Plex Systems, which sells a cloud-based ERP solution for manufacturers to enterprise- and SMB-level customers, began its ABM journey four years ago in an effort to unite the organization around one common strategy.
Today, Plex targets half of the accounts it originally identified, and the company has significantly increased conversion rates as a result of targeting accounts with the highest propensity to buy.
“There was not a strong connection between the activities that were happening in the marketing organization and the things that were happening in the sales organization,” said Jennifer Pockell Dimas, VP, Integrated Marketing & Business Operations.
Dimas was brought on board to build a connected system and align teams across its business. That included updating the website and using tools and technologies
such as Eloqua and Salesforce to enable marketing. It also included using Triblio for advertising and analytics, as well as developing an overall account-based process and approach throughout the organization. “We built a process that connects the activities of those functions, so we’re all rowing in the same direction and working toward the same goal,” Dimas said.
Building an account list was the top priority once Dimas joined, and process has continued to be reviewed once a year. From the outset, the account targeting process involved the marketing, sales and strategy teams. “It’s not just a marketing activity, and it’s not just a marketing and sales activity,” Dimas said. “It’s marketing, sales and strategy. It’s a conversation we spend a tremendous amount of time on. [We] even talk to our board about the derivation of the list.” As a result, Plex’s approach to its addressable market has changed significantly over the last few years.
In the beginning, Plex sold to automotive companies, and Dimas and her team thought aerospace and defense companies might be a natural extension, since auto manufacturers provide products to that vertical. It turned out that some aerospace and defense made sense for the company, but not all sections of that vertical were a fit.
Plex was also selling its solution to the food and beverage industry. “We looked at our install base of customers,” Dimas said. “We built a list based on NAICS [North American Industry Classification System] codes of potential customers that looked like them. The first year, we created our target account list, [and it included] the entire food and beverage industry.” It also included both discrete manufacturers and process manufacturers.
In 2014, the list was “enormous,” she said. “The problem was, we had much too broadly defined our addressable market.” Refining the list has been an iterative process. “We’ve gotten smarter at this every year, and—as we’ve gotten smarter—our target account list has gotten smaller,” she said. Plex now concentrates primarily on companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. They also have a company revenue ceiling and basement.
PRODUCT FIT ADDED TO ADDRESSABLE LIST FILTERS
This year, Plex layered on product fit to its addressable list. “We looked at each of the sub-segments in our market,” Dimas explained. “We asked, ‘How well does our product match this particular sub-segment?’ We worked with the product management team and strategy and product marketing to do so. We’ve gotten better at making our market small, so we can be focused and successful.”
Once the product fit list was determined, Dimas and her team pulled firmographic data into Salesforce using several data sources. They then weighted the accounts based on product fit and additional criteria to identify what she calls the “sweet spot accounts” where Plex’s product is a very good fit. “We got it down to a list where we had a very good chance at a successful selling conversation,” Dimas said. Those accounts included a mix of manufacturing, food and beverage, and automotive companies.
ADJUSTING PROGRAMS TO ADDRESS BUYING STAGES
In addition to refining its account list, Dimas restructured the integrated programs marketing team this year so that they were aligned on buying stages. This group is responsible for generating about 80% of pipeline for the selling organization. “We have a TOFU (top-of-the-funnel) team, a MIFU (middle-of-the-funnel) team, and then we have a customer team,” she said. “The TOFU team’s primary responsibility is to create awareness. At the inquiry stage, it hands off to the MIFU team. They’re responsible for converting those to MQLs, and [they] focus on in-pipeline deals to convert them to close. Then, we hand it off to the customer team.”
“We’ve gotten better at making our market small, so we can be focused and successful.” Jennifer Pockell Dimas, Plex
The Plex ABM strategy also includes careful tracking and measurement. “I added a few layers onto the SiriusDecisions waterfall,” Dimas said. “We’re tracking in Salesforce and Eloqua when people engage with us. We can see signs of life in an account before they’ve given us any information. Early intent signals help us reach out to customers who might be early in the buying conversation.”
Dimas said the company also has “an MQL rating based on red, yellow and green,” that was started in February 2017 in order to address conversion. “How do reds convert to wins and greens convert to wins?” she said. “The idea of the rating is to determine the value of that prospect over time.” Green MQLs, which are leads that have budget and an active project, are a perfect t for Plex, while yellow MQLs may seem like a good fit, but there are “red flags,” such as a longer purchasing timeline. About 10% to 15% of MQLs are put through as red. “Maybe they don’t have any approved budget,” she added.
FEWER TARGET ACCOUNTS, BUT INCREASED CONVERSIONS
Trimming its target list has had the most impact for Plex. Dimas plotted the target account list in February 2016 and compared it with July 2016 and February 2017. “I looked at the target account volume; I looked at engagement inquiries, pipeline and wins. We literally have 50% less target accounts [as of February, compared with last February]” she said. In addition, conversion rates from inquiry to MQL in the same time period have gone from 5% to 14% on average, and website visits by target accounts increased consistently year-over-year. In the most recent quarter, web visits from target accounts increased by 39%.
“That right there is an incredible argument for why you focus,” Dimas said. “In some ways, it feels like such a horrible constraint for us. We have so many less accounts that we’re allowed to communicate with and create demand from, but our message resonates so much better because we’re small-net fishing.”