For many organizations, Marketing doesn’t produce enough Marketing Qualified Accounts (MQAs) to feed Sales. Should they lower MQA standards to increase volume, or compromise volume to retain MQA integrity? Lower MQA volume is often a short-term cost of optimizing long-term quality in ABM.
It’s a fine line to walk. As a fellow B2B marketer, I’m sure you can relate.
While doing research for Engagio’s Clear and Complete Guide to ABM Analytics, I chatted with Joe Chernov, VP of Marketing at InsightSquared. Before we continue the conversation about MQAs, let’s first start with Joe’s definition of ABM. He describes it as the inverse of demand generation where Sales is responsible for selling to whomever it is that Marketing passes to them. Thus, the burden is transferred from Marketing to Sales.
However, in ABM, Sales role is to be Marketing’s partner in defining attributes of accounts that you’re going to pursue. Simultaneously, it’s Marketing job to craft, and ultimately execute, orchestrated plays to engage those accounts and key contacts at those accounts. It’s a team effort.
Defining the “Q” in MQA
Ok, now let’s dive into the meat of the conversation: MQAs and quality.
Joe explained that it’s natural to reduce “Q” standards of the MQA when Sales, executives, and board members demand more MQAs (or MQLs for that matter). In other words, we’re doing less qualifying and more throwing leads over the fence to Sales. But the history of demand generation’s lead-based approach shows us that such decisions can be dangerous. Still, Marketing must keep Sales busy, which creates a Catch-22.
Joe continues: “Lowering quality standards is a slippery slope. The more you do, the more you erode Sales’ trust.”
Joe knew his team at InsightSquared risked undermining Sales’ confidence in the Marketing team if it lowered the threshold to become an MQA. However, he similarly risked “starving” the Sales team if he remained too strict about MQA standards. Given that the MQA formula heavily weights account activity levels, the InsightSquared Marketing team found itself focusing on ways to turn active accounts into hyper-active accounts to increase MQA volume.
They were convinced this would work, but it only caused “lumpy” MQA output. The team would effectively steal from future months to hit near-term goals.
But how do you keep the prospecting team busy, but without diminishing the value assigned to the MQA status?
The Second Mighty Metric
Joe recounted the moment vividly. He was in a revenue team meeting – just like any other meeting – when it hit him. They were trying to rationalize lowering quality standards. “I immediately felt claustrophobic.” He jumped up from his chair “We’re not doing it! It’s gonna ruin the program!”
They ended up dropping all other meaningless metrics and figured out how to give their team what they want in terms of volume, which gave rise to a second mighty metric.
Joe and his team analyzed historical performance and introduced Alerts.
- Alerts prioritize sales activity. They measure engagement that Marketing creates or detects with named accounts, like downloading an ebook or detecting a new hire. Prospectors are required to call these accounts. Attached to this status is a light Service Level Agreements (SLA) for the sales team.
- MQAs are “drop everything” metrics. They indicate account engagement suggests purchase intent. Attached to this status is a high-investment SLA for the sales team.
“Initially, we were all about MQAs, but the volume wasn’t there. Quality was high, but we had to make a decision: do we maintain the quality and starve the team? Do we lower the quality and feed them at the risk of extinction of a good traditional marketing program? This third path was absolutely the right call.”
ABM: Sales and Marketing Tested, Finance Approved
Marketing and Sales established key definitions together, then exported their ABM model to Finance. Today, Finance approves all MQA definition changes.
“Given that finance owns Marketing’s model, I can’t be accused of any funny business with our metrics,” explains Joe. The checks and balances system ensures ABM metrics’ integrity – and program ROI overall. If alerts soar yet conversion drops, for example, the team inspects if quality standards are too low.
Joe continues, “Good metrics enforce honesty. Without checks and balances, self-interest pre|vails.” One year later, InsightSquared effectively prioritizes Sales activity and measures Marketing excellence. Generally, 7% of Alerts and 20% of MQAs convert. With SLAs recently in place, conversions have increased for both metrics.
“ABM analytics deliver the necessary and mutual focus on business impact,” says Joe. “It’s a fool’s errand for Marketing and Sales not to be connected in ABM.”
A New Model, A New Team
In their new model, ABM transfers some of the burden from Sales back onto Marketing and ultimately empowers the revenue team. Now Sales can make its life a little easier by collaborating with Marketing to determine the right balance between volume and quality.
I’ll end it with another quote from Joe: “There has been much said about the benefits of ABM and the luxuries of well-aligned Sales and Marketing teams. It is a prerequisite in ABM; it’s not a “nice to have”, it’s not an accelerant. ABM simply won’t work without alignment, and nothing will fuse them together more than ABM because it’s a fool’s errand if they’re not connected.”
To learn more about MQAs, metrics and ABM analytics, check out Engagio’s Clear and Complete Guide to ABM Analytics today.