SBI recently spoke with Gahan Richardson, the Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Cypress Semiconductor.  Gahan and I discussed his approach to Account Based Marketing (ABM) and how he uses it to set his sales team up for success.


Cypress Semiconductor is a company that makes chips for embedded systems. Basically, all the electronics that go in devices we use as consumers.  This includes memory, micro-controllers, the things that make all the devices power, touch and go.  Chances are the device you are using to read this article right now is powered by Cypress. 


The purpose of this article is to capture the questions required to determine whether ABM is right for you.  We will use my interview with Gahan to illustrate how to evaluate whether it’s worth the time, effort and money to implement Account Based Marketing.


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A little instruction for the audience on how to read this conversation between Gahan and I. Ask yourself these questions for your business. These are the questions, in my view, that tell you whether account-based marketing is for you. Pay attention to not only the great answers we’re going to hear from Gahan, as he is the practitioner at Cypress Semiconductor, but also the questions that I’ve prepared for you.


1. The first question is how would you describe your sales cycle as, long, complex, involving many stakeholders, departments and decision-makers?


Gahan: Yes. Definitely. Our traditional customers have evolved into sophisticated, cross-functional buying processes that are well-established.


Greg: Audience, if you answered no to that question, then you should start questioning whether account-based marketing is valuable to you. It’s specifically valuable to companies that have long, complex sales cycles with many stakeholders, departments and decision-makers.


2. Does your sales team sell to a list of targeted accounts? 


Gahan: Yes. Definitely. Cypress, overall, sells to over 30,000 customers. There’s a select set of customers that are the largest in the market and overlap specifically with our target technologies and products.


Greg: If your sales team does not sell to a specific, targeted set of accounts, if it’s more of a broad-based sales approach, where you’re selling to small businesses or you’re selling a product that has mass appeal, as opposed to a highly engineered product with great complexity, where there’s, relatively speaking, a small number of companies in the world that would buy your product, if that’s you, then account-based marketing is for you. If it’s not, then it’s not.


3. Is it critical for your sales team to go wide and deep in their accounts, building many relationships?


Gahan: Yes. Definitely. The overall objective here is to be intimate with our customers. We’re trying to establish a deep relationship with them, all the key stakeholders and influencers, so that we can influence the buy process.


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4. The question is, will you make or miss your revenue goal based on a few big deals throughout the year?


Gahan: The answer is no, not within the year. Like any B2B business, there are a few big deals that are going to affect your business. It may translate in a consumer market to be within the year, or an automotive market, to be a few years out. There’s always significant big deals going down in the business that you’ve got to make.


Greg: In Gahan’s business, they will win a design. By the time it hits the end customer and orders start getting placed, there’s a big lag period there. That’s the nature of the semiconductor industry. The point with that question is, if you are a leader and you’re going to make or miss your number on an annual basis, or maybe on a rolling basis, against a few big deals, then concentrating your marketing resources against those big deals makes sense. The way to do that is Account Based Marketing.


5. Do you deploy a land and expand sales strategy to land, maybe, in a department with one product, then you expand to other departments within your customer base selling multiple products?


Gahan: Yes. We call this penetrate and proliferate at Cypress. Focus on a key area, where we’ve come to understand a customer’s pain points, develop solutions for them and then, through that experience in the service and products of getting that win, leverage that into the broader activities within the account.


6. Is the lifetime value of a “key account” or strategic account, or named account, worth at least 2 times that of a typical account?


Gahan: Absolutely. It might even be more. Selecting the right accounts carefully and building intimate relationships with them, where the actual account considers you strategic as well, can generate a revenue stream that lasts longer and is more profitable for any company.


Greg: If you have a key account program (or a strategic account program, or a named account, or national account program), whatever you want to call it, draw a circle around a small number of accounts that if you win them, they’re worth at least 2 times the revenue and profits to your company of a typical account.  If this is true, then account-based marketing is for you. If not, you must question whether you should believe the hype here around Account Based Marketing. If all accounts are created equal for you, then you might not want to concentrate your resources against a small number of accounts.


7. Would the working relationship between marketing and sales improve if marketing dedicated its budget to a list of dream accounts?


Gahan: At Cypress, this is something that we’ve decided to take on in 2016 as a focus.  We have dedicated resources including people assigned to accounts and budgets to fund specific ABM activities. This helps the sales force dig out the key opportunities and provide solutions for those customers.


8. Do you deploy a multi-channel, or what some people call “the omni channel” marketing approach, that requires a consistent customer experience?


Gahan: Yes, we do. We’ve have a very well established content generation engine within the company to back up our new product launches. We take that out into the market in various ways; through our partners, through our channels. Then, with the key accounts program, we’re taking that and customizing it specific to the target personas within the accounts we’re targeting.


Greg: You’re driving a consistent message through these channels. The channels are well selected, well chosen. You have a content engine behind you pushing content, which is essential to deploy Account Based Marketing. If you can’t produce content, forget about it.


9. Can you build a list of accounts, customers and prospects, ranked best to worst on revenue potential and propensity to buy?


Gahan: Yes. There’s a real science to it, and a process to how to do that. Looking at where companies are ranked in the world, are their leadership in their market. Your past business with them and truly evaluating your relationships with them and getting them to buy-in actively with you is a key aspect of how you select your key accounts.


Greg: You’re right, Gahan. It is a real science. I will tell you, so listen up audience members, the single biggest reason why account-based marketing programs fail is they pick the wrong accounts. If you’re going to bet the farm on a small number of accounts, dedicate your marketing resources against those accounts and your sales resources, you better pick the right ones. Do not be cavalier about this. They need to be ranked, top to bottom, best to worst, on revenue and profit. By the way, that’s not enough. You then need to rank them on the propensity to buy.


10. Can you develop rich insights specific to each of these accounts to enable your marketing and sales teams to be highly relevant and personalized?


Gahan: Yes, you can. The key here is being intimate with your customer, understanding who the influencers are and how they think about the buy process and selection process, then focusing as a team on delivering the right solution to meet that person’s criteria.


Greg: The insights that you generate are the things you’re going to share with the client that gets them interested in what it is that you must offer. Then, to be able to personalize it is what’s required for ABM. This isn’t a situation where you create a blog article that’s generic in nature and blast it out to 50,000 people. It’s insight generation and content marketing applied on a one-to-one basis, specific to an individual or group of individuals in a specific account.


11. Can you convert these insights into content and messaging for each of the individual buyers?


Gahan: Sure. As a team focused on key or strategic account, as you gain insight into what some of you customer problems are, or things that they just wish that they could potentially do, bringing back a solution, proposing that to the customer and getting them to iterate on that with you, is key in this process. After that, take the next step after they’ve given you feedback and insights and help start to solve the problem along with you, helping build out a prototype, or just show them a vision for how the problem could be solved is a critical aspect to getting the customer on board.


12. Can you get this personalized content, your vision, your prototypes and all this messaging in front of these buyers and influencers?


Gahan: Absolutely. With the key accounts program where you put the focus on that customer, you built those intimate relationships. They’ve in turn, are investing back in you. As you’ve gone through the process of understanding their needs by involving them in that process, by the very nature of that, you’re in front of them.


The purpose of my interview with Gahan was to illustrate this concept of account-based marketing is not for everybody.  It’s a very powerful tool. If your company meets the criteria, you need to get serious about taking action.


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