picture of the abm playbook

How Merit America Found Their Audience and Laser-Focused Messaging

In marketing and sales, finding the right tools to connect with your ideal audience can be a game-changer. For Merit America, a non-profit that provides a pathway to well-paying tech careers for adults stuck in low-wage roles, the challenge was to broaden their reach to their target audience through the use of an account-based marketing approach. 

They found success by leveraging Propensity's platform to increase their outreach performance and optimize their pipeline of qualified leads in just 30 days. In this case study, we'll explore how Merit America’s ABM campaigns achieved exceptional results within such a short timeline.

The Customer: Merit America

Merit America is on a mission to generate $1 billion of wage gains by 2025  by connecting adults stuck in low-wage work to in-demand career paths at scale. Their approach comprises three key components. First, they start by analyzing tens of millions of job postings to identify in-demand, high-paying tech careers. Then, they prepare learners for these roles with part-time programs that combine flexible online learning with best-in-class coaching. Finally, Merit America works with a broad constellation of local and national employers to place learners into higher-earning, family-sustaining jobs, resulting in an average annual wage gain of $24,000 for learners three months or more after completing the program.

The Challenge

Merit America's near-term goal is to directly serve 10,000 learners annually. As part of this next phase of growth, Merit America needed to adopt a fresh approach to cultivate marketing-qualified leads and attract partners interested in skills-based hiring or upskilling.

The goals for ABM were clear:

  • Build audiences aligned with an ideal customer profile
  • Find the right contacts within those accounts
  • Create a flow of qualified marketing leads that sales could engage with
  • Build a pipeline of new leads at a regular cadence (30 days)

Like many organizations striving for efficiency and sustainability, they sought a solution that was best-in-class and manageable by a modest-sized team initially, with the flexibility to scale in tandem with their team's growth.

Improving ABM Results With Every Campaign

“I loved Propensity because it seemed tailor-made for small teams— those in need of a centralized, user-friendly solution that's easy to understand.”

Within a two-month period, Merit America launched two ABM campaigns that focused on targeting their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), building buyer personas, and refining their Target Account List (TAL). They leveraged Propensity's Playbooks and further customized the Industry-Specific Playbook to align with their specific needs and goals.

Merit America used KPIs to measure the success of campaigns, including:

  • Funnel velocity (from touchpoint to conversion)
  • Email engagement (open and CTR)
  • Display ad engagement (CTR, impressions, conversion rates)
  • LinkedIn ad engagement (CTR, impressions, engagement rates)
  • Web traffic (bounce rates and number of pages visited per session)
  • Lead scores (demographics, engagement, ICP)

"The results from the first campaign were nothing short of impressive: we launched two campaigns, and by our first campaign, our team was blown away. We had a 97% increase in traffic to our website. We received 119 hot leads across 33 accounts.”

By the next campaign,  they not only built upon their initial success but also refined their approach. Merit America studied earlier results and shifted focus to director, senior, and manager-level targets. They removed sub-groups, like Employee Development and Operations after noting 80% of hot leads came from the Recruiting sub-group. They even tested two different buying circles with more industry-specific copy.

By adding LinkedIn ads into the mix and making their campaigns omnichannel, the company elevated its strategy, resulting in a surge of hot leads during their second campaign:

“For our second campaign, which was a refinement of the findings from the first one, we went from 119 to 430 qualified leads.”

They were also able to decrease cold-to-hot conversion times and witnessed a significant uptick in website visits from in-market accounts. But how were they able to iterate on success in such a short amount of time? Simply put: by leveraging insights directly from Propensity experts. 

Propensity Customer Success Team: A Secret Weapon in Merit America's Early Success

“My onboarding success manager felt like a true teammate, providing valuable insights into my display ads, best practices, and email strategies - including how to analyze and optimize them.”

The onboarding process played a pivotal role in Merit America's early success. Propensity's team provided valuable guidance, and a Propensity Customer Success Manager (CSM) acted as an extension of the Merit America team. 

Having a dedicated CSM significantly streamlined our grasp of the ABM process and enabled us to discover ways to iterate on findings. This, in turn, played a pivotal role in elevating success rates, a transformation that became particularly pronounced after the initial two ABM campaigns by Merit America.

The Results: Unrivaled KPIs

Merit America's ABM journey with Propensity exceeded its original expectations. They observed a significant increase in in-market account visits, noticing more active leads in just one iteration of their first ABM campaign, and highlighting the effectiveness of ABM for small B2B sales teams. Here’s what worked for them:

  • Tweaking Funnel Velocity. Thanks to the combination of an omnichannel approach with programmatic display ads, email engagement, and the introduction of LinkedIn ads, the average cold-to-hot lead transition was reduced from 15 days to 6, from the first campaign to the next.
  • Streamlined Campaign Building. Leveraging Propensity Playbooks, Merit America streamlined the creation process to accelerate campaign development, resulting in a 50% increase in qualified leads across consecutive campaigns
  • Closer Collaboration Across Teams. Merit America started integrating teams across ABM, marketing, and sales to align its strategy around a shared list of accounts. 

ABM: Growing More Confidence After Every Campaign

“We’re doubling the outputs for next year. And whereas now we’re bringing in 400-500 leads per campaign, we want to go up to 1000 leads per campaign or per 30-day period, which means running multiple campaigns concurrently.”

With each new campaign, Merit America harnesses lessons learned to fine-tune its messaging and squeeze more value out of every dollar spent. The journey continues as they plan to scale their efforts with more campaigns

Merit America's ABM success story serves as a testament to the power of Propensity for small teams. With the right tools and a clear strategy, any organization can find and engage its ideal audience effectively—without needing big teams or even bigger budgets. The best part: teams like Merit America (and yours!) can begin to clock results and iterate on findings in weeks —not months or years—to get you to your goals faster than you thought possible.