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How Masergy Built an Award-Winning ABM Strategy from the Ground Up

Author Shauna Ward Category Account-Based Marketing
Malachi Threadgill headshot
Malachi Threadgill, Director of Demand Generation at Masergy

Meet Malachi Threadgill, the director of demand generation at Masergy and winner of SiriusDecisions’ 2018 ABM Program of the Year. Masergy provides software-defined solutions for enterprise global networks, cybersecurity, and cloud communications.

“I was brought onto Masergy about four years ago to start diversifying our demand go-to-market strategy,” explains Malachi. And if his team’s accolades and impressive business outcomes are any indication, he succeeded.

“The goal [of B2B marketing and sales] is to display the right message to the right person at the right stage of the buying process,” states Malachi. “No two people buy the same way.”

Let’s take a look at how Malachi and his team at Masergy built an award-winning account-based marketing strategy from the ground up, as detailed in a recent webinar. We’ll dive into the steps they took, the challenges they overcame, and the impressive results they’ve driven by working together as one team.

Business Challenges

The greatest successes arise from challenges, and Masergy’s case is no exception. When Malachi joined the Masergy team, some of their biggest challenges were:

  • Scale – Selling to enterprise accounts is never straightforward. Because Masergy’s customer base is made up of global organizations, a single buying committee can be spread across multiple offices in various locations.
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  • Competition – With some of the world’s largest household names as competitors, Masergy was facing some stiff competition.
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  • Reputation – At the time, Masergy had “about 50% brand recognition in a poll of the Fortune 500 IT decision-makers.” That’s nothing to sneeze at, but in a competitive market, reputation is everything. They needed to increase brand awareness and trust.
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  • Go-to-Market Strategy – Traditionally, Masergy had grown their business entirely through channel partners. Those relationships continue to be a major revenue driver, but they knew they had to diversify. Malachi explains, “What we had to do was figure out a way to start bringing in new revenue streams to the business via new channels.”

To solve these challenges and continue to scale the business, they needed an efficient way to source new customers and engage them with the right message.

Phase 1: Ramping Up a Lead Generation Program

To accomplish this goal, Malachi and his team at Masergy launched a lead generation program that spanned sales and marketing.

“On the sales side, we hired a lead development organization,” he explains. “We augmented some of our sales staff with an inside sales team. We also strategically hired some outbound sales reps that were going to be selling direct into the large football cities.”

On the marketing side, the focus was on generating as many inbound leads as possible. They went after some quick wins, like Google AdWords campaigns and content syndication. They improved their rudimentary marketing automation program by investing in some additional tools and improving their workflows. But the changes didn’t end in the digital sphere. Masergy also invested heavily in events with the goal of getting in front of as many potential buyers as possible.

The Results (And Some New Challenges)

A year and a half after kicking off their demand generation strategy, the leads were rolling in. Masergy had generated over 25,000 leads — a seriously impressive feat for a team that had previously relied so heavily on channel partners to drum up new business.

“Marketing was really excited, and we thought we were doing a great job bringing in that amount of lead volume to the business,” Malachi explains. “It seemed like a huge win for us. We were all patting each other on the back, screaming from the rooftops how awesome marketing was doing.”

The sales team, however, didn’t quite share the same enthusiasm. It’s a tale B2B marketers know all too well.

Malachi puts it like this: “Marketing gives leads to sales, and sales says, ‘These aren’t the right leads. These aren’t the right customers.’ … We brought in so much lead volume that our sales team didn’t know where to start.” Without an easy way to qualify and prioritize their inbound leads, the sales team felt stuck.

So, Masergy took a step back and looked at their demand generation strategy with a fresh perspective.

“What we really had to do was figure out: How do we get in front of the right type of companies that are going to be a good fit for us?” Malachi explains.

Phase 2: From Generating Leads to Generating Pipeline with ABM

It was clear to Malachi and his team that lead generation alone wasn’t cutting it. They needed to work with their sales counterparts to target their ideal accounts and generate meaningful pipeline.

