Episode’s topic: How to measure the success of your account-based marketing program
In this episode, host Shahin Hoda welcomes Samantha Stone, Founder and CMO at The Marketing Advisory Network.
They will focus on an area that, while essential, can bring a lot of difficulties to marketers: how to create an effective measurement plan for ABM. Samantha will go through her how criteria and point out some common mistakes to avoid.
This episode’s guest:
Samantha Stone, Founder and CMO at The Marketing Advisory Network
Samantha Stone is the author of the popular book Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook that Drives Sales. In 2012 she founded The Marketing Advisory Network to help savvy business leaders unleash the possible within their enterprises.
She’s a fast-growth, B2B marketing junkie, researcher, speaker, consultant and persona expert. Throughout her career she has launched go-to-market initiatives and led marketing strategies for award-winning, high-growth companies including Netezza, SAP, Ascential Software and Powersoft.
Connect with Samantha on LinkedIn
- [00:21] About Samantha's background
- [01:22] Why traditional metrics in B2B marketing can create confusion when it comes to ABM
- [04:17] Samantha's criteria to measure account-based programs
- [08:58] Samantha's views on other measuring models and why attribution models need to exist
- [13:44] Where to start measuring in ABM
- [16:34] An example of how to build backwards to a measurement plan
- [20:31] How to communicate the importance of engagement
- [23:16] Common mistakes while measuring ABM success
- [26:59] About compensation models for marketers in ABM
- [28:41] The importance of consistency, trends and patterns
Resources mentioned on this episode:
- Unleash Possible book
- ITSMA's Three R's of ABM [Infographic]
- The Marketing Advisory Network
- Unleash Possible Podcast hosted by Samantha
About the Growth Colony Podcast:
On this podcast, you'll be hearing from B2B founders, CMOs, marketing & sales leaders about their successes, failures, what is working for them today in the B2B marketing world and everything in between.
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Episode Full Transcript:
[00:21] Shahin Hoda Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode. I'm Shahin Hoda with xGrowth and today I'm talking to Samantha Stone, Founder and CMO at Marketing Advisory Network about how to measure ABM campaigns and activities. And what are some of the usual marketing metrics that marketers should stay away from when executing ABM. And the reason I'm excited about this conversation is Samantha's background. Samantha is the author of the popular book "Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook That Drives Sales." She also eats B2B complex sale high ticket item marketing strategy for breakfast, and has worked with companies like SAP, Essential Software and Power Soft. Samantha, thanks for joining us.
[01:07] Samantha Stone Thank you so much. I really update that company list that is so old at this point. It makes me feel ancient but I'm so appreciative of the opportunity to talk about all the great things we're going to chat about today. I'm happy to be here.
[01:22] Shahin Hoda It's an absolute pleasure having you. It's an absolute pleasure having you. So I want to start with you know, marketers in the B2B space have been measuring, you know, their success through few key metrics like MQLs and SQLs predominantly. But when it comes to like running ABM campaigns, some of those metrics could create a bit of confusion rather than clarity. Why is that?
[01:48] Samantha Stone We're glad you asked that question. I was actually in a meeting just earlier today talking about how to measure their ABM efforts. And we were having a philosophical debate, shall I say. You know, here's the challenge. The way marketers have traditionally been measured, doesn't work well at an ABM model for a really important reason. So what happens in an ABM model, if we're doing it right, is we'll identify a set of accounts that have a high degree of likelihood that we're going to be able to serve their needs. We figure out who all the people are there, we start building relationships with them.
[02:19] Samantha Stone We know it's an enterprise sale, we know it's gonna take a long time to nurture those relationships until they blossom into an actual opportunity, and hopefully a customer relationship someday. When we measure marketing by MQLs or by leads or whatever words and phrases we want to use, what happens is we create weird behavior. Marketing doesn't get credit for the relationship and the touching and the engagement with people they've already MQLs in the past. And so we, by our very nature, always chasing who's the new person, we're going to get into our pipeline. And that is the exact opposite of what we should be doing if we're in an ABM model.
