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Account-level Activation | Tim Geisenheimer, CEO and Co-founder at Correlated

Account-level Activation != Account-based Marketing

Created :  
June 20, 2023
Created :  
May 19, 2022
Updated :  
April 30, 2024
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What is account-level activation? Why is it important and why is it still an unsolved problem?

Moreover, can the data warehouse solve this problem for good?

Tim Geisenheimer from Correlated is here to tell us and answer some related questions.

Let’s dive in:

Q. What is Account-level Activation and why is it so important?

Yeah Account-level Activation to me means when you have a self-serve product something that sort of anyone can sign up and use. What you get beyond just one end user using that product to have maybe a bit more of a team starting to use it. And that relates to a company that they're part of, you know like an account. So when does that Company level Activation or Account-level Activation start based on the self-serve use of a product usually meaning more than one person within an account starting to use it and get value from it.

Q. So what is the role of data in Account-level Activation?

Well, I think one of the most important things for self-serve products and companies in the B2B space is understanding how are people and accounts, so users and accounts, being kind of the two primary concepts, how are they using the product and what's actually going on in their usage? And so data in terms of that, product usage data in particular, is an extremely important component to understanding what's going on and then taking action based on that, whether it's then developing the product and making the product better or on the go to market side and understanding how to drive revenue.

Q. When it comes to data and modeling the data for Account-level Activation what should B2B SaaS companies do beforehand? Should they think about, you know like incorporating this in their core product data model or should this be something that they should think about later?

Totally. I mean I'll tell you what we did and we're maybe a little biased, but we've from day one instrumented our product as meticulously as we could, and as time would allow. But to understand you know, how customers are using Correlated, what the difference is between users and accounts, really trying to model that out, within our tracking we're using Segment for events tracking to do a lot of that. And then we have Snowflake as our data warehouse where a lot of that analysis is occurring. I don't think it's too early to start a lot of times as you say, it's a little bit of an afterthought. You're busy kind of building the product as you should be, trying to get the product market fit. The last thing you're thinking about is you know, what am I gonna need to do to instrument this? When we're at scale, in a growth stage to be able to analyze what's going on. But I think the earlier you can do it the better. And certainly we've seen companies do it pretty early these days and really be thrilled that they made that investment of time.

Q. How is the Account-level Activation affected when one user is part of multiple accounts? That seems to be a pretty common scenario with B2B SaaS, right? So how should companies sort of think about that?

It's a great question. This is a core part of kind of why this is a bit of an authority problem. So there are actually kind of three concepts from a data modeling standpoint.

There's the user, which is probably the easiest to understand that's just the individual. Then there's usually a workspace or organization, you know so that user will create or maybe join an existing workspace. What many of these self-serve products like to do though is you can have someone from Apple create a workspace but then another team, they don't even know this one team created a workspace, their team creates a workspace in the same product and let's use Figma for example, you might have 10 different teams, 20 different teams within Apple, all design teams using Figma. So they're all part of the account of Apple but they have 20 different workspaces and 200 different employees.

And maybe this design team is also working with this design team. So they're part of different workspaces that from a data modeling standpoint is a real challenge and a pain. And so I think a lot of the companies, the Figmas of the world, they're spending a lot of time trying to accurately model this and represent that data back to the teams that need it whether it's kinda for analysis, sort of more on the BI side or for action more on the go to market or marketing side.

You've answered my next question but I'm gonna ask anyway!

Q. Considering how important Account-level data model is in the context of B2B SaaS, why don't marketing and sales engagement tools natively support this? Why is the solution still largely work in progress?

Yeah, I mean, it's a great question. I think predominantly, I mean part of why Correlated exists and what we've seen, today is that the sort of legacy tools that the products that have been around for a while, the Salesforces, HubSpots, or newer tools like Outreach or Salesloft fantastic products, very powerful, but they were designed for a world where enterprise sales was top down where you kind of went through a demo process of some sort of sales discovery process before someone even saw your product let alone were using it. And then they only started to use it once the sort of deal was closed. So there's this linear path of marketing, sends a lead to sales, sales qualifies it, closes the deal.

