Call us biased, but we reckon Friday's AntiConLX Global was our best one yet! And a big part of our success this year was our fantastic speakers, like Pete Harris, Marketing Operations Manager from Xceptor. Whether you're catching up on sessions you missed or just want to rewatch - let's jump right into his session on ABX.
More specifically, Pete was focused on turning account intelligence into action, and how to use these account insights to drive pipeline and revenue.
Today's B2B buyer's journeys are almost entirely digital. This means that the identities and intentions of accounts and their subsequent buying teams are anonymous until the journey is almost over.
But a bit of background into Pete: he is a data-driven marketing manager with 10+ years of experience in campaign management, analytics, and operations. He has worked at Fortune 500 companies and smaller challenger brands to optimise their marketing operations, improve campaign effectiveness, and drive revenue. The big three, we call it.
Currently, Pete is focused on developing Xceptor's account-based experience programme, ensuring operational alignment across the business to deliver a GTM strategy that is hyper-targeted to strong fit, in-market accounts.
Pete was joined by Leanne Chescoe, Senior Field Marketing Manager EMEA at Demandbase, who posed three vital questions on the issue. These were:
Number One: What are some of the biggest challenges faced by your sales and marketing teams?
One of the biggest challenges Pete saw was for Sales, who often wanted more pipeline, and faced a complex buyer's journey and a long sales cycle. But one of the main challenges, but also opportunities, was the shift in buyer behaviour.
This process has become almost entirely digital. Research is done online, where buyers' access to analyst papers, their social media networks, and competitor websites informs their decisions. However, all of this is done anonymously. So, teams need to be more proactive in their approach, identify buying signals early, and influence the process.
Number Two: How did you get started with an account-based approach?
The foundational work for Xceptor's ABM approach was set by their CMO, in terms of a groundwork executive perspective. But all of it started with a workshop, where the foundational blockwork for creating an ABM strategy was built.
So, the team started with creating a target account list, where sales and marketing conversed on how this would look. This step involves working with key internal stakeholders to help define the target account list.
Then came the ideal client profile. Marketing has to use sales input for what the ICP looks like, and leverage data points to understand this. So, it's important to identify what high-value clients have in common. Data is key. Then comes the keyword sets.
Developing keywords sets allow the team to layer further intent signals over the target account list, and better inform ABX strategy. This is all about identifying buying signals early, finding people at these accounts who are looking for solutions and showing indications. Along with keeping an eye on competitor traffic, these are all pieces of valuable information.
The next step is all about defining what success looks like, and what KPIs will determine success. Once the foundational data is in place, the Xceptor team started to operationalise by setting clear objectives, goals, and KPIs, so they knew what success looks like to them.
After this was the fun part. The ABX campaign is the time to create and leverage the account intelligence to create a series of ABX programmes to discrete segments of the target account list. All of these steps are important for setting your team up for success.
Number Three: How did you get your executives to buy into this type of strategy?
The big cultural shift to move away from lead-based marketing to a more holistic approach can be less than appealing for some execs. In fact, the c-suite often finds it hard to move away from these metrics.
So, Pete suggests implementing a pilot programme to demonstrate the value your ABX can have for the business. Then, when this is done, you should identify a representative who is receptive to your plans.
What does ABX Look Like in Practice?
Currently, Pete's ABX programme is a blended and full-funnel approach, looking to influence every buyer's stage. They focus on one-to-many, and one-to-few ABM primarily.
But what does this practice look like more generally? Well, the accounts go through a few qualifications: Engaged, Marketing Qualified Account (MQA), Opportunity, Customer, and Expansion Opportunity. Each has a goal your team should be focused on.
For the engaged stage, it should be to increase engagement and drive return visits to the website. For MQA it should be converted into an opportunity. For opportunity, it should be to drive preference and accelerate. For customers, it should be to drive advocacy, generate testimonials, and track NPS. Then for expansion, it should be customer growth, new products and services.
The MQA stage, who are the marketing qualified accounts, is the subset that is most qualified due to high levels of engagement. Either through the websites or through sales, marketers are given a 360-degree view of these accounts. So, salespeople should focus their attention here.
How is Martech Used in ABX?
Well, in short: it's used in every part.
Martech offers the opportunity to use marketing automation and orchestration to move accounts dynamically. This means a team can scale beyond the sum of their parts, and punch above their weight. It also provides sales with intent signals in a timely way, so the reps can act quickly and effectively.
On top of this, tech can create weekly snapshots to report to sales, to keep them informed on which accounts have the most engaged people. This can also aid them in identifying gaps.
But most of all, it means the teams can respond in a timely manner. They can recognise engagement, understand what the clients are engaging with, and help identify gaps. But Pete suggests meeting Salespeople in the place where they live. So, his sales team are most comfortable in Salesforce, so all the data goes where they go. Martech and ABX allow for a good partnership with sales, which is vital to the success of the company in a wider way.
ABX has improved their relationship with sales, but this shift has been a challenge as well as an opportunity. However, having this shared view of engagement across multiple touchpoints means it has been invaluable to be aligned.
What Metrics of Success Measure ABX?
There are so many data points to use, that it's important to understand the correct ones. Pete suggests using the following:
- Reach. This is the volume of site traffic from relevant, target accounts increasing.
- Lift. The deeper level of engagement from visitors at target accounts
- Velocity. This is the average time spent by accounts in the MQA stage, reduced from 36 to 11 days by Xceptor.
- Pipeline. These better quality leads resulted in higher conversion rates from MQL to opportunity, to pipeline.
Within the first three months of implementing an ABX strategy, Pete has seen several early success indicators. They have received 65% website visits up on the prior quarter, 52% increased page views, a 69% MQA velocity increase, and a 41% marketing sourced pipeline increase in comparison to the prior quarter. Not too shabby.
The future plans to expand are less about, well, expansion and are instead about focusing and refining. Using buyer insights, they plan to bring ABX to the next level and improve experiences/ This means striving for a more 1-2-1 approach, focusing on the experience part of account-based experience.
- If you're struggling to get executive buy-in, try a pilot programme to demonstrate to the c-suite your plans.
- Define what success looks like, and be prepared to fail
- Work with internal stakeholders to help define your target account list
- Use data to help determine the characteristics of your ideal client profile
- Define the key stages of your customer's buyer journey, for improved personalisation
- As you scale, use automation and tech to orchestrate your dynamic audience across marketing channels and deliver insights to sales
- Place the word 'experience' at the heart of your account-based experience strategy.