[02:59] Samantha Stone We should be surrounding that relationship and that audience. We should be working side by side with sales. And it's not about adding something new into our pipeline, it's about what level of engagement we have, and measuring the velocity of moving through that pipeline together. And that is the challenge of the traditional ways that we've worked with marketing. One of the other ways that we measure marketing that's even worse than that is we measure cost per lead. And it is the absolute fundamentally worst way to hold a marketing team accountable. Because we create false things that we can bring in names that are cheaper than other high value activities.
[03:43] Samantha Stone And quite frankly, I would rather look at the quality of the lead and the relationship and how fast it progresses through the pipeline and have fewer of those but are really good. They may cost me more but to the right people in the right level of engagement. I'm not suggesting we don't measure financial metrics, we need to do that. But you don't hold marketing accountable to that. You hold them accountable to a budget, so they don't overspend what your business can afford. But you don't look at a per lead dollar value, because in an ABM model, again, we're surrounding a series of accounts and a specific set of buyers within those accounts.
[04:17] Shahin Hoda Right, right. And, you know, I would imagine that if you have that, "what's next" mentality of like, get the next one, get the next one, you're gonna run out, right? Especially if you're doing proper ABM, you're not targeting a very large number of accounts. So there's a limited number of accounts that you're going after. So what is the right way? I mean, I really love the analogy that you gave or the definition that you gave. You have to surround the leads or surrounded prospects of whoever you're going after. How should marketers think about measuring their success? How should they because you know, marketing always has the challenge of sometimes justifying its work right for the business? So how should they go and measure their success?
[05:10] Samantha Stone Yeah, we have to measure, right? We have to measure our success, because how do we know if we're doing the right things otherwise, right? We have to find ways to do that. So I like to measure account based programs really on three sorts of different criteria. So one of the things that I like to measure is the same thing we measure and all our other programs is, what's our revenue and pipeline dollar contribution. Or accounts that are in the pipeline. So like a traditional financial metric that matches the sales metric for that set of accounts.
[05:41] Samantha Stone The second way that I like to measure and I think is really important is to look at pipeline velocity. So in an enterprise sale, we have many stages of a relationship with a buyer. It may start with the very first time they engage with a piece of content. It may be a first meeting they have with a sales rep. Maybe we get all the way to the point where we have a proposal, you know, and then we're negotiating terms. Our systems measure the amount of time that opportunity is sitting within each of those stages. Marketing should be measured and should do things to shorten the amount of time somebody needs to be at each of those stages of that process.
[06:20] Samantha Stone Now, I used to believe many moons ago, before I was really smart enough to know that I know, I don't know everything. And when I thought I did, I used to believe that you can get buyers to skip a stage of the buying process. I'm just going to be so convincing, we're gonna have something so compelling that you cannot do that. You cannot do that in an enterprise sale scenario. It's not an impulse buy. But what I can do is make it easy for them to get from one stage to the next. So for example, if they're evaluating us against other competitors, what are things that I can do to make that process easy for them? What content I can create, what processes I can provide to them? Can I give them an RFP template that makes it easier? Like can I, you know, what are all the things that I can do to shorten the amount of time they need to be in that stage? And so pipeline velocity is the second measure.
[07:11] Samantha Stone And then the third measure is often a little bit harder to do with our systems well and correctly, but is really great if you can figure it out ABM metric around an account engagement score. So I like to look at, if these accounts are in our university in our world, how active are they in working with us? Not just marketing stuff, but in general working with us? Are they responding to things? Are they opening things? Are they registering and attending virtual events? I might be hosting, and coming up with a model but what that score is.
[07:47] Samantha Stone Now some scoring systems use time as the measure for this because it's something they can easily do, which is how much time are they spending on our website? How many things do they attend? It's better than nothing, right? That metric, it's not the perfect metric, because sometimes it's more about what they engage in than how long, right? But at least you have some decision and some threshold that you're holding around that.
[08:15] Samantha Stone So those three things, pipeline velocity, dollar contribution to the pipeline with the number of accounts that are in our target market, as well as that account engagement score, is how I like to hold marketing accountable. on the ABM model. Now we still measure open rates and click throughs and all the things that marketers time on page website visits, right? Marketing needs that but that's our forecast data that tells us if we're doing the right sets of things, it's not what you hold marketing accountable to. Because we can get people to open an email and get people to click on things. If it's the wrong set of stuff that's not moving along the pipeline. We're not doing our job.
