Sales

5 Account-Based Strategy Insights from TOPO Summit 2018

by Molly Walsh

Account-Based is an emerging area of focus for many B2B SaaS companies around the globe. Simply put, an Account-Based strategy targets entire accounts rather than individual decision makers — with comprehensive, in-depth, personalized campaigns aimed at engaging the specific roles (people) involved in making purchasing decisions. Sales and marketing must be aligned in order for this strategy to be effective. 

Because the approach is still relatively new, there are few experts, leading to a lot of experimentation — and fun. I was fortunate to attend the TOPO Summit in San Francisco and caught TOPO’s Senior Analyst of Marketing Eric Wittlake’s presentation on the state of Account-Based (TOPO is a leader in AB strategy, and we’ve worked with them to refine our account-based targeting and processes). In thinking about Account-Based holistically, part of that journey involves considering what your prospect wants from a product or solution — including what it does and what channels it lives on.

Below, we’ll share and expound upon Wittlake’s “Five Big Realities” of Account-Based:

1. Account-Based is Still Just Getting Started

Wittlake started off with a stat that should lend some comfort if you feel like you’ve fallen behind the (rapidly steepening) AB curve — only 18% of companies surveyed have been running an Account-Based approach for more than 24 months. It is still very early in the AB adoption, so companies are having a difficult time figuring out how to execute it effectively.

The technology available does not support the strategy as well as companies would like just yet. Due to Account-Based being so fresh, companies are hesitant to make the investment in infrastructure to really grow the approach and dive in. AB-related startups are springing up with innovations, with some entering partnerships or acquisitions with larger marketing solutions providers, others chasing market share in an evolving, exciting space. 

It’s tough to have assurances on a strategy that is unproven for your organization– but this also presents great opportunity for companies that have the resources and confidence to test, experiment, and fail fast on the road to success. And the case studies shared at the TOPO Summit give credence to how powerful this approach can be for your bottomline.

2. Account-Based is a Systematic Approach

It comes as no surprise, but the key to Account-Based is — you guessed it — targeting accounts. The account is the essential unit of planning and drives everything you do. Developing your target account list is the first thing you should do, the campaigns and tactics come afterwards. 

That’s also a reason there’s no universal Account-Based playbook. When compared to an area like content marketing, many of the same tactics work well across industries or company sizes; but when account targeting is so specific to one company’s goals and Account-Based strategies, those key stakeholders might engage in very different ways.  

Once the list is developed, Wittlake said to align your resources to accounts for scalable execution. If there is no alignment, there is no execution. Wittlake also recommends developing a library of plays — your company’s playbook that can be pulled from to repeatability and predictability aid in execution. 

Wittlake says the organizations that see the most success are the ones that take a “systematic approach,” working under a “single set of data that's accessible and actionable across all systems.”

3. Measurement is Account-Centric

Measurement of success revolves around specific account parameters. Pairing your dream account targeting with calculations like projected deal size and customer lifetime value, you’re able to define success at every stage in the sales funnel. Wittlake shared a great graphic you can see below that broke down the value depreciation as your target accounts move down the funnel. He also listed the key metrics companies should utilize when measuring AB effectiveness. One important note that’s unique to Account-Based, particularly on the marketing side: You’re tracking qualification at an account level, instead of at a prospect level — so it’s less a marketing or sales qualified “lead” and more a marketing or sales qualified account, depending on the engagement threshold you’ve set to dictate this interest.

Key AB metrics include:

  • Account Engagement Rate
  • Opportunity Rate
  • Account Win Rate
  • Target Account Pipeline
  • Revenue

Below is an example of what your account stages may be that illustrates attrition as you move through stages of engagement.

4. The Best Organizations Have a Double Funnel

Wittlake stressed that Account-Based is an addition to, not a replacement of, inbound marketing. Work Account-Based as a tiered approach in conjunction with your traditional inbound and demand generation engines — you have your baseline engagement that’s more broad and meant to surface leads, then your segmented accounts that you’re tracking closely and building specific engagement opportunities to prioritize your conversion. Changing your focus and investment mix to Account-Based will eventually lead to change in your pipeline mix — and you’re thinking about your full funnel and your tiered funnel, together.

With this dual approach comes the need for new funnel math and in-depth tracking in order to calculate what percentage of business and revenue come from which strategy. That said, routing becomes critical in getting the right inbound leads to the right place. It’s a technology and process piece, but has to be nailed.

The pyramid below shows your inbound base — with a stack or hierarchy of three named account tiers (A being the dream accounts, C being the third-priority targets).

5. Data is Unified and Actionable

When using an Account-Based approach, the data collected is much easier to glean insights from. Rather than the granular data collected from traditional methods, the bigger picture is presented and trends are more obvious when utilizing Account-Based. 

However, having a single set of data that is accessible and actionable across systems for reporting and analysis is easier said than done. We need to get better at managing data. With the alignment that is needed by all departments for Account-Based to succeed, the cross-channel communication allows more of an opportunity for actionable insights to be formed and produce great results. 


If you’re in that 18% of Account-Based early adopters and want to share any notes on what’s working for you or nerd out over marketing in the context of Account-Based, drop me a line at molly@codescience.com. Or if you’re thinking more broadly about your product and what channels might open you up to the right prospects, we’re happy to set up a consultation.

Looking forward to more innovation in the SaaS space, and I can’t wait to see how marketing and prospecting evolves in the years ahead!

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Molly Walsh

Director of Marketing for CodeScience

Molly Walsh believes that while there might not be any new ideas in marketing, the way you assemble the pieces can create revolutionary outcomes. As the Director of Marketing for CodeScience, she helps SaaS businesses thrive on the Salesforce AppExchange and ServiceNow Store by sharing knowledge on…

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