Using Account-Based Marketing to Drive Complex B2B Sales
A Healthcare Technology Marketer’s ABM Story
By Kelly McDermott, Chief Marketing Officer, Caregility
Account-based marketing has become an increasingly important strategy for B2B companies like Caregility that sell complex solutions with long sales cycles. Rather than spread our efforts (and budget!) too thin by trying to attract as many potential buyers as possible, ABM focuses our marketing and sales resources on a select group of target accounts that offer the highest potential value.
This approach is especially effective for companies like Caregility that provide sophisticated telehealth and clinical collaboration platforms to hospitals and health systems. Trying to generate leads in mass quantities would be inefficient. Taking the time to understand target accounts, build relationships, and customize messaging is much more effective.
At Caregility, we target approximately 300 enterprise-level accounts, each of which may have 10 to 50 hospitals within their geographic area. The 80/20 Pareto principle applies in this situation, as only about 20% of these targeted accounts are actively looking for a solution like ours at any given time. The trick is identifying those 60 accounts and actively marketing to them while simultaneously ensuring that the other 80% of the accounts are receiving more passive marketing focused on general awareness.
Within those 60 target accounts, it takes significant effort for our team to identify and engage the right people at the right time. For a single sale, we may need to market and sell to upwards of 15 different stakeholders over a lengthy sales cycle of seven to 18 months or more. These stakeholders include various clinical and technology decision makers and influencers.
To coordinate ABM and sales efforts, our team takes a scientific approach to tracking target account engagement over time, mapping out the contacts involved, and customizing marketing and messaging to move prospects through the sales funnel. This requires gathering data from numerous technologies and sources to create a “single source of truth” about each account – a difficult but essential task.
Piecing Together a Unified View of Each Customer
For Caregility, the core platforms we use for managing account data include Salesforce for CRM, Demandbase for ABM personalization and alerting, and Pardot for marketing automation for email campaigns and lead scoring. Other key sources feeding into the picture include:
- Website analytics for traffic monitoring
- Ad platforms like LinkedIn and Google Ads to track paid media performance
- Tradeshow lead retrieval systems
- Custom form submissions and webinar registration data
- Business cards and notes from sales prospecting activities
With so many technologies and offline sources involved, manually aggregating the data to develop a unified profile for each account is extremely difficult. Data gaps are inevitable, and marketing attribution becomes a major challenge when quantifying multi-touch influence.
One of my biggest struggles with marketing attribution is that we don’t have a single tool that takes the information from all the various platforms we’re using and magically spits out beautiful analyses and reports. Despite the relative sophistication of our marketing tech stack, we’re still dealing with data silos and a reluctant reliance on Excel.
While Salesforce serves as the official system of record for customer data, it lacks complete visibility into the many marketing touchpoints throughout the buying journey. Further complicating matters is the account intelligence that sales representatives collect through their prospecting activities, which doesn’t always make it back into the CRM.
This results in various versions of the truth across the different platforms, making it difficult to piece together an accurate model of how accounts are engaging and moving through the sales funnel. The difficulty of creating a truly unified data foundation means ABM attribution and measurement requires extensive manual analysis.
Tracking Account Journeys Through the Sales Funnel
To demonstrate the long path of an ABM account engagement, I’ll share an example involving a large hospital system that became one of Caregility’s clients. Their buying journey spanned 13+ months, involved over 15 stakeholders, and required tight coordination between the marketing, SDR, and sales team to nurture the account through four key stages:
Stage 1: Anonymous Research
In January 2022, we noticed more website traffic from this major hospital system, indicating early research activity about our solution. Rather than immediately reaching out, we let the account anonymously explore our website for about three months to build awareness and interest. During that time period, we started directing top of funnel advertising to website traffic that matched the hospital’s IP address.
Stage 2: Initial Lead Outreach
In April 2022, one of our SDRs began having conversations with contacts from this account who had self-identified through filling out a form on our website. The SDR sought to learn more about the stakeholders, surface pain points and challenges, and gauge where they were in the buying journey. The SDRs main job was to identify the stakeholders and schedule a series of introductory calls for the sales executive to explore a fit.
From April through June, more contacts from this hospital began to convert by submitting forms, downloading content, and registering for webinars. Our marketing team, the SDR and the sales executive continued nurturing leads through online advertising, emails, calls, and initial meetings to develop relationships and assess needs.
Stage 3: Stakeholder Expansion
In July, we were invited to present to 30 key decision makers and influencers, bringing many new contacts into the buying group. The SDR worked closely with the sales executive to build rapport with each stakeholder and share relevant information matched to their role and interests.
As more contacts engaged directly with our content and sales team, we saw another jump in branded web traffic and conversions. It became clear that high-level stakeholders were conducting extensive research, signaling that a major purchasing decision was on the horizon.
Stage 4: Purchase
After many months of tailored ABM and sales activities, this hospital system purchased two different solutions from Caregility in Q1 2023, expanding upon their initial needs. By gradually guiding contacts through customized interactions at each stage, we earned the trust to secure an enterprise deal with a long sales cycle.
The Scientific Approach to ABM and Sales
This detailed example shows the scientific approach we take to implementing ABM. For companies like Caregility, the biggest challenge is engaging accounts amidst all the noise in the market. How can we maintain mindshare throughout a long sales cycle?
We overcome this by:
- Monitoring web traffic and search activity to identify accounts in the research stages,
- Allowing accounts to anonymously explore our site as they build awareness,
- Using intent data to determine when accounts appear ready to talk and converting identified contacts into leads,
- Expanding the buying group through targeted lead-generation outreach,
- Mapping out all known contacts and customizing messaging and content to resonate with their perspectives, and
- Analyzing web activity spikes to gauge increases in account-level interest and deal momentum.
This coordinated use of technology and teamwork is vastly different from typical B2B marketing, which separates lead generation and sales hand-off. While that linear approach works for individual leads, it often falls short for complex sales involving multiple decision-makers and influencers within a single targeted account.
The Value of Marketing and SDR Collaboration
ABM also amplifies the value of tight collaboration between marketing and sales development. Our SDR team essentially acts as an extension of marketing by pursuing marketing-qualified leads, capturing additional contacts, and nurturing accounts with potential with the ultimate goal of scheduling qualified appointments for the sales executives. They are also our “farm team”, as we invest time in training them on our solutions, value propositions, sales cycle, and selling approach. Our hope is that they will eventually grow into an outside sales role.
Unlike general inbound programs, our SDRs know exactly which accounts we’ve identified through intent data as demonstrating active interest. With insight into where accounts are in the journey, SDRs can have more impactful conversations.
In this way, sales development and marketing share joint ownership of the target account list and come together using our unique skill sets to guide accounts through each stage. Marketing focuses on creating valuable content at scale, while SDRs concentrate on converting key stakeholders. This level of transparency and coordination is essential for ABM success, but unfortunately still rare.
The Future of ABM Measurement
Marketing attribution will continue to be a challenge for account-based approaches in the fragmented martech landscape. However, over time, technology innovations may yield improved visibility and automation to streamline data aggregation across platforms.
Until then, B2B marketers will need to embrace some ambiguity, supplemented by meticulous manual tracking and analysis. Mapping the buyer’s journey based on website analytics and sales data provides reasonable attribution, though imperfect. It takes work but pays off by securing enterprise deals that others may miss.
Though difficult, our ABM methodology has proven successful in driving substantial revenue growth through major sales like the one described here. Other B2B companies struggling to convert high-value complex accounts should consider adopting a similar approach. By combining marketing technology with coordination between sales and marketing, ABM provides a proven model to earn customer trust and confidence over an extended sales cycle.
The fruits of this targeted approach are deals that close bigger, shorten sales cycles, and deliver higher lifetime value. For B2B firms seeking enterprise accounts, ABM’s value justifies the effort required.