I got a chance to catch up with Patrice Greene, President of Inverta. An original member of the “marketing automation generation,” Patrice’s early adoption of marketing automation has led to successful roles in marketing and sales leadership on both the client and partner side. Now as President and co-Founder of Inverta, she hears the perspectives of marketing and sales leaders every day, and keeps a laser focus on the ever-changing B2B marketing landscape.
[Patrice]The two largest commonalities across all of my conversations have to do with account-based strategies and the gap that exists between theory and practice. ABM is a trending, hot topic right now and while it’s not new – developing and mobilizing an ABM strategy in a tech enabled world is a bit new. The question I get most often is “where do we start?”
When you think about inbound marketing, for example, or anything that we did with respect to getting your demand generation engine in place, there were clear and cumulative steps to setting that up. Also, it was much broader because the objective was to drive a large audience into the top of the funnel. So common sense would say, “Okay, we need to get our funnel defined. Then we need to have some scoring in place to qualify those leads once they come in. Okay, now we need to get nurtures in place to market to those leads on an ongoing basis.” So it was easier to understand how to get started, and the strokes were broader.
Now, when you think about account-based marketing: You need to treat accounts, or groups of accounts, differently. You need to figure out which accounts you’re going to go “all-in” on. You need to consider which resources you are going to pull in, how much you’re going to spend, what tactics you are going to use, and whether or not there are similarities in those accounts from a segmentation perspective. And if you’re an Enterprise, and you have multiple products and multiple markets? All of those considerations can paralyze folks.
[Patrice] The word I would add in there is adopting an effective account-based strategy. A lot of organizations think that they have adopted an account-based marketing strategy because they bought certain technologies like Demandbase or Terminus or they bought Engagio. They’re sending cupcakes, right? Therefore they have a set of target accounts and they’re not outbound spraying and praying like they did before. They’re getting a little more specific and disciplined, but it’s still outbound marketing where they are handing leads over to sales. So it’s not really ABM.
I would say the thing that’s preventing people from being effective with it is having a true collaboration with sales: where they are targeting a group of accounts and they are both engaging in activities with those accounts to achieve a common goal. That isn’t happening because there isn’t alignment on the how the organization is defining their specific account based strategy.
When I talk to organizations about their account-based marketing programs, it almost always results in discussions centered on how sales and marketing can be more collaborative to truly surround the target accounts. More often than not they are simply conducting marketing activities to sales’ target accounts. That still results in a marketing to sales handoff versus a true coordinated, all-hands-on deck blitz to penetrate the target accounts as a team.
[Patrice] One: trying to speed out of the gate. I absolutely understand needing to move quickly. I get needing to not wait and get things in play, etc. But that need for speed means something or multiple things are getting sacrificed. Alignment is usually a big one, and then people are skipping steps on the target account selection. I hear, “this is what my rep gave me. I just got them on board. We’re aligned – they JUST decided to support me with this initiative. I can’t go back and tell them that we need to revisit this list. That is going to set us back, and so we have to use this list.”
And then, I hear, “We don’t have time to take a step back and revisit our segmentation strategy. We need to go with how we’ve always done it – these are our personas, this is the content that we have. We can’t create new content, we have to use existing content.”
What you end up with in that scenario is potentially targeting the wrong accounts with the wrong message because it’s what you have and you don’t want to upset the apple cart.
And it’s all driven by the need for speed.
[Patrice] ] I do think there’s a different dynamic. When we initiate the conversation with the sales side of the house first, and the sales side will bring in their marketing team to continue the conversation, there is sometimes defensiveness like, “We’re doing this already.” Territory becomes an issue, and you can tell that the marketing function feels protective of the work they’ve already put in.
Right there, that tells me that alignment is an issue. If one function hears a new idea and becomes defensive, we can tell that sales and marketing are not on the same page, or in a place where they’re able to work together.
When a project is initiated by marketing, or we are brought in by marketing – it is a little bit different.
Given the nature of a marketers day to day, going to sales to gain buy-in is a common occurrence. They are habitually trying to gain sales approval. I would say marketers are a bit more skilled at navigating those internal politics because of that fact. Often times they’ve already talked to a friendly sales leader or have selected a few key reps that they feel will be collaborative to kick off some account-based programs with. So the conversation tends to go more smoothly. If there’s any push back from sales – it’s typically related to the fact that they’ve been doing target account selling forever and this isn’t new to them. I’m generalizing – and it’s certainly different in every organization, but on the whole I find the conversations with sales when marketing has pushed for the initiative tend to go more smoothly than the other way around.