“Linking marketing metrics with sales is becoming more important”

Right now Account Based Marketing is a hot topic in both Europe and the US.

Jon Miller, the co-founder of one of the world’s leading Marketing Automation solutions (Marketo, market value exceeding one billion dollars) recently launched Engagio to build a marketing platform specializing in ABM. 

Hi Jon. For starters… what, would you say, is the single most important challenge to deal with when it comes to B2B marketing?

Wow, that’s a rather broad question. There is all sorts of lofty talk going on these days, things like “owning the customer relationship” or “driving customer experience”, but I think the core of most B2B challenges still comes down to Marketing and Sales alignment. As a result, too much time, energy and resources go into marketing trying to justify its existence and defending its budget.

“What you really want achieve is a real relationship with customers – a personal, emotional connection.To get to the core of alignment, we must first establish some common definitions and metrics. Not just within marketing, but jointly for marketing and sales. Linking marketing metrics with sales is bound to be even more important in the future. Without that connection it will also be increasingly difficult to defend your marketing investments.

One concept that seems to have a lot of interest right now is “customer engagement”, especially in the area of account-based marketing. How, exactly, would you define and measure that?  

What you really want to achieve is a real relationship with customers – a personal, emotional connection. That’s important but not easy to measure, so we need a proxy for measuring the real engagement – and in my mind the easiest, most straightforward way to measure that is how much time the customer or prospects spends interacting with your brand and content. 

The customer may, for example, spend a few seconds reading an email or blog post but several hours participating in an event. And even more time if they are a customer, learning and using your product or service – and even more again when they refer others to your solution. 

Many CMOs are very much attracted to the idea of account-based marketing, but find it difficult to get started. So, where should they begin?

 It doesn’t have to be complicated at all. The first step is, quite naturally, to identify which accounts you want to develop; it could be a mix of existing customers and companies that you would like to work with. Maybe as few as 10 accounts, or as many as 100 if you have the resources for that. 

“ABM doesn’t have to be complicated at all”Select companies that you would have a realistic chance to develop and maintain over time, not just the biggest or most prestigious accounts. And then invest the time required to learn as much as possible about these companies.

Then you need to establish your baseline – where you stand today with these companies – and what kind of interaction is already taking place. Set some specific objectives for increased awareness and engagement that everybody can relate to, and agree upon a coordinated action plan. 

The initiative for such programs typically lies with the CMO, so how do you make sure that the Sales manager is equally committed?

That’s obviously a key success factor. The word “account” is really more established in Sales, but the term “Account Based Marketing” clearly indicates that it is a marketing project. This creates an unnecessary disconnect; maybe Strategic Account Development is a better name. 

How do we know that it works? Do you know of any particular studies dealing with actual results?

This is a fairly new area of development, and I don’t know of any broad studies like that. But I do know evaluations of ABM projects carried out by individual companies. 

“The Sales manager must be equally committed, that’s a key success factor”One such project revealed a 20 percent increase in the customer pipeline, when applying an ABM strategy, with 16 percent more customers moving from one development phase to the next. These figures do not necessarily reflect any universal truth but, if nothing else, they indicate how you can measure success.

Now, let’s talk about you. Some ten years ago you founded Marketo, which essentially laid the foundation for Marketing Automation. Where on earth did you get that idea?

To make a long story short, I had spent my entire career working with marketing and analytics software and solutions for tech companies like Xchange and E.piphany. Throughout this period I also encountered other novel ideas, like one-to-one marketing and permission marketing. 

I was particularly intrigued by the opportunity to use the new wealth of data to increase marketing efficiency and thereby also improve the generally rather low credibility of marketing managers. 

One aspect of that low credibility was that most companies had substantial marketing budgets but were not willing to invest in advanced marketing systems, especially since marketing budgets are operational expenses (OpEx) but historically marketing technology was a capital expenditure (CapEx).

Fortunately, the idea of software-as-a-service was gaining ground, and I realized that this would also be a great way to deliver marketing services. No major investments, just a monthly fee. 

And right now you are into a brand new venture…

After spending nearly ten years with Marketo, I felt that “my baby” was now grown up, standing on it’s own two feet. I was increasingly tempted by the notion of starting from scratch, working with a small company again. So I looked around for a new concept, but I did not want to disturb or compete with Marketo; I would rather develop something to complement their concept. 

So, in March 2015, you officially started Engagio… what is that all about?

We are developing an ABM solution designed to integrate with and complement existing Marketing Automation software. Initially we exclusively offer our services to established Marketo and Salesforce customers with complex enterprise sales. Right now we are beta testing the system together with 17 pioneering companies, aiming for a broader US launch later this year. If you are interested in being an early customer, please contact me at jon [at] engagio.com.

Thank you Jon, let’s keep in touch. We are excited to monitor the further development of your new business venture.

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