CFO World

How this SaaS company used account-based marketing to go upmarket

FullStory CMO details the operational challenges, plus technology, organisational and strategy requirements of adopting ABM as a B2B marketer

Investment in an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy and tech is enabling digital intelligence platform vendor, FullStory, to attract and boost new enterprise-grade client engagement by upwards of 75 per cent.

FullStory is a US-based digital intelligence platform provider. In the early days, the company grew up off the back of a product-led growth strategy. But over the past 18 months, it’s been building out an ABM approach to expand into fresh vertical and enterprise customer segments.

As FullStory CMO, Peter Herbert, told CMO, the early days saw the SaaS company working predominantly with startups and via online self-service purchasing.

“We built up a loyal following, which fuelled growth,” he said. However, by the time Herbert joined in 2018, it was clear the high-performing business had more opportunity than was being realised upmarket. What’s more, the emergence of digital intelligence as a technology category in its own right raised fresh opportunity to target accounts larger and in different segments to where FullStory traditionally played.

One step forward was building out a sales team. But arguably, the more culturally challenging shift has been adopting an ABM approach in addition to the demand gen prospecting and online self-service.

FullStory is the third company Herbert has established an ABM strategy in. He cited the emergence of new technology platforms as key to helping B2B marketers not only do ABM at scale and in more channels, but also targeting more intelligently. FullStory has invested in Engagio’s ABM offering, alongside Marketo’s marketing automation, as its foundation marketing platforms.

“Many marketers have done account-based marketing for many years; it’s the emergence of new technology that has helped us to do it at scale and across more channels than we previously could, as well as target more intelligently,” Herbert said. “FullStory seemed the perfect scenario for layering in an account-based approach on top of a demand gen and online experience already working well.”

One of the most important things about ABM is it just makes sense, Herbert said. “Sales have always been account-focused, but marketing has given them leads of individual people, and that’s how people operated for a long time. We learnt that system,” he said.  

“To evolve from lead-based approaches, where you’re literally activating your team off inbound and form filling, to having a data-driven approach to targeting accounts and triggering the right activities for the right people in the right accounts, has become easier and easier to do at scale.”

Operationalising ABM

The key to making ABM successful - and often the hardest part once buy-in is achieved across an organisation - is operationalising it, Herbert said. He cited several critical success factors.

The first is technology providing lead-to-account matching. “When a lead comes in, are we able to roll that up to an account in a bionic way?” he asked. Secondly, engagement tracking and scoring at an account level is vital.

“It’s much more valuable and important in the cycle if you can combine all known and anonymous engagement, and all channels. It’s not enough to just look at Web engagement, or leads of anonymous Web activity, we want to combine and get a holistic view of an account,” Herbert continued. “It’s a new way of expressing demand to the sales development organisation more robust than simply sending leads.”

Third, Herbert noted it’s important to not use marketing qualified leads, but instead have marketing qualified account status and a scorecard that is account based. Herbert’s FullStory team uses an ABM scorecard, initially available via spreadsheets, but now more commonly available as a feature within ABM tech platforms.

Another must is account funnels that orchestrate activities within an account reaching a certain stage. This is where automation comes to the fore, Herbert said.

“Automation then frees us up to do the valuable human things along the way, like connecting, speaking and interacting with people, sending them notes, and just thinking about the person-to-person aspects of developing a relationship between two companies,” he said.

Despite this, FullStory’s ABM approach is augmenting rather than replacing the lead demand gen model.  

“I don’t buy into the notion that leads don’t matter. If people are interacting with your content, requesting demos or providing information, that’s a lot of trust and an important event,” Herbert said. “It’s just the ability to layer on other types of data that allow us to have that holistic view of an account.”

Herbert’s ABM approach is focused on target account engagement, pipeline and revenue. Key here is knowing how many target accounts have engaged over a period of time, how many moved into your pipeline, and then closed/won.

“Then you can extend this to factor in measures such as customer satisfaction and renewals into customer experience as well,” Herbert said.

