Making the Case for Account-Based Marketing: Doing the Math

Many of our clients have been very interested in Account-Based Marketing, and understanding the implications of adjusting their strategies to focus more on targeted accounts rather a demand strategy focused on volume. The best marketers understand that pipeline generation and revenue are more important than lead volume, but volume still plays a role regardless to how success is measured. Demand generation has long been focused on that lead volume number, with lead scoring acting as a governor to regulate the flow of leads to sales. It’s a numbers game designed around generating enough leads with a high enough lead score that they can be forwarded to sales as MQLs (marketing qualified leads).

shutterstock_331009427Side note – I personally don’t care for the term “Marketing Qualified Lead” because it implies that marketing is the only one involved in “qualifying” them. Is sales not involved in that decision string?

The math is simple. Say that it takes 100 leads to generate 10 MQLs. If my goal is to create 250 MQLs this quarter, I need to generate 2,500 new leads.

So, those MQLs are shipped over to sales as they come in, and sales is doing some math of their own. They are looking at those 250 MQLs, but they are not considering the lead score (the methodology for which they likely helped to create) when deciding if they want to follow up on that lead. They are looking at the accounts these leads are coming from and deciding which ones they think they actually have a shot at selling to.

Here’s the new math, the “sales math.” They are thinking that they get 25 good accounts out of every 250 MQLs. If they need to have at least 50 leads from good accounts every quarter to hit their revenue targets, they are going to need 500 MQLs next quarter.

Odds are, marketing doesn’t have (double) the budget to generate the 5000 leads they need to create the 500 MQLs sales needs. But consider this … there could be many “unqualified” leads from “qualified” accounts in your lead queue already. They are likely not qualified because of a hole in your lead scoring that does not figure in an account-based component.

I’m not suggesting that you reach out to prospects that are not ready, based on their content consumption and activity history. No one wants to receive calls from salespeople after they registered for a webinar that they did not even attend. I’m also not suggesting that you lob calls at every big company that visits your website, just because they are in the Fortune 1000.

What you need to do is adjust the emphasis in scoring to accentuate account-based considerations and de-emphasize things like title or department when an engaged prospect is visiting from an account on your target list. In other words, adjust scoring enough that a manager-level visitor from a target account is worth as much as a VP-level visitor from a non-target account. This approach makes even more sense when you consider that most B2B buying is a group activity, and those managers are likely to be influencers on the buying committee already.

There are a few things to consider, however, when you are contemplating a shift towards Account-Based Marketing. Volume doesn’t matter as much as quality, and activity and interest from target accounts is much more valuable and important to identify and track than other interactions. Technology can help, but it may require some investment in strategy and tools. Even so, there are some technological challenges to consider, like the ones I highlighted in a previous post called The Problem With Account-Based Marketing. So where do you start? Build that target account list.

Author: Jason Stewart @jstewart_1 is Vice President of Strategy, ANNUITAS