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Scaling Account-Based: Insights from TOPO Summit 2019

Meg Fitzgerald | April 24, 2019| 1 min. read

I had the pleasure of attending TOPO Summit in San Francisco this year. Though account-based is still relatively new, it’s catching on quickly and the results are already substantiating the value of investing in an account-based strategy. In case you’re new to the concept, I’ll give a quick explanation of what account-based is. The primary difference between an account-based strategy versus a traditional sales and marketing strategy is that account-based surrounds a set of target accounts through delivering integrated campaigns that touch each member of the account’s buying committee in a personalized and highly relevant manner. Traditional sales and marketing strategies, on the other hand, target individual decision makers. 

We see SaaS companies in our portfolio every day making really exciting progress in account-based, and because we believe in it, Onsite invests a great deal of time partnering with our portfolio companies to pilot, build, and grow account-based strategies to drive efficiency in their go-to-market. Though TOPO Summit hosts high-value sessions across sales development, marketing ops and tech, and sales ops and tech, it’s no surprise I was glued to the account-based track. My favorite session was a deep dive into the current state of all things account-based. Read on for some key takeaways from TOPO’s Senior Analyst of Marketing and account-based guru, Eric Wittlake, in his session: 2019 State of Account-based: And how we will scale. Check out Eric’s blog posts.

Account-based is here to stay – now, it’s all about scaling

Perhaps you’re just getting started with account-based and running a pilot with a subset of target accounts and a tiger team. Or, maybe you’ve proven what works, invested in an account-based platform, and are running a deeply orchestrated account-based go-to-market across all of the functions in your organization. Regardless of where you are in your journey, effectively scaling a strong account-based foundation is key to scaling up and capitalizing on the opportunity at hand.

Wittlake opened his session with a few eye-opening stats on the power of account-based from TOPO’s 2019 Account-Based Benchmark Report.  

  • More Closed-Won: No sugar-coating this stat. Account-based strategies deliver higher ACV (+33%) and win rates (+48%) when compared to traditional strategies. Period. See below graphic.
  • Efficient funnel: In the traditional funnel, companies close just 0.25-1.5% of the accounts they target compared to close to 11% of the accounts they target in an account-based funnel.  
  • Increased investment: As a result of the above, investment in account based is growing: 60% of account-based organizations have a dedicated account-based leader and annual budget is scaling rapidly with 42% of companies reporting 2019 spend at more than $75K
TOPO 2019 Account-Based Benchmark Report

With all of this momentum and proven value behind account-based, operators are hungry for the next big challenge: scaling. TOPO reports that 38% of people reported scaling as a top 3 challenge in their account-based journey. Wittlake defines scaling simply and beautifully: Scale = get more. That “more” can extend across broadening the target account list, growing results from each account, and applying account-based across the entire customer lifecycle. 

To scale initial account-based success effectively, there are 2 foundations that must be in place and 3 levers to pull.

Two foundational elements necessary for scaling up account-based

1) Alignment: aligning on how you’re defining your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) will set the groundwork for effective scaling. 81% of respondents in top-performing account-based organizations feel confident in their ICP.

  • In order to most effectively define your ICP, ensure you are leveraging all of the knowledge (e.g., Are you capturing valuable field sales information in your CRM? Are you creating systems and processes for collection versus spreadsheets capture, or worse, in peoples’ heads?) and data (e.g., Are you looking at customer win/loss data? Which firmographic and technographic details matter most? Have you looked into leveraging intent data through Bombora or G2Crowd, for example?) you can to build the most robust ICP possible.    
  • Internal ICP alignment is paramount. If all functions across your organization are not aligned on the types of accounts you’re going after, it’s almost guaranteed you will not get to the scaling phase of account-based. Everyone in your organization from CEO to Director of Demand Gen to BDR should understand and agree on the types of accounts you are going after.   
account based
TOPO 2019 Account-Based Benchmark Report

2) Selection: Once you understand your ICP and have full agreement across your organization, you must have a plan in place on how to select which accounts to engage with and when. 

TOPO 2019 Account-Based Benchmark Report

This selection process is key to creating relevance at scale. When it comes to identifying account selection criteria, look to drive relevance via insights and timing. Consider the following elements in doing so:  

  • Specific use cases  
  • Existing technology installed
  • Industry 
  • Geography 
  • Intent data/Timing indicators

Work to create an account selection plan that does the following:

  • Identifies the right triggers and key segments to focus on
  • Provides a roadmap to create better programs
  • Maximizes intentional application of marketing and SDR capacity

And, three levers for scaling your account-based strategy 

Once you’ve got alignment and selection down, Wittlake walked us through the three levers for amplifying your strategy and scaling up its impact on your bottom line. It really boils down to three simple actions:

1) Do more: Sounds easy, right? Yes, in theory. But, it’s important to this in a targeted and focused way. By doing more, we don’t mean throw more contacts into your database. If your aligned on your ICP and how/when to select the accounts you engage with, you should be ready to add more fuel to the fire. Broaden the number of stakeholders you’re reaching per account. But, do this in the same you’ve always done in account-based; outreach must be orchestrated across marketing and sales, it must be personalized and high-value, and it must be contextual.   

2) To more accounts: Top-performing account-based organizations run more integrated campaigns to more target accounts. Extend account-based across the entire customer lifecycle. Say, you started with net new prospect accounts in a specific industry. Perhaps you extend account-based to existent customers in that same industry. Go where there’s opportunity. Maybe there’s a pool of customers up for renewal that you want to target with your latest feature upgrade. Opportunistically expand further down the funnel and beyond your existent target account pool. 

TOPO 2019 Account-Based Benchmark Report

3) More often: Wittlake closes out with the third lever. Build a larger list. Don’t worry about touching all of the list immediately. If your target list is larger and you’ve got the right foundation in place (alignment on ICP and selection criteria), you will inherently be touching more accounts (and therefore expanding your funnel). Orchestrated execution becomes easier when you’ve got the right foundation to drive from. 

TOPO 2019 Account-Based Benchmark Report

In sum, once you’ve got your account-based legs underneath you, it’s time to scale.

  • Scale = get more 
  • Foundations of scale: Alignment and account selection 
  • Levers of scale: Do more – To more accounts – More often