Account-Based Marketing vs Account-Based Engagement
Drivers of the current market shift from ABM to ABE include improving economics, flowing with market dynamics, and showing proven account-based results across many sectors utilizing these best practices. The ABE Framework provides for a variety of best practices toward successfully utilizing these methods, including those related to strategy set-up, team alignments and distribution of resources, identifying and focusing marketing collateral (in specific channels using specific methods) to ideal target customer profiles, and detailed account planning with particular approaches for different tiers of customers. Metrics for measuring success include those for coverage, awareness, engagement, reach/focus, and impact. Notably, no major case studies that were detailed enough could be located on companies switching from ABM to ABE, though we were able to identify three mini-case studies of companies utilizing one best practice or another to success, and it is these that have been included with this report.
Drivers of the Switch from ABM to ABE (w/ Mini-Case Study)
- The switch from ABM (account-based marketing) to ABE (account-based engagement, account-based everything) is driven by multiple factors. The first driver is “improved economics,” meaning the focused targeting of specific vertical markets is key to success in this change. Identifying these specific verticals, through the evaluation of leads vs sales, then focusing the majority of marketing toward those verticals is essential.
- One company (brand unidentified) assessed their accounts, and realized that “3 verticals made up 80% of the customer install base.” They noted that clients from these verticals “outperformed all customers in key indicators like close rate, ACV, and churn,” yet their marketing leads (to the tune of 6000+ each month) only included about 5% of companies within these segments. Additionally, though their sales reps were holding 25+ meetings each month with potential clients, only a very small percentage were within companies in these verticals.
- The unidentified-brand company determined to switch over to ABE to solve this issue, and started by re-focusing a solid majority of their sales and marketing directly toward those three verticals, raising their monthly meetings for these sectors from four to 25. They also increased their targeted leads by 400% in the key verticals, leading to greater success in potential-to-client conversion.
- The second driver is “market dynamics,” which notes that scalable revenue growth models over the last decade have been “driven by inbound volume and velocity models.” These models have reached their peaks for most companies, forcing a change in their methods toward an ABE model – and a re-focus on new markets (“commonly upmarkets”).
- The third driver is “proven account-based results,” which shows great success by early adopters of ABE, especially “with respect to deal-size metrics such as ACV and LTV.” One example highlights how top-of-the-line ABE-focused marketing can “yield a 75% increase in ACV and a 150% increase in LTV via account-based upsell campaigns.”
The Account-Based Everything Framework: A Series of Best Practices for Development
- As mentioned in the original research, Topo offers a framework for creating a successful ABE program within a company; this research will expand on that framework to provide the details needed to implement it successfully. In addition, other expert-prepared sources were used to augment these and provide back-up for the identified best practices.
- Targeting specific accounts is where the framework opens, highlighting how the typical ABM model is focused on attracting a number of buyers and influencers within particular markets to “fill the company’s demand generation funnel,” and how the ABE framework involves “engaging specific, named accounts to generate leads, pipeline, and revenue.” This begins with identifying and defining the ideal customer through the creation of client personas.
- Start this process by getting qualitative input from sales and marketing teams, as well as accessing internal data (“historical closed-won data by account type, account-level profitability, customer satisfaction”), and external data (predictive analytics). From this information, scope the ideal customers – then create customer personas (also called “buyer personas”) that provide a detailed overview of these individuals (including demographics and psychographic info). This refined ideal target list should then be compared against named accounts and other potentials (or contacts) matching the client persona criteria.
- LeadSpace notes the importance of ignoring anecdotal data during this process, and focusing only on data-driven demographics and commonalities, especially as they relate to the company’s current top-spenders. They note the importance of focusing on lifetime spends rather than deal totals for these. Additionally, they encourage outlining the ideal customer’s pain points – so these can be addressed to the group, as well as individually. MarTechSeries chimes in with the eye-opening statistic showing that companies that have developed – and market specifically to – target buyer personas “have 68% higher account win rates,” than companies that do not!
- The corporate ABE strategy comes next in development, with best-in-class strategies aligning “customer-facing functions for a coordinated process of engaging the target accounts.” Topo states that, “A winning strategy communicates why an ABE program is right for the company, how program success will be measured, and specifies how each stakeholder and participant helps the organization achieve that success.”