To do this, they needed to:

  1. Identify the right companies to target.
  2. Segment their target list using account insights.
  3. Collaborate with the sales team to penetrate target accounts.

Let’s take a closer look at how Masergy transformed their marketing org from a lead factory to a demand engine.

Identify and Segment Target Accounts

First, Masergy needed a way to uncover best-fit accounts in an active buying cycle. Malachi and his team decided that leveraging fit and intent data was the way to go.

“We did an exercise to define Masergy’s total addressable market,” Malachi explains. “If we look at the type of businesses that can buy from Masergy, how many are there?”

But just because a company is a good fit doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy right now. This is where predictive and intent insights came in, allowing Masergy to score their best-fit accounts and prioritize them accordingly. As a result, sales is no longer wasting time working accounts that aren’t in an active buying cycle, and marketing is no longer wasting budget marketing to them.

Predictive and intent signals can also provide insight into where an account is in the buying process. Masergy mapped their messaging to each persona and stage of the sales cycle so they could use intent signals to deliver the right message to the right people at every step.

Orchestrate Outreach to the Hottest Accounts

Next, it was time for Masergy to operationalize their account-based marketing strategy. The subway map below represents the tactics and tools they use throughout the sales cycle.

Masergy's ABM subway map
© Masergy Communications 2018

The top half of the map represents their account penetration strategy, while the bottom half represents the time period after an account has converted to an opportunity — all the way through the customer lifecycle.

Orchestrating different ABM touchpoints is similar to setting up a marketing automation nurture campaign, except that it involves more channels, requires input from your marketing and sales teams, and spans the entire customer lifecycle.

Full-Funnel Ad Targeting with Terminus

Advertising is a key channel Masergy uses to drive meaningful engagement with their target accounts. By serving targeted ads through the Terminus Account-Based Platform, they can deliver the right messages throughout the sales process. Let’s take a look at how they approach advertising in each phase.

Early Stage: Pretargeting for Brand Awareness

Masergy's early-stage account-based ads with Terminus

As a marketer, you’re already familiar with retargeting — when you cookie a user who visits your website and then serve them ads elsewhere on the web. But what about pretargeting?

You’ll recall that one of Masergy’s biggest challenges was brand awareness in a competitive market. When your potential customers don’t know who you are, they’ll never visit your website and therefore can’t be retargeted. Pretargeting with Terminus, on the other hand, is a proactive form of advertising that only requires you to know which accounts you want to target. They never have to come to your website or engage with your brand at all in order to receive your digital ads.

“Terminus was able to present the tools and the data that we needed to be confident that we were going to be able to get in front of potential customers,” Malachi explains. “So, if for instance, American Airlines has never heard of Masergy but they’re one of our targeted accounts, we can go through [the Terminus] platform and identify the key stakeholders at the IT or executive level and show them ads, even if they’ve never come through to our website before.”

With these ads, they’re not trying to generate a form fill or schedule a meeting. They’re simply providing value, generating awareness, and engaging their target accounts.

Mid Stage: Adding Value

Masergy's mid-stage account-based advertising with Terminus

At this point, a lead development rep has reached out to key people at the account and qualified it as an SQA (sales qualified account). At this point, a relationship has been established, so the ads are driving toward middle-of-the-funnel content, like e-books, white papers, and videos that speak to Masergy’s benefits.

Late Stage: Affirmation and Funnel Velocity

Masergy's late-stage account-based advertising with Terminus

When an account is in the final decision-making stages, the goal is to speed up the sales cycle by driving a consensus among the buying committee. At this point, Masergy serves ads that affirm their value — think customer testimonials and competitive content that highlights their key differentiators.

Deliver Sales Insights

The days of marketing and sales operating in silos are over. The two teams need to align on messaging and tactics at every stage. To keep the sales team informed about how their accounts are engaging with marketing touches, Masergy uses Terminus Sales Insights to push key account data into Salesforce.

