Rodrigo: I’m here with Charlie Liang from Engagio. Charlie, tell us a bit about yourself and Engagio.
Charlie: I’m the Director of Marketing of at Engagio, founded by former Marketo founder, Jon Miller. I’m in-charge of Account-Based Everything at Engagio, which includes ops and a bit of evangelism. We’re doing a lot here at Engagio with a pretty small team and it’s just really fun to be part of it.
How do you define Account-Based Everything?
Rodrigo: Engagio puts out amazing content, so I’d love to hear your definition of ABM or account-based everything.
Charlie: During Jon’s presentations, he likes to show a chart of Google search results for the term ABM and its trend. You’ll note that Account-Based Everything is not a new idea but it’s a trending practice that marketing and sales organizations are using, and it’s spreading like a wildfire.
Account-based marketing is half of the equation. You need to work with sales to realize the value of your account-based efforts, and that’s why we call it “account-based everything“. There are really five or six key steps that successful account-based marketing and account-based sales development organizations have adopted.
Before you go to market, you need to know the companies that you’re dealing with. So you have to identify your ideal customer profile. Work with your sales team to identify the key attributes. For us, it’s what CRM they are using — are they using Salesforce, are they using a marketing automation platform? Not a must have, but if they’re using Salesforce, we can work with them. Our sweet spot is a company with 100 to 2000 employees.
After setting the ideal customer profile, you need find the accounts that fit that definition, and you can’t do that without great data. Then it’s time to build out the contacts inside those target accounts. In account-based marketing, you’re still selling to people but you want to find the key personas at those companies.
Once you have the contacts, it’s time to run campaigns into the target accounts. When you’re running a campaign, start with an objective. You might have an awareness objective (e.g., getting people to see your brand). For example, when someone asks, “what does Engagio do?”, they can speak three words: “account-based everything.”
Other times you want to run a campaign dedicated to driving meetings, so you have to involve your sales team because they’re doing the follow-up. There, the goal is to soften the ground, whether it’s a door opener, direct mail piece, and account-based advertisements. The important part is to start with the goal. Without a goal, your account-based efforts won’t be successful.
To recap, there are four steps: get good data, find your accounts, find your contacts, and communicate with your contacts using multiple channels. When you’re finding accounts, you have to get account insights as well, such as finding relevant trigger points, organizational charts, and reporting structure. Then you can start executing campaigns to drive awareness or meetings.
How does an account-based effort fit into the overall marketing stack?
Charlie: In the last decade or so, marketers have gotten drunk on inbound. The rise of content marketing led to so much inbound and an ecosystem built around optimizing inbound. The tool stack for that ecosystem is vast. Look at Marketo, for example, as a great example of a tool that’s optimized for lead-based approaches. Part of the problem with ABM was that it was so hard in the past, but it is getting easier with tools focused on account-based everything. And that’s rapidly changing as people see value in going outbound versus traditional inbound activities. So tools like ListenLoop and Engagio, for example, that really helped address the core problems that people face when they’re trying to tackle an account-based everything approach.
Of course, companies shouldn’t stop their inbound marketing. You’re still doing events, you’re still putting content out there, you’re still fishing with nets.
But if you really want to accelerate your growth, hit your numbers and spend less of your sales rep cycles on smaller deals that might move the needle incrementally and focus them more on landing the whales, that’s where account-based everything comes into play.
At Engagio, we’re using a marketing mix that consists of 50-50 inbound-outbound. We spend a good amount of effort on inbound, events and net fishing, and we also spend a fair amount of effort on the outbound front, landing meetings and opportunities with the select group of target accounts that are in our sweet spot. While the tool stack for inbound is well built out — you’re starting to see leaders emerge in the account-based everything category, such as Engagio and ListenLoop, which help you accomplish ABE activities much easier than doing them manually.
How do you measure your account-based efforts, both in the short-term and long-term?
Charlie: There’s a whole new set of metrics in the account-based world. I come from a “demand gen” world, where we used to measure names, leads, meetings, and opportunities. The all important MQL was the transition point between marketing and sales. It was a good metric, but in the account-based world, it’s largely irrelevant.
The marketing qualified account (MQA) is a better measurement
because the sales team is not saying, “Oh I sold Frank at so-and-so company. I’m not selling Jane at this so-and-so company.” Instead, they sell to logos. Start with accounts and go with accounts the whole way. We look at everything from an account-based approach, whether it’s inbound activities or outbound activities.
At Engagio, Jon invented the concept of engagement minutes, which is the evolution of lead scoring. Engagement minutes are account-centric. When you’re doing a large enterprise deal, you’re not doing a deal with one person at the company. The interaction happens with multiple parties on their end and it happens with multiple parties on our end. So you aggregate all of the interactions because that data is useful as your sales team is working through the deal.
