Account Based Marketing for a B2B Niche Marketer

October 22, 2014

Below is a whitepaper that discusses Account Based Marketing for niche marketers.  It can also be viewed at: Modern Marketing 101


In an effort to demonstrate impact to business, marketers need a methodology for measuring marketing campaign influence on the sales funnel and revenue.  In order to accomplish this task, two marketing professionals (one from a healthcare technology firm, and one from a marketing and sales analysis firm) worked together in order to shift the marketing campaign perspective to account based marketing, and develop a reporting engine that matches marketing campaign data with sales funnel revenue data.  The resulting reports enabled a true measurement of marketing campaigns influence from the perspective of the sales funnel data.  The measurement showed a significant increase in sales funnel activity for accounts that interacted with marketing campaigns.

Marketers look to drive customer engagement from “brand to demand.”  Traditional marketing efforts look to drive leads to the sales department; and traditional measures include client interaction within both online and offline environments.  This leads to a unique set of challenges for marketing professionals, as they are unable to provide a clear measurement of impact to the sales funnel… which is the exact metric executives demand.  This creates an ongoing struggle for marketing departments who have to demonstrate their organizational worth to stakeholders.

For our specific situation, this challenge was compounded by several factors.  The solutions we provide to customers are quite complex and the average sales cycle is approximately 18 months.  Additionally, operating in a niche market forced us to view leads as interactions within key decision making groups in a finite number of accounts.  This translated into constructing marketing campaigns that focus on the groups who drive the decision making process rather than the hundreds or thousands of new leads that come in from new businesses.


 This represented the first major challenge we faced, as this was a paradigm shift to Account-Based Marketing.  The focus needed to shift to account interactions; consisting of interactions by decision making groups rather than individual contacts.  Marketing strategies were adjusted and marketing campaigns and programs were designed to foster account level interaction throughout the buying cycle.

Once these new programs and campaigns were in place, the second major challenge emerged.  The current measurement methodologies in place needed to change in order to reflect account level engagement.  This new measurement must evaluate the number of accounts and key decision making groups who were participating in marketing programs, campaigns, and events.  Measuring in this fashion would provide a more holistic perspective when compared with measuring email campaign open and click-through rates by the hundreds.

The final, and arguably most difficult, challenge is one that is shared by most marketers: how to measure and demonstrate the influence these new marketing campaigns had on the buying cycle.  This challenge was quite complex, as there was a recent implementation of a customized SalesForce instance that enabled sale velocity measurement.  Ultimately, executives and stakeholders wanted to see how the efforts of the marketing department were impacting sales, including number of closures and velocity from a solutions perspective.

In order to architect a new measurement methodology that would demonstrate the influence of marketing campaigns on the sales funnel, the marketing and sales departments collaborated to identify the following list of questions:

  •         Who within our target organizations were responding to our programs, campaigns, and events?
  •         What solutions where they interested in?
  •         What marketing activities and programs caused them to engage?
  •         What sales and/or opportunities could be attributed to our marketing efforts?
  •         Did interaction at an account level impact the number of opportunities for a particular product?
  •         Did interaction at an account level impact the velocity of individual sales opportunities?

       Those marketers who have implemented Marketing Automation Systems may feel that these questions are easily answered.  These complex applications enable measurement at a high level, including interactions by campaign, trends, etc.  These applications also enable information sharing between marketing and sales, so that available data can be leveraged during the sales cycle.  This is made more efficient if there is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system (such as SalesForce) integrated into the Marketing Automation Platform.


However, in our case, these challenges were beyond the capabilities of most Marketing Automation Systems.  We needed to measure marketing campaign and program influence at the account level for their products and solutions.  Given the aforementioned definition of account level measurements, this was not possible through usage of the available Marketing Automation Systems and CRM platforms since they record at the individual contact level. 

The reporting demands coming from executives also created another set of complexities in regards to opportunity tracking and velocity.  Most Marketing Automation Systems look at velocity and opportunity tracking at a very high level.  Executives desired to look at campaign influence from a solutions perspective; isolating the exact products targeted by a campaign.  Other Marketing Automation Systems will show collateral solutions information:  I.E.  Marketing campaign A will be measured as to the impact to all solutions, even though it was designed to market product A only.  Isolating the solution set will allow for extremely targeted marketing campaign evaluation.

In order to demonstrate the efficacy of the marketing efforts on the buying cycle, a new data management and reporting process was needed.  This task required a high level of data analytic expertise.  Our organizations worked closely in order to determine a set of business rules for the creation of a new reporting engine.  This reporting engine is capable of combining, cleaning, and housing data from multiple sources, creating a singular environment where it can be retrieved and manipulated.  Additionally, this reporting engine would then apply the complex business rules needed in order to create detailed reports and dashboards.


Due to the complexity and depth of the measurements desired by executives and stakeholders, the reporting output is a combination of manual and systemic analysis.  Complex dashboards are developed through a joint effort of our two organizations.  These dashboards are designed to measure how the account level interactions of individual marketing campaigns and programs influence the number and velocity of sale. 


