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Account-Based Learnings From the Trenches

In 2017, Account-Based is moving from cool idea to reality. The results for early adopters have been exciting – 82% of organizations executing account-based marketing for 1+ year(s) are meeting or exceeding their objectives (TOPO research on behalf of ABMLA). As their peers see success, more organizations are moving to account-based.

Five Key Findings

With more organizations moving to account-based, we are seeing new applications and challenges daily. Below is a list of 5 key findings for account-based success, grounded in common threads practitioners are experiencing, and potential solutions to adoption roadblocks:

If sales isn’t bought into the ICP, the program will fail. Account-based programs fail unless sales says, “If you get us into this list of accounts, we got it”. For some organizations, this is not an issue. Sales has already embraced the ICP and is advocating for marketing and SDRs to move to account-based to support their efforts.

For others, lack of buy-in from sales is the potential downfall of the program. Sales has to believe in the ICP and oftentimes, sales has their own idea for the ICP which data suggests are not truly in line with their goals (e.g. logos or company size versus fit). There are two solutions to this problem:

  1. If you possess overwhelming data evidence, present it to the entire executive team, and don’t proceed until there is CEO buy-in. In this use case, when the ICP comes from the top, then it becomes a strategic priority to ensure sales can sell into these accounts (sales enablement).
  2. Get the data to the VP of sales in a non-confrontational way so it is “their” decision. Without skin in the game, there is an out – “this was marketing’s call”. To avoid this, get the data to sales leadership via their preferred route. One successful route is to win over sales leadership’s most trusted advisor, sales operations. The other is the “leave it on their desk” play. You provide the data, and say, “Here is some data that might help you with your decision.” This may seem like a silly suggestion, but it works. At least 50% of the time, sales will use the data. They just don’t want to be told who they sell to.

Don’t let the ICP be the hold up. In some cases, there aren’t enough insights to agree on a quantitatively generated ICP. If that is the case, keep it simple and identify your best customers, and find similar companies in their market. If Coke is a great customer and use case, go get the rest of the beverage market and the CPG market. If series B startups are your best customer, go get the rest.

Don’t shut off the volume and velocity program (yet). If the volume and velocity funnel is producing pipeline and revenue, then keep it on. The transition can often be too harsh and often fatal. Most account-based programs start by layering account-based into the current operation. They might start by transitioning the enterprise programs to account-based, or focus on improving their outbound SDR programs via account-based. If both account-based and volume-and-velocity are in place, then 2 funnels and 2 sets of metrics should exist. For example, the account-based funnel is measured on target account-pipeline or SQLs, and the volume velocity funnel by standard waterfall metrics like MQLS.

Keep orchestration simple by starting with SDR-marketing collaboration. This is the fastest path to both orchestration and recognizable lift. The idea is to weave marketing touches into the SDR touch pattern. Account-based SDRS will typically have a 12-15 touch pattern across email, phone, and social. Marketing might add direct mail, digital touches, account-based ads, etc. into the pattern. As a result, SDR teams supported by marketing orchestration are seeing higher connect rates and SQL rates. And the account-based program is off the ground in a streamlined way. Of the organizations that have seen account-based success within year, all of them have leveraged account-based SDRs in the program. We have written on this topic previously here.

Focus on the TAP (target account pipeline). One of the reasons to focus on Account-based is because it has material impact on key metrics such as ACV (annual contract value), LTV (lifetime value), sales cycle time, and win-rates. The big issue here – those metrics take time. The best metric to leverage in account-based is target account pipeline (TAP), that is, pipeline created in target accounts. Start with a baseline of the current target account pipeline and measure lift. If you have nailed the ICP and the target account list, then target account pipeline should be the most valuable.

Below is an example:

Organizations focused on marketing-SDR alignment often focus on lift in SQLs or qualified meetings at target accounts. This is another example of a trackable metric that provides an achievable near-term milestone.

Account-based is working for many companies, but getting to that reality requires change management. That said, getting started can be done quicker than people believe. Hopefully, some of these recommendations help expedite the process. If you want to learn more about the TOPO Account-Based Framework, click here.

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