“Try to laser in on accounts that are best fit with your product and organisation and who will get a lot value using your product over time. If you understand that ideal customer profile, how to identify those accounts and can operationalise your approach across the organisation, it all just makes sense.”

Up next: ABM foundational capabilities, plus FullStory's results

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ABM foundation capabilities

Before the operational work, however, comes alignment with the sales leadership and executive team.

“This isn’t a project marketing does on the side. We have to agree, based on what we know and a hypothesis today, which identifies what we feel is our ideal customer profile,” Herbert stressed.

These personas within accounts must also be documented at both an account and buyer level, he advised. And they must be supported by organisational alignment to the ABM strategy, aligned to the business strategy.

One organisational buy-in is secured, the next step is ensuring infrastructure and operations to support it, Herbert said. For example, an approach may leverage an existing tech stack, complementing it with ad hoc pieces, or see a company invest into marketing automation and ABM tools to market in an account-based fashion. 

At FullStory, Engagio and Marketo sit at the core of a raft of technologies, with other supporting technologies feeding in. These include Sendoso for sending direct mail, and other technologies for different tactics. Herbert noted the importance of understanding the difference between an operational, analytics and an execution platform.

“The key is that most of the different operational leads you have when you are operating in an ABM way are met within the platform, for lead-to-account matching, track and observe account funnels, measure engagement holistically - these are the operational necessities of an ABM platform. The platform also needs to integrate, bring in data and trigger things,” he explained. 

Meanwhile, alignment with the account or sales development team, depending on where it sits, must also be achieved. As a technical marketing approach with lots of data, ABM does require someone to integrate these platforms. The data piece and how to identify when you’re targeting prospects is another area where there are a lot of tools making ABM easier, Herbert said.

“The best results come when marketing campaigns and the people involved in frontline interactions are aligned to the same messaging, know what the others are doing and are approaching accounts at the same time,” he said. “If marketing is targeting 1000 accounts, but sales development is working on a separate set of accounts, it’s not going to add up.”  

Then it’s about building out accounts in the database with contacts, align with demand gen and campaign programs, account development team and launch, Herbert said. The company has a three-tiered approach to business/vertical opportunities.

The first group of accounts FullStory targeted for ABM were those with virtually no engagement with the business.

“We did that on purpose to have impact,” he said. “We have continued to iterate and developed over time. You have to combine different approaches and strategies – what works for startups is very different for large enterprise accounts. As a CMO, you may want have a portfolio of approaches, tactics and programs across the business.”

For example, initial tactics Herbert used were in its ‘ADR plays’, or with sales dev reps reaching out to accounts.

“We have used digital tactics including LinkedIn sponsored content, content syndication, and a fun thing for us is direct mail – we have specific ways of requesting and triggering direct mail,” he said. “Our design and brand are important, and we want to create a lovable experience. Presenting our brand in a great light is a fun part of doing direct mail for us.”

There are also specific event strategies at trade shows, where the goal is to meet with specific accounts, plus field tactics such as dinners.

“Being person-to-person is really what the goal of all this is for us,” Herbert said. “The word ‘plays’ has been a useful one for us. It’s a set of tactics in certain situations, which you can pull on. Really what we’re trying to do is express and communicate your brand and product clearly, and create a differentiating experience for your customers.

“A lot of marketers spend all their time talking about pipeline and revenue. But really we’re trying to create a great experience for people trying to interact us with our company and our product.”

While guarded on specific results, what is clear is when FullStory targets at an account level, it’s driving up engagement, Herbert said. For example, with the first couple of cohorts not previously engaged with FullStory, it’s now seen over 75 per cent engagement.

“That’s a significant shift, and downstream, we’ve seen other positive results,” he said.

Next steps 

At FullStory, the emphasis now is continually innovating its ABM approach through a combination of data and operations, programs, communications, in the field and online experiences.

“With any kind of marketing, that’s important,” Herbert said. “The launch is just the beginning; then it’s really making it work. The process of coordinating multiple teams is the part you have to get right. It’s a very human thing to operate this way.”  

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