Alfresco, a ten-year-old enterprise content management and business process management software company, started its ABM journey 18 months ago in order to move to a targeted account model around the top industries in its market: health care, manufacturing, financial services and government.
Account-based marketing is not a new idea to Alfresco CMO Sydney Sloan. She’s been doing some form of ABM since launching strategic account marketing at Adobe in 2009, with a focus on its then top 15 strategic accounts with $10 million or more in revenue.
“THE CONCEPT HAS BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG TIME, but the technology hasn’t.” Sydney Sloan, Alfresco
“The concept has been around for a long time, but the technology hasn’t,” Sloan said. “That’s what has made it really interesting. [We’re] leveraging the technology that’s come into the market in the last few years to help us do ABM at scale.”
Alfresco has had a five-step approach to their ABM journey — Prepare, Prioritize, Plan, Communicate and Measure — according to Sloan.
Prepping And Prioritizing For ABM
The first step in preparing for ABM was selling the idea to Alfresco’s sales leadership by explaining why moving to account-based models would benefit the company, as well as enable sales to engage with important strategic accounts. That was important, Sloan said, because it would affect how Alfresco was building out its database and the tools used in order to prospect. She said it was also important to be aligned with the sales leaders. She set expectations and ultimately convinced the sales team that quality over quantity was the best approach.
In terms of account selection, Alfresco had specific priorities for its initial foray: the goal was to target the company’s top 20 accounts in its four top verticals. In order to do so, Sloan again needed sales’ buy-in. She said that it was “not a trivial exercise.” This was because the company’s salespeople targeted a range of companies, but with ABM, they had to focus on a finite list of accounts.
“That’s a serious conversation and one that has to be done thoughtfully with the sales reps,” Sloan said. “You definitely have to come at it from the understanding that we’re trying to help sales spend their time in areas we believe will be the most successful.”
Targeted Planning And ABM At Scale
Once it had the target accounts, Alfresco’s plan began with leveraging predictive analytics, insights and methodologies on scoring the accounts to inform the sales reps, Sloan, using tools such as Demandbase. As a result, the sales teams have now arranged their accounts into A, B and C categories. “We can do super-targeted things for the A accounts,” she said, “and then programmatic things for Bs and Cs.”
The efforts have since evolved into a strategic account program with 17 accounts that get what Sloan calls “the full effect,” including comprehensive account planning, executive one-to-one relationships and quarterly meetings.
Roughly 4,000 companies on Alfresco’s B and C account list were categorized into industry segments and targeted with personalized messaging gained from Demandbase’s ABM tool. “As companies come into our website from a particular industry, they’ll get a different experience,” Sloan said, with content relevant to their industry.
The remaining companies in Alfresco’s database of 55,000 organizations are accounts that are in a vertical or a region Alfresco sells into. “We only take those inbound,” Sloan said. “We don’t actually proactively market to them.”
“You have to think about the entire customer lifecycle,” Sloan said. “How do we attract and engage new customers,” as well what the relationship is with them during that customer lifetime. “We’re a complex B2B sale,” she said. “It takes six to 12 months for us to engage and work a deal, and there are — on average — 10 to 12 people involved. We have the business decision-makers, the IT decision-makers, developers and architects.”
Alfresco orchestrated several touchpoints and engagement strategies through a plethora of programs, which included content such as webcasts, how-to guides and analyst reports at different stages of the sales cycle.
Alfresco has tracked those touchpoints using Demandbase to see what the level of engagement is at an account level versus an individual level. Its marketing automation is built on Marketo, but Alfresco is only now beginning to look at actions from an account perspective versus an individual lead as part of Marketo’s ABM trial program.
Targeting And Messaging Throughout The Customer Lifecycle
For the various roles it is targeting, Alfresco has a mix of different messages, tools and assets to leverage throughout that decision process. Once they become a customer, that’s where the real work starts, Sloan said. During the first 90 days of onboarding a new client, “we have started to track how long it takes to implement and get started and start to realize value. We believe that’s a differentiator for us, [and] that metric is reflected in the account health dashboard,” she said.
Alfresco has a number of programs to draw upon for messaging high-touch accounts. One program, called the Founder Vision Roundtable, features the company founder hosting an intimate roundtable discussion with a single with what it calls strategic account briefs.
“We’re a B2B platform, so we may be in an account [with] three or four different implementations. She said Alfresco codifies that information for the both the customer and for internal use. A customer like “GE can see the six divisions where we’re working and what we’re doing. That’s a really good foundation for our strategic accounts to start capturing all the different stories and sharing them back to customers.”
For ABM at scale, the digital team has ABM programs, Sloan said. “We might take a segment of customers and run a program against them. So manufacturing customers in Germany might be an ABM at scale example.”
Sloan described a successful program Alfresco conducted around its health care customers. “We were targeting mid-size health care organizations in the US and UK and specifically clinical directors within that segment,” she said, which included a series of targeted mailings, banner ads and retargeting in key publications, as well as events.
Display click-through rates were 1.65%, higher than the norm, she said, and page views quadrupled in three months. Time on the site for health care-specific target accounts was double the site average. In addition, a white paper led to 371 quality MQLs at target accounts in two months.
Personalization has been a great way for Alfresco to start customizing the web experience for its visitors, Sloan said. “We’re seeing higher performance, longer time on page and less bounce rate with the use of the personalization capabilities.”
Demandbase’s sales analytics capability is also available to Alfresco’s sales reps. “We’re already seeing how that’s helping the sales reps identify which of their 40 accounts are increasing their activity on our digital property,” Sloan said. “It’s a good early indicator if there’s activity in the account that the sales reps should follow up on.”
Alignment And Measurement
“While marketing can be a driver, we can’t do it alone,” Sloan said. “The reason I’ve been able to make the headway I have [with ABM] is because I’ve had sales alignment and leadership from the get-go.”
For measurement, Alfresco uses an internal acronym: CAPER, which stands for Coverage, Awareness Program Impact, Engagement and Results. “We track coverage … do we have sufficient data and contacts in the account,” Sloan said, which she explained is a difficult component in its outbound efforts, with privacy laws and opt-in rules.
“When we’re reaching out to accounts we hold that reach-out as sacred,” she said. “You don’t want to say the wrong thing and have them opt out of receiving information from you. We want to be really thoughtful about how we warm up contacts.”
Alfresco also tracks account plans for the target accounts within Salesforce. Engagement is tracked as well; Alfresco looks at the number of active contacts per account and opportunity and what those contacts are doing.
Program results the final metric Alfresco looks at, both in terms of win rates and contract value, as well as retention and satisfaction on existing customers, Sloan said.