[08:58] Shahin Hoda That's it. Now, that's awesome. And, you know, there's also, so I really like the approach of going from revenue rather than looking at velocity and then engagement. What about, you know, there's also the, another model that the three R's, right, which is kind of similar. I've noticed a few different measuring models out there, right? The three R's were ITSMA talks about which is the last one is the same, revenue, and its reputation and relationship, right? What are your thoughts? I always, you know, I was looked at that and I feel, you know, is that something that is maybe very specific to one to one campaigns in account based marketing that is, you know, I mean ITSMA, kind of developed it from there where it's, it was all about the market of one. Like one, the account is going to become a market of one. And maybe that kind of sense, a little bit more in that set up and a bit harder to measure in one too few or one too many, what are your thoughts on some of the other measurement models that are out there?
[10:07] Samantha Stone You know, I think there's a lot of models that people can use, right, that work. What matters, the challenge and then when you look at reputation. So reputation is meaningful. I like to look at propensity to buy instead of reputation. I may have a great reputation, that doesn't mean that I'm actually likely to buy from you. And so I think, and I don't care in general, if the whole world, I have a good brand reputation, I do care, I want people to care about my brand and like my brand and value it. But what I want to care about is a segment of the market that I'm trying to go after. If they're likely to include me in their evaluation process that propensity.
[10:44] Samantha Stone So the challenge with the propensity models is you can measure affinity and measure propensity. But it's a point in time, right? It's not something that I can accurately determine on an ongoing basis. So I think you should have a qualitative process as part of what you do to verify that over time, but the practical way that you solve for this, is to look at within my targeted accounts, how much of that is inbounding to me? And when I say inbounding, to me, I mean, they're coming to my website, they're registering to my events, they're filling out forms that say, I'd like to talk to someone. Brand reputation alone is important, but it's insufficient to signal if we're going to be doing something.
[11:32] Samantha Stone And then there's all kinds of attribution models. And I'm going to say, a big ugly thing about attribution models that nobody is going to like. Attribution models need to exist. So let me start there, we need a model by which we can financially give credit to money that we spend in marketing to determine where we make our investments. But it is mostly a financial model and not a decision model. Attribution models, by their very nature, make you make decisions about what I give credit to. Do I get credit for the first time I met you? Did you get credit? Do I get credit for the last time I met you? Do I evenly spread it across everything? So if you interact with me 10 times is everything good 10% credit.
[12:18] Samantha Stone In a complex sales situation where I'm touching a lot of different things, attribution is just a guess, about a decision that I make about how I financially justify the investments that I'm making. It doesn't actually tell me where I should be making my investments definitively. Because it may take six or eight times of engaging with you before you go, oh, I get it. And I actually know what you do now. And I'm ready to have a meeting. So instead, I like to look at things like trigger based things.
[12:51] Samantha Stone And we look at what are things that initiate a person to enter our database for the first time, right? Let's understand that. Let's measure those things. And then I want to look at what are the things that happened that move you to the next stage of the buying process, right? And I want to build my programs and campaigns off of those triggers and initiators. But attribution overall, it's important. We have to do it, but I could care less which one you use, because they're all just an educated guess, and a decision about modeling and trending, and just pick one, stick with it, and go with it.
[13:44] Shahin Hoda Where is the best place for marketers to start? You know, if I'm a marketer, and I want to start, you know, I'm starting my ABM process and I want to make sure that I'm measuring everything properly. Where do I start?
[14:29] Samantha Stone The first place you have to start is how you develop the target account list. How do we determine and how a lot of people develop the target account list? And this matters because this affects measurement, right? A lot of people say what they do is we go to sales and we say to sales, which accounts do you want to be on our target account list? And while it is a step in the process that we should do, it's a deeply flawed step. Because a) sales people can only tell you about the counts, they know, right? So you're missing whole swaths of it. And b) there's not any analysis typically around the decision that they're making.
