Prioritize Account Based Marketing to help sales generate and win big deals

SBI recently spoke with Leo Tucker, the Chief Marketing Officer at PGi. Leo leads a b2b marketing and sales enablement team. PGi is the world’s largest provider of collaboration software and services to business, hosting millions of users collaborating each day.


Today’s article is focused on account-based marketing, a topic receiving tremendous buzz. We want to invest time in helping b2b marketing leaders separate the hype from reality.


Today we will bring some clarity to what it means for your organization.  If you live or die by the big deal, Account Based Marketing should be on the top of your priority list.


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ABM is perfect in an environment where you make or miss your number based on a few big deals.  The singles and doubles are important because they turn the lights on. To attain over achievement there are maybe a half of dozen deals a year that are very large. Having marketing focused on those deals, with sales, increases the probability of closing those.  ABM is all about having marketing focused on helping us generate those big deals.   


ABM Account Based Marketing

My interview with Leo will take you through the journey his company has gone through to leverage ABM.  For our readers considering whether ABM is for them, I’m going to start by asking specific ABM fit questions.  From there we will move into implementation questions. 


Is your sales cycle at PGi long, complex, and involving many stakeholders’ departments and decision makers?


Certainly, for our mid-market and larger clients, the sales process is long and complex. The sales cycle can run anywhere between 3 and as much as 18 months.  IT is almost always involved, but we also deal with sales, with marketing, HR, communications, and other departments. The sales process both time consuming and complex.


Is your sales team required to go wide and deep in their accounts, and build many relationships?  Or is this a relationship where they sell to a single decision maker?


In most cases the sales team needs to go wide and deep. Collaboration solutions can be used across almost any part of the business. It’s often necessary to build relationships across marketing, sales, corporate communications, investor relations, and so forth. The IT relationship is still the cornerstone relationship and they frequently still hold the budget. We try to go wide, and then we try to go deep, particularly with our IT partners.


Will your company make or miss their revenue goal based on a few big deals throughout the year?


We hit a lot of singles and doubles, but we do count on landing some big deals throughout the course of the year.  Yes, a big win or a big loss on the other side can absolutely make the difference between making or missing our revenue target.


Do you have a land and expand strategy within an account?


That is absolutely accurate. PGi has several collaboration products.  We come into an account with whichever product a company happens to want first.  While we are proving ourselves with that first product, we are then attempting to cross sell additional products, or services in our portfolio to the customer. That’s a very key part of our sales and marketing approach.


To summarize we have sales people that need to go wide and deep in accounts in existing accounts and prospects.  That’s hard to do, and if it’s not just the responsibility of the sales person to go wide and deep.  By themselves it’s going to take a while and the failure rate might be high. This is a great example where we have marketing and sales partnering together, and marketing is doing their part to try to help that sales rep go wide and deep.  


How far into the journey is your company in implementing account based marketing?


We started account based marketing 6 months ago. We’re relatively new, but have gotten there quickly. ABM is a journey and it’s likely one without a finish line.


We started with a couple of basic elements. First we had to take the time to make sure we had defined the right accounts, both from our existing customer based, and for targets. Second, we identified a syndication partner that we leveraged to reach out to our defined accounts. Our partner, Madison Logic had the capabilities to target our unique buyers and work from a guaranteed leads program.


We leveraged the target list from Madison Logic for our ABM marketing.  In addition, we added existing accounts currently in an advanced state within our sales pipeline.


Provide the audience more insight into how you arrived at your targeted list of accounts.  How did go about determining and building that list? 


We developed two separate lists. One for existing customers.  We have 50,000 plus customers that we want to cross-sell and up-sell.  Our second list is a named prospect list for targets that fall within the parameters of what I would call our, “Ideal target account.”


For PGi the ideal account is typically a mid-market company with many knowledge workers.  These are workers who need to collaborate, and operated as a distributed work force. A distributed workforce may include a company with multiple offices and/or work from home staff.


We went through a thorough review of companies that we might target and applied our criteria against them.   Those companies that were a fit, we added to the list. We then prioritized the target companies based on where we think the most revenue potential exists.


 Why the switch to ABM — Was your current demand generation effort failing to generate significant revenue that can be directly attributed to marketing?


Before switching to the ABM approach, we were generating a relatively significant amount of revenue opportunities. What we weren’t doing is doing so in a way that was particularly efficient.  Especially on the new logo generation front. The switch to ABM was predicated on becoming more efficient in our lead gen efforts so that we could land more prospects that are truly in our sweet spot.  We worked to eliminate the waste of dollars that comes from pursuing prospects that don’t fit the profile of who we want in our portfolio. For us it was about efficiency more so than just pure volume.


Inbound Marketing requires you to produce content, optimize is for the keywords, promote the content and wait for prospects to find you.  The problem with this is that it forces you to sit around and wait for those key accounts to find you. Which, you know, sales people and companies that have big revenue growth don’t want to be sitting around and waiting for these key accounts to find you. How did you shift from Inbound Marketing to ABM?


We made the transition by placing our content at the sites where our targets are going, as opposed to relying purely on pay per click and search.  A lot of our ABM efforts, and I mentioned a partner on this earlier, revolve around syndicated content. We provide target account lists to our syndicated content partner; they then return leads to us anytime a person from our named account list downloads PGi content from literally dozens upon dozens of sites. That’s one approach that we take.


The other approach is we serve up display ads to the target accounts which in and of itself is not unique. We do so on what we call a, “Closer account.” We look at accounts that are at a certain stage in our sales pipeline. To your point, rather than waiting for them to come to us, they will see our display ads all over the web wherever they’re going. We’re proactively not only trying to generate new leads, but proactively progressing leads.  This is done from the top to the bottom of the funnel through display advertising that’s targeted only to those accounts that are at a certain stage in the sales cycle.


For the prioritized ABM accounts, do you have complete contact records for each buyer and influencer? This issue of database management, contact management, account based marketing seems to be a tricky one to solve. Have you solved that?


It’s extremely tricky. We’re constantly working on creating and maintaining contact information.  It remains a major challenge and unfortunately one that I think is going to be something that we’re continuing to tackle for quite a time to come.


You’re only 5 to 6 months into the journey so this might be an unfair question, but have you started developing account level insights?


We have, and we started that by the way we were organized in sales.  For our largest accounts, which we call, “Diamond accounts,” here at PGi, give or take 20, 25 accounts, we absolutely know those accounts quite well, and we approach our sales and marketing efforts in a way that’s as personal as we possibly can. For the broader list of 3,000 we are building our understanding and insights as we go.


How do you get this personalized content and messaging in front of these buyers and influencers?

It’s a combination of approaches. We message the closer accounts with display advertising. This again gets back to the link between sales and marketing. A lot of what we do for personalized content, particularly for our largest accounts, comes through personalized or customized sales presentations, and sales interactions. This is where we take the knowledge that we have of our diamond accounts and craft individual presentations. 


What is the relationship like between sales and marketing?  Has ABM contributed to greater harmony between sales and marketing?


I certainly think that ABM has helped. With a spray and pray strategy from a marketing perspective, you’re not going to have close of alignment.  When you’re devoting as much of your budget as possible to the exact same list of targets that sales is focusing on, then you have real alignment.


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