If anyone knows anything about marketing, it’s Jon Miller. The co-founder and former VP of Marketing at Marketo, Miller has spent his entire career working for and building marketing technology companies. His latest — Engagio — is an account-based marketing platform specifically geared towards B2B companies with complex, enterprise sales. You might even say that Miller is on a mission to bring ABM to the world.
If you haven’t heard, account-based marketing seeks to flip traditional lead-centric marketing on its head by focusing in on accounts, as sales typically does. Miller will tell you that “sales lives in an account-centric world.” But, the same can’t be said of marketing.
“Up until very recently, marketing has lived in a lead or person-centric world,” he adds. “That is not exclusively, but partly, the fault of the current generation of marketing automation tools. You go to Marketo or Pardot or Eloqua and you look at lists of people or lists of leads. You run campaigns against people and leads, not against accounts.”
Miller says this has led to a misalignment of sales and marketing. Account-based marketing changes the way marketing thinks and talks about accounts. If only subtle, the change has many implications for how marketers measure and run their campaigns.
As more marketers have come to realize the limitations of an inbound-only model, ABM has gained ground.
“When you don’t care about the specific fish you’re catching, and instead only care if you’ve caught enough fish,” says Miller, “traditional marketing serves your purposes just fine. But, when you’re going after enterprise companies and you have very specific targets, marketing needs an account-specific list.”
Take for instance, Guidewire, an Engagio customer that sells insurance software. Guidewire can only sell to about 1,400 insurers in the world — that’s it. And each and every one is a named account. Guidewire isn’t waiting until one of these accounts happens to swim into their nets, instead they’re reaching out proactively.
We need a different playbook for different kinds of marketing.
Miller points out that most marketing today is focused on driving net new business and net new logos. And he thinks it’s about time marketers everywhere ask themselves if this tried and true method is actually working anymore.
While traditional marketing might be focused on attracting new customers, ABM is a realization of the fact that often times your best revenue potential is actually already within your existing customer base. This is the same line of thinking that led to the boom of customer success in nearly every enterprise SaaS business.
“With ABM,” says Miller, “there’s more of a focus on land and expand.”
The traditional marketing model is a funnel, but in ABM, it’s a bowtie or an hourglass, where you’re not only focused on getting into an account, but also on achieving expansion and advocacy.
Sold on ABM? But where does one even start? First, make sure marketing and sales are aligned around the target accounts. Next, you’ll have to tier the target accounts. For the biggest accounts (the whales), you use what Miller calls ‘classic deep ABM’. “The process involves one-to-one personalization, which means you’re really treating each account like a market in and of itself, where you’re running bespoke campaigns and creating content just for that specific account.”
“While this approach has proven to be extraordinarily effective, it’s also very expensive and hard to scale,” says Miller. To make sure you can scale your ABM effectively, Miller says to pick a handful of accounts — he recommends 5 to 20 — that will get the ‘deep treatment.’
Then, Miller recommends building out a second tier that receives what he calls ‘ABM Light.’ “You’re still treating each account individually, but the level of depth and personalization is not as high.”
If you want to take it even further, you can build out a third tier where your campaigns aren’t as personalized, but instead are segmented by account type or industry. Miller says it’s important to remember that the point is “to align on the level of resources that go to each account.”
It’s equally important to understand what you expect to get out of each of the three tiers. “For example,” Miller notes, “if you’re putting 60% of your marketing efforts into tier one, but sales is only expected to get 20% out of those accounts, then you’re already setting yourself up for failure.”
Despite the name, it’s obvious that the onerous of ABM doesn’t just fall to the marketing team. True account-based marketing is about building synergy between sales and marketing. Miller calls ABM a misnomer for exactly this reason. “I like to joke,” he says, “that marketing automation is a misnomer because you hear automation and you think you’re taking people out of the equation. But, marketing automation only works when you actually have people running the system. Similarly, account-based marketing is a misnomer because it’s not just focused on marketing. It’s really a way for marketing and sales to work together.”
Whatever you call it, Miller knows that ABM works. Now, it’s his chance to perfect it.
Interested in learning more about Engagio and account-based marketing? Download the Clear and Complete Guide to ABM here.