How to Build an Account-Based Marketing Program with a Small Team



Melanie Chapman is the Marketing Manager for Email and Automation at Jellyvision, a Chicago-based HR benefits communications software company. Read on for a transcript of her presentation from our January 27, 2017 Here’s How Startup Marketing Conference, where she describes how to build an account based marketing program with a small team.

My name is Melanie Chapman and I am Jellyvision’s Marketing Manager for Email and Automation, or if I’m at a party, it’s for “spam and robots.” We make software that takes topics that are important but confusing – and probably really boring – and we make them easier to understand and even delightful.

Our biggest product is called ALEX. Employees use it to make better decisions about their healthcare plans at work. So at the time of year when HR tells you that you need to select your plan for the next year, ALEX will ask you questions like, “Are you married? Do you have kids? How many times a year do you go to the doctor?” and then it will help make a recommendation for the health plan that’s the best fit for you. Instead of glazing over and looking at a plan document, you’ll have someone who talks to you in plain English and guides you along the way. Plus, we also help people understand leaves of absence, how much to contribute to a 401(k), etc.

Jellyvision has been around since the stone age in tech company terms. When I started there about three and half years ago we had 75 people, which was pretty big, but now we’re up to 350. So our marketing team isn’t starting from scratch.

We’ve been doing things for a while and, not to toot our own horn, but I think we’re pretty good at generating leads. We can pump through tens of thousands in a year, but what we started to find was that the sales team doesn’t really talk about leads when they’re getting excited about something. Sales talks about meetings, revenue and the accounts that they want to hit. So we decided that we needed to be a better partner to sales and figure out what we could do to deliver meetings and pipeline dollars to them instead of always talking about leads. And we had to be able to track it as well.

So one of the things that everyone has started talking about in the last couple of years is account-based marketing, or ABM. I’ve attended some conferences that are all about ABM. There’s a lot of fog and confetti, and like so many things in marketing, we thought that it might just be the next flash in the pan. People will get really excited about it and try to sell you some software to execute it, then it’ll go away and we’ll all move on to the next thing. So we decided that we would test it out.

We’re a pretty agile marketing team so we like to test things, see if they stick, see if they fail and then move on if they don’t work. Along those lines, we wanted to do this in a really nimble way so this isn’t something where we decided to invest in software to execute upfront. Instead, we used our existing software and our existing team.

So we really got this off the ground with, I would say, three and a half people. The team was myself, I did the email and software piece of it, a colleague of mine who is really adept in direct mail and then a senior writer. The “half” came from the sales team who was really involved and an existing vendor who helped us facilitate some of the direct mail.

So account-based marketing is really flipping the traditional funnel upside down. Usually, when you talk about getting leads you will put your content out there, hope some people bite on it, try and warm them up and pass them over to sales. So the people are coming to you. For account-based marketing, we are looking to say, “These are the people who have been really good clients for us. How can we find more people like them?” So you’re selecting the people that you know would be a good fit for the product and trying to get yourself in front of them so you can get introduced.

Here’s How:

  1. We identified a target listThe most important starting piece is a target list of accounts and people. For a pilot, we wanted to start small so we could get this off the ground so we started with 31 accounts and 72 contacts at those accounts. We worked with leadership in sales to figure out where we should start.And again, for purposes of expediency, we decided to focus on one vertical, which for us was the life sciences industry. It was perfect because they were a really a good fit for us but we didn’t have huge penetration. And then from there, we went down the list. We took a really strong look at who the contact should be, people who would be decision-makers, or who could actually sign on the dotted line when the time comes or who were really strong influencers.
  2. We analyzed content needsWe did research into what those people would be most interested in for this vertical. The biggest benefits of the life sciences industry for our software is that they have a dispersed workforce. They have some people in one location, they have some people who are out on the factory floor and some people who are behind desks. It’s hard to reach all of those different types of people with a consistent message about their benefits. So that was one strong thing that we can provide.A lot of people in this space either have or are moving toward HDHPs with HSAs. It’s a newer type of health plan that can often offer a really strong value but people aren’t as familiar with it, so it calls for an education piece, which is also something ALEX does really well. So we went down the list and from there: Now that we knew what these people are interested in, we analyzed our content needs.
  3. We created the campaign, focusing on personalizationSomething that was really critical for making this successful was customizing that content as much as possible. We didn’t just pull in their first name and last name into the piece, we customized different sentences based on their industry. So when you looked at yours you thought, “This is for me. This isn’t just a piece of marketing fluff that someone has put out. This is something that’s relevant to me and my situation.”After we had those content pieces together, we mapped out our campaign. We did some very targeted social advertising and personalized web content. When people came to our website, it would recognize that they were in this industry and serve up those unique pieces of content.However, the centerpiece for us was actually direct mail, which is kicking it old school, but it really allowed us to stand out and get noticed. The direct mail campaign tied in with automated email follow-ups, and then we automated tasks for our sales team to follow up on whenever something was happening, as well.

    We started out small with just a personalized trifold brochure. Then the second touch in the campaign was, and these are old now, a viewfinder you can click through. We created a custom viewfinder which got attention not only because it’s something different to receive in the mail, but because the inside was customized to this audience with the theme of HR superheroes.

    We had characters like E-Male fighting Confusitron of the confusing benefits. It was really silly but it was something that resonated with them and also gave them the opportunity to see themselves as the hero.

    And then escalating up in value, the third touch was what our vendor calls a swag bomb but in this case, it was the benefits inspiration kit, so ideas to inspire your benefits communication over the coming year. We put a benefits genius hat, customized post-it notes, customized granola bars, etc. in our kits so it was something fun but also important for a team. We don’t like to just send out things that are really nice – I mean, I like my Kindle and I would love to receive a new one in the mail but it doesn’t really tie back to our product in any way.

    We wanted to create qualified opportunities for the sales team and they would get pretty annoyed if we got people on the phone just because they wanted the Kindle. So we tried to create things that also had a tie back to our product and were helpful. So, the helpful piece in there was a piece created specifically for this campaign with ideas for their benefits communication in the following year and we linked to templates that they could download online. Something that could actually help them get their job done.

    I already talked a little bit about making it as personalized as possible, flowing in that data from our Salesforce database. There were some things that I updated for each person manually so it would read as nicely as possible.

    Depending on the cleanliness of your CRM, some of our company names are really weird and no one wants to get a piece in the mail that’s like, “Oh, we’d really like to work with you folks at Placeholder Industries, LLC, Incorporated.” That doesn’t sound like a human would say that, so we took the time to create new fields that would have a pretty-sounding company name so they knew that this was something that was actually personalized. It wasn’t just flowing out of our database.

  4. We cleaned the dataAlong the lines of dirty data, we made sure that everything was as clean as possible. When you are spending money on something like this, it is a big bummer to ship something out and it’s going to the wrong mailing address. So, with the help of our sales team, we went through and individually checked the mailing addresses for everything and sometimes we’re making educated guesses on what the mailing address was because that kind of personal data can be hard to get. We would look up the person on LinkedIn and if it looked like they were in a different location from what the company headquarters was, then we would look up the regional offices for the company to find a mailing address where this person was actually at. And using that technique, we were able to get up to a 100 percent deliverability rate for the last two rounds of the campaign, so no wasted dollars there.
  5. We integrated with the marketing machineWe then integrated this with our marketing software. We use Marketo but anything would work, and that’s where I mentioned we worked with one of our existing vendors. One of the downfalls of direct mail is that it’s not necessarily as trackable as online advertising so this solved for some of that. We triggered those direct mailings through the software so we knew when the order was placed and all this would flow into Marketo and our CRM as well.We knew when the order was placed. We also know it was delivered. So as soon as that delivery data hit our system, we could have the sales team follow up on the package. So instead of just making a random call later and then being like, “Hey, how’s it going?” we can say, “Hey, I sent over this great kit earlier today. I wanted to see if you got it. I wanted to chat for a few minutes about your benefits communication strategy.”So that, again, allowed us to really stand out and ensure that we could be helpful and get noticed.
  6. We communicated, communicated and then communicated some moreI love my friends in sales but they are not the best at answering emails from marketing or doing anything that’s not being on the phone and getting sales, which makes sense. So we really made sure, first of all, that we got buy-in from them and they were a part of the planning process. I crashed a lot of their sales meetings to talk about what we were thinking about, what the cadence for the campaign was going to be to get feedback so they knew what was going on every step of the way.And then, as we got underway, we made sure that we were getting them to follow up. Because that turned out to be one of the biggest success factors, having a human follow up. So, the tri-fold or the snazzy viewfinder gets you noticed but, I mean, honestly, if that lands on my desk, I’m probably not going to call back the salesperson and say, “Hey, time to chat. Cool. I really love this viewfinder.” But they will pick up the phone if you reach out and ask about the viewfinder or just start a conversation.So making sure that the sales team was following up on all these marketing pieces was what we got the most meetings from. Marketing is opening the door, sales is walking through, and communication was key to making that happen.
  7. We tracked absolutely everythingAnd then, as many people have talked about today, we made sure that we tracked everything. In terms of pipeline dollars, we used software that enables multi-touch attribution. So for something like this it’s important to see if you’re setting the meeting, but then if we’re influencing deals later on in the cycle or maybe people who already existed in the system, marketing is still touching that just because you didn’t create the lead in Salesforce. We wanted to make sure that we could see how well this was working.

The Results

Like I said, we thought this may be the latest flash in the pan so we started small and we were like, “Okay, let’s see where this goes.” And it went somewhere really great. Out of those 31 accounts, we got a 41 percent account-to-meeting conversion rate. That was huge for us because unlike when leads are coming in from the website or content syndication where you can’t really control who’s coming in, we selected these accounts and the context so these were people we were really psyched to get meetings with and we already knew that they would be a great fit for ALEX and Jellyvision.

So some of these were dream accounts that we had been chasing after, those white whales, for years, and this is something that finally got us noticed and enabled us to at least start a conversation.

And beyond a conversation, this is something that has generated a lot of pipeline. So we got a 14X ROI on what we spent on the campaign. We have a longer sales cycle so a lot of these are still hanging out in the pipeline, but it’s already paid for itself and we’re looking at the biggest return on anything we’ve done from a marketing spend perspective.

For us, ABM was not the latest flash in the plan, at least for right now. This was our pilot program. We’ve run two follow-up campaigns, which have also been really successful. The one con is that when something works this well, you get a lot of people asking you to do it again and again. So in addition to those two follow-ups, I’m working on three simultaneous ABM campaigns for different channels and also one to our existing customers, so it’s also something that can be really flexible for you.

The basics are just making sure you know who you want to talk to and then figuring out a way to partner with your sales team to get everything done. And that’s it.

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