Are you a B2B marketing professional looking to set up, or improve, your Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy? Perhaps you have a program up and running or are looking to implement one soon.
If you’re feeling the urgency behind ABM, it’s for good reason. This is a growth strategy that has been proven to deliver the highest ROI of any B2B marketing strategy or tactic (according to the ITSMA, who has been advocating for this approach for many years.)
You’re also not alone. In a recent study by SiriusDecisions, 93% of respondents stated that ABM is very or extremely important.
The benefits of ABM are numerous:
- Greater focus – ABM allows your Sales and Marketing teams to focus time, budget, and efforts on those accounts that are most likely to drive revenue for you. Think of it as a “zero waste” strategy.
- Larger deals – Deals generated through ABM tend to be larger, with better buy-in and executive support.
- Increased close rates – Companies report higher close rates with those accounts engaged through ABM.
- Faster deals – Because the right individuals within the right accounts are targeted, ABM deals tend to get stuck less, and move quicker.
- Integration – ABM by nature integrates your sales and marketing teams who now work together against the same account criteria list.
I believe B2B organizations with large and complex sales have a great deal to be gained by implementing an account-based approach. Some say this is always the way B2B was meant to be. I tend to agree.
Wherever you are in your journey, here are the most important fundamentals that can dictate success for your ABM programs:
1. ABM is strategic. Some mistakenly approach ABM as a tactic, failing to invest appropriately in resourcing, executive buy-in or change management to bring it to life. This should be a highly strategic growth initiative that combines people, processes, and technology.
What’s important is to realize that simply buying ABM technology is, itself, not enough to see results. Like any other core marketing technology, how you shift the behaviors of your team will truly make all the difference.
2. Leave lead-centric practices behind. While ABM can run simultaneously to traditional demand generation within a pilot program, it truly is a new mindset to adopt.
The lead-based marketing automation and lead management approaches popularized throughout the 2010’s have been a kind of “normal” for the B2B industry. In this approach:
– Deals are comprised of individual leads
– Deals are high-velocity, taking hours, days or weeks
– Deal sizes are low, and there’s a lot of them
But, for those organizations with large and complex deals, traditional lead-based demand gen is often not appropriate. This is where ABM is appropriate, as it involves:
– Many stakeholders
– Months-to-years time to close
– Low quantity, highly-defined universe of target accounts
– Large deal size
3. Marketing has a different role to play in ABM. Because ABM requires different motions than lead-based marketing, the resourcing and responsibilities for a marketing team deploying ABM will look different. For example, the way your team may spend their time will include working with Sales to define accounts, and their goals and plans. They may also be responsible for gathering account intelligence and building engagement strategies, from content to live events.
In ABM, Marketing is a true partner with Sales, targeting the same list of high-value accounts, and working together to engage those accounts over the lifecycle of the account’s journey – from awareness to engagement to close, then after the deal to renewal and expansion.
4. Multi-channel is the best ABM approach. On that note about channels, the explosion of digital marketing has introduced more ways to engage individuals within our target accounts than ever. But, for an ABM program to be successful, we have to leverage them in a more focused way.
Here’s how B2B teams use all channels in ABM:
– Email marketing looks different with ABM. Sales owns more early-stage email outreach with highly personalized, tailored, and targeted notes.
– Direct mail is used to send custom, bespoke assets appropriate for a small amount of specific accounts.
– Field events are more targeted as well, used to nurture relationships with key accounts in cities they are more concentrated in. These can be VIP experiences, lunch and learns, breakfast roundtables, or panels.
– Digital ads are used to serve content to specific accounts by IP addresses, or a list of contacts.
5. ABM requires leading with insight. Corporate Visions found that 74% of buyers chose the sales rep that was FIRST to provide value and insight. This aligns with research from Edelman and LinkedIn that reveals thought leadership enhances B2B decision-makers trust in a vendor (88%), their perception of a vendor’s capabilities (88%), their respect of that organization (90%) and even convinces 61% to pay a premium because it demonstrates deep thinking and other virtues important to them.
Because ABM is inherently outbound (whereas traditional lead generation let us publish content and attract leads in an inbound model) the quality of our outreach is held to a much higher standard.
Unfortunately, only 15% of decision-makers say the thought leadership they read is very good or excellent. This presents an enormous opportunity for B2B marketing leaders to improve, and for those with strong thought leadership programs in place today to differentiate and thrive.
It can feel like ABM is only the B2B marketing industry’s hottest new buzzword. But, I think of it as a far more critical industry transition. ABM gives our department a way to serve our businesses in more strategic, impactful ways.
To quote Jon Miller, CEO of Engagio and former co-founder of Marketo:
“While marketing has historically been regarded as an expense, it’s really a long-term capital investment strategy that delivers returns over the long term.”
If marketing is a long-term capital investment strategy, at B2B firms, ABM is the path to delivering on that promise.
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