As the sales development team is prospecting accounts, we look at engagement minutes up to MQA, up to meeting, and up to opportunity. We look at that breakdown and ask: what is causing those engagement minutes? For example, did they go to webinar, did our SDR team prospect them, did they stop at our booth at the trade show? And we work backwards to our marketing programs and marketing activities to see what’s working and what’s not.
We may find that we don’t have meetings with 300 of the target accounts yet, so we ask, “How do we get meetings on those 300 target accounts?” It’s important to know the KPIs in advance, so you can act on them. To do this, break down engagement minutes that were most successful (e.g., those leading to marketing qualified accounts to meetings or even before that, target accounts to marketing qualified accounts). Once you’ve identified your most successful activities, you apply them again to the target 300 accounts.
Everything should be measured at the account level, in particular using engagement minutes.
You can have different thresholds, depending on how good the account is. For instance, target accounts will have lower engagement thresholds and companies not fitting the ICP will have higher thresholds. And don’t forget traditional funnel stages. At Engagio, we use a tweaked version of the SiriusDecisions funnel — Known, Aware, MQA, Meeting, Opportunity, and Customer. Note that all of our stages are at the account level so we can measure accounts versus individual people.
Where do you draw the line in your engagement minutes for each of these different stages?
Charlie: The simple answer is to ask sales. We’ll sit in a room with the sales development leaders, the VP of sales, the head of sales development and discuss a few examples. For instance, a director of marketing at a target accounts watches a webinar and attends a webinar. Is that a marketing qualified account by itself? Perhaps the sales team say yes. In another example is, let’s say there are three people at a non-target account. One person stopped by our booth, the other went to the website, and another watched the video on our website. Does that constitute an marketing qualified account? We work backwards from the engagement and establish the thresholds.
Internally, we have three funnels. Our Funnel 1 is target accounts. Funnel 2 is non-target but qualified accounts. Funnel 3 is outside of our ICP, so non-target, non-qualified accounts. Our threshold for funnel 1 is about 30 minutes — it’s 20 minutes for smaller companies and 30 minutes for bigger companies. (Defined by employee range cutoffs determined from our Salesforce data.) So 20-30 minutes for funnel 1, 40 minutes for funnel 2, and then, 115 engagement minutes for funnel 3 accounts. But these numbers are always in motion. If our SDR team has a lot to work through, we might raise the threshold for a temporary time. Vice versa, if they’re light on activities, we’ll lower the threshold. It’s all about constant adjustment and based on live feedback.
Rodrigo: That’s really smart. I like how you normalize the engagement minutes depending on the employee size of a company to account for the fact that, “a big company has lots of employees, which could mean that more engagement across each employee for it across the same aim engagement level for smaller companies.”
Charlie: Exactly. At larger companies, the buying centers will be larger. According to one study, the average buying unit is 6.8 people at large companies. But if you’re a smaller company of 15 employees, the marketing team might be just 1-3 people. So you’re not gonna have that many people involved, and we normalize our engagement threshold accordingly.
What is the “Engagio on Engagio” Series?
Charlie: Many people are passionate about account-based marketing and sales at Engagio, and we like to put their thoughts in our blog series, “Engagio On Engagio.” We have over 100 customers who look to Engagio as a thought leader because, among other reasons, our team is comprised of marketing royalty.
Our customers are involved in a Slack channel dedicated to ABM best practices. Everybody wants to know how we’re doing marketing, how we’re doing account-based sales development, and how we’re doing account-based sales at Engagio.
Give our principles of freedom and transparency, we decided to share everything we’re doing in a “behind the scenes” look at how we run our campaigns, what’s involved, what we measure.
So, the “Engagio on Engagio” shows how to run a successful account-based marketing, sales development, and sales campaign.
The posts are fairly lengthy, so save it for some bedtime reading. We’ll be coming out with more articles around key topics, such as “demand gen versus ABM,” what’s the optimal mix? What are the differences? How should I allocate my resources? We also get a lot of questions about MQAs and engagement minutes. Why should we use MQAs and engagement minutes? How do I set it up?
Joining the ABM Bandwagon: Better World For All?
Rodrigo: Sometimes I worry when people reveal the secret sauce of effective campaigns. Executing a campaign produces annoying results when everyone is doing it. I still remember the first year of the Predictable Revenue wave. When it caught on, it really worked. Now, too many outbound emails are “cookie cut” straight from Ross’ book, and it’s galling. So, what does the world look like 5 years from now when everyone’s on the ABM bandwagon? Is it a better world for all?
