Account-Based Marketing … and Billy Beane … in San Francisco
I am certainly not alone in thinking that Moneyball was one of the best business books of the past decade. Appealing to both baseball fans and business thinkers, the book (and subsequent movie with Brad Pitt) made Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane’s utilization of statistics to make business decisions almost seem … well … exciting?
It was particularly interesting and relevant to marketers, as our working environment was actually quite similar to that of the “traditional” baseball scout or manager. Whereas once we relied heavily on intuition, opinions and ‘gut feelings’, we have since gained access to a remarkable amount of data (via the increasingly diverse and growing marketing technology stack) upon which we can interpret performance.
When I worked at Demandbase I was particularly inspired by the book and applied the cornerstone trigger event, Oakland A’s loss of player Jason Giambi to the Yankees, to B2B marketing and sales. Rather than replace Giambi with another individual, expensive player, the A’s endeavored to instead replenish the volume of walks/hits/runs represented by his departure. They elected to fill the offensive gap created by his loss with several quality, less expensive players (David Justice + Jeremy Giambi + Scott Hatteberg). I got to thinking that it was similar to losing a big-name account, and the impact it can have on a company – especially an emerging growth company or a start-up.
The Oakland A’s approach to replacing their “whale” with a few less expensive players began to make a lot of sense. I was working on a content project for Demandbase with author Ardath Albee at the time, and we had an interesting email exchange about the theory, which she subsequently documented (in more detail) in the eBook she produced for them called Elusive Buyer 2.0: How Marketers Move Them from Anonymity to Revenue. I emailed the following to Ardath:
“We need to take a similar approach to picking the companies we are going to pursue. And now we have the ability to dissect more of the data we have about them to see what they have in common. The recommendation is to take a closer look at the numbers and statistics to find the provable, common characteristics of your customers and rely less on the ‘flashy’ components of your existing customer list.
What is worth more? 5 small named accounts that close in 30 days and are easily supported, or one big name that closes in 300 days and demanded a cut rate and sucked up all my resources in pre-sales and post-sales support?”
I began to try and apply this sort of thinking to marketing as well as sales. Just as Billy Beane and the A’s were focused on finding the players that were most likely to get on base, I became more interested in focusing marketing efforts on the accounts most likely to be customers – and it was more difficult than you might think. So many of the vendors that we, as B2B marketers, work with are not equipped to focus on accounts instead of individuals. If you try to work with a publication to sponsor and email to their list, for example, they will be able to help you focus your mailing on director-level (or higher) IT contacts. They will likely not be able to help you if you want to hit all contacts at B2B companies in a few select industries with revenues of $200M or higher, despite the fact that an account-based mailing will hit more people from companies that are actually likely to become customers.
While there are some challenges inherent to adopting this sort of Account-Based Marketing approach, the concepts have become more and more popular as of late. At the recent Marketo User Summit, for example, there were sessions dedicated to Account-Based Marketing (and coincidentally, a recent blog post from Marketo (about Moneyball) and analyst groups are beginning to dedicate resources to the concept. That’s why I was particularly excited to hear about the upcoming Marketing Innovation Summit for B2B, produced by Demandbase. Covering applications of an account-based approach to target account lists, content personalization, and more. This is the first marketing event with such a particular focus on Account-Based Marketing, which I find fascinating.
And Billy Beane himself is the keynote speaker. How cool is that? Check it out here.