Report from the Front Lines: Invoca and ABM

March 28, 2016 Mark Emmons

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The strategy just made sense for the marketing team at Invoca. It became obvious that they could help grow the company faster by concentrating their efforts on key accounts rather than wasting budget just accumulating random leads.

So that’s exactly what Invoca, a call-intelligence platform for marketers, began doing in the second half of 2015. Then a curious thing happened. Invoca found itself gaining a reputation as one of the trailblazers in the emerging Account-Based Marketing trend.

Ari Echt

Ari Echt

“We started talking to more and more people, and hearing that they were struggling with ABM,” said Ari Echt, Invoca’s senior marketing automation manager. “A lot of companies really don’t have it figured out yet. And I know that we’re being set in the light of a leader because we do invest a lot into making it work and are constantly trying to improve.”

There has been plenty of hype surrounding the Account-Based Marketing movement — possibly too much. What makes Invoca interesting, though, is that the team has been actively sharing hard-earned knowledge from their real-world ABM experiences.

Julia Stead, director of demand generation, authored a widely shared blog post last November about the practical lessons learned since Invoca had aligned sales-and-marketing efforts on those prospects that would be their best-fit customers. It was a report from the front lines of ABM.

She also was a featured speaker at the recent #FlipMyFunnel conference in San Francisco where she told the audience that through initial ABM pilot programs, Invoca had hit an impressive 26x pipe-to-spend ratio from its ABM programs. While that exceeded expectations and “validated the initial success of ABM for us and encouraged us to invest further,” Stead was quick to add that they don’t have all the answers.

“We’re still trying to figure out the best metrics to measure account engagement and success, and test out new ideas,” Stead said.

That sentiment was echoed by Echt.

Julia Stead

“We tell people that ABM is definitely a journey,” he said. “B2B marketing is so complex these days. It’s easy to get sidetracked and find yourself going down too many parallel paths that won’t result in bottom-line impact. ABM forces us to focus everything we do on engaging the companies that are most likely to allow us to hit our goals.”

At #FlipMyFunnel, Stead explained that Invoca had become increasingly concerned that only a small percentage of the leads they were getting had a likelihood of purchasing their solutions. Yes, they were generating plenty of inbound leads. But they couldn’t count on getting the right people as leads. So instead of worrying about creating a vast number of leads, they began taking a closer look at the accounts they thought resembled their Ideal Customer Profile.

And that is Account-Based Marketing.

That shift meant making changes in their technology stack. One of the reasons for the growing interest in ABM is new tech tools have emerged that allow startup companies to scale the strategy. While ABM doesn’t require a business to devote a large share of budget to get started, Invoca did see that some technologies could make the transition more successful.

  • Target Accounts: Invoca created a short list of key accounts by using tools such as Builtwith to identify companies with desirable firmographics to get a rough match with its Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). From there, the sales and marketing teams collaborated on a list of targets they believed could be Invoca customers. “It definitely takes all parties to play a role,” Echt said. “It just doesn’t work with marketing doing things in a silo. We’re constantly getting closer and closer because we all realize that it’s a must to make this work.” To complement the human selection process, Invoca also used predictive analytics vendor EverString to identify other good-fit accounts based on existing customers.
  • Research: Datanyze is a technology that Invoca added so sales reps could map out the people within those accounts and acquire new contacts.
  • Data Connections: Invoca uses LeanData to overcome one of the biggest challenges involved with an account-based strategy — matching leads to accounts. LeanData automates a process that previously had to be done manually. It guarantees that leads get routed to the correct Sales Development Representatives and Account Executives. That ensures full visibility into valuable accounts. “It solved a real pain that frankly was a nightmare for us,” said Jennifer Rios, marketing operations manager. “When we would get back from a trade show, it would take us between three and six hours just to process all of the leads prior to importing them. LeanData really freed up our time and ensured that our leads are processed correctly.”
  • Engagement: Invoca takes a multi-channel approach to nurturing target accounts. That strategy includes using account-based display advertising with Terminus, triggered direct mail with PrintingForLess, Marketo email engagement programs, field marketing events and orchestrated outreach by SDRs.
  • Measurement: BrightFunnel helps with tracking multi-touch attribution and account-level insights.
Jennifer Rios

Jennifer Rios

One dramatic change, Echt said, is that Invoca’s customer list has swelled with larger enterprise companies. That probably wouldn’t have happened without an ABM plan, he added.

“I can tell you that we’re smarter about who are our ideal customers and who we should be spending our time engaging,” Echt said. “You don’t want to have your sales team spending a huge percentage of time on the wrong companies. I think this is proof that you always benefit by getting to know your customers better.”

ABM, Stead has said, now represents about 70 percent of their marketing spend. That emphasis is the direct result of the strategy increasing pipeline and deal-revenue size. Meanwhile, the more Invoca talks about the successful formula, the more other data-driven marketers are listening. There clearly is a hunger for ABM substance, not just more buzz.

And that helps explain the interest in the Invoca story.

Main image courtesy of Michael Pollak

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