Charlie: I’ll use Marketo’s marketing automation as an example. Marketo was founded in 2006 and didn’t really hit traction until probably 2009. In 2009, you had early adopters, and then you had your big wave in 2011-2012 and onwards. If you look at the growth trajectory of Marketo, it’s been fairly steady, non-exponential. My point is that marketing automation was for inbound as Engagio is for outbound.
I think you’re right. Account-based marketing is going to be called “good old marketing” in 3 to 5 years as companies realize they should adopt an account-centric approach.
The inbound trend has thrown us off-track, but I think we’re going back to our routine, starting with what sales thinks about, which is accounts first and then the persona second. In the next 3 to 5 years, we’re going to see a lot of adoption into account-based activities and then marketers getting a lot better at those activities. A big part of that, and I know ListenLoop does a lot of this, is personalization.
Personalization is important in an account-based. First of all, you’re still selling to people, and, second, as companies are narrowing their focus on target accounts, everyone is selling to the same people. Those buyers are probably getting bombarded with efforts to get their attention. So they’re going to respond, but the bar to get their attention is getting higher and higher. As marketers, we have to be more and more sophisticated when selling to target accounts because chances are a lot of people are selling to those same decision makers.
As the bar gets higher, there will be more focus on personalization to get attention from key accounts.
Rodrigo: I’ve heard a phrase when people are in an RFP process with competitors called “the beauty pageant.” Your comments remind me of that beauty pageant, where you have to personalize better than anybody else to stand out. That’s where the world is headed.
Charlie: Your first interaction with a target account doesn’t start when you jump on a call with them, see them on a webinar, show up at their office, or get an RFP from them. It often starts with an initial, cold outbound interaction. It starts with the first ad they see about you. It starts with a direct mail package. Just like a first date, you wouldn’t dress sloppy, you wouldn’t be a slouch. So you shouldn’t waste the first interaction with half-assed content. Sometimes you only get one chance to get into these target accounts, so make sure that first impression is as crisp as the last impression before you deliver a contract to them for them to sign and be your customer.
What are some of the biggest challenges in implementing an account-based effort?
Charlie: There are a lot of challenges. It’s not as hard as it looks, but
I see a lot of organizations falter with too much planning and not enough doing.
It’s important to plan and strategize, but you don’t need a fully fleshed-out plan. You don’t need to know what you’re doing for the next 12 months. You don’t need to map out those activities to get started with ABM. The sooner you realize value from ABM, the more valuable ABM will be for you. That’s kind of a paradox. So just get started. Strategize a bit but make your planning cycle short, 1-2 months.
You don’t need to tell the sales team that you’re doing account-based approaches. They’ve been waiting for you to do this for years. They’re on board. Instead, focus on getting your marketing team on board. Your CMO is probably hearing from the CEO and the VP of Sales, “we have to do more ABM. This makes a lot of sense.” Give them a one- to two-month plan on what you’re going to do initially, and that usually starts with the data.
Similarly, you need to choose your tech carefully. Every B2B marketing vendor has heard of the word ABM at some point in the last 12 months. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, but not all ABM is the same. When you think about all the things involved in ABM, there’s a lot of different tactics. For example, I talked about the data, account selection, getting the contacts, analytics, KPIs, advertising, CRM, and a platform for it all to work together. (Hint: make sure you work with a vendor that has lead-to-account matching.)
The stack is important because if you have budget for one ABM vendor, you need to choose a platform wisely. Consider what channels are working for companies of your size and vertical. LinkedIn is a great channel. Account-based ads is a great channel. Email is a great channel. Phone is okay. (We’re seeing a bit of diminishing returns on phones because people aren’t picking up cold calls anymore.) Tee them up and make warm calls.
Ads are effective, email is effective, social is effective, but make sure you know what’s effective in your industry and buyers. If you’re selling to CFOs versus an SDR rep, the channel mix will be different. So make sure you think about where they’re spending their time and target accordingly.
To recap, the challenges are (1) too much planning, not enough doing, and (2) not digging deeper into ABM vendors and understanding what exactly it is that they do and what can they do to help solve your ABM go-to-market strategy.
Rodrigo: Excellent. Thank you, Charlie. This has been an awesome session of marketing talk. Charlie, is there anything you wanna leave us with before we end today’s chat?
Charlie: Jon Miller came out with two comprehensive guides. Some of you may have seen it. It’s 124 pages on everything you need to know about how to do account-based marketing and 142 pages on everything you need to know about how to do account-based sales development. Both are equally important in account-based everything — check them out here.
Rodrigo: Like Charlie says, some light reading when you’re in bed…
Charlie: That’s 207 pages. It will be a breeze and very educational.
Rodrigo: Thank you everyone for attending and participating. Charlie, we hope to have you back soon.
Charlie: Awesome. Thanks Rod.
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