[15:03] Samantha Stone It's the thing that's in my territory that represents the biggest deal size. That's the ones that I wanted in the ABM program. So it's not the way we should do it. So before we start measuring the outcome, we have to work backwards to what we're trying to achieve and understand the segments of the markets where we're going to have the most success. We need to do the analysis that tells us where the best deal sizes are? Where we have the fastest wins, where our win rates are highest? What's our cost to acquisition across those things, right?
[15:35] Samantha Stone Once I have a set of criteria, by which I can pick a set of targeted accounts to work from, now I have my baseline. So now what I'm going to measure my program against is, if this is the set of accounts, what was our baseline before? How much revenue came from them before? How quickly did they get to the pipeline? What kind of engagement did we see over the last six months? And now I can set goals to increase from that.
[16:02] Samantha Stone And so we instinctively say, well, the first thing I want to do is set my revenue goal. And then I'm going to work backwards, but we actually need to do it the other way. Do the analysis about what's going to be successful. Where we're going to have the winds? Where we're going to shine? Maybe it's a strategic decision that says we want to go after an entirely new market segment we've never done before. That's okay, that might be part of an ABM strategy. But whatever that is, now, I know my baseline, and now I set my performance goals on improving over baseline.
[16:34] Shahin Hoda Okay, that's a good point. So you're saying don't go from the revenue target and gonna go from the start? And I think sometimes, when marketers do that, say, okay, you know, we want to generate a million dollars. And that means three deals, and that means, you know, 20 this, and then 50 that, and, you know, it goes up to up the funnel.
[16:59] Samantha Stone We have to, we still have to do that to get to the budgets and get to the math and look at like, I'm not saying like, I realised that most of the time, that's how this stuff starts. Somebody somewhere at the board, or the CEO, or the Head of Sales says our ABM program needs to generate $5 million. Come with me to plan. And so you need to get to the 5 million. The question is where do you start? And you don't start at the 5 million, you start at the analysis of your market opportunity.
[17:26] Samantha Stone And then you build backwards to that 5 million and you say, okay, well, this group of people that the best ones that chance, the ones that we're going to win the most, the ones we have the best chance of, that we already have in our database, that blah, blah, blah, we know all this criteria around them, can we meet $5 million dollars with them? If the answer is no, and it's almost always no, right? Then what's the next layer? And then how do, what do we, what is that going to mean for us? What are we going to have to do to reach that next layer? How are we going to have to think about the types of programs we run, the types of acceleration that we have to do.
[18:02] Shahin Hoda Interesting, interesting. So explain that a little bit more. Okay. So, you know, I did the analysis, and I'm like, oh my God, I'm not gonna hit it. I'm not gonna, it's not gonna, I'm not gonna generate $5 million. And so you're saying, go broader, or?
[18:19] Samantha Stone So what I'm saying is, this is what happens. We need to do $5 million, and I want you to target these 100 accounts. And marketing goes, hundred accounts, let's do the analysis. Well, this 20% are not in the market this year, because they just bought something else. And this set, you know, like, we start doing the math and you go, you're, you know, everything in the world has to go right to get $5 million out of these 100 accounts. We can't do that. So now we have to have the conversation, what's our goal? If $5 million is the real goal, then we need to look at what the next layer of the circle of accounts is that makes sense for us to follow.
[18:54] Samantha Stone If the goal is not the 5 million was just a number. We drew out of our head, and we took a guess that now we get back to the drawing. Okay, what do we want to do with this program? What are we trying to achieve? Again, sometimes it's a revenue goal. Sometimes it's a strategic market opportunity that we want to go over versus you know, those hundred accounts really are the only ones that matter, because we're trying to penetrate a new industry. And we don't have any reference customers in that industry. And so, let's set what the real goal is. And maybe the real goal is we want three of the names off that list that is more important than anything else, because we're trying to penetrate a new industry.
[19:31] Samantha Stone And now we measure around that.
[19:35] Shahin Hoda Right.
[19:35] Samantha Stone Right? And so that's why it's really important to take that step back and remind yourselves what's the real objective of this ABM effort? Right, am I running a pilot to learn how to do this against 50 accounts? That's okay, too. That might be the goal. A revenue number, maybe a goal and a target. But if we're purely experimenting and running experiments, we don't want to re-constrain ourselves to an artificial revenue number. We want to see how much we can optimise that. So then the goal might be an engaged, the engagement score might be a much higher objective for us in that model, than if I wasn't running a pilot. And that's why we have to start with what are we trying to achieve? What's the pool of companies that we can work with within that, and start mapping all those connection points? And now we know what to measure?
