Ready for ABM? You Might Want to Cut This Marketing Metric

For this post in our ABM series, we checked in with Joe Chernov, B2B expert and Pendo VP of marketing, to talk about why ABM marketers require a metric all their own.

This blog post is the second in Alyce’s seven-part series on account-based marketing best practices. For this post on ABM metrics, we checked in with bearded B2B expert and Pendo VP of marketing, Joe Chernov.

Love them or hate them, metrics, measurement and reporting are part of the deal if you’re a B2B marketer.

Chances are good that you have personally pulled together a novel’s worth of slides so far throughout your career, full of charts, numbers and lists proving how various marketing activities are moving the needle on a predefined set of objectives and KPIs. And chances are good that the majority of your metrics have focused on what has long been considered the lifeblood of B2B marketing programs: leads.

That said, if you’re exploring an account-based marketing strategy or looking to advance what you’re already doing on the ABM front, it may be time to rethink the metrics you’re measuring.

ABM Requires A New Metric

“ABM marketers aren’t here to generate leads – they’re here to generate engagement among known players at target accounts,” explains Joe Chernov, vice president of marketing at Pendo. “ABM marketers need a metric all their own.”

“ABM marketers aren’t here to generate leads – they’re here to generate engagement among known players at target accounts,”

The trigger for executing an ABM strategy is sales and marketing aligning on a target list of identified accounts to engage. In this scenario, ABM marketers don’t need to attract an entirely new list of names for sales to work, so why should they be measured on lead generation and qualification metrics? When you stop and think about the notion that ABM requires a new metric for success, you may find yourself saying, “Of course.”

So, then, what is the right metric for ABM? “As B2B marketers, we’ve been indoctrinated to think ‘it’s all about leads,’” says Joe. “But, for ABM, the focus is accounts, not leads. So, we need to replace the marketing qualified lead (MQL) with the marketing qualified account (MQA) as the metric for success.”

Adapting to the MQA

If you decide you’re all-in with ABM, you’ll want to adapt your top marketing metric to drop the ‘L’ and add an ‘A.’ As Joe explains, with an MQA metric approach at its most basic level, you need to be able to say, “We have X number of target named accounts, and we have a goal of engaging Y number of those accounts. When the engagement on an account reaches a certain threshold, that account becomes an MQA.”

The way you define “engagement” here is critical and will likely be unique to your business. For instance, you could focus on several dimensions, including the titles of the people at your target account who are taking engagement actions. If your business hinges on the CISO as your buyer, your account will rack up more points toward becoming an MQA if the CISO requests a demo vs. if a junior analyst takes the same action.

To develop your MQA measurement framework, you’ll need strong analytical skills on your team to ask and answer what Joe calls “gnarly” questions about account engagement scoring. “There’s a lot smaller margin for error in an ABM program than in a leads model,” he says. “You need to conduct the right upfront research to make decisions about velocity of engagement vs. depth of engagement, this title vs. that title, this content interaction vs. that content interaction. With ABM, there is a finite number of accounts you want to sell to, so there’s a lot on the line.”

The Gray Area

Now, if you’ve been hyperventilating reading this post, or feeling lost in a world where ABM killed the MQL, there is good news. In most B2B marketing organizations, there is room for a gray area.

Most sales and marketing departments don’t decide that they are scrapping the leads-based approach altogether and going full-throttle, no-looking-back at ABM. At the same time, many B2B sales and marketing departments are carving out some of their resources to devote to exploring or advancing an account-based approach. Rarely is it entirely black and white.

“It’s like an iceberg: at a glance, it may look like marketing is marketing, but beneath the water’s surface, you need a monstrosity of an operational stack to enable each approach.”

“Having both a leads-based approach and an ABM approach in the same organization can be done, but it’s important to understand the structural underpinnings that would make it possible,” says Joe. “It’s like an iceberg: at a glance, it may look like marketing is marketing, but beneath the water’s surface, you need a monstrosity of an operational stack to enable each approach. Then, you can carve out a specialized team to be the ‘high-value accounts’ team, and that team operates as an ‘ABM enclave’ working parallel to the overarching marketing organization that remains leads-focused.”

Whether you’re 100% account-based or exploring this strategy in a marketing gray area, it’s critical to define the right metric for measuring success – and that right metric will undoubtedly look a lot like the MQA

The Moral of the Story

  • Leads-based metrics like the MQL don’t fit with an ABM strategy
  • ABM requires a metric all its own: the MQA
  • In developing your MQA measurement framework, you’ll need to define values for engagement activities that appropriately increase a target account’s qualification score
  • Embracing the MQA metric for ABM doesn’t mean you have to kill the MQL altogether; if you are also executing a leads-based marketing strategy in parallel, your MQL should live on

Many thanks to ABM and B2B marketing master Joe Chernov for his insight on this topic.

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April 9, 2019
Nina Butler
Nina Butler

A born-again Bostonian and Martha’s Vineyard native (yes, people do actually live there year-round), I attribute my passion for making personal connections in my personal and professional life to my neighborly Island roots. I joined Team Alyce in January 2019 to be a part of a bigger story and have a little fun while doing it :) . While not riding the startup roller coaster, I love spending time traveling with my unbearably cute niece and nephew, attending New England sports championship parades and taking in the sun and sea at my favorite local beaches.