Account-Based Management: Why You Need a Cup, Not a Funnel

August 24, 2016

So, the Rio Olympics ended over the weekend and there were plenty of storylines that captured the world’s attention. Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt shattered some long-standing records that many thought would never fall, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team dominated, and Ryan Lochte was Ryan Lochte.

And while all of that was remarkable, something else caught my eye in the first few days of competition: Cupping.

Yes, cupping — the practice of putting targeted suction on a specific area of the body to increase the flow of energy to that area and expedite the recovery process. The impact of cupping can be seen by the dark round spots that were present on Michael Phelps’ and many other swimmers’ backs.

Now, hang with me while I draw an analogy between cupping and startup expansion.

Like cupping, account-based management (or “targeted account management” as I’ve always liked to call it), is all about putting targeted effort on a specific customer segment to increase the flow of business in that segment. In this application, there isn’t a funnel that you drop leads into. Instead, the goal is to do things that stimulate specific people at specific companies to:

  • Become aware of you and interested in your products
  • Evaluate, purchase, and gain value from your products
  • Grow their relationship with you, with the goal of converting them into advocates

Simply put, you’re trying to draw a specific target’s energy to you. The more you do it, the easier it is for all of your sales, marketing, and customer support efforts to have a greater impact.

Are You “Cupping” or “Funneling” Your Target Accounts?

Account-based management isn’t new, but I’ve noticed that the majority of companies view it through the lens of a reverse funnel. In this model, you start by identifying a target account, you then do things that allow you to expand and engage that target, and then you wait for those efforts to trickle into advocacy.

Here’s one example of this funnel in action:

Courtesy: Terminus

I don’t necessarily disagree with this way of thinking, but I think it’s more appropriate and effective to think about account-based management from a cupping perspective. Again, the goal is to draw targets to you and to leave a mark on them when they get there.

Here are some cupping metrics you can use to measure your account-based management success:

  • Interest: How engaged is a specific target with your brand or content, and how responsive are they to your outreach? This metric will tell you a lot about how much a particular target actually cares about what you’re offering and how well those offerings align with their needs.
  • Awareness: Many growth-stage marketers make the mistake of assuming that their targets are somewhat aware of their brand. Even worse, very few make a concerted effort to understand the true depth of that awareness. While website hits or lead capture forms are common entry points into a funnel, they don’t really tell you anything about how aware a chosen target is of you. Measure that and you’ll find out whether your efforts are actually hitting the mark.
  • Account detail: How much do you know about your targets and how willing are they to give you information? With account-based management, your goal should be to acquire the real names of the companies and individuals you’re targeting.
  • Perspective: If your targets are aware of you, what do they think about you — relative to the other options in the market? This is something that I very rarely see companies measure, but it’s a critical metric for determining the effectiveness of your engagement and attraction strategies.
  • Trial length and first sale amount: These measurements will tell you a lot about a target’s initial experience with your products or services, and the value they place on them. The first sale is the first truly impactful energy transfer in your direction (measured by revenue) and it tells you a lot about the effectiveness of your “cupping” strategy.
  • Success: How successful is a target with your product? This is the first truly impactful energy transfer in the customer’s direction and it will tell you a lot about how much value the target is extracting from your efforts. Renewal, upsell, and account growth all play a role in determining this success factor.

With account-based management, these are the marks that matter. If you’re seeing positive signals from each of them, then you’ll know that your efforts are leading to a healthy energy transfer for both parties.

The Long-Term Power of Account-Based Cupping

Here’s the best part about the marks that get left behind by doing this effectively: Unlike the cupping marks on athletes, the marks left behind by this approach don’t fade after a few days. Instead, they last for several years — providing sustainable energy for your business (in the form of revenue) and the customer (in terms of value).

The measures of impact I covered above also serve as incredibly powerful sources of insights into your cupping techniques. Over time, you can turn those insights into new ideas for adjustments that help you increase the flow of energy from your target accounts.

Founder & Partner

As the founder of OpenView, Scott focuses on distinctive business models and products that uniquely address a meaningful market pain point. This includes a broad interest in application and infrastructure companies, and businesses that are addressing the next generation of technology, including SaaS, cloud computing, mobile platforms, storage, networking, IT tools, and development tools.