[20:31] Shahin Hoda Yeah, that's a great point. That's a great point. How would you, if you know, if you realize that, hey, we need to really increase engagement in these accounts? And that should be our objective like you mentioned? How would you go and communicate that to the leadership? Because I feel like sometimes the leadership would be like, here's marketing, again, with their floppy metrics and, you know, it becomes a bit hard. And there's also this notion where everybody, especially now it's, you know, that the hip thing to do to say, marketing is revenue-oriented. Marketing, it's revenue marketing, right? It's pipeline marketing, and stuff like that. How would you communicate that, hey, at this point, we need to focus on engagement, rather than your $5 million at the end of the pipeline?
[21:24] Samantha Stone You know, I think there's a couple of ways that we do. The first one, we should share whatever the revenue goal of sales is. We should share it, we should own it, we're with them, right like that. But sometimes you have to go outside your norm to hit a revenue target, right? Like, you know, COVID hit and all of a sudden, everybody's a lot. Not everybody's right. All of a sudden, all these opportunities of people who had budget approvals, their budgets on hold. So are we just going to sit around and say, well, they're not in our ABM program, so we're not going after their revenue number. No good marketers, you know, okay, let's be realistic and adjust. But where are we going to pull that money from? What other things can we do to pull that in?
[22:00] Samantha Stone And so we should share revenue numbers, but we have to look at the things that matter. So when I said, you know, we need to look at engagement, that's the marketing metric. The sales metric of that might be the number of pipeline opportunities that have been added to the pipeline. If my sales process is 18 months long, and a lot of enterprise sales processes are that long or longer. I'm not going to hit any revenue this year. And if I attribute the revenue of that program, I'm making it up. Because that's not how our customers buy, right?
[22:32] Samantha Stone So maybe I look at the win rate for a set of accounts that might have already been in the pipeline. And now I want to look at can we affect the win rate of those accounts? Maybe I want to look at the number of new pipeline opportunities added within this class of account. So we need those revenue-ish metrics. It's just which ones we choose are going to be the difference between making the decisions that make sense for our business, and decisions that just make us feel good, right? We want to measure the things that are going to create the behavior we want on the marketing team. And not just on the marketing team, by the way, right? This is a partnership with sales. Engagement scores aren't just about marketing activity. They're about sales and marketing activity.
[23:16] Shahin Hoda Oh, that's a great point. Okay. All right. Now, the other thing that I wanted to ask is even in, so we initially talked about some of the mistakes in terms of using traditional marketing or Demandgen metrics for ABM. What are some of the mistakes that you've seen people make when they're trying to measure their ABM success going through an ABM model?
[23:42] Samantha Stone So, a couple things happen. Sometimes what we do is we miss steps in the workflows for non-ABM accounts. So sometimes we build rules into how we lead score, that doesn't surface really good opportunities for us that are outside of our set of accounts that we're targeting. And that is a dangerous and a slippery thing to do as a business, right. So if we go, I'm all up, I love going all in and ABM but all limb doesn't mean I give up anything else that's outside of these account strategies that I'm going after. So we can't neglect the rest of the things that we do in marketing. So sometimes the mistake we make is, is focusing too much on only this specific set of accounts that I've identified.
[24:29] Samantha Stone And that is not good from a long game perspective. Because that list is going to shift and morph over time. And maybe something like a pandemic is going to hit you and all of a sudden, you've got to find some money somewhere else and what might happen, or maybe you got a competitor that goes out of business, and now you can go in and grab their things. So it's not always bad things. It's sometimes really great opportunities that you'd miss if you are too narrow on how you approach it. So I like a balanced approach that looks at both of those things. The worst thing that can happen is when we squabble over, does marketing get credit for this account or just sales? Care less if we're doing our job right. We worked it together, right?
