In 2015 more than 90% of B2B marketers surveyed reported Account Based Marketing (ABM) as a must have. A 2017 study by ITSMA revealed that 69% of B2B marketers had already seen ABM programs drive value. It’s now more than halfway through 2018, and it’s time to evaluate the state of your ABM strategy. And don’t worry, if you haven’t gotten started, or your first attempts were less than you hoped, you’re not alone. Complex concepts have a lot of potential, but that doesn’t make them easy to execute.
What does ABM require?
Deep analysis of accounts to identify targets with a high propensity to purchase.
Multi-person nurture strategies. Account Based Marketing does not ignore individuals, but rather it engages with specific contacts in the context of the organization they serve. Programs should include targeted offers intended for individuals, with consideration to the role they play within the account’s buying committee.
The content used in an ABM program must be relevant to the organizations you are targeting. Effective ABM programs don’t take a one-message-fits-all approach, sending the same message to all target accounts. They use the information you’ve collected about your account list to segment offers and content appropriately.
Focus on the long game. ABM is ideal for complex, long-term deals that require multiple stakeholders. For that reason, it takes time before you will see results. ABM, isn’t about acquiring or engaging with a single “lