So Long, Baton Pass. Hello, Marketing and Sales Orchestration: The Play Metaphor

During the marketing automation era, Marketing and Sales alignment resembled a baton pass in a relay race. Marketing owned the top of the funnel, generating leads. Which they would then pass to Sales who, in turn, owned the deal close and post-sale growth. Although this linear model worked at the time (especially for simple lead-based go-to-market strategies), it is looking increasingly outdated in the face of an increasingly nonlinear account journey.

Rather than a hand-off baton pass, in Account-Based Experience (ABX) the Marketing and Sales departments operate as a team. Players have distinctly different positions — offense and defense — but they work together to pass the ball back and forth down the field to create and win new business and drive account growth. As a whole, ABX offers improved communication, streamlined activation, and integrated orchestration.

The Play Metaphor

 A play is a series of orchestrated interactions (both human and automated) across departments and channels.

The “play” is the perfect metaphor for orchestration since it reflects the fact that there are multiple people at the target account, and multiple people at your company working together to interact with the account. That’s why we use the analogy of a football chalkboard. As in football, multiple people on your team are lining up to engage multiple people on their team, and the play is a way of orchestrating who does what — and when.

In this model, Marketing is the coach writing the playbook. Sales is the quarterback, calling the specific plays on the ground. And every customer-facing department in the company has a position on the field. The team works in lockstep to ensure a buyer’s experience is positive, consistent, and in context with everything else happening at the account.

Anatomy of a Play

Every play has three key components that work together to drive success.

  • The Segment: The target list (accounts and people) selected to be part of the play.
  • The Actions: The specific interactions and channels.
  • The Trigger: The conditions that launch the play (scheduled or always on).
1. The target list: the importance of segmentation

In any campaign, the target list is responsible for 40-60 percent of the success.

Direct mail experts have a rule of thumb: 40 percent of success is dependent upon the list; 40 percent comes from the offer; and 20 percent is due to the creative. Others say the list alone is responsible for 60 percent of your campaign’s success or failure.

The lesson is that smaller, more targeted lists based on dynamic account behaviors perform the best.

Basic segmentation strategy

Easy segments should be easy to create, choosing from fields such as:

  1. Industry
  2. Size (headcount or revenue)
  3. Region
  4. Journey stage
  5. Intent
  6. Basic activities
Selector Interface

Demandbase Selector interface in “Basic” Mode

Advanced segmentation strategy

As your ABX practice matures, you’ll progress to more advanced segmentation that reflects the complex relationships between accounts, people, opportunities, and activities.

There is where ABX platforms can vary widely. A few items to watch for:

  1. Custom fields
  2. Activities
  3. Changing a value (ex. Diligence to Proposal)
  4. Relationships
  5. Existing segments

To better understand and think about your own segmentation strategy, take a look at pages 165 and 166 of The Clear & Complete Guide to Account-Based Experience (ABX)

2. The action sequence: interactions and channels

Your actions are the individual instruments that orchestration weaves together into harmony. If the list is the Who for your Play, then the action sequence is the What.

These can include:

  • CRM: creating a task; adding, removing, or changing status in a campaign; updating fields on the person or account record
  • Marketing automation: adding or removing people from a campaign or static list  
  • Sales engagement: adding or removing people from a cadence or sequence  
  • Advertising: adding or removing from campaigns 
  • Direct mail: triggering campaigns to specific individuals
  • Web personalization and chat: changing which accounts qualify for various experiences
Action Sequence

Simple action sequence in Demandbase, including “Add Choice”

Disconnected, these actions can be cacophonous and distracting, but orchestrate them correctly and you’ll create a harmonious account experience.

3. The schedule: triggered and batch plays

There are three ways to launch orchestrated plays:

Manual: Manual plays are launched when a marketer or salesperson selects one or more people or accounts, and then manually triggers an action.

Batch: Batch plays are run against a list of accounts or people. Just as you’d build a list of people in marketing automation, here you select the exact group to target, then launch the action sequence to the entire list at the scheduled time.

Triggered: Once you know what works, setting up automated plays is a great way to scale your ABX program. The plays use triggers to launch automatically when certain conditions are met. This always-on go-to-market strategy is the key to creating a truly orchestrated, cross-channel experience.


Time to build your playbook

With the theory in hand, there’s no better time to see how it performs in your own scenarios. In the Clear & Complete Guide to ABX, you will find a few examples of plays you can run for every stage of the account journey (whether early, mid-stage or late, and even post-stage for existing customers), starting on page 171. 

Leave the “baton-pass” mentality behind, and get ready to reap the rewards of orchestration in the era of ABX.


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Chief Marketing and Product Officer, Demandbase

As Chief Marketing and Product Officer of Demandbase, I'm responsible for delivering Demandbase’s product vision to delight customers and fulfill its mission of transforming how B2B companies go-to-market. I have a long history of establishing and leading some of the most notable marketing technology companies. Most recently, I was co-founder and CEO of Engagio, the leading Account-Based Orchestration Platform. Earlier, I co-founded and held the position of Chief Marketing Officer for Marketo (acquired by Adobe).