It’s a story most B2B organizations know all too well — the desire to scale their account-based marketing (ABM) programs but struggling to align internally, streamline data and open lines of communication to measure and execute on account-based sales and marketing. After grappling with its own deeply siloed teams, lack of leadership buy-in and disparate databases, SAE International decided it was time for a change.
While the goal of the global association is to promote safety, sustainability and accessibility in the mobility industry, SAE struggled to consolidate its customer, membership and shopping cart databases to track leads, marketing impact and maintain alignment between the marketing and sales organizations. To further complicate matters, SAE had three main businesses lines to support — Professional Development for providing education and certifications, Global Product Management (GPM) with a SaaS-based subscription software and hosting large technical conferences. Each aspect of the business has its own marketing lead and subsequent sales team to partner with. Sales reps were also overlapping on multiple accounts, meaning there was no cohesive, omnichannel account experience.
“One of our biggest challenges was the ability to measure account-level engagement across the organizations,” explained Scott Filip, Sales and Marketing Operations Manager at SAE International. “We had siloed teams with large territories, and it was difficult for them to prioritize what accounts and digital activities they should act on and where to look for the data.”
The problem also extended to core foundational marketing tracking and processes, such as:
- An outdated lead management process that didn’t tie marketing campaigns and tactics to revenue;
- Lack of access to the entire database of customers and accounts who engaged with other business line programs due to custom-built, outdated databases, which caused hours of labor-intensive work for the sales team to create their outbound campaigns; and
- Difficulty routing MQLs and all other leads to the right team member due to the complexities of the SAE enterprise.
To get the results it desired, SAE turned to a powerhouse combination of ABM solutions, guidance from the consultants at B2B Fusion, a variety of internal communication and executive accountability. As a result, the organization saw increased internal alignment, created a consistent lead management process and enabled account-based insights for all members of the growth team.
For the first time in SAE history, it was able to track lead creation to conversion into net pipeline add (NPA) and revenue by both MQLs, MAQs and third party partners. More importantly, sales and marketing teams aligned on where to look for results and could rely on trusted data to inform strategy changes.
Streamlining A Multitude Of Databases
Databases might be a marketer’s best friend, but they can simultaneously be public enemy No. 1 if not synced with other systems and properly maintained. With a martech stack in place that included a homegrown system combined Marketo and Salesforce, SAE International wanted to upgrade its systems to enable its marketing teams to create more relevant content, identify leads and generate demand. The organization also wanted to provide sales with accurate information that aligned with key accounts.
At the recommendation of B2B Fusion, SAE accomplished that alignment by:
- Cleaning up the data;
- Determining what data should be synced across the system;
- Identifying which systems would act as the source of truth for each account level (e.g., Salesforce for corporate clients); and
- Introducing additional, complementary solution providers, such as LeanData, Drift and Demandbase.
After the organization completed got its systems in sync, it then worked with B2B Fusion to develop a service-level agreement between marketing and sales on a lead management process. The organization attempted to create more accurate insights into an account’s current state to identify areas of growth, but the initiative didn’t produce the results SAE anticipated.
“We started out with some initial dashboards, but adoption was low and there wasn’t a lot of buy-in to the lead handoff process,” said Filip, pointing to a lack of partnership between sales and marketing. “The big game changer happened when we brought in LeanData, which helped us automate routing, use lead-to-lead contact and conversion and use opportunity objects to deliver multiple opportunities on the same account for each business unit.”
The goal was to drive actionable insights and identify where the leads and money were coming from to streamline the lead management process, so SAE focused on setting up business and dataflows within the LeanData platform to drive insights. The goal of setting up these dataflows was to ensure sales and marketing were consistently looking at and sharing accurate data. The newly streamlined dashboards provided the teams with up-to-date information that would increase the success of targeted campaigns — and benefit the employees’ bottom lines.
“LeanData helped take care of the automated routing and increased the adoption of the lead management process tremendously,” said Filip. “We were able to pull some numbers before and after we started using our current system, and once we showcased the amount of increased revenue that would result in increased incentive payments for our sales reps, it was very apparent how important that was for the reps’ success as an individual to follow the hand-off agreement.”
Integrating Additional Support Solutions
While the databases were re-calibrated and marketing and sales were coming to an agreement for the lead hand-off process, SAE was working with executive leaders to gain buy-in for the new initiatives and drive them as a priority. That resulted in many discussions and interviews with the company’s sales reps to understand their level of proficiency with the tools and their comfort level.
Two of the biggest difference makers came in the form of Drift’s chatbot solution and the utilization of Demandbase’s intent data technology, Filip explained.
“The chatbot was really about driving great value and making sure it was as easy as possible for customers to get the information they needed, as well as get people in front of sales easily,” he continued. “We integrated Drift directly into Salesforce to create opportunities as MQLs, which flowed down to marketing and were nurtured from there.”
Additionally, the “lean” organization wanted to prioritize intent data to take some responsibilities off the plates of its sales teams. To that end, Demandbase’s analysis of intent data helped create an account journey to drive the alignment between marketing and sales, as well as improve the customer experience. These changes and solution implementations were driven by the real needs of sales and marketing, not just what executive leadership thought would improve productivity and numbers.
“Utilizing intent data allowed us to comb through the vanity key performance indicators (KPIs) that were used previously and get down to what accounts were really interested in,” said Filip. “We then identified how we can align our solutions to accounts’ needs so that at the end of the day, we could identify a qualified account and send to sales so we can close that deal.”
With assistance from B2B Fusion, SAE also created ongoing training programs to ensure sales reps and marketing teams had the same comfort, experience and ability to navigate the new platforms.
“Throughout the training programs, we illustrated the value of adopting these tools with real organizational data and dollar amounts,” explained Filip. “We created transparency and increased exposure to datasets by creating dashboards that we pulled up during organization-wide meetings so we could have honest conversations about where we were at and where we needed to be. We now put monthly business reviews and quarterly executive reviews to maintain the newfound transparency.”
Conclusion: Analyzing Success
Given the drastic percentage increases from 2020 to 2021, the painstaking steps and new technology ultimately helped SAE achieve its goals, which included:
- Unifying departments that looked at the same datasets to evaluate success with the same numbers and regular touchpoints;
- Building a new service-level agreement and lead management process with specific goals;
- Enabling consistent follow-ups of account engagement with target accounts;
- Paving the way for regularly scheduled internal conversations about successes and failures; and
- Handing MQAs over to the sales team.
When reflecting on the company’s success, Filip emphasized that the journey to improvement is a long one, but it’s ultimately worth the “blood, sweat and tears.” “It took us awhile to get from where we were to where we are today but highlighting those wins along the way really helped us receive buy-in from our leadership and further develop tools,” said Filip. “It’s really important to have executive-level buy-in and accountability to help this succeed. You also need to bring in a trusted party — whether it’s internal or external — that can bring in industry experience, knowledge and best practice insights. This enables teams to get up to market standards and eliminate the siloed environment.”