ABMonday: A Crawl-Walk-Run Approach to Opportunity-Based Marketing

May 23, 2022 Jackie Sutherland

A Crawl-Walk-Run Approach to Opportunity-Based Marketing

A delegation of LeadFabric team members recently traveled to Austin, Texas for Forrester’s B2B Summit 2022. We attended many insightful sessions led by Forrester’s analysts, and one we found particularly interesting was called “Goodbye MQLs, Hello Opportunities: A Phased Approach to Transformation”. For a high-level overview on shifting from lead- to opportunity-based marketing, check out the first blog in this series, “Goodbye MQLs, Hello Opportunities”. Keep reading here to find a breakdown of what happens at each of the transitional phases outlined by Forrester and what applying them to your organization’s processes might mean for your business.

Saying goodbye the MQL funnel and embracing the Opportunity Waterfall

Crawl – Create opportunities when qualified by the RDR

The first step to transitioning to an opportunity-based approach is to create opportunities as soon as they have been qualified by the Revenue Development Representative, or RDR (RDRs can be former BDR and SDR team members, whose focus has essentially shifted from qualifying leads to developing opportunities).

Marketing gathers data on individuals as they have done in the past, but keeping the buying group in mind, they link individuals to accounts and solution interest. All related individuals are then presented to the RDR in a dashboard, which the RDR then uses to manually create and qualify an opportunity that includes all related contacts. That opportunity is then passed on to Sales for follow-up.

This process is easy to implement and involves little change management, but it requires a good deal of manual work, and different team members may have a hard time coordinating on timing. Plus, reporting on this model can be complex.

 

Walk: Create opportunities based on meaningful action

The next step in the transition opens up the possibility to automate opportunity creation.

In this phase, Marketing analyzes signals for interest in solutions from accounts. Based on a pre-defined set of business rules, opportunities are created and accounts are updated based on these signals. The RDR then validates the marketing-generated opportunities and adds any connected individuals as necessary.

This phase requires a more profound shift in processes, but it makes outreach efforts easier for RDRs and Sales, and it provides more visibility to the rest of the team. However, the manual addition of involved contacts is key for success, so the method still relies heavily on humans.

 

Run: Create opportunities based on revenue plan

In the final phase of the transition, target opportunities are created in accounts identified via opportunity maps. “Shell” opportunities are created for every potential target opportunity based on pre-defined business rules, and Marketing, RDRs and Sales combine their efforts to add contacts to the opportunities throughout the entire process. Scoring rules are a key component in this model.

The advantages of this model are that the process can be automated, and it becomes streamlined by the fact that all teams are working from the same single container – the “handover” in the process is eliminated. In this approach, buying signals can be leveraged and acted upon more quickly, which can accelerate pipeline growth. However, success requires a well-defined account strategy, an understanding of solution interest, and complex routing rules, and good, accurate data is absolutely essential.

 

Saying Hello to Opportunities

While it may feel daunting to let go of the lead-based approach to B2B marketing that we’ve been following for years and bid farewell to the MQL, focusing on opportunities has its clear advantages. Instead of working in silos, Marketing, RDRs and Sales can truly align when they are all working toward the common goal of identifying, engaging, qualifying, and closing opportunities. Plus, Sales resources are used more efficiently when they receive opportunities instead of leads. And everyone’s life can be made easier as more automation is introduced in each phase of the process.

 

 

The Reality of Leaving Leads Behind

While opportunity-based marketing sounds ideal in theory, and when laid out by Forrester it all sounds very clear cut, at LeadFabric we have learned from working with diverse clients from various industries that things aren’t so binary. It’s usually not possible to make such drastic organizational changes in one pass (plus, there are still some cases where the B2B buyer is an individual, not a buying group, and person-based marketing still applies!). Every business has a unique set of needs, and analyst theories cannot be merely copied and pasted to real-life scenarios.

While a focus on opportunities over leads has several clear advantages, there are also nuances. What about the other 20% of B2B purchasing decisions that don’t involve a multi-person buying group? In those scenarios and others, like in well-established markets where the product being marketed is a commodity, person-based marketing is still the most valid, logical approach. In fact, in these cases the MQL is the opportunity.  While this may sound like a mere question of semantics, there is a difference when applied to areas like CRM and marketing automation. But maintaining focus on individuals makes things much easier to configure from a technology perspective as one can rely more easily on standard data models and workflows, compared to ABM or OBM.

 

What does this all mean for Marketing Automation?

The shift away from lead-based marketing has major implications for the MarTech stack. Most B2B marketing departments have already invested heavily in expensive marketing automation platforms, which are, in essence, person-based solutions. The standard data model in leading CRMs like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics is also centered around a lead-first approach.

So how can you adopt an account- or opportunity-based approach when your cornerstone technology is based on leads? Making this transition does not mean throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater and discarding the systems that you’ve poured time and resources into. Standard CRM data models are merely limitations that can be worked around with the right frameworks in place, but it does require a change in strategy and the implementation of custom workflows, as the out-of-the-box models no longer apply.

In our experience working with B2B marketing organizations across the globe, we have noticed two tendencies in recent years that were confirmed during our trip to B2B Summit 2022: a desire for a marketing strategy that goes beyond the lead, and a hesitancy to give up on lead-based marketing altogether. As a result, we have already begun building new frameworks for account- and opportunity- based data models in Salesforce and Dynamics and creating marketing automation workflows that account for buying groups rather than individuals.

Moving away from demand generation and traditional lead-based marketing may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re interested in shifting your organization’s marketing focus from leads to accounts or opportunities, LeadFabric can help put together a phased transition that allows you improve results by optimizing existing systems and processes without having to start completely from scratch. Contact us for more information.

It's also worth noting that ABM is not one-size-fits-all - there is more than one valid way to approach it, and which approach to adopt depends on the needs of your organization. In the next blog in this series, we’ll take a deeper dive into each category of ABM so you can determine which method is right for your business. Stay tuned!

And if you can’t wait to dig into ABM theory, you can check out our guide, “The Fundamentals of Account-Based Marketing” in the meantime: