- Language gap. Recognize C-suite and board members often speak a "different language" than marketers.
- Quantitative focus. Understand the quantitative approaches non-marketers use to bridge the language gap.
- ABX framework. There are three steps needed to quantify and communicate the value of an ABX initiative.
Imagine in this economy facing a CEO, CRO, CFO or board member who only knows the word "leads." You may get questioned by a chief financial officer (CFO) who doesn’t fully understand the value of marketing and is less willing to invest more without clear and direct ROI. Or the "old school" chief revenue officer (CRO) who hammers marketing for "more leads" without understanding the role marketing could play in account pipeline stewardship two or more quarters out.
Navigating ABX Challenges
Even after securing the green light for your account based experience (ABX) program and initial platform investment, demonstrating its immediate and ongoing quantitative value can become a major challenge. Complicating matters further is not all companies have a single segment of focus or single persona. Multiple funnels need to be accounted for under the definition of "pipeline."
How do you assess the state of your own situation? How connected to non-marketing executives is your ABX initiative? Let’s give some context from a board point of view and then a framework on how to close the gap if one exists.
Kelly Ford Buckley, chief operating officer (COO) of Edison Partners, bridged the unique career gap from being an operational Software as a Service (SaaS) CMO to becoming a venture capital partner, then COO. Based on a recent conversation, what she seeks in portfolio company CMO/board conversations is sales/marketing alignment, accountability of all parties, measurement with insights with the intent of understanding what is or is not working and what the sales/marketing team is doing differently to improve.
Typically, CEO, CFOs and boards would love to see what Kelly says but not all may know they want it. Many are results-oriented leaders steeped in a quantitative background and understand "old school" marketing measurement which was very lead centric (10-plus years ago). This lead-centric approach is exacerbated by "product led" companies, which are mostly volume and subscriber ("lead") based.
Private equity (PE) firms (and venture capitalists—VC) typically define growth and hiring models based on the word "lead." Prescriptive formulas have a linear relationship between the quantity of “leads” to sales development hiring and ultimately revenue forecasts. What’s changed is the buyers committee is not a single person or "lead" in this economic climate, so the need to forecast on accounts has increased since the time they acquired their linear lead knowledge 10 years ago. Accounts bring money in the door, not leads, but as we will explain soon, we shouldn’t abandon the term "leads."
Related Article: 5 Ideas to Advance a Stalled Account-Based Initiative
Bridging the Language Gap
So the baseline step is, "meeting them where they are at" in terms of understanding your PE/VC business model (which the CEO, CFO, CRO and ultimately you are being held accountable to) and the language they collectively use. Recently, in a joint conference presentation with Ivanti’s Global Vice President of Growth Leslie Alore at a B2B conference, she said she diagnosed the PE lead model and having the right cooperative mindset on both sides of the discussion, she was able to articulate the gap between the business she was in and their model. This gap identification helped her introduce her own growth models that the PE firm then adopted for their business. She met them where they were at.
C-suite executives talk pipeline, coverage, channel performance and “leads.” Marketers sometimes get their audience lost in their own proprietary language of account based marketing, intent data, marketing qualified accounts and marketing qualified Leads. Acknowledge this language gap and avoid using marketing language. An account strategy is “how” you get the revenue in your business.
Related Article: 3 Ways Marketers Can Ease Account-Based Transition for Sales
Framework Elements for Communicating Marketing Value
After you’ve identified if a gap exists in language, the next step is a framework on how to communicate marketing value of your ABX initiative in terms non-marketers may understand. These framework elements include market quantifying, dashboard vision and leading indicators.
Step 1: Quantify and Define Superset of Accounts
For starters, marketers should lead the conversation on defining the superset of accounts which is the total addressable market (TAM). Next define the individual customer profile (ICP) accounts as a subset of that TAM, and a further winnowing down of target accounts (sometimes done with sales or led by sales) within the ICP, and finally those ‘in market’ to buy your services. In any given market, approximately 5%-10% of your TAM are "in market" to buy according to Forrester. In this economic climate, it likely skews toward even less than that.
Step 2: Unify Your Funnel
This dashboard vision has to unify different sources by ‘C’hannel (not marketing channels like webinars, email, etc.) into a single pipeline — sourcing by ‘C’hannel (marketing, sales, partners, PLG, lead, or any other go to market motion) and its impact on closed won and/or on pipeline sourced is what should be displayed, ideally in your CRM system.
Companies are lagging behind in important strategic planning — 2022 Demandbase research shows that a mere 16% have implemented stages to their dashboarding. Nailing down the specific stages and goals of your company is essential for achieving alignment throughout all departments, as well as efficient performance tracking across every dashboard. Leads, when defined and understood by all parties, still could matter as part of your dashboard reporting so you may want to factor this into your language and dashboard. (see "Are the Days of Salesforce Marketing Qualified Leads Over?")
Critically important in unifying your funnel is understanding the SDR workflow such that as you bring on new technologies like LeanData, 6sense or TechTarget; you are providing them the right insights at the right time in their CRM systems that feed your funnel that is built in Salesforce. BI Tools are not in the workflow of the SDRs, are resource intensive, and in this area of revenue productivity, can hinder efficiency.
Step 3: Develop Leading Indicators of Success
Account reach, account engagement within TAM (and outside of TAM as a comparison), and qualified meetings within target accounts are key leading indicators to report progress on. The key thing is these leading indicators should be present in your CRM system, available in real time, vs. using a business intelligence tool which typically may take resources and valuable time to process new questions or information.
So to summarize, to quantify the value of your ABX program to the C-suite and board members, consider these points:
- They don't speak marketing-ese. C-suite and board members often speak a different language than marketers and need to be met where they are.
- Bridge the language gap. Marketers should focus on understanding the quantitative approaches that non-marketers use, such as lead-centric models.
- Value-building in steps. Take three steps to quantify and communicate the value of an ABX initiative: market sizing, dashboard vision and leading indicators.
- Let real-time insights lead the way. Quantifying the value of an ABX initiative begins by quantifying TAM and ideal customer profile (ICP) accounts and those "in market" with real time insights.
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