Then they get the product after they're paid for it. And then customer success helps them, you know onboard and be successful. That's clean very, very simple and easy. The world today, as we just described is 20 teams at Apple using Figma all at the same time, it's a lot messier. And so I think those older tools that kinda were designed to solve problems for that top down kind of more traditional enterprise sales process and B2B they fundamentally just didn't anticipate, you know the Figmas of the world and what that would mean for how you do go to market. And so that's why they have it kind of offered this as a first-class solution.

Q. Would you say the cloud data warehouse can solve this problem for good?

A: So I think what we've seen from a lot of the sort of best product data growth companies that we're talking to, we talked to most of the household names, the Figma of the world, et cetera, that you would be familiar with is they are using the data warehouse to kind of adjust all of their product usage data to do kind of fundamental modeling using SQL you know on top of kind of that data in the warehouse. And then pushing that back out into some of these older tools like Salesforce or HubSpot or Marketo. I think they still feel often very constrained by those older tools, not really having a you know, nice representation of this data model in a first class way but they're able to kind of hack it together to some extent.

Q. How would you recommend companies solve this challenge? The challenge of Account-level Activation if they don't have the resources or the talent to like do this via the data warehouse aspect?

A: Yeah. It's a great question. I think for smaller companies, we would definitely recommend starting with a CDP and doing some basic instrumentation within your product using a Segment or a Datasack. And just making sure that you're tracking kind of, the right sort of core events in your product and then leveraging, I'll admit we've been shocked to see how few companies leverage like the group call in Segment, which is designed to have a level of representation of accounts like that concept of accounts. You use a group call to do that. Most companies we talk to don't do that. And so that's part of our recommendation and any customers we work with, we help them understand why they should be doing that. And often they'll take some time to, you know kinda add that in. So I think there's a lot you can do with just Segment which is a lot more accessible and easier to kinda get going with, or Stack or some other tools out there before you kind of apply that talent. That is a little harder to find, to kind of do the modeling in the warehouse. You'll still be a little constrained I think, to like truly customize what you wanna do but I think you can get pretty far.

Q. Since you mentioned CDP, what is your quick definition of a CDP?

I mean, the letters, CDP stand for customer data platform. So I think my definition, maybe not what some of those companies would prefer but in my mind, it's a place to instrument your event data from your product. And, you know an easy way to kind of collect that data and then send it to different places, whether it's the warehouse or you can also use it, I know a lot of companies use it to send to ad platforms and use kind some of the more advanced features to do some level of segmentation on top. So I think first and foremost the way we see it used at least for a lot of our customers is a way to kinda easily collect data from your product and your website kind do identity resolution, that sort of thing is how we see it. So I don't know if that's the the sort of stock definition that some might segment.

Q. Last question for you — what is the difference between Account-level Activation and Account-based Marketing?

Great question

So I think there's a core difference and, you know we're seeing kind of this question come up, a lot with some of the companies we're talking to. So account-based marketing is fundamentally informed by kinda third-party data frequently. So you're saying, Hey I have a set of accounts that I'm targeting. I wanna know if they're coming to our website which would be first party, but then I also maybe wanna know if they're looking at our competitor's website. Are they maybe browsing certain keywords or doing certain things that would indicate buying intent that would then help, you know our sales side or our marketing side do a better job kind of getting that account but now is showing intent that it's on our account list to buy. So that's a tactic that has been kinda utilized over the last five, seven years or so, and been pretty successful. I think Account-level Activation is kind of taking predominantly just first party data and saying who in our universe of customers or self-serve users, are ready to kind of go down the path of the customer journey and go from maybe a free user to self-serve paid, from self-serve paid to maybe a team prep plan or enterprise plan that's more sales led. That's kind of where Account-level Activation comes in. Could be contrasted to the account-based marketing techniques of the last five years or so.

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Want to dig deeper into account-level data? Check out this in-depth guide.

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