woman holding finger in front of her lips to say "shhhh"
PHOTO: Kristina Flour

Leads are the new vanity metric for B2B” — Eric Wittlake, senior analyst, TOPO

Raise your hand if you love that quote as much as I do.

If you’re familiar with account-based marketing (ABM), you’re probably raising your hand and nodding your head. But if you’re still back in the days of volume measurements (à la “How many leads do we have in the funnel?”), that quote might make you pause, if not sputter in defensiveness.

But the reality is that Eric is exactly right. After all, you might recall that Forrester Research concluded that less than 1 percent of leads turn into revenue-generating customers. And with ABM, measuring leads is not only counterproductive, it’s also an exercise in vanity. When people want to feel good about themselves and their marketing efforts, they tell everyone how many leads they have at the top of their funnel and then pat themselves on the backs when everyone oohs and ahhs at the large number.

But leads don’t tell us anything. Not anything of value, anyway.

Bottom line? The number of leads is a vain measurement, and there are far better things to measure that actually matter.

Related Article: The Account-Based Marketing One-Team Approach: More Than a Catchphrase

What Isn't Vain?

The metrics that really keep your finger on the pulse of your business are those that give you real indications about performance. If you want marketing to have a seat at that oh-so-coveted table, you have to refocus your attention to measure what your sales department, the CFO, the CEO and the board care about. And the best way to kick off that process is by redefining your metrics with a single marketing and sales scorecard. Seriously — one scorecard for both departments; the same scorecard for your whole company.

A typical ABM scorecard should include these four key parts:

  • Target account list.
  • Engagement levels.
  • Activation of sales team based on customer interactions.
  • Measurement based on desired business outcomes.

That is what all individuals and all departments should be measuring against, in unison and in solidarity.

Related Article: Confessions of an ABM Skeptic

Measure This, Not That

At this point, you might be thinking, “OK, but we still need to keep track of our activity, don’t we?”

No, you don’t. Activity only tells you what actions you’re taking, not whether those actions are generating results. I know it might feel weird and in complete opposition to what you’ve always done as a marketer, but I give you permission right now to stop measuring the following: leads, marketing-qualified leads, sales-qualified leads and inbound inquiries. They are not accurate measures of success, and therefore should not get any of your attention.

When you stop measuring those types of metrics, what should you measure? Glad you asked.

The more important indicators to begin capturing are engagement with the right accounts, the deal velocity of targeted accounts and actual contacts per account of interest. Those are the windows into the heart of how your marketing is really doing.

Let’s dissect those, starting with engagement. Many savvy marketers are still confusing engagement with clicks, and that’s not only inaccurate, it will completely trip up your quest to achieve meaningful measurement. Engagement means how much time (and therefore money) a person from a best-fit account is spending actively interacting with your brand. It might be time spent reading your weekly newsletter, time spent on a phone call with you, number of ebook downloads, or all of those things. If you want to get the whole picture of engagement, you have to track every interaction and every minute that a customer or future customer dedicates to you.

The next area to measure is deal velocity within your target accounts, which is fairly straightforward. What you’re trying to figure out here is whether — and how quickly — your best-fit accounts are moving to the next positive stage of the sales cycle. This tells you if there’s room for improvement in either the quality of your nurturing or the acceleration of the sales process.

Finally, it’s a good idea to keep track of how many actual contacts you have in any given target account. At my company, we track both known contacts and anonymous visitors at an account level so we have the full picture, and I’d recommend you do the same.

In order for your marketing department to excel as a single unified team working with one scorecard toward the same goals, you have to upgrade your measurement habits. It’s time to say goodbye to vanity metrics that might make us feel good briefly but don’t give us anything to hold onto, and start embracing the metrics that deliver real insight and value. This is the real secret to not just talking about ABM, but to actually succeeding with ABM.