Also known as: Account Lifecycle Stages

There’s two ways to look at this: from an Inbound (what are the Companies out there doing?) & an Outbound (what are we doing?) perspective. In this post, I outline a way to merge these – to get the best of both worlds! The former comes more naturally to marketing, so 

Let’s start with INBOUND.

Hubspot starts it with “Subscribers” for example. I think it starts a lot earlier in the brave, new “intent account” times: with the Awareness stage. Solutions promising insights into exactly that are flourishing (Sep22!), actually executing on the data remains a good challenge for companies for several reasons. More of that later!

So this really start with “Intent Accounts” that are either

  • Already on your website (highest intent – Leadfeeder, Albacross, Lead Forensics & Co.)
  • Are surfaced by 3rd parties like G2, Trusradius and others – LinkedIn is also palnning to launch an intent offering (via Sales Navigator)
  • (Supposedly) researching your topics on the web. Thanks Bombora (who’s NOT partnering with them noways?)

These come in, but need to be qualifed. Either “Sales Rejected” straight off the bat, “Watching” (firmographics) OR “Target Account” (obviously with a high score!). More details in the “Outbound” section below!

Subscribers” then are emails, subscribed to e.g. a newsletter. Never really worked with this concept, strikes me as a much more powerful PLG strategy.

Moving on, “Leads”! They signed up for TOFU (top of the funnel) content – they showed strong intent. I just wouldn’t call them “Leads”, but “Inbound (Account)”. From an ABM point of view, you now need to understand if the account is indeed a good fit (much like with the “normal” intent before). This time it’s Contacts though:

  • Could be a student.
  • Could be a freelancer.
  • Could be a competitor.
  • Could be spam…

So these need to be qualified – and followed up with if a good fit. How to properly do that (spoiler alert: it’s not by handing it off to a poor rep that gets asked to call them 5min. after the dl to offer a demo) is enough for a separate post. Inbound account qualification – so important! And worth yet another post! In a nutshell: 

  • No fit → Sales Rejected
  • Not YET a fit: too small, not mature enough, bad geo (no offering there), etc. → “Watching”. A parking position for Accounts: they can be resurfaced and enter the funnel again following high engagement / account score for example. 
  • Good fit → work (not going to elaborate further here). So that account then switches to “(Account) Being Worked”, and it enters the pre-sales funnel. Can be fully automated as well. Previously known as “Marketing Qualified”. If a human deemed them a fit and ready to work, that’s exactly that. 

With those, it’s Marketing’s job to raise that awareness to consideration! The pinnacle being the famous “Demo Meeting”.
For more elaborate setups, and higher marketing budgets, an in-between stage – let’s call it “Engaged” – might make sense: Accounts progressed either by a score (meh…) or a rep (marketing development is a thing, yay!). This indicates significant progress. They are – as an account mind you! – considering the product or service. On the verge of booking a demo. Maybe with a little marketing air cover!?
A great audience to target, a great way to give the business development teams more insights into their funnel.
Previously known as “Sales Qualified”: a rep took over, researched the accounts & personas, personalized the outreach, multi-threaded the account on all the channels. 

The final lifecycle stage for Marketing: “Demo Meeting Booked”. If you are using a business development opportunity funnel, you can also use a stage there of course. But since this is a crucial stage for all teams, it will make sense on the Account/Company as well as Contact level.
Can also open a Deal/Oppty already!

Sales will need to take those “Demo Meetings” and either enter serious talks, prep an offer and so on …OR set the Account to “Disqualified”. Will need a reason (SDRs need to learn!) & potentially a date when they can come back – they will hopefully come back! Having this as part of a Deal/Oppty already will make sense because then you can make these fields mandatory. 

Next crucial piece – the famous “marketing-to-sales-handoff”. I’m looking at you, mother of all marketing KPIs: “Opportunity”. Pipeline. A Company’s lifeblood. Sales can take it from there, they have all the stages on Deals/Opportunities they need (thanks Sales Ops!). Needs to start/open a Deal/Oppty! 

They then become a Customer! In ~20% of all cases on average, or a “Closed Lost” opportunity. 

Those stages put into perspective on a great overview from Revopslabs for the full picture: 

Let’s continue with Outbound:

There’s not a whole lot of differences! There is one major thing to take into account of course: ABM (Account-based Marketing). Following that methodology, that will make a lot of sense when ACVs are greater than 20k$/year) you will want to define an ICP and research the respective accounts. A whole other blog or two!!

In any case, with those now part of rep’s “account books”, an orchestrated outbound effort – as in together with marketing! – can be underway. We don’t know yet if they are aware, but they totally should. The broadest marketing audience, the structure to an SDRs day. Let’s call them “Target Accounts”.
The beauty of ABM: with Marketing targeting these, any that eventually convert can most most probably become “Being Worked”, if not “Engaged”, straight away. No need to set any to Sales Rejected. Unless your Contact Intelligence was bad? 

But there’s also Intent! Now …another separate post about that is in order, but suffice to say these should definitely make the cut, right? Be added, nay, be pushed on top of the list of “Target Account” to get “Being Worked”?

Of course! But, that being said, not all might be a fit – so either train your reps to also qualify them (can be time consuming!) or automate: enrich the firmographics, tell the machine to decide based on ICP and/or Score! So some become “Target Accounts” – with a high score so they can be prioritized by the reps – some need to be “Watching” or “Sales Rejected”. 
All other stages follow in line! 

Based on that framework, you can also understand which campaigns caused the progression to  certain stages (i.e. “Demo Meeting Booked” and “Opportunity”), so the “Marketing Sourced” data point is there for the taking. 

Of course, on all of these – on Companies, Contact as much as on Oppties, you can see velocity, conversion rates, etc. It just requires a bit of a setup (& ideally a BI tool, but Hubspot will also do).

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