Account Based Marketing Methods & Metrics with Engagio CEO Jon Miller

June 18, 2016

Jon Miller on Account Based Marketing

Marketers need to think differently to be successful with account based marketing (ABM). That can be a challenge. We’re used to casting a wide net, generating leads, and then passing them on to sales. Then we have to justify our spending based on how we contributed to a sale versus how much sales contributed. In ABM, marketers work far more closely with sales throughout the entire process. There’s no handoff; it’s all hands-on.

Engagio CEO and Co-Founder Jon Miller has the experience and insight to help marketers make the ABM paradigm shift. Jon joined us recently to talk about the evolution of ABM, what challenges to anticipate when you’re starting out, and how to meaningfully measure your results.

Ask the Expert: Jon Miller on Account Based Marketing

How would you define account based marketing?

Jon Miller: ABM is a strategic approach for sales and marketing to use personalized interactions at named accounts to open new doors and deepen existing relationships. The key part of that definition is strategic approach. ABM is not a campaign; it’s not like an initiative for this month. It’s a way of thinking about how you drive your business. Sales has to be as involved as the marketing department to make it work. It’s about using account level insight to make sure that each interaction is relevant and resonant. It’s about landing and expanding relationships.

What do you think were the drivers of the evolution of ABM?

Jon Miller: ABM’s been around for 10 years. The whole idea started with the ITSMA. They talked about treating each account as a market of one with very deep, rich account profiles and research, then using all that insight to completely customize one-to-one campaigns.

What happens is people will pilot that style of ABM, they’ll have a marketer read the study and they’ll go to five accounts. And it turns out it works extraordinarily well. That’s why when the ITSMA studies it, they say that ABM has a higher ROI than any other marketing strategy. The problem is it doesn’t scale very well.

That classic style of ABM works, but because it’s so hard to scale, ABM didn’t really take off. A lot of people looked at it and said, “That’s only for really big companies that sell really big deals.”

I think what’s happened in the last two years is the emergence of two other styles of ABM. There’s the ABM Lite style, if you will, where you still are looking at each account individually and doing account mobile research. But it’s much lighter and then the level of customization is not nearly as deep. That ABM Lite style scales much better, and you can catch a lot more accounts with it.

And then you have your third style, which is traditional marketing with an account target. So you’re targeting specific accounts, but the actual content and message is not going to be as customized to the individual account. That approach clearly scales to thousands and thousands of accounts. So basically the new technologies and techniques that have come out in the last two years have enabled the style two and the style three of ABM. These styles are allowing so many new companies to look at it and say, “Oh, okay. We can do that. That’s for us.”

What would you say is a good ABM checklist for people to get started?

Jon Miller: The most important initial step by far is to pick your target accounts and align the company around these accounts, and to choose which style of ABM you’re going to use for each one.

From there, there are some basic pieces of infrastructure you need to build. You need the ability to look at an account in your CRM system and your marketing system and know who all the people are and about all the interactions are you have had with that account. I don’t see how you do ABM if you don’t have that kind of core account infrastructure.

And then you just start figuring out a couple of the initial plays that you want to run. What is the key objective you have for these accounts? Is there a play you can do that’s going to help you achieve that objective? You pilot that out, try a couple plays and then make sure you have the measurements in place so you can tell if it’s working.

A big challenge of ABM initiatives is not the setting of expectations upfront, but how long it’s going to take to see dollars and cents results. So, that’s why you need agreement upfront about how you are going to measure, and how you will know in advance if it’s working to create the pipeline.

What are the metrics specific to ABM?

Jon Miller: It’s not about counting things. It’s measuring the quality and the depth of the relationship. So, the five metrics we look at are:

1. Coverage. Do you know the right people at the accounts? Do you have the contact information?

2. Awareness. Do they have any minimum level of activity with you?

3. Engagement. Do the right people from the right accounts spend time with you?

4. Reach. Focus & efficiency: If you hold an event, how many people who show up are the right people from the right accounts?

5. Impact. Is there a relationship between the things you do and the outcomes you care about?

The mnemonic we use to help remember them is ICARE: Impact, Coverage, Awareness, Reach and Engagement.

How does ABM change the marketer’s relationship with sales?

Jon Miller: Well, it ends up being much more intertwined than with traditional demand generation. You know, the traditional model is marketing generates leads and hands them off to sales. The metaphor is literally a handoff. In ABM, especially styles one and two, marketing and sales are involved throughout the entire process. So the relationship is who does what at each step. You might have sales picking the account, but marketing providing data and insights to make that process work better.

And then, you’re going to think about who is going to map out the accounts and do the research, is it sales, marketing or sales development? It’s probably a collaboration. I talked about running plays earlier—a play has things that marketing does and sales does. Maybe marketing buys some ads and sends some direct mail pieces, but sales is doing the calling. It’s marketing and sales both doing what they do best, but at each step.

What are the challenges that companies can anticipate developing this new relationship between sales and marketing?

Jon Miller: There are two challenges I can think of. One is sales doesn’t always have an understanding of what marketing can do. So marketers ask, “Hey, what are you doing in ABM? How do you want us to help with your accounts?” The salesperson is typically going to say, “Oh, I don’t know. Can you make me a data sheet? Can you hold an event?” That may not lead to using marketing to its highest potential.

The other area where you can get into trouble is if the metrics aren’t right. Marketing spent a long time justifying spend by pointing to MQLs and opportunities they created. So you could say, “Look, marketing generated this. Sales, you generated that. My marketing’s justified because I’m generating 30 percent of all the revenue.”

But in ABM it’s not that model anymore. There’s no marketing-generated deal and sales-generated deal. This is an us-generated deal. If you don’t have the right metrics for measuring marketing, you could end up making it seem like marketing is contributing less.

Do you think that ABM is the best type of inbound marketing?

Jon Miller: No. I think that there are two different styles of marketing that work well in different places. Inbound works best when you have a large adjustable potential market and you want the ability to reach large volumes of that market in a cost-effective manner. It works when you care how many fish you catch and not which specific fish you catch.

ABM works really well when there are specific fish you want to catch, where it’s not effective to wait around for them to swim into your net, but you have to actually reach out to them. Depending on your business ABM might be a better strategy for everything you do. But for other businesses ABM might be a strategy that’s just appropriate for some segments of your accounts.

Does the funnel look any different for ABM? Is it a completely different buyer’s journey compared to marketing to the masses?

Jon Miller: Well, there are a couple of differences I think. The first is that the traditional funnel is a person-centric construct where you have names that become leads, that then become sales qualified leads, and so on. With ABM you want an account-centric paradigm. For example, we have marketing qualified accounts for the MQAs as opposed the MQL, the lead. ABM is just as much about expanding existing relationships as it is about landing new ones. So I think a bowtie is actually a better metaphor than a funnel.

Thanks to Jon for sharing his ABM secrets with us. You can follow Jon on LinkedIn, on Twitter @jonmiller, and at

To learn more about ABM strategy, download The Sophisticated Marketer’s Crash Course in Account Based Marketing.