What Have We Learned in the Last Few Years About ABM, and How Can We Apply that Going Forward?

Craig Rosenberg stopped by Engagio HQ last week for a quick chat about ABM. I always learn something new talking with Craig, so I decided to record our conversation. In fact, I may even start publishing more Friday vlogs like this one.

For those if you who don’t know Craig, he’s the Chief Analyst at TOPO, a leading sales and marketing analyst firm. The question that I asked him was, “What have we learned in the last few years about ABM, and how can we apply that going forward?”

Here’s our conversation. Enjoy!


Brandon: Hey, guys, Brandon Redlinger here, director of Growth at Engagio, and I’m here with the one and only Craig Rosenberg. Welcome, Craig.

Craig: Thanks for having me.

Brandon: We’ve seen a lot happen in the ABM space in the last few years. What have we learned in the last year or two, and what can we learn going forward?

Craig: Yeah, so I think there’s two streams happening in the account-based. There’s one where the folks wanted to understand what is it, two years ago. They learned a lot about it last year, they did planning, etc. and they’re ready to execute now. I’m sure you guys are seeing the same thing. It’s much higher levels of execution. I’m actually happy for them because they got to see a lot of people sort of try things, then fail. But the market is ready for them to do it at scale, using technology, or whatever that is.

But then there’s this second group which were the early adopters. I think the early adopters, some took off and did really well, but I think a lot of them are in a slight reset. If you take a hype cycle play, it’s just a slight reset because – I’ll talk about that in a sec – re-stabilization and getting ready to grow. And I think one of the early issues on account-based was expectations of what this was and something else I’ll talk about which was just full blown pulling the carpet out from under the organization, changed management, etc.

So we learned a lot there and those folks are going to re-take off. So I’m not saying “oh my god it failed.” I’m just saying they learned a lot and now they are really in a good place to grow. But they are going to take those learnings, rebuild their foundation and get ready to go.

So, on expectations, we’re all culpable here – you, me, Jon Miller, you name it – about getting everyone hyped on account-based. But you know there was all these different things that happened that hampered early adopters. Like one was a classic one where I went in and sales was like, “well I thought we were just have to get better leads.” Well, you know, we should have talked about that, right?

Or they said, “Well this account-based thing doesn’t work. The account scoring was wrong.” There wasn’t enough understanding of the fact that this isn’t that complicated. We are going to focus in on a set of target accounts, and we’re going to go get them together. Instead, there was a lot of different expectations that hurt some of the early adopters. But they’ve trialed and errored a lot of campaigns and they are ready to re-stabilize and grow.

So you can see there are two things. But it’s going to be a big year for account-based, and I think a couple of things play into that. One is, the stack is developing, which I’m sure you know, I don’t want to spend a ton of time on it but the rise of the account-based platform, that missing piece, that singular application, the marketing automation so-to-speak is finally becoming a real market, and it’s what they wanted. You guys play there so I’m sure you’re happy that I’m mentioning it. But the market needed it.

Because we were asking them to go into account-based, and we were asking them to stitch together tactical tools and applications to go do that, and no modern marketer is going to do that. We think the account-based platform market will see growth. Significant but not explosive growth this year but then next year, 2019 we’re talking like, you know come Q2 of next year just explosive growth against the account-based platforms.

We’re also seeing great use cases. I think, you know, the folks that did it right and went to market here they had great stories to tell. We know this – when you crack a market it start with the analysts and the vendors, we talk about it. Then a little bit of the market gets muddy. But then once the peers can start talking about the amazing things they’re doing, then this thing really starts to go well and we’re seeing some great stories.

So a couple things.  One is, from a mistake that people have changed, it’s okay to have two funnels and two sets of metrics. You should not throw the baby out with the bath water. That was a mistake for a lot of companies. “Oh account-based, we’re just going to do that!” And you know, they were getting X amount of leads per month and feeding the beast relatively well. Even if the numbers were bad you can’t do it. You can’t do it. It’s turning the Titanic. So we’re saying hey, like there’s a targeted part of your business and there’s a volume and velocity part of the business, it’s okay. And you can keep you’re old school waterfall down on the volume and velocity but manage your account-based in a completely different funnel – that’s really important. And part of that is the metrics, right? On the low end, people are used to things like MQL’s and those things.

But account-based, everyone’s been asking for the right metrics for us. What our customers have really latched onto is opportunity rate, which is number of opportunities against target accounts activated. That’s been a conversion rate they can use to judge effectiveness but also to plan. So if you got a 10% opportunity rate against 100 accounts now you know what you’ll get with 1000.

And so that’s good and getting people focused on target account pipeline. Those things are happening, like we’re going in today where we used to be the evangelists for that and now people are saying they want to go do that. So that’s a good sign for us as well.

The other thing I think I’d mention is the SDR thing that we all got hopped up on. It’s realer than ever. I think they are now these account-based campaign managers, they have not stopped being critical to the program, they’re essential to the success of the program. I think we’ve learned a lot about what they can or can not do. One thing I believe is that if we can do a good account-based program we can allow SDR’s to personalize without asking them to actually personalize.

If you’re going to go do a … You have a great offer, great campaign you’re going to go do. Now you can help them write messaging tying back to the campaign, tying back to the account. The biggest mistake we made on the account-based side was we said, “SDR’s are great. They have to personalize. Let’s train them to personalize. Let’s bring in trainers, and they’re going to do these things …” And only 10%-15%  can actually truly personalize on their own. The rest of them can’t. It’s not an insult, it’s just … I mean you’re asking a 23 year old kid with no business experience to personalize. So we have to personalize in account-based, and we’ve learned a lot that if we can run coordinated campaigns and that personalization can be done at scale. So yes, the SDR’s are big time, but also we’ve figured out how to help them personalize at scale with minimal amount of work on their side.

And so, I don’t know, those are the things that come to mind for me.

Brandon: Just off the top of you mind?

Craig: Yeah.

Brandon: Great. Well, thank you so much. If you want to find out more about TOPO at TOPOHQ.com. And if you want to find out more about Engagio, visit Engagio.com. Thanks guys.

Craig:  What about Colonel.com?

Brandon: ColonelRosenberg.com?

Craig:  Actually we have to go buy that right now. I’m doing it.

Brandon: If you want to know where that reference came from just go visit Craig’s Twitter.

Craig: Yeah, it’s up. It’s up. Thanks.

Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger is the Head of Growth at Engagio, the Account-Based Marketing and Sales platform that enables teams to measure account engagement and orchestrate human connections at scale. He is passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. You can follow him on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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