Account-based Marketing (ABM) has quickly become the hottest trend in B2B marketing. According to SiriusDecisions, 92% of companies recognize the value in ABM, calling it a B2B marketing must-have.
ABM isn’t an entirely new idea: Sales teams have always concentrated on target accounts. The difference today is the degree of marketing focus. Whereas marketing has historically cast a wide net and tried to engage anyone who will listen, ABM brings a much tighter focus and a more rigorous approach to engaging target accounts and providing “air cover” to heat them up for sales and generate a steady flow of Account Qualified Leads (“AQLs”). In addition, B2B marketers now have more data at their disposal than ever before on account-based targeting, buyer intent, engagement and conversion, which brings new opportunities to put a laser focus on ABM.
Despite the popularity of ABM, many marketers still struggle to understand what tactics and technologies need to work together in order to implement ABM and how to scale their ABM strategy. And because ABM is relatively new on the B2B marketing scene, there isn’t a definitive body of ABM best practices that marketers can emulate or a clear path to ABM success. To help, we’ve put together a short list of 4 ABM “Must-Haves” that draw on our experiences implementing ABM internally and with our clients.
We’ve packaged together some resources to put you on the right path to ABM success.
1. Sales & Marketing Alignment – The Closer the Better!
When it comes to the promise of ABM, a more efficient and focused approach to B2B marketing and sales tops the list. So it stands to reason that ABM requires crazy close alignment between sales and marketing.
With a relatively small segment of individuals within target accounts, you have to coordinate your sales and marketing efforts carefully to avoid subjecting your audience to too many touches. Marketing automation platforms provide a powerful tool to blast out emails to target accounts, but with great power comes great responsibility. You need to find the right balance: too few touches and you won’t create the volume of engagement needed to influence the various buyers within a target account; too many and you’ll likely start to tick them off!
If you don’t orchestrate the flow of marketing emails and sales follow ups by email and phone, you run the risk of giving your prospects a bad case of “messaging fatigue.” And it’s unlikely that your audience will see the distinction between emails they receive from marketing and the prospecting emails they receive from your biz dev team. To them, those emails are all coming from the same place – and chances are they won’t endear you to your busy prospects!
Some of this alignment can be addressed through technology integration or by investing in new technology innovations like Engagio PlayMaker, which allows your sales and marketing teams to run coordinated plays that span both your MAP and CRM solutions. That said, it never hurts to send out a good old-fashioned, low-tech email to your biz dev and sales teams telling them what touches you have scheduled and the key messages you’re sending out, so they can coordinate and tailor their follow-ups accordingly.
It’s about passing valuable sales-readiness and engagement intel regarding target accounts to Sales and aligning your Sales and Marketing around a common set of sales-readiness metrics in order to track the intensity of engagement within accounts and identify prospects that are showing real buying intent.
2. Account-level Personalization
ABM offers marketers the opportunity to hone in on a target account’s unique challenges and pains with laser-guided precision. But after spending considerable time and effort creating a beautiful target account list, you’d be surprised how many marketers continue to send messages that are personalized at only the most superficial level or sometimes not at all.
If you’ve gone to the work of identifying a list of named accounts and implementing ABM, but you’re still saying basically the same thing to everyone, you still have a way to go. For many marketing and sales organizations, it comes down to the simple fact that they lack the resources to personalize their content and tailor their marketing messages at the scale that ABM requires.
Think about the value you’re delivering. It might seem obvious, but if your target account is a financial services organization, they might not find a lot of value in that new manufacturing case study of yours. You need to make sure that your messages and content offers are tailored and relevant. People have a name for irrelevant content that shows up uninvited in their inboxes: It’s called SPAM. If you don’t tailor your touches, you run the risk of alienating your target audience and losing the privilege of their consent to continue marketing to them. Remember, the “unsubscribe” checkbox is only a hyperlink away.
3. ABM at Scale
With all this hyper-personalization, the biggest challenge that exists in the ABM world is scale: How do you create enough highly personalized micro campaigns to properly go after your list of target accounts? How do you use the first-party data you already have about your target accounts and combine that with third-party data sources to identify accounts and personalize intelligent content experiences that nurture and convert? How do you properly track the intensity of your prospects’ engagement with your content across those target accounts and the purchasing teams within them (which are only getting larger as corporate decision making becomes more and more democratized) so that you can accurately identify your most sales-ready buyers to pass on to sales?
While most B2B marketers are no strangers to being asked to do more with less, ABM can add significant overhead to any marketing team. You shouldn’t underestimate the impact of having to create complicated microsites and landing pages, and the tons of time-consuming custom web development these normally require.
Fortunately, marketing technology vendors are beginning to address this need for scale by introducing new solutions that automate various key aspects of ABM. The newly-formed ABM Leadership Alliance, comprised of ABM-focused tech and data vendor including Bizible, Demandbase, Get Smart Content, LookBookHQ, Optimizely, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Radius and others, is a step in the right direction. The alliance aims to provide guidance and best practices for developing and deploying a successful, scalable ABM strategy. You can learn more in this recent article: Making ABM Work at Scale.
4. Measuring Engagement & Sales-Readiness across Accounts
At the end of the day, how do you measure the success of ABM? Clicks, form fills, conversions, and downloads have traditionally been the metrics that marketers pay attention to, but they only tell part of the story. There are two missing pieces that need to be called out. First, you have to be taking a deeper look at how your content is being engaged with – clicks and downloads are not enough. Engagement time, content bingeing behavior, content types, etc. all need to be taken into consideration in order to fully comprehend what your prospects’ behavior is telling you about whether or not they are ready to buy.
Secondly, you need to apply your findings at an account-level versus an individual level – monitoring the intensity of an account’s engagement with your content. This will allow you to drive your lead scoring, campaign automation and lead qualification from the account level, alert sales or trigger additional campaigns. If you think of engagement as a unit of currency across a key account, you need to be able to spot where there is critical mass of attention directed toward your content by multiple individuals because this is a key indicator of sales-readiness. Put another way, when it comes to account-level engagement, and generating more AQLs faster for sales, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Register for the Webinar: Building an ABM Tech Stack
On Tuesday, May 17 at 10 am PDT/1 pm EDT, Scott Brinker, Editor of chiefmartec.com, and the ABM Leadership Alliance join forces to answer all of your questions about using technology to scale your ABM strategy. Scott will host an interactive Q&A panel with B2B marketing experts (including yours truly) to answer questions such as: What are the must-have technologies for my marketing stack? How do I leverage our current technologies? And what type of marketing data is necessary to drive my ABM strategy?
To register for the ABM “Ask the Experts” webinar, click here.
Nick Edouard is co-founder, president and CMO of LookBookHQ, the only content marketing automation platform for B2B marketers. The LookBookHQ platform makes it easy for marketers to create highly customized, scalable micro campaigns for ABM and track engagement across target accounts to identify those accounts that are most sales-ready.