Guest Post By Emily Sue Tomac, Research Manager and Lead Analyst, TrustRadius

I recently attended the TOPO Sales Summit in San Francisco, to ask practitioners and thought leaders about trends in Sales processes, roles, and technology. In the opening keynote speech, The State of Sales in 2016, TOPO’s CEO Scott Albro confronted the hype around Account-based Marketing. Albro proposed that a focus on ABM as such is too limiting. Instead, Albro believes companies should invest in a strategy he sees as more difficult, but also more comprehensive and effective: Account-Based Everything. Albro explains:

“Over 90% of our client inquiries are around ABM. But what we’re finding is that Account-based marketing alone may not be enough—on average, organizations are only touching 13% of accounts on their target list. This data led us to come up with the concept of ‘Account-based Everything,’ which requires orchestration across Marketing, Sales Development, Sales, Customer Success, and the C-Suite.”

– Scott Albro, TOPO CEO

TOPO has re-named the trend in order to encourage companies to escalate the “account-based” approach beyond just Marketing. As a TrustRadius researcher, responsible for developing and updating the software taxonomy on, I was a bit skeptical at first—is this name change really necessary? Is ABE truly something new? Many definitions, such as the ABM category description on TrustRadius, as well as Engagio’s ABM framework, already acknowledge that ABM is not just a Marketing initiative; it requires the alignment of Marketing and Sales.

But if we do continue to call it ABM, there is a danger that Sales (and other departments) may be out of sight, out of mind for companies considering an Account-based Marketing program. As Albro reminds us, interdepartmental alignment is crucial to the success of an account-based strategy, so there is a case to be made for changing the name of the game. Other experts have also commented that the name “Account-based Marketing” can be misleading and problematic.

“I love the concept of account-based marketing. The thing I hate about ABM is that it has ‘Marketing’ but not ‘Sales’ in the term. It’s really about the alignment of the two teams.”

– Jill Rowley, Social Selling Expert & Tech Startup Advisor, excerpted from the TrustRadius report How to Navigate the Sales Technology Landscape

It’s important to keep in mind that these experts both have a Sales-centric vantage point—because of their positions as advisors about Sales methodology and technology, they are likely to focus in on the Sales piece of the trend. Still, the framework TOPO has developed around ABE is helpful, whether or not you adopt their new terminology. It provides a practical lens on the requirements for an account-based Marketing and Sales strategy. The goal is to establish priorities for leaders who are are allocating resources and designing account-based workflows.

How to Develop an Effective Account-based Strategy

TOPO has proposed a new name, but in essence “Account-based Everything” is the same thing that others have been describing as Account-based Marketing.  What’s different is the structured approach TOPO takes to the strategic and collaborative aspects of ABM, reminding practitioners that an effective account-based strategy cannot be executed by Marketing alone, since the account needs to move downstream to Sales (and Customer Success) before generating revenue.

In his speech, Albro laid out the five tenets that TOPO sees as important for ABE. This is not the only framework to use when developing an account-based strategy, but it does provide tips about the activities and considerations leaders should have in mind during planning.

  1. Target high-value accounts. Determine your ideal customer profile (ICP) and use it to identify other accounts that are both likely to buy and likely to have a high lifetime customer value (LCV).
  1. Be data and intelligence driven. Effectively determining your ICP and targeting new prospect accounts requires high quality data; data should be accurate and complete for at least 80-90% of your accounts.
  2. Organize around account strategy. In order for ABE to make the biggest revenue impact, departments need to work together. Leaders need to coordinate account strategy across departments and throughout the customer lifecycle. Albro described coordination as the “most vexing aspect of ABE,” but also said it enables more powerful tactics. For example, Albro said that compared to simply re-targeting site visitors, delegating responsibility to SDRs and clearly determining how they will link up with AEs is a more profitable strategy.
  3. Make interactions valuable for the buyer. Emails, phone messages, and other content should be highly relevant and personalized to the account and the individual (by role, for instance). Messaging should be focused on how the buyer can get the most value, rather than on how your products and services are the most valuable.
  4. Use the appropriate number of touches. Touches should be high effort and high frequency, “especially for very narrow target markets,” according to Albro. The exact right number, frequency, and mix of interactions should be tested. It will vary depending on your product, your existing relationship with the prospect, and the size of the account.

To illustrate what this looks like in practice, Albro highlighted the notion of a “use case campaign”: a strategic play that embodies all attributes of ABE, particularly #3-5. As he explained it, once you’ve determined that AT&T is a strategic account, likely to have a high LCV, you sell into one part of the company. Then, once that use case is ramped up, you target people in other areas of AT&T with those success stories. In Albro’s experience, “an email about how [your product] has already increased [uptime, or productivity, or whatever else] at the prospect’s own company is one they’re going to open.”

early valuable
This exact play only works at enterprise accounts where ownership and purchase of the product are distributed, making the land and expand model feasible. But the concept of a use case campaign is also valuable at other types of accounts. By matching net new prospects to existing customer use cases—in terms of industry, line of business, role, and company size segment—marketers and salespeople can foster conversations that are relevant and valuable to buyers.

Technology & The Line Between Marketing and Sales

This issue of naming software categories appears elsewhere as well, particularly related to Marketing and Sales. The boundaries between who buys the product, who implements and owns the product, who uses it on a day-to-day basis, and who it benefits are often unclear, for two reasons. First, at most companies the Marketing to Sales funnel is a fluid workflow; changes upstream affect things downstream, and changes downstream may require adjustments upstream. Second, the sales technology space in particular is relatively immature, and vendors are still determining new use cases and developing new features. It is not yet clear, in many cases, who all of the buyers and users of their products will be. Predictive analytics is a clear example of tools that can be for both sales and marketing, and many are unsure how to name the category. Shashi Upadhyay, CEO at Lattice Engines, remarked:

“The category that seems to be emerging is, unfortunately, called ‘predictive marketing,’ even though it is really ‘predictive marketing and sales.’ I think the marketing/sales distinction is going to go away over time. It’s kind of an artificial distinction, especially as marketers have become much more revenue focused and less awareness focused.”

– Shashi Upadhyay, CEO at Lattice Engines

In a new report for buyers, How to Navigate the Sales Technology Landscape, TrustRadius provides a process and role-based view of sales tech showing how Marketing and Sales fit together. The infographics on p7-8 cover categories like predictive analytics and sales content tools that are used by both Marketing and Sales, and can be used to foster alignment between the teams.