I’m in the planning cycle for my fifth year of a 100% account-based marketing program at Plex.
Since 2014, we’ve realized tremendous value by focusing our collective efforts on a discrete list of prospect accounts that we all agree are most likely to become Plex customers. Our company's account-based revenue (ABR) approach has been wildly successful, and as a team we’ve created awareness, engagement, pipeline and a ton of new customers through our collaborative efforts. We’ve also made a few missteps along the way, as happens when you’re moving at the pace of business.
Through it all, we’ve kept moving forward and adjusting, measuring and discussing. We consider both our account list and our team’s account-based marketing (ABM) strategy to be living things, which get better as we learn about our market and how our solution drives value for our customers.
That said, every year, we go through a budgeting and planning exercise to set ourselves up for success in the year to come. We’re knee-deep in that planning process today, and I thought I’d spend a minute discussing how I look at my budget for the year and determine where to place investments for maximum impact.
Determining Departmental Go-To-Market Goals
I approach my own departmental budget using the same framework that my very wise CMO uses to allocate her top-level budget. I start with goal setting and focus, and from there, determine investment strategies by first asking general questions such as:
- What big bets will we place for the year?
- Are they aligned to those of our sales brethren and to those of the company at large?
- What will we do more of than we did last year?
- And what will we do LESS of?
I can’t yet speak intelligently about these goals or framework for 2018, as we’re just beginning to articulate top-line goals and foci. I can, however, talk about what we did this year with the budget for 2017.
In 2017, we knew that we had a huge job ahead of us. We had contracted our target-account list based on our learnings about where we could be the most successful. The target list got smaller, and our growth targets got larger (as they do in a growth-stage company).
From here, we determined our aligned go-to-market goals for the year. This was a collaboration between the strategy, sales, services, product and marketing teams here at Plex. We asked questions such as:
- What are the sales bookings targets?
- What are the targets for the new logo business versus the customer-focused sales teams?
- And then even more granularly, how will individual sales team targets be set to get to our bookings targets?
- Which products and services would be delivered during the year and how would this impact our ability to serve our target accounts?
- What were our expectations for pipeline creation from marketing? Sales? Partners?
Analyzing Target Accounts To Allocate Budget
After aligning our goals and determining our joint go-to-market strategy, we looked at the target-account list itself. We focused our strategy by again asking very specific questions:
- Where did we have adequate engagement from our target accounts?
- Which parts of our addressable market knew about us?
- Which accounts had engaged on plex.com or with our other marketing efforts?
- Which parts of the target audience should we focus on more than others?
- Where were the big bets for new logo and customer teams?
Then we looked at the pipeline coverage for each sales territory. Where did we have adequate pipeline? Where were we seriously deficient in terms of being able to achieve the bookings goals? I’m well aware that there’s NEVER enough pipeline, but what did our coverage look like for each area? We looked at the engagement from our whole marketing database by segment. Did we need early stage engagement? Sales ready appointments? Programs meant to shorten sales cycles for deals already in pipe?
After considering these questions and deriving a coordinated strategy for areas of focus and our big bets for the year, I decided to allocate 80% of my budget toward new logo acquisition and 20% toward customer-focused programs. (This was inclusive of our annual user conference, which is largely, but not entirely, focused on the customer.)
Breaking Down The New Logo Acquisition Budget
For the 80% of the budget that would be focused on new logo acquisition, I allocated half to what we call top-of-funnel (TOFU) marketing programs, and half to middle-of-funnel (MIFU) programs.
TOFU programs bring Plex into the consideration set of our target accounts and eventually bring them to Plex.com. They focus on offsite tactics all the way through inquiry, which in our language is a form submit from a contact at a target account.
MIFU programs are focused on contacts and accounts that are meaningfully engaged and drive them through to closed business. This means that they tightly partner with our lead gen team for outbound calling efforts, run traditional field and partner marketing programs and work on a velocity program (to accelerate pipeline velocity).
Since we measure everything in the world (we’re data geeks), we divided up all the new logo spend by its specific goal for the year. 16% of our resources went to creating engagement with accounts and contacts who had never visited Plex.com before. This is to accomplish the stated goal of creating deeper awareness within our target-account list.
20% of our spend went to converting inquiries to MQLs. This is the segment in which field events and direct mail pieces and partner programs play a large role. We only spent 8% of our budget on deals in play; we ran a blog series and an email campaign that would help keep our pipeline accounts engaged. You can see the complete breakdown of allocations in the chart below.
Once we allocated spend, we set targets by quarter for each stage of the waterfall, designed programs, worked with sales on execution, ran our programs and measured impact. We adjusted as we went based on learnings and shifts in the market.
We ended up increasing velocity program investment through the year as we launched a field event series targeted at mid-and late-funnel targets. (See, live and learn!)
Continually Measuring and Realigning Programs Against Goals
We’ve been successful in some areas and less in others. The key is to measure and collaborate. When we struggle, we make sure we realign against the goals and reconsider our strategies with sales as our key partner.
I measure success against targets weekly. We check in with some sales leaders every two weeks and others monthly to make sure we’re transparent and listening to new challenges. We report out our measurements monthly within the marketing team, and quarterly at the executive level. So far, so good. We’re not always crushing it, but we are NEVER surprising our partners and are always open to change.
High-Level Learnings From 2017 Marketing Program Performance
So, what will 2018 have in store for us in terms of how we invest? It feels like a deeper focus into the funnel. We’ll need to strike a careful balance between:
- The need to create and maintain engagement in our addressable market (so that we’ll be in their consideration set when they need us); and
- The need to provide more value to the folks who are already talking to Plex and considering a major technological change to their business.
I know the place to start is with alignment again. We have our annual GTM meetup planned in the next few weeks. I’m excited to talk about where we will focus and how we plan to get to our even more aggressive targets in 2018. For now, I only know we will do it together.