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The TOPO Account-Based Funnel: Official Launch

Over the last year, account-based go-to-market strategies have become the hottest topic in B2B sales and marketing. This shift is occurring as sales and marketing leaders realize the shortcomings of traditional, volume-based, lead-centric demand generation programs. While these programs have, in some cases, delivered a large number of leads to sales, key strategic metrics, such as close rates and lifetime value, have not met expectations.

The massive amount of interest in account-based strategies is justified. TOPO defines account-based as the proactive coordination of marketing, sales development, sales, and customer success to close, retain, and grow an organization’s most valuable accounts (for a deeper definition of account-based, see the TOPO Account-Based Everything Framework). It’s this approach that allows a company to mobilize all of its resources against its most valuable accounts. In so doing, marketing and sales (as well as other parts of the organization) evolve from merely generating leads to  dramatically improving around strategic metrics, such as customer lifetime value.

While interest in becoming account-based is at an all-time high, very few companies have been able to make their account-based strategies and tactics a daily operating reality. There’s a simple reason for this – to date, sales and marketing have lacked a definitive account-based operating model as their guide.

The TOPO Account-Based Funnel provides the framework organizations need to design, execute, and measure their account-based strategy. Leveraging research conducted on 100s of account-based programs of all shapes and sizes, the TOPO Account-Based Funnel provides specific guidance on the process, metrics, and organization required to successfully execute on account-based. It’s designed to provide you with a canonical operating model to move your account-based strategy from concept to reality.

ABM, ABE, Account-based marketing, account-based everything, marketing, sales, funnels, waterfall

If you’d like access to the full version of the TOPO Account-Based Funnel, contact TOPO at analyst@topohq.com for more information. 

The design and execution of an account-based strategy requires a significant change in approach, which is highlighted in the seven key takeaways below.

Account-based strategy starts with your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

Leveraging quantitative and qualitative data, the ICP defines the type of account that will deliver on key economics such as close rate, potential revenue, velocity, and retention. The ICP then becomes the basis for the critical step of building the target account list.

The target account list defines your target market.

The target account list used to be an ad-hoc tactical list. Now it represents a strategic, data-driven set of accounts the entire organization will focus on. It effectively represents your target market.

Account engagement is the leading indicator of account-based success.

Successful programs engage accounts via well-designed experiences throughout the customer lifecycle. For example, marketing may increase engagement through programs specifically designed to improve late-stage funnel metrics (e.g. pipeline velocity). Account-level engagement is tracked via the Account Engagement Score (AES).

The Engaged Account replaces the MQL.

A target account is initially engaged when it reaches the minimum Account Engagement Score (AES). This score allows organizations to prioritize outreach efforts (e.g. a target account may reach the minimum AES via significant website visits, which triggers an SDR to accelerate their prospecting into that account). There are a variety of factors that determine what your minimum AES should be.

Target Account Pipeline (TAP) is the critical mid-funnel metric.

An account-based organization is not focused on early stage leads, it is focused on growing TAP (i.e. pipeline from the target account list). As a result, sales development and marketing execute joint programs in order to grow TAP.

Account-based unlocks the latent revenue potential within your existing customer base.

Many organizations focus their revenue efforts on acquiring new customers. With account-based, organizations execute orchestrated programs specifically designed to drive expansion revenue growth.

Account-based maximizes the ultimate revenue metric – customer lifetime value (LTV).

In recent years, customer lifetime value has emerged as the most important metric in revenue. It’s also the ultimate account-based metric. That’s because engaging high value accounts is the foundation of any account-based strategy. And LTV is the ultimate indicator of how valuable an account is today, as well as how valuable that account might become over time (potential LTV). With a well-defined target account list and effective account-based execution on both net-new and expansion opportunities, companies that use account-based will see significantly higher customer LTV.

If you’d like access to the TOPO Account-Based Funnel, contact TOPO at analyst@topohq.com for more information.

About the author: Eric Wittlake is TOPO’s Senior Analyst for Marketing, bringing TOPO clients more than 15 years of experience developing and executing B2B demand generation, marketing and advertising programs.

  • This is big. Awesome work Eric Wittlake!

  • Scott Albro

    Great work by the TOPO Analyst Team and Eric Wittlake in particular!

  • Always great to hear the latest in sales thought leadership from the TOPO Crew!

    • And it is always great to get a supportive comment as well, thank you!

  • This is a great framework! I think the traditional sales funnel wasn’t allowing sales organizations to unlock the full potential of ABSD. This gives sales leaders the right start for developing their ABSD strategy.

    -Amir, Contify (www.contify.com)

  • Really appreciate this well-articulated perspective on ABM, Eric. Great to see you writing!

  • Dan Z

    Nice summary and certainly better approach to Sales and Marketing alignment. A couple of additional thoughts. 1) If you have an engaged account in prior step, shouldn’t you have an SQL(s)? Alternatively, call this is a Marketing Qualified Account (MQA). 2) Change Sales Accepted Opportunity to Sales *Qualified* Opportunity, which means an opportunity that sales has qualified to a required level and quality beyond opportunity creation.

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