By Sangram Vajre

In theory, targeting the right accounts in account-based marketing is easy. In action, this can present many challenges. Because most marketing teams were created for lead-based marketing, the most popular software solutions also are lead-based.

This may surprise you, but your customer relationship management (CRM) system and marketing automation system weren’t initially set up for account-based marketing. By default, these software platforms were designed for lead-based marketing. Your CRM was built to manage contacts, then marketing automation is used to engage the contacts in activities and track the metrics. Activity was measured at the contact level. Marketers and salespeople haven’t been able to report at the account level. The reports would include lists of leads, or opportunities, and engagement on those contacts. To get to the account-level engagement, you have to manually design the necessary reports.

Today, CRM systems don’t directly report on opportunities at the account level. Your CEO may ask you, “How many accounts that came to a marketing event have closed as a direct result?” There’s no way to run a report for this data. You can import your lists of contacts who attended this event into your CRM under a campaign.

If you were asked to pull a report in your CRM of accounts in the opportunity stage, you couldn’t automatically run this report. You can run a report to find the list of contacts associated with an opportunity.

Integrating your platforms

Integration is accomplished by the application programming interface (API). Your marketing automation system pings or calls the API to transfer information back into the CRM.

Depending on your marketing automation provider, the number of API calls may be limited.

If your API calls are limited, you won’t have real-time insights into your campaigns from the CRM. If you sent out a list email, you could see the open rates, but not who is opening them.

You need to view this as an account. Did the account come to the event? Who from the account? That’s the conversation you need to have with your marketing team, and the type of reporting your sales team should care about. Unfortunately, none of the software available in the market generates this type of report today. It’s all at the contact level.

This is a huge opportunity. Multiple marketing technology (MarTech) platforms, when combined with your CRM and marketing automation system, allow you to execute account-based marketing. You need tools that can measure account-based performance.

Your CRM doesn’t produce account reports. You can run reports on contacts and open opportunities, but you can’t get a holistic view of what is happening within your Tier A, B, or C accounts.

Assigning tasks and follow-up

If you have set up a rule correctly, you will automatically create new contacts and accounts in the CRM when they engage with content in your marketing automation system. You will need to execute the qualification process again to determine whether the account meets your ICP criteria and undergo the same vetting process.

If someone downloads a piece of content after completing a form, you’ve triggered this in marketing automation to also create a new contact/account in your CRM. Alerting your sales account executives and BDR/SDRs through email that says a new person has been assigned to them:

  • CRM tasks: If you run your sales development process through your CRM, use tasks to indicate a new contact has been assigned.
  • Email notification: If you use a sales development platform, such as SalesLoft’s Cadence, you can import the notification, view in CRM, and import into Cadence. Now they’re on your list of follow-ups.

Determining the next steps

The concept of using MarTech for ABM is simple but it’s a huge change in the status quo. The whole team must be on board with this plan for connecting with contacts in accounts who have achieved a minimum score. Management must have bought in to be on the same page with next steps.

Internally, your “smarketing” team should sit down together to review the process for using marketing automation. Because you’re using the MA for various activities and sending content, each team member needs to know the next steps, based on certain activities. To determine the next steps, ask these questions:

  • If a form is completed, who from the sales development team should respond? Which ICP and persona criteria should be used to qualify inbound form completions?
  • Who from marketing owns drip emails? Which content is included in the drips? How often should this be refreshed?
  • Which rules are created for adding contacts automatically to your CRM? Who owns creating these rules?
  • When should marketing and sales review account scores together to determine whether there’s an uptick in engagement among targeted accounts?