Malachi says, “My sales reps don’t have to ask me, ‘Hey, how are these ads performing?’ as they’re going out and trying to penetrate them. They can just look at the account within Salesforce.com and see how much money we’ve spent, how many impressions we’ve driven, and what type of opportunity progression is occurring.”

They can also see website traffic at an account level from within Salesforce. Terminus Account-Based Visitor ID aggregates all website visits from both known contacts and anonymous visitors in one place. Sales reps can see how many people from their target accounts have visited Masergy’s website and what types of content they’re interacting with. Sales Insights also surfaces accounts that are showing spikes in engagement — in other words, they’re visiting high-value pages on Masergy’s site at a significantly higher rate than they have in the past.

Terminus product screenshot - Sales Insights
Example of Terminus Sales Insights within Salesforce.com

Altogether, this data allows the sales team to prioritize the most engaged accounts and to tailor their conversations based on the topics they’re engaging with.

Results

At the advertising campaign level, Masergy is seeing click-through rates upwards of 0.37% — over 5X the industry average for display ads. But, of course, CTR means very little if the business outcomes aren’t there. In Masergy’s case, the pipeline and revenue results have been impressive.

“When you look at the success of what we’ve been able to do over this last year of augmenting our ABM, starting with predictive, adding in intent, and then building that brand awareness [and] funnel velocity using Terminus … we’ve seen tremendous value to the business,” says Malachi.

Since implementing a data-driven target account strategy, Masergy has seen:

  • 250% increase in account penetration
  • 7X increase in opportunity creation
  • 50% higher opportunity MRR
  • 10% sales cycle reduction

Malachi adds, “Our average sales cycle previously was roughly half a year, and we’ve knocked 18 days off of that already on average. And we expect that to continue as we continue to grow and augment our strategy, both with Terminus, as well as our overall account-based marketing tool belt.”

Lessons Learned

So, what lessons would an award-winning ABM team pass on to other marketers? Malachi shares five things his team learned during their foray into account-based marketing.

  1. You need an ABM champion.
    As Malachi puts it, “It takes a champion.” Building a target account list, implementing new technology, and sticking with a new strategy requires someone — or better yet, a group of people — to take charge.
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  2. Executive buy-in is paramount.
    If your leadership team isn’t on board with your target account strategy, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Make sure you take the time to build a business case and get buy-in from all the key players. (Your technology vendors should be able to help you out with this!)
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  3. Continuously iterate and improve.
    As with any business strategy, you’re not going to get it perfect the first time, and that’s okay. What matters most is that you keep improving. “It’s never done,” says Malachi. “A/B test everything … The data is there. Most of the tools that you’re going to be using have the ability to A/B test within the tool. You have to test; you have to refine.”
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  4. Find vendors you love.
    Chances are, you’ll need to invest in some new technology. Malachi emphasizes the importance of finding vendors who will be partners, not just tech providers. “Ask the tough questions,” he recommends. “Ask about the customer support. Ask about the team that’s going to manage your account once you become a customer. Find out about their culture because that really translates through into your ability to be successful. Working with the right vendors that get you, and get your process, and get your pain points is huge to a successful ABM program.”
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  5. Show, don’t tell, to get sales on board.
    You can’t necessarily expect your sales team to dive headfirst into a target account strategy. In Masergy’s case, they had some serious obstacles to overcome. Malachi explains, “When we told sales, ‘Hey, we get it. The 25,000 leads were crap. Gotcha. Sorry. Wasted your time.’ They didn’t say, ‘Oh, cool. Thank you,’ and just start believing us as soon as we came through. It took some reluctance and it took some faith on both sides, but ultimately, the numbers don’t lie.”

Create Your Own Award-Winning ABM Program

Masergy transformed their customer acquisition strategy in a very real way using account-based demand generation. They increased revenue and decreased their sales cycle by setting clear goals, honing in on their best-fit customers, and working together as one revenue team.

Ready to kick off your own ABM transformation? Download the Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing to get started today.

Download the Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing

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