorts of opportunities– by segment, company size, etc., so you can measure the velocity of different sorts of companies.
How to Optimize Sales Velocity: If 2020 was the year of “customer retention”, we’re going to go ahead and call 2021 the year of “pipeline acceleration.” While speeding up sales may not have a meaningful impact on your business, or seem like something marketing can help with, both couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you shaved a couple of days off of your average sales cycle, that time adds up! By the end of the year, you could be giving your sales team full extra weeks worth of selling time and if you’ve ever been in an end-of-quarter crunch you know how valuable that can be!
1. Remember the Double Funnel
Regardless of whether a new opportunity was sourced from your ABM program or it came through an inbound channel, as soon as it exists as an opportunity you should give it the white-glove treatment your target accounts get. That brings us to the second way to increase sales velocity.
2. Develop Stage-Based Campaigns
Assuming your sales team uses disparate sales stages to monitor pipeline health and progress-to-quota, you can use those same stages to automate marketing campaigns tailored to their position in the sales cycle. As opportunities progress, swap out awareness campaigns for ROI campaigns like case studies and showcasing your reviews. Consider the various personas that join your buying committee later in sales and start targeting those roles with ads on LinkedIn as well.
3. Make Sales and Marketing Teams Best Friends
One of the most beautiful parts of an account-based approach is that it removes the friction between sales and marketing teams. With everyone focused on the same target accounts, you’re suddenly pulling in the same direction. Use this to your advantage and have ongoing conversations about the active deals your sales team is working. Brainstorm ways you can help them pull open opportunities over the line and celebrate each other’s work when it finally happens.
At this point, there’s not much more to optimize. Your increased win rates are a function of you tuning up everything that came before it. The optimization ideas we gave you are just the tip of the iceberg– there are so many different ways to improve your conversion rates at every stage of your buyer’s journey, but the best thing you can do is dive in. Start small and remember that every little optimization will start to add up. ABM isn’t going to be an overnight success, but after some experimentation and collaboration, it will become a transformational go-to-market strategy for your company.
Stay tuned for another post on optimizing and measuring ABM success – next time we’ll focus on customer retention and expansion.