Account-Based Marketing ≠ Marketing to Accounts
As any company that’s seen success with ABM can tell you, there’s a difference between marketing to accounts and account-based marketing.
You can market to specific accounts all you want, but if you’re not working with your sales team and using account-based KPIs, you’re not really doing ABM. To execute true account-based marketing, your go-to-market teams must continually work together to prioritize and engage target accounts with the same goals in mind.
Benefits and Challenges of ABM
If your ABM program is firing on all cylinders, it will shorten your sales cycle, allow for a more efficient use of your marketing budget, and significantly improve the experience during the buyer’s journey.
Need proof? A report by TOPO found that organizations that have implemented an ABM strategy increase their average contract values by 171%.
One of the biggest challenges, however, is that ABM is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will work across the board, so some trial and error is inevitable. And the truth is, what works today may not work in six months.
If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry — it’s easier than you might expect to iterate on your account-based program and improve dramatically as you go.
LogMeIn’s ABM Journey
It’s a tale the team at LogMeIn knows all too well. The company, which provides cloud-based remote connectivity services and is one of the top five SaaS companies in the world, has consistently and systematically adjusted its ABM strategy to align with its variety of product offerings and changing customer and prospect needs.
“We started with ABM because it was a hot trend,” Lisa DeDonato and Lindsay Becker ― both supervisors of corporate marketing at LogMeIn ― revealed at #FlipMyFunnel 2018. “But that’s not why we do it now.”
So, what changed?
Phase one of LogMeIn’s ABM strategy was their first foray into the world of targeting strategic accounts, but they knew there was room for improvement.
After some experimentation, the LogMeIn marketing team realized they were leaving opportunities on the table for two reasons.
- They hadn’t taken all the necessary steps to form a true partnership with sales.
- They were not using data-driven insights to identify and engage the accounts that were most likely to buy at any given time.
So the LogMeIn team took a step back, restructured their approach, and deployed the second phase of their account-based strategy. As a result, they achieved 70% target account penetration and 17% account-to-opportunity conversion. Pretty good figures when you consider that, on average, 99% of B2B prospects never become customers.
Some of the biggest shifts the team made included getting buy-in from the C-suite and other key leaders at the company, collaborating with their sales team to put key metrics in place, and realizing that the road to ABM success should be approached as a marathon, not a sprint.
Let’s take a closer look under the hood.
Signs It Was Time for LogMeIn to Revamp Their ABM Strategy
Many marketers don’t achieve runaway success with ABM on their first go-round. This is largely because they don’t put enough focus on honing in on best-fit accounts and strategic metrics. Despite initial success, Lindsay admitted their team at LogMeIn also fell prey to this trap.
When we first launched our ABM strategy, we moved too quickly. Processes like target account selection were left up the reps.
Not taking the time to lay the proper groundwork for ABM inevitably caused some friction. The marketing team tried to keep target account lists to a manageable size, but they quickly turned into running lists of every single account the sales team was engaging with, regardless of their likelihood of becoming a customer.
While marketing quickly moved forward with the list — and, as a result, helped close the first target account opportunity in just one month — they knew the process wasn’t scalable.
“Checking progress being made within these accounts was crucial, but it was almost 100% manual,” Lindsay said. “But we knew to see success with this first round of ABM, we needed to do whatever it took to prove out the success of this type of account-based strategy, even if it included extra time to understand results.”
Since they were experiencing some quick initial success, they were determined to keep the momentum going. They mapped out what successful account journey timelines would look like to intimately understand all associated touchpoints leading up the point of conversion. They worked closely with the sales team to define these journeys, which gained their trust and buy-in — but unfortunately, this excitement led them to scale across too many sales teams too quickly.
“Without the reporting infrastructure in place, we knew this wouldn’t be sustainable for us to manage,” Lindsay said. “This was our moment of realization that we knew we needed to pause and rethink our strategy.”
