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Why Marketers Must Do a Better Job of Investing According to Opportunity

May 14, 2013 | By Megan Heuer

This blog post could also be called “In defense of account-based marketing budgets.” Let me explain. When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton famously said, “Because that’s where the money is.” Without endorsing stealing, I say right on to Willie’s premise. Marketing success ultimately comes down to taking the right actions with the right segments at the right time.

In working with companies on developing account-based marketing programs, I’ve seen marketing become its own worst enemy when it comes to the concept of aligning effort to the right opportunities. Nearly every company has some form of the 80/20 rule (approximately 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of customers), but too few define marketing requirements based on this reality and its implications. We worry way too much about pure volume of activities and dollars and way too little about context and understanding the right investment levels to reach our ideal prospects, support our best customers and support the sellers aligned to them.

This is not to suggest that all marketing dollars must be allocated to supporting that 20 percent. In fact, sometimes that group requires less marketing help than other segments, from a program investment point of view. However, support for the largest and highest-potential accounts should be a starting point for investment, not an afterthought. Here’s a checklist to help you align resources to opportunity the account-based way.

  • Separate ideal targets from obvious targets. The largest customers all require support but don’t all represent large growth opportunities. Segment those that require more maintenance and those that will help the company make its growth targets. Ensure adequate marketing support for the highest-potential accounts and the teams that sell to them. It takes many more small deals to make up for not winning the big deals.
  • Don’t turn support for major accounts into a part-time job. Account-specific support, especially for large and named accounts, is often layered onto the responsibilities of already-too-busy field marketers. Decide whether the competing priorities (e.g. broad-based demand creation, events) are the right use of their time and budget. In many cases, tighter alignment to sales account goals is a smarter way to allocate field marketing time. Field marketers will thank you, because they’re on the front lines, balancing requests to help sales with account-level goals, but with too little time to do it right.
  • Determine how marketing resources can align better to sales’ go-to-market model. Is your marketing function set up to support the needs of sellers as they are segmented? Sales reps supporting higher-value and high-potential accounts should have a clear idea of what support they can expect from marketing. Marketing contribution should be an extension of sales’ plans.
  • Don’t waste effort on finding opportunities sales won’t care about. Marketing must avoid attracting contacts and companies that won’t matter to sales, especially if the company has a named-account model. For example, if inbound tactics are attracting the wrong contacts in sales’ view, change the tactics so they find the right contacts more consistently.
  • Measure progress as it aligns to selling goals. The fastest road to change is often adjusting measurement to focus clearly on what matters. Make sure tactics can be viewed in the context of the goals they’re designed to support. This can include account- or segment-specific goals, and may not all be about generating leads. Sellers have relationship-focused goals as well as opportunity goals in their account plans. Consider support for relationship development a meaningful contribution from marketing, but put a baseline in place so that even qualitative changes can be tracked.

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