[25:13] Shahin Hoda That's how I feel like that's a harder argument. That's a hard argument to win. But it's very good to think about it that way. And I think sometimes marketing is like trying to justify, right? Because at the end of day sales is gonna close. So sales is definitely going to get credit. If there's revenue that goes in and then marketing's like, you know, we touch that account here. And we know, we had a touch point here, and look, we did stuff and that becomes challenging. So you're saying organisations have to have kind of to go to market strategy, that one could be a ABM strategy, and then one could be more traditional demandgen.
[25:57] Samantha Stone I don't think it's to go-to-market strategies. I think it's one go to market strategy, but it's not ABM exclusive, right? And there may be so first of all, there are some businesses where an ABM exclusive model does make sense. It is very uncommon, where that is the case. So you don't want to, you want to find the right balance between those things. And make sure you're not turning off flow that might naturally come to you outside as is that you can serve and want to serve, right?
[26:25] Samantha Stone You don't want to just take any customer that comes, you want to make sure it makes sense to you. But rarely, are you in a scenario where I'm only, so there's been a couple companies I work with, for example, one company that they really only sell to police departments, that's that they have a solution. It's very specific. That is all they sell. If anybody else came to them, it's such a mismatch. I mean, maybe the technology could work, but it'd be a really far departure. They're all on an ABM. Right, like, that's all they have to do. They don't have to do anything else. But most businesses have some variety in the customers that they serve.
[26:59] Samantha Stone Okay, we touch on compensation a little bit. And I want to ask you, is there a model that you've seen where marketers start to be compensated based on ABM, metrics and revenue? And specifically revenue? Like there's, I've had a conversation with a couple people and some people are for it, and some people are against it, to give a little bit of that sweet compensation check that sales gets to marketing. What have you seen when it comes to ABM in terms of compensation models for marketers?
[27:34] Samantha Stone It depends on what type of role you play in the marketing team. I think it can vary. So if I'm a BDR, who's doing meeting acquisitions, and I'm on the phone, but I sit in the marketing team, I'm going to have something that might feel more like a commission structure than a marketing strategist who's overseeing a lot of things. Most marketing people's bonus structures seem to work well, I think. That look at the sales metrics we're trying to hit and some of these other things, and can I do you know, my bonus structure around that.
[28:04] Samantha Stone We want to be careful to not turn marketing people into salespeople, because salespeople are compensated for a certain set of activities over a short duration of time marketers need to be thinking about both after somebody becomes a customer and long, long, long before they can become a customer. So, you know, I think there are ways to reward the end game in the long, you know, of building an established relationship with an account specifically, you want to be careful, You know, you don't want your marketing people to make sales decisions. You want your salespeople to make sales decisions and your marketing people to make marketing decisions.
[28:41] Shahin Hoda Gotcha. Gotcha. So, this has been amazing. I'd very much love this conversation. I mean, we talked about pipelines, talk about metrics, talk about compensation, we talked about mistakes. Is there anything else that you think that maybe I should have covered? And I didn't ask that that could be valuable on these topics?
[29:00] Samantha Stone Oh my goodness. Now you're gonna make me think about what's in and I say, I'm gonna sit there like, really trying to analyse really fast. You know, I think at the end of the day, what matters in marketing for ABM is the same thing that matters in marketing across the board is consistency and looking for trends and patterns. We sometimes get lost in a particular account or a particular email series or a particular event. And those are dangerous for. We want to look at those but we need to look at it holistically across and look for those patterns in those trends. And make sure we're not doing exception marketing, which limits our ability to scale and be successful in the long run.
[29:44] Shahin Hoda Right, right. Not having all the eggs in one basket. That's great. Now, Samantha, if listeners are listening, interested to hear more or have more questions for you. What will we be the best way for them to find out about you and get in touch
[29:59] Samantha Stone So then go to marketingadvisorynetwork.com and my contact information is there. They're welcome to do that. I'm also on LinkedIn all the time so they can find me there. Samantha Stone marketing I was early enough in my days to get Samantha Stone Marketing but not early enough to get Samantha Stone so um, they can find me on LinkedIn as well.
[30:23] Shahin Hoda I love it. Well, thank you so much for jumping on the podcast. I really appreciate it. And, and we'll chat soon.
[30:31] Samantha Stone Thank you for having me.