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Account-based marketing (ABM) continues to be one of the leading growth strategies for B2B tech. Most go-to-market (GTM) practitioners have touched ABM, but do they really understand it?

When implementing an ABM program, people often speak about it in terms of a traditional marketing and sales playbook. And it makes sense. Stating at a place of common knowledge can help you gain buy-in quicker because it requires less education up front.

It’s not a bad approach. Aligning ABM to what your team was previously doing is a good way to kick-start a program, but what most GTM teams fail to do is evolve with their account-based program. Only defining account-based strategies in terms that no longer fit. Strategizing using terms from an outdated B2B playbook can stunt your ability to grow your go-to-market efforts in the long run.

Here’s why.

Semantics and the Modern GTM Playbook

As B2B practitioners, we all have associations with certain terminology based on our education, past experiences, and the mentors we’ve had along our career paths. While much of this knowledge is valuable, some of it can get in our way of evolving into better GTM leaders. 

This semantics trap is especially common for companies attempting to execute an ABM program.

Since ABM requires buy-in and coordination across the entire go-to-market team, various players with various points of view are involved. Getting everyone on the same page, from sales leaders to marketing managers to CROs, takes a lot of work and a lot of education. When the process is not properly managed, this can turn into a game of B2B telephone – creating uncertainty and misalignment in both the execution and the reporting of campaign progress.

This breakdown often occurs between sales and marketing teams, but it is also very prevalent between marketing teams and their leadership. When marketing and leadership are working from different definitions, it is especially harmful when sharing what marketing is influencing at quarterly business reviews or board meetings. When this happens, it creates a cycle of mistrust and prohibits marketing leaders from focusing on long-term results, falling back on vanity top-of-funnel metrics rather than pipeline growth.

The New B2B Terminology

While most metrics and terminology are agnostic to the strategy you’re implementing, several common B2B terms may be a disservice to your new GTM playbook. 

Don’t let semantics be the downfall of your long-term goals. Here are three of the top ways to modify your GTM glossary.

1. Shift Focus from Leads (and MQLs) to Awareness

In the old marketing playbook, leads were the main driver of marketing campaigns. That’s because buyers needed and were willing to give up information to learn about your product or service. Modern buyers want to remain anonymous throughout most of the buying journey, only revealing themselves when they’ve done their homework. This makes traditional leads and the tracking of lead-related metrics misleading regarding campaign performance. 

When looking at awareness, we look at the pipeline progression of accounts exposed to our campaign efforts vs. those who were not. In this instance, marketing campaigns become more accurately aligned with the pipeline because we can see influence rather than a single activity by a lone actor.

However, most leaders in a GTM motion still look at first-touch lead attribution to determine if a channel is working. This is especially true for efforts with paid channels. The perceived ROI is based on lead production when, in fact, the goal of most top-of-funnel campaigns is to drive demand creation with the right accounts. If we are to use leads as a metric of success, then we are ignoring the people we successfully reached and conveyed our messaging to but were not ready to talk to sales. 

By reporting on a lead level rather than awareness, you risk turning off campaigns that indirectly impact pipeline creation. This issue is and will continue to be prevalent across GTM teams as the buying journey evolves outside of the traditional sales process.

2. Capturing Lift for Campaign Performance 

B2B buyers want to buy from a company they trust; you must create engaging and worthy content to gain that trust. That engagement is measured through activity such as on-page traffic to your website or other first-party data interactions. As we coordinate omnichannel efforts to drive engagement, we bring our prospects to our website to educate themselves efficiently on their own time. 

When engagement works, we can see increased activities within targeted accounts and higher click-through rates (CTR) throughout campaigns.

By focusing on “lift” at an account level rather than individual channel performance, we can see the true influence of the marketing program across the pipeline.

3. All-Sourced Pipeline Instead of Team-Specific Goals

In account-based programs, there is no traditional hand-off from marketing to sales, but rather, it is an orchestrated effort throughout the buyer journey to drive pipeline creation. To this point, it doesn’t make sense to assign specific goals to marketing and sales independent of each other – in fact, this often retracts from team alignment.

 The goal of marketing in a GTM motion is to support sales and make sales easier, but if this alignment is missing, marketing efforts to drive awareness and engagement are focused on the wrong accounts. This is a great way to kill your pipeline.

Coordinating goals and performance based on all-sourced pipeline creation ensures that alignment is present and that the impact on of your campaign can be seen.

A Modern Go-to-Market SLA

Regardless of how mature your ABM program is, defining your scope and establishing a glossary of terms used by your GTM team is a great place to avoid the semantics trap and enact positive change. 

A modified version of an internal service-level agreement (SLA) is a great way to align go-to-market teams to new terminology and create transparency and accountability throughout an ABM program. By defining a clear scope of the account-based programs and how those programs will be measured, you can avoid a lot of the back-and-forth finger-pointing prevalent in most B2B organizations. 

Here’s how to get started with a basic go-to-market SLA:

  1. Define your scope. Create a clear outline of the GTM motion, including the strategy and expected performance.
  2. Assign roles and responsibilities. Specify what’s expected of all business units and executive sponsors. 
  3. Define performance metrics for sales and marketing. Determine which metrics will determine success and provide a clear definition that is agreed upon by all involved GTM business units and executive sponsors.
  4. Set GTM reporting requirements. In addition to performance, establishing reporting requirements that are aligned with all-sourced pipeline growth will ensure your GTM team is moving in the right direction. 
  5. Establish a Communication and Feedback Framework. Set up a framework that defines how teams should communicate with each other and provide feedback. Trust us on this one.

Realign your GTM Motion

Feeling the impact of the semantics trap in your organization? Ready to establish new performance metrics but don’t know where to start? That’s where we step in.

RenderTribe is a team of go-to-market experts, strategists and practitioners who understand the modern B2B sales and marketing playbook and want to help you succeed. Reach out to Paul Chamberlain today to discover what RenderTribe’s account-based strategy can do for you.


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