For many marketers, account-based marketing (ABX) can seem like the flavor of the moment. “Hey, the CEO read about account-based marketing and asked why we aren’t doing it!” Next thing you know, you’re launching campaigns without fully understanding what you hope to get out of them – or that aren’t even part of a true ABX strategy at all. In this post, we want to dispel some of the myths around the metrics you need to track for a successful ABX strategy. Why? Because ABX isn’t the flavor of the moment. It’s a strategy for Marketing and Sales to join forces and close big, complex deals.
What you won’t find here (sorry not sorry!) is a list of 10 KPIs you have to track to develop a successful ABX strategy. Why? Because every company – and every ABX program – is different. The metrics you choose to track will be those that measure your success against the business outcomes that matter most to your organization. We also wanted to make this guide technology agnostic, except to say that ABX is really not feasible (and measurement is next to impossible!) without a great multi-channel automated platform. So let’s dive in, shall we?
Taking stock of the ABX journey: What to measure and when
An ABX strategy must be highly engaging with tailored content and personalized communication, and it must maintain this personalized approach even as it activates prospects or customers. For prospects, this means motivating them to take the next step towards a sale. For customers, it might be about preventing churn or finding expansion opportunities. Either way, the path is rarely linear, but rather it depends on how each prospect or customer engages with a program, such as an email, webinar, or product demo. A true ABX strategy is limited to a small number of targeted, high-value accounts – typically fewer than 10. ABX proceeds through three stages: identify, reach, and engage, each of which has its own set of measurements to consider so you can gauge success and continuously improve the performance of future programs. Let’s have a look at each one.
Stage 1: Targeting
Choosing target accounts requires close collaboration and alignment between Sales and Marketing to create selection criteria. But even before you do that, you have to set quantifiable goals for your ABX strategy. Do you want to improve your Won Accounts by 10%? Increase Revenue Won by 15%? Grow revenue per account by 5%? Only when you have clear goals can you measure your performance against them.
As far as targeting specific accounts, keep in mind that ABX is designed for your biggest and most complex potential sales and customer relationships. But how big? What intent signals are you looking for? What roles are involved in purchasing decisions? Much of this data is available from third parties, but the Sales team typically owns the really interesting info, such as: Who is on the account’s buying committee? Who is the decision-maker? Who are the influencers? How have they engaged with your brand? You can use any number of criteria to define your MQL, but both Marketing and Sales should sign off on all of them.
Stage 2: Engagement
Once an ABX program is underway, it is absolutely critical to monitor engagement across all channels not only to improve future performance, but also to better understand your individual prospects. Let’s say for example you track email opens and realize that the CFO opens her emails on Sunday nights. So now you know to send her an email first thing Sunday evening at 5pm and boom – it’s at the top of her mailbox. Or one buying committee member just watches a few seconds of a video, while another watches the whole thing. Now you know who should get more videos – and who should get none.
Simply put, you have to measure behavior before you can even hope to achieve success. Think of it as letting your customers do the work for you. They’re telling you who they are and how they like to engage. Be sure you’re listening.
Stage 3: Activation
Now for the fun stuff. Let’s face it: ABX takes time and resources, so you want to be sure it moves your prospects closer to becoming customers, and helps grow your customers into champions. The link between engagement and sale is activation – getting people to take the next action along their buying journey. Here again, criteria that both Sales and Marketing have agreed on are crucial for knowing what that next step is, including transitioning from a qualified lead for marketing purposes (MQL) to one qualified by Sales (SQL).
This is a good point to remember that unlike in a typical Demand Gen campaign, this transition is not a handoff, but just the next step in the ABX process, as the Marketing team continues to be involved. One new metric for Marketing to consider, then, is velocity – not how long it takes to go from MQL to SQL, but how long from account acquisition to Closed Won or Closed Lost. This is best expressed in comparison to your company’s average sales cycle.
The final word
ABX is a powerful tool to win and grow complex, high-value accounts, but it requires discipline. Monitoring your programs and tracking KPIs against your business objectives is as important for ABX as it is for any other marketing endeavor. But in reality, the specific KPIs you choose to monitor are less important than developing a strategy to measure behavior and progress at every stage and paying attention to signals that reveal insights into your customers, your content, and your sales process. So what are you waiting for? Get your marketing and sales teams together to set some goals for your ABX strategy and how you’ll measure its success along the way. Shoot me message to get started.