Account Based Marketing – Get Radical but stay Practical


Nigel Williams, CMO at Quadrotech, on Account Based Marketing.

Why Radical?

Executed with vision, Account Based Marketing is substantially different to traditional demand and represents a distinct change in how Sales and Marketing work together.  The name, and how it is often presented, may not give that impression, but it is a missed opportunity to think of it as ‘another Marketing program’.

The differences between ABM and traditional demand programs start with the fact that ABM is not a Marketing program  - or shouldn’t be.  To realize strong results, ABM requires a well-coordinated Sales and Marketing effort with both teams working closely together on a set of accounts, not just in the traditional cycle of campaign planning and reviewing results, but in real-time collaboration within the CRM.   

ABM blurs the traditional line between Sales and Marketing roles.  These have been shifting for some time from a divided funnel where Marketing stops where Sales starts, to a more sophisticated digital approach which tracks and values all engagements.  The continual harvesting of account intelligence actionable by Marketing, Sales or both teams erodes that divide even further but it does mean the work of the teams needs to be synchronized better.

By definition, greater focus on the account and buying team means less focus on the individual contact/lead.  This is helpful as it eliminates one of the biggest disconnects between Sales and Marketing teams historically: Marketing produces single contact leads, whilst Sales seek multi-contact opportunities. By embracing the joint pursuit of buying teams ABM can help to align both teams better.



Stay Practical – Five questions to ask

ABM offers a real opportunity to integrate Sales and Marketing efforts more closely and generate better results.  ABM can be both complex and resource intensive so that improvement will only be realized with a simple, practical approach – many Marketing organisations end up taking on far more than they can operationalize consistently and effectively.  Here are five questions to ask yourself that will help keep ABM simple:


Are you ready for ABM?

There are two major considerations here.  For ABM to be genuine Sales and Marketing program, the two teams need to be at a point where a closer level of co-operation is feasible.  Our Chief Revenue Officer at Quadrotech, Peter Parker, recently commented that Sales and Marketing in Quadrotech are in lockstep. It took time to get to that point, and whilst we didn’t wait until we had the level of alignment we have today to start, our original ABM 1.0 effort was designed entirely around a simple set of Sales requirements.

The second consideration is content, specifically the ability to personalize content.  This can be to an industry, market segment or an individual account level, but generic content will limit the performance of the program.


Is the program overly ambitious?

It’s easy to over scope the program and underestimate the workload and under-deliver as a result.  Phasing the program and starting small is the best way to avoid this.  Sales can really help with scoping – if the design is over ambitious, they’ll typically let you know. 

Unless you have dedicated headcount, it’s also easy to overload key individuals.  A higher level of discretionary effort will work for a time, but it isn’t sustainable.  If your team is flat out, consider stopping or reducing the scope  of a lower priority program to take on ABM.


Will Sales adopt what you provide?

There is a lot of great ABM technology available.  However, if it is not integrated with your CRM and Sales need to go to another platform your chances of adoption drop substantially.   If Sales were not closely involved in the planning process this is also likely to decrease the probability of adoption.


Is your intent data actionable?

Establishing buying propensity is a corner stone of ABM.  Intent data, and tech that makes it useable, is therefore a core component of the program.  However, putting intent data to work and making it actionable by both Marketing and Sales whilst synchronizing those efforts is not trivial. This breaks down into 4 subsidiary questions:

  • Under what conditions (i.e. score/thresholds) is the data actionable by Marketing?

  • Same question for Sales and consider whether you need to see engagement from the buying team to trigger Sales engagement.

  • How are Sales and Marketing engagements coordinated across the account?

  • Can you correlate the intent and engagement data to make establishing propensity consistent and repeatable ?


Do you have the right measures of success?

A common failing in programs of all types is not establishing effective success criteria and making them measurable.  Relying on too many lagging indicators and using too few leading indicators can also be a problem.  I suggest the following, listed from leading to lagging

  • Sales adoption

  • Correlation between intent and engagement

  • Increase in engagement levels with target accounts

  • Sourced pipeline

  • Sales cycle velocity

  • Deal size

  • Sourced revenue


The Good News

The current ABM program I am working on is very different to the first one I embarked on around a decade ago -  a manual effort that delivered bespoke events held at the customer’s premises supported by highly personalized content.  It was a success as a pilot but a failure from a wider perspective.  The Sales team we ran the pilot for were delighted with the results which included increased pipeline (which subsequently converted well) and larger deal sizes.  However, the resource drain was so intense that those results came at the expense of results in other Sales regions.  

Today, ABM is a mature practice supported by an entire ecosystem of products and services.    Integration between Marketing technology is also far better, and some of the ABM platforms have experienced Customer Success Managers (CSMs) who can provide excellent guidance.  This makes ABM a real opportunity for organisations seeking to grow demand – as long as the program is radical enough to break the ‘Marketing program’ label and practical enough to execute effectively.


Nigel Williams is CMO at Quadrotech. Prior to that he was responsible for Marketing in EMEA at Commvault, which was preceded by a similar role at OpenText and Product Marketing at EMC. He is an experienced SiriusDecisions practitioner (now part of Forrester) and has a particular passion for Content Marketing and Marketing Operations. Nigel holds an Honours Degree in English Literature and also studied Electronic Engineering as part of his entry to the IT industry. He lives in Oxfordshire, has two daughters and is a black and white photographer in his spare time.