- Account-based marketing (ABM) is a B2B growth strategy that emphasizes targeting high-quality accounts by creating audience segments and maintaining an account-based funnel.
- Successful implementation of ABM requires that your marketing and sales teams are coordinated and that both teams approach ABM together.
- There are four accessible steps that companies can take to switch from traditional leads-based marketing to an ABM.
- These steps include: understanding the importance of high-value accounts, aligning marketing and sales teams, measuring and tracking what’s important, and investing in the right tools.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a B2B growth strategy that emphasizes targeting high-quality accounts over generating large quantities of leads.
While an ABM approach may include both leads-based and accounts-based funnels, the emphasis with ABM is not on maintaining a high volume of leads, but on focusing your resources on fewer, more qualified, and higher-value prospects.
Companies that are successful at implementing ABM tend to dispense with measuring leads altogether.
Instead, they focus on aligning their sales and marketing teams to attract and engage accounts that are the absolute best fit for the company’s products and services based on existing customer profiles.
Successful implementation of ABM requires that marketing and sales teams approach the strategy together.
Organizations that successfully implement an ABM strategy are 6% more likely to exceed revenue goals than those who take a less strategic approach. Even so, according to a 2019 eMarketer study, most B2B companies don’t have a mature ABM program in place.
While moving from a traditional leads-focused marketing approach to ABM requires a fundamental shift in how you approach marketing, the move doesn’t need to be drastic or jarring.
There are several steps you can take to gradually move from exploring ABM to testing it to expanding and, finally, embedding it into your corporate culture.
Step #1: Understand the importance of high-value accounts
A recent survey by research-based marketing firm Ascend2, emphasizes the importance of identifying high-value accounts when implementing an ABM strategy.
Measuring the right metrics is key to unearthing your high-value accounts because it’s these accounts that become the foundation for your ABM strategy.
Ascend2 found that the most vital data to acquire and track on your existing accounts was customer lifetime value, financial information, engagement history, and current or planned projects and initiatives.
Sales enablement tools like CRMs (e.g., HubSpot, Salesforce, Pipedrive, etc.) can help you with the process of identifying your high-value accounts.
Merging data from these tools with transactional data such as orders, invoices, delivery notices, and payments is necessary to close the prospect-to-customer data loop.
This can be done effectively with a tool like a customer data platform (CDP) that creates persistent, unified records of your existing customers using first party transactional, behavioral, and other data and creating individual customer profiles from that data.
Some ABM platforms, like Engagio, have the dual functionality of being both CRM and CDP software, enabling marketing and sales teams to share one view of their organization’s accounts.
Step #2: Align sales and marketing
Ascend2’s recent survey revealed that one of the biggest challenges to ABM success was marketing and sales alignment, second only to lack of budget/resources (32% versus 37%).
For an ABM approach to work, your sales and marketing teams need to communicate. Both teams need to be involved in new account acquisition from beginning to end.
That means that sales must weigh in on ad creative and planning, while marketing teams must have a deep understanding of high-value deals and customers. The goal here is to close the loop from prospect to customer so that both teams understand what a high-value account looks like.
Another way to keep sales and marketing teams communicating is to schedule regular weekly, monthly, or quarterly meetings to review marketing plans, campaign results, and help establish personas for high-value accounts.
Putting someone in charge of your ABM program (e.g., a “champion”) such as your CMO or CRO is a great way to facilitate this communication.
Step #3: Track what’s important, discard what isn’t
We’ve already touched on the importance of tracking customer lifetime value, financial information, and engagement history for existing accounts to help identify the types of accounts to target.
These metrics are valuable for ABM because they help identify the accounts that can be tied directly to business growth.
Traditional metrics like total leads, conversion rate, and clickthrough rate are less important when it comes to ABM. They’re vanity metrics that can keep marketing teams focused on the wrong priorities while bogging sales teams down with too many unqualified leads.
It’s equally important to identify, track, and measure key metrics associated with the success of your ABM program.
Ascend2’s survey revealed that the top ABM metrics to measure for program success were target account revenue generated, target account engagement, and marketing qualified leads (MQLs.) The following chart lists all success metrics noted by survey respondents:
While it is helpful to understand how various channels perform, particularly when it comes to paid media, it’s more important to understand what channels your high-value accounts prefer than what clicks convert to leads.
The Ascend2 study revealed that social media was the most effective channel connected with an ABM approach, with 50% of respondents listing it, followed by Email (45%), content/resources (42%), and website personalization (33%).
This makes sense. Gartner’s map of the B2B buying journey shows that buyers navigate a maze of digital and offline resources when moving through the buying process from problem identification to supplier selection.
The circuitous route that buyers take may start with a web search, incorporate things like whitepaper downloads and social media discussions, then culminate with live demos and end-user input.
However, buyers don’t tend to take a straight line from point A (problem identification) to point D (supplier selection) as demonstrated in Gartner’s illustrative map of the B2B buyer journey:
Step #4: Invest in the right resources
The final step in adopting an effective ABM strategy is to invest in the right tools and resources. This encompasses more than just investing in the tools like CDPs, CRMs and ABM platforms. Resource allocation also means enabling your sales and marketing teams to spend time your ABM efforts.
Ascend2’s survey found that 54% of marketers focused most of their ABM efforts on finding and attracting new contacts, while 27% worked on engaging and converting existing contacts, and 19% spent time nurturing and cross-marketing to existing accounts.
All three of these scenarios require that companies initiate the first three steps outlined above:
- Understand (and identify) high-value accounts so you can create audience profiles that match these accounts and/or focus on upselling/cross selling to them.
- Align your sales and marketing teams so that resources are focused on only the most viable and promising new or existing accounts.
- Track what’s important and discard what isn’t. This will ensure that you’re measuring only those metrics that directly contribute to growth.
A shift to an ABM approach requires everyone’s buy in, particularly when it comes to measuring success.
Breaking it down into several steps, can help you gradually adopt an ABM strategy, and ensure that both marketing and sales teams work together to achieve the ultimate goals of generating revenue and achieving growth.
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