While the organization agreed that taking an account-based approach was the right choice for LogMeIn, they also realized that long-term success would require putting the right tools and processes in place.
Hitting Pause to Plan for Long-Term Success
“After initial success, we did something that may come as a surprise,” Lindsay said. “We took a five-month pause to reset our strategy, taking in our learnings to date and using them to determine how to create long-term success.”
LogMeIn formed what they call their ABM Tiger Team, which included marketing representation from each of the company’s three distinct business units. The team spent the next several months figuring out what a successful ABM strategy would look like for the company and identifying processes that would lead to achieving established goals.
Securing Buy-In from Internal Stakeholders (Again)
Taking a cue from recent research ― SiriusDecisions found that B2B organizations with collaborative marketing and sales teams achieved 24% faster revenue growth over three years compared to their less-aligned counterparts — the ABM Tiger Team strategically aligned the marketing functions of the company’s distinct business units, which represent well over a dozen products.
“We met with our internal stakeholders again and shared what we had mapped,” Lindsay shares. “Getting sign-off was easy with the clear results of our first attempt at ABM.”
“Marketing must speak the same language to our leadership and shared sales resources,” she added. “For each business unit, we have distinct marketing teams with their own goals, budgets, and priorities. But that doesn’t mean there’s no overlap. Our teams intersect across key areas like buyer segments [and] leadership teams, and [they] even share some of the same sales reps.”
Without this kind of consistency, the LogMeIn ABM Tiger Team knew it would be impossible to drive trust and credibility across cross-functional partnerships.
Forming a Partnership Built Upon Data
It turned out getting buy-in from sales was surprisingly easy. The secret? As marketing shifted the business model from a focus on top-of-the-funnel MQLs to a more targeted approach, they emphasized that ABM is a strategy that would help marketing form a new type of partnership with the sales function. Instead of the generating a high volume of leads, the goal was to penetrate, engage, and convert a list of best-fit accounts.
“For us, ABM was never about a strategy marketing was pushing on sales,” Lindsay said. “Rather, it was a strategy that sales needed, even if they didn’t realize they were asking for it.”
As the marketing team launched phase two of its ABM strategy and began to see even the result roll in, one of their executive leaders approached them and asked for an overview of the program’s goals, metrics, and past performance. Fortunately, with a partnership built on data, they had what they needed to prove success.
“The data and reporting is the only way we have been able to prove our use case, gain credibility with sales, and promote mindshare at the executive level,” Lindsay explained.
Effectively Measuring ABM Wins with New Metrics
According to ITSMA, almost 85% of marketers measuring the ROI of an ABM program report that it outperforms other marketing tactics. An amazing stat, yes. But you’ve got to work with all internal stakeholders within the organization to define the core data to benchmark.
“One key measurement we put in place ― and socialized with sales ― is account penetration,” Lindsay said. “Historically we have always looked at MQL to opportunity conversion, but we are now looking at account opportunity conversion.”
The team also introduced new pipeline metrics. While they are still monitoring marketing-generated pipeline numbers, they’re zeroed in on what percentage of total pipeline created is coming from targeted account lists.
“Our instinct as marketers is to look at what exact marketing program drove pipeline,” Lindsay said. “But ABM is about marketing and sales partnership, and by nature, sales is going to source their own pipeline as part of the program –– and that’s okay.”
“After four months, we looked at the total pipeline created and found that 20% of our pipeline was coming from our target account list.”
In addition, the organization’s account-to-opportunity conversion nearly tripled from 6% to 17% over the last year.
ABM Success Is Not an Overnight Phenomenon
Take it from the team at LogMeIn. To have a successful ABM program and drive long-term performance, you must:
- Instill collaboration and frequent communication among cross-functional teams.
- Establish and agree upon key reporting metrics — particularly account-based metrics.
- Deeply understand your ideal accounts and the buying committees associated with those.
- Devise a scalable strategy.
“With ABM, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Lindsay said. “It’s up to you to define what a successful strategy will look like at your organization.”