Courage & collaboration: thriving with pursuit-based marketing

Accenture’s Stephanie Winters McConnell, MD, Pursuit & Reputation Marketing Lead, unpacks the key to pursuit-based marketing success and how it fits with account-based marketing.

Alisha Lyndon

by Alisha Lyndon

October 27, 2022

“Maybe this sounds a little bit cliché, but I’m a learner at heart,” Stephanie Winters McConnell says, reflecting on her 25-year career at Accenture.

“I love learning, tackling hard problems, taking on new challenges and a variety of roles. And that variety and learning continues to this day.”

This openness has been central to Stephanie’s rise in pursuit-based marketing. But how did she get there? Her career’s been in two halves. In the first, she worked in consulting in Accenture’s talent and organization design practice — doing organization strategy, model design, communication and change management for clients across the globe.

Then she was offered an opportunity in marketing, which turned out to be a “great match”. This led to the second half of her career — taking a variety of roles across executive communications, pursuit, and account-based marketing (ABM).

Combining consultancy and marketing skills

Stephanie’s shift to marketing happened by chance while she was working on the consultancy firm’s first acquisition.

“It was the right place and right time,” she said. “Given the experience I’d had with our clients, I was asked to lead the communications, training, and integration for the hundreds who were joining Accenture”.

During this time, she worked with many marketing and communications colleagues and was so impressed by them she thought this could make for an interesting career switch. Luckily, a role in the executive communications team became available and she was offered the job.

Stephanie now makes use of the many transferable skills she picked up in her years of consulting. For example, she recognizes the importance of “showing up as a partner” and driving client-centricity and value. Also, after working so much with clients around the world, she understands “our global differences and similarities” — which is vital in communications.

“I have been privileged to have a storied career at Accenture, and it’s been great to bring these two halves together to really help me and, ultimately, our business,” she added.

Pursuit-based vs ABM 

Accenture had always run pockets of pursuit-based marketing across its business. But Stephanie and her team saw an opportunity to bring it together in new ways, for two reasons:

“One is our accounts are innately global, so we needed to find new ways to really serve those accounts. We also wanted a way to bring together individuals that had this craft expertise in pursuit-based marketing, so we could learn from one another, galvanize around consistent processes and consistent tools,” she said.

So, they created a global pursuit-based marketing team led by Stephanie.

But what is pursuit-based marketing exactly? In short, the development of “marketing strategies and creative approaches to help grow sales and win some of our most important deals,” she explains.

And how does it fit with account-based marketing? Well, you could describe ABM as the long-term strategic view, and pursuit-based marketing as the short-term strategic view, working on specific deals.

Stephanie said: “Pursuit-based marketers will come in, work on a deal and then move to the next one when the deal is over. Whereas the account-based marketers will really stay focused on that deal and dig into the depth and breadth of building those relationships over time”.

Despite the differences, close collaboration is key to successful pursuit-based marketing. So much so that when Stephanie’s team is asked to work on a deal, the first thing it does is talk to the ABM lead:

She said: “I seek to get as much information on accounts as possible. What are your core messages? Who are your key stakeholders? Who are we competing against? Are they incumbents? What are these relationships like?”.

So, ABM leads offer the insights on client dynamics, messaging, channel effectiveness, and the competitive landscape. Pursuit-based marketers use those insights to develop a marketing strategy tailored to the deal based on their expertise and knowledge on how deals work.

This partnership truly brings together the best of marketing.

Stephanie said

Effective pursuit-based marketing

Besides close collaboration with ABM leads, Stephanie revealed several things pursuit-based marketers should do to ensure success. The first is to nail messaging.

“The core to every good pursuit is messaging,” Stephanie said.

“Being able to tell the story in a clear and meaningful way, that leaves consulting jargon behind and really helps to articulate what we’re trying to do, is one of the biggest values we can bring”.

She also recommended partnering closely with sales to prioritize deals that need support and getting involved in deals early to be “true strategic and creative partners” across the full sales cycle.

Lastly, she highlighted the importance of working in a global team that has a “follow the sun” mentality where you “use time zones to your advantage”.

“While our marketers are focused primarily on the market in which they work, we very much work as a collaborative team. So, when I go to bed, I can hand something to someone in another part of the world. They work on it overnight. When I get up, things are done,” she said.

Such a set-up allows Stephanie’s team to work seamlessly around the world.

Strategy and courage

Looking to start or improve a pursuit-based marketing program? Stephanie would advise you to “start with the business strategy” and truly understand what your business needs to achieve.

If you create your marketing team on an island or on the side, and don’t have that connection with the business, you’re not going to be successful.

Stephanie Winters McConnell

It’s also vital to have the “courage” to measure the program’s performance and change things when they aren’t working. When you mix bravery and introspection with a healthy dose of talent and collaboration, you have a winning recipe.

To listen to the full conversation with Stephanie Winters McConnell and find more ABM Podcast episodes featuring leaders from IBM, Fujitsu, Google, and more, click here.

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