How to measure ABM: The rise of MQAs as meaningful metrics
Marketing measurement has traditionally relied on leads and MQLs, but to be successful at ABM, new metrics need to be considered. Mike Boogaard writes
“Don't count the people that you reach, reach the people who count” - David Ogilvy
Although this quote is many decades old, never has it been more relevant than in the era of account-based marketing (ABM).
ABM is about quality, not quantity. With the smaller number of target accounts, the question is no longer ‘How many people did I reach?’, but ‘How many of the right people at the right accounts did I get to engage?’. This makes the traditional top-of-funnel statistical metrics such as delivery, open and click-through rates significantly less important.
However, given that ABM typically focuses on more complex, higher-value purchases with longer sales cycles, marketing cannot wait until the deal is closed to see what worked or didn’t work. We need metrics that allow us to gauge success during the ABM engagement.
A shift in mindset: From MQLs to MQAs
Sales teams don’t close leads; they close accounts. Yet marketing has traditionally been focused on leads and MQLs – scoring a lead through the funnel until it has reached a pre-determined score that suggests the lead is ready to be handed over to sales.
This misalignment is undoubtedly the predominant reason for the disconnect (and distrust) that exists between the two.
The fact is that individual leads – in most complex B2B sales (where ABM plays best) – don’t singularly make the purchase decision. According to the Harvard Business Review 2017, there are now 6.8 people in the decision-making process.
This is why ABM focuses on accounts and multiple stakeholders within each account. ABM practitioners, therefore, need to shift their focus to an account level and start thinking and measuring in MQAs – marketing qualified accounts – scoring an account rather than (or, more correctly, as well as) the individual, aggregating the behaviour of all the target individuals in each account. This will give a much better indication of the sales readiness of an account.
As marketing supports sales in the process of engaging, qualifying and converting the accounts, the marketing metrics need to reflect the influence and impact marketing activity has on the sale.
Tracking the right metrics
To measure ABM during the buying cycle, you need to quantify the value your prospect places on their experience with you and the impact this experience has on sales. That’s not always easy, but the best way to do so is by looking at coverage, engagement, impact and influence.
Coverage is a metric for yourself (how many accounts can I cover?), as well as a prospect measurement (how many of the right individuals at the right accounts have I reached?).
- How many accounts fit your ideal customer profile?
- Have you been able to identify the decision-makers and influencers in each account?
- Do you have the data to reach all the stakeholders at each account?
- How many individuals in each of the right accounts were you able to reach?
Traditional metrics will help you measure reach: open and click-through rates are a good indicator. However, they don’t play a statistical role but an absolute one.
Important: When tracking reach online, IP recognition is vital. It allows you to see whether individuals from the right accounts are visiting your website and/or landing pages.
Engagement is about measuring whether your target audience is consuming and reacting to your content.
The most effective way to measure engagement is measuring:
- Time spent consuming your content
- Volume of content being consumed (how many assets did the audience visit)
- Span of the content consumed (did the audience visit your wider digital estate)
- Attendance at events, both online and in person
- Intensity of the engagement (is it increasing as your programmes progress)
Important: given that ‘time spent’ is one of the best metrics to measure (online) engagement, it's scary how many organisations still use downloadable PDFs as one of their main formats for content. Downloadable PDFs tell you just that: how many people downloaded your PDF. Try turning your PDF into online/interactive e-guides so you can measure not just the time spent consuming the content, but also what parts were the most interesting.
Once you have an engaged audience, you will need to measure the impact of your engagement:
- Did the engagement result in interaction (web forms, phone call, email, demos)?
- When sales reaches out, is the audience sales ready? Are calls/emails being answered, how many meetings do the programmes generate?
- How many of the total opportunities are coming from your ABM programme? And is this percentage increasing as your programme intensifies?
Important: To effectively measure impact, it's essential you're in close communication with sales. They're the ones who'll be in a unique position to feed back – both from an anecdotal as well as metric perspective – the extent of the impact. Weekly sales and marketing meetings, as well as CRM access, is essential.
Although ABM success is typically measured in revenue, there are three other key metrics that might be more, or equally important, to define success:
- Sales velocity: Was the sales cycle shorter for accounts in your ABM programme?
- Deal size: Did the deal size increase compared to non-ABM accounts?
- Win rate: Did the conversion rate for ABM accounts increase, compared to non-ABM accounts?
Important: For ABM programmes with a larger number of target accounts, it will also be useful to include ‘marketing pipeline’ as a success metric, as well as a forecasting tool. Marketing pipeline is the number of accounts (or the value they represent - once known) whose contacts have engaged with your programme to the extent that the account is qualified as an MQA.
As you re-evaluate your approach to measuring your ABM programme, you may come against a common challenge: most marketing platforms and tools don’t give access to the information you require. This is particularly true when measuring content engagement - most CRM systems and MAP tools lack the functionality necessary to view activity or score at an organisation level. This is a key functionality required for true ABM, so be sure to adapt your current CRM or choose a platform that comes ABM ready.
As they say, new beginnings only come after burying the old.
Amid a barrage of ABM hype from tech vendors, what does best practice really look like? What sensible steps should you take to begin your ABM journey, or to take an existing programme to the next level? This report cuts through the clutter and noise to provide a robust framework for ABM adoption.
(Video courtesy of Ben Forsberg)