In order to understand the complexity of the reporting capable through the new reporting engine, it is imperative to understand the workflow.  Initially, a “baseline report” would be created for each marketing campaign or program.  This baseline would identify the number and types of sales opportunities currently in the funnel for the individual accounts and solutions targeted by that marketing effort. 


By creating this baseline, marketers are now able to identify several distinct items.  First, this baseline is designed to isolate the solutions that are specifically targeted by that marketing effort, and identify existing sales opportunities.  By identifying existing sales opportunities, we can identify potential solution gaps for individual accounts (referred to as “Whitespace.”)  Identifying existing sales opportunities also enables the measurement of new sales opportunities generated, as well as the value and velocity of all sales opportunities associated with that marketing effort.  Finally, by benchmarking the individual solutions marketed by a campaign, a more focused measurement can be applied.


Next, there are a number of different, complex business rules that are applied to this data that determine exactly how to track, what to track, and the duration of tracking for individual marketing campaigns and programs.  These business rules are agreed upon by sales, sales support, and product marketing; and can evolve to match the specifics of a marketing campaign or to satiate executive requirements.  The marketing department used these reports to understand how marketing campaigns, programs, and elements impacted individual accounts and their sales opportunities.


As this new reporting structure was rolled out into the marketing and sales environment, there was a request from executives to understand an even higher level of marketing campaign impact.  To this point, the new reporting engine was being used to develop dashboards corresponding with individual marketing efforts.  Executives were so pleased with the level of detail that was provided; they wished to understand the overall impact of how all marketing efforts affected the entire sales funnel.  This resulted in a unique scenario.

Given the size of the niche market operated in, the vast scope of the marketing efforts, and the types and numbers of products/solutions marketed there is a high probability of overlap in the accounts and solutions targeted by marketing campaigns. Therefore, the same or similar sales opportunities could appear in multiple marketing campaign reports.  In order to view an overall marketing impact report, an additional report structure was needed.  A marketing campaign “roll-up” report was created, which utilized an even more complex set of business rules.  This report combines all marketing campaigns, and eliminates any redundancies to present only the unique sales opportunities for the appropriate accounts impacted by marketing efforts.


The structure of the reports provided the Marketing and Sales Departments with a tremendous amount of actionable information. These reports were run for individual marketing campaigns, programs, and events; as well as overall impact of all marketing efforts. Once these reports are generated by the reporting engine, additional manual analysis is applied through a joint effort of our organizations to create complex marketing dashboards.  The types of data addressed include:


  •        Number of accounts touched by the marketing campaign
  •        Number of accounts that interacted with the marketing campaign
  •        Number of sales opportunities per account prior to the marketing campaign
  •        Number of new sales opportunities per account generated by the marketing campaign
  •        Number of sales opportunities per account that have changed stage after the marketing campaign
  •        Number of closed-won sales opportunities per account after the marketing campaign
  •        Sales funnel stage per sales opportunity, per account prior to the marketing campaign
  •        Sales funnel stage per sales opportunity, per account after to the marketing campaign
  •        Booking and In-Year value of sales opportunities per account prior to the marketing campaign
  •        Booking and In-Year value of new sales opportunities per account generated by the marketing campaign
  •        Booking and In-Year value of sales opportunities per account that have changed stage after the marketing campaign
  •        Booking and In-Year value of closed-won sales opportunities per account after the marketing campaign


These measurements allow for a unique evaluation of marketing campaigns.  Marketing efforts can now be viewed as to their impact to specific accounts and/or solutions in the following ways:

  • Increase in sales
  • Velocity of sales
  • Increase in new opportunities
  • Value of sales
  • Value of opportunities
  • Etc.


The marriage of marketing campaign, sales, and campaign interaction data also enables a measurement of campaign influence between accounts that interacted with a marketing campaign and those who were merely touched by the campaign.  These reports finally allowed for the marketing department to truly measure and demonstrate their influence on the sales funnel.


One of the most powerful measures capable through the use of this new reporting system is the ability to look at marketing campaign influence of accounts that interact versus those that are only touched by a campaign.  Once several months’ worth of these new reports was compiled, trends began to emerge.  Measuring accounts that interacted with marketing campaigns and programs showed a significant impact to the sales funnel.  Below are some highlights from the marketing efforts: 

  •          Accounts with campaign interactions were approximately 20% more likely to have opportunities in the sales funnel
  •          Accounts with campaign interactions were approximately 16% more likely to have sales opportunities with positive movement
  •          Accounts with campaign interactions were approximately 15% more likely to generate new sales opportunities
  •          Accounts with campaign interactions were 11% more likely to have closed-won sales opportunities


The above findings represent just a fraction of the actionable data made available by shifting to this new measurement methodology.  The new reporting engine and the resulting dashboards have enabled marketers to fully demonstrate their impact to funnel and return on investment (ROI.) The shift to Account-Based Marketing allows for marketing campaigns to be highly targeted and truly nurture individual sales through the buying cycle. This type of trend information allow for our marketers to predict the impact of their campaign against these percentages

As it has become more prevalent among customers to make purchasing decisions by “committee,” it is this group of individuals that must be monitored within an account.  It is their interactions that marketers are now delivering to the sales team as leads; and it is the holistic impact to the individual account and sales funnel that is measured.