- LeadSpace notes how insisting on “alignment between sales and marketing” on all ABE efforts is essential to success. If these departments (and all others touching client accounts) do not work together – and do not ensure that no unnecessary overlap occurs, then the efforts are likely to fail.
- DiscoverOrg backs up these claims, adding that clear commitments from each side – sales and marketing – on which responsibilities they will handle – are absolutely essential to success. They go on to say that there are three basic tiers for accounts, and categorizing potential accounts on these tiers will help best-focus sales and marketing coordination and efforts.
- Tier 1 is for the highest-touch accounts, or those that get the most personalized attention, bespoke content and campaigns, and one-to-one focus from sales and marketing professionals. Tier 2 is for mid-range accounts, or those that need medium-levels of personalization and attention. Tier 3 is for the lowest-touch accounts, or those with little customization or personalization required. Spreading these out – with equal distribution (as much as possible) – among team members is key to offering team members the fairest advantages of closing sales requiring different levels of effort.
- From the strategies, a revenue model focusing on attractive “financial and executive support” is created to set a cross-functional foundation and alignment to guide scalable ABE efforts. This model should include program forecasting for key program goals. To create the revenue model, “estimate the lead and opportunity creation goals, sales development and sales staffing plans, funnel conversion rates and advertising spend metrics (e.g., CPM rates for list appends, retargeted display, or email platforms).”
- Then, outline the organizational roles and the process for which each will be responsible, and create an ABE playbook which defines “the plays, process, people, metrics, technology, and coordination of resources” to successfully launch the program. The playbook should serve as a type of operating manual for the Abe program.
- LeadSpace highlights how getting the entire company involved can often make or break the initiatives. They recommend leveraging existing relationships among employees and clients (or potentials) and utilizing those to the fullest extent. This includes engaging company executives at target potentials – and having executives at the marketing company engage them personally.
- Successful ABE programs continually utilize updated data, so it’s imperative to build the right database management system to incorporate. Notably, Topo states that, “A data management process that delivers accuracy at scale will significantly impact the overall success of the Account-Based Everything program.” One key element on this is to ensure that all departments touching accounts (sales, marketing, customer support) utilize the system (and in the same methodical way to keep data as clean as possible). The data management process includes a routine “cleaning,” that weeds out old data and contacts, refreshing the list with new (and more likely) potential clients.
- The next step in the process is account planning, which includes a standardization of the account management process, as well as defining cross-functional stakeholders (usually on varying teams) that are assigned specific accounts to manage. Conducting routine account research and reviews is essential, as well as planning and outlining specific account campaign designs. A key best practice here is to design a standardized set of templates (with several options for each scenario) that includes targeting of new accounts, the expansion of current accounts, the proper nurturing of accounts (through personalized targeting of “top-funnel contacts"), and “ad hoc plays to capitalize on change events.”
- Lastly, Topo discusses (extensively) how to arrange, create, and provide marketing collateral, like content and targeted offers. These content and offers should be created to reach the “widest possible audience,” by being personalized in three ways: [a] to the account’s current situation, [b] to the professional needs of the ideal customer (within a specific vertical), and [c] to the buyer (like creating custom packages for particular individuals within an organization where multiple individuals are being courted).
- LeadSpace outlines the key concept that messaging isn’t just about what you say, but it’s also about when you say it, what channel it’s said in, and who is on the receiving end. They also note the importance of highly-personalizing the customer experience from “top to bottom” of the sales cycle.
Best Practices on Content & Offers for ABE (w/ Mini-Case Studies)
- Content and offers for ABE programs can be divided into three categories: “account-based marketing content and offers,” “account-based sales development content and offers,” and "account-based sales content and offers.” These also include specific content, specific types of messaging and contacts, as well as specific channels and plays, all of which must be carefully orchestrated to be a coordinated effort. Otherwise, the efforts will be less engaging as they may overlap and get messy – both of which will drive off customers.
- Account-based marketing content and offers include: short-form content, like 20 – 30-second videos, long-form content, like whitepapers or webinars, physical events, like those hosted by the company or third-party vendors or like trade shows, virtual events, and physical promos. For this content type, top channels and plays include: account-based advertising, dynamic web personalization, email campaigns that are precise in timing and frequency, direct mail campaigns, content syndication that includes filtering registrations, and social media channel marketing.
- Account-based sales development content and offers include: custom messaging (noting the vertical, specific business focus, or buyer persona of the intended prospect), custom content, like customer stories and testimonials, and calls-to-action (CTAs). One example of an emerging (yet highly-promising) CTA is “requesting time for an objective,” while another is presenting a high-value offer, like a no-obligation free trial. For this content type, top channels and plays include: multi-channel campaigns, like social media / phone calls / emails, inbound lead follow-up, outbound lead identification and verification, social media interactions (not “selling-based,” but engagement-based), phone calls, and targeted emails following email marketing best practices.
- Account-based sales content and offers include: custom messaging (which is used throughout the sales cycle), insights, which have shown to be very effective at “re-engaging buyers who are otherwise unresponsive,” custom interactive workshops targeted at the specific client’s main objectives or needs, business cases, white glove trials, and custom work like demos, presos, and proposals. For this content type, top channels and plays include: multi-touch communications, like social media / phone calls / emails, referrals and referral networking, deep prospecting and discovery driven by custom messaging, high-value selling plays that convey specific and highly-targeted information directly meeting a client’s specific needs, and negotiation/closing techniques that are “core to every sale” with ABE.
- Account-based customer success content and offers include: targeted welcome calls, targeting awareness training, surveys, customer testimonials, workshops, and quarterly business reviews. For this content type, top channels and plays include: onboarding programs mapped around the five key attributes of ABE (mentioned in the previous research), adoption campaigns with correlated internal marketing kits and CEO announcements, and account-expansion programs, like user event campaigns and customer testimonial-collection campaigns.
- Business2Community offers a mini-case study on the Lunch-and-Learn technique of ABE marketing, which involves inviting clients (either in-person or via video conferencing software) to enjoy a meal while interactively learning about how the product/service can benefit them and address their primary needs/issues. BMC Software utilized software eatNgage, which gave them triple the attendance at their webinar lunch-and learns as they’ve previously seen. Additionally, presenters noted that attendees were much more connected and active during this event than attendees had previously been.
- They also offer a mini-case study on utilizing videos that are customized for the client by the sale team. Vidyard, an online hosting platform, noted a CTR (click-through rate) that was over 150% higher than the industry averages when they ran a personalized holiday campaign.
Benefits of the ABE Approach
- Business2Community highlights a variety of benefits companies see when utilizing a strong engagement approach. Though these relate specifically to ABM, the description of the processes is more aligned with ABE, and thus these were included in this report.
- One notable statistic showed that 89% of marketers reported a higher ROI after two years of using the techniques than those using traditional marketing tactics did. These ABE companies also reported generating “208% more revenue for their marketing efforts.” The majority of these companies (91%) also report seeing larger-than-average sizes of deals, while noting a 50% reduction in “wasted sales time.”
Metrics to Measure ABE Initiative Success (Including Best Practices for Measurement)
- LeadSpace highlights the necessity of identifying specific and measureable KPIs (key performance indicators) – and refining and adjusting processes and content offerings to continually reach toward those goals.
- Topo outlined five distinct measurements that can be used to gauge the success of each tier of the ABE strategy and program. The first metric is “coverage analysis,” which indicates the percentage of accounts that do not have a specific name/contact that matches with identified buyer personas. Filling in these gaps is essential to full coverage – and best-possible outcomes on leads.
- The second is “engagement metrics,” which are top indicators of the performance of the program. One notable best practice is to “record a pre-launch baseline period (e.g.,90 days) of engagement levels within the target accounts.” After program launch, evaluating the same measures – and comparing them against the baselines, will provide impactful information that should help refine strategies and approaches.
- The third is “activity metrics,” which includes campaign effectiveness measures like number of impressions, spend vs ROI, and outreach touches. Again, the results will drive strategy and approach refinements. The fourth is “pipeline and revenue metrics,” of which a best practice is to “compare pipeline and revenue performance of target accounts to two cohorts of non-targeted accounts.” The fifth is “lifecycle metrics,” which takes a “cohort analysis within the context of lifecycle metrics (e.g., activation rate, retention rate, lifetime value, etc)” for comparison against target and non-target accounts.
- DiscoverOrg also offers the same set of metrics – coverage, awareness, engagement, reach/focus, and impact – providing distinct and quantifiable ways to show development and progress at each stage of the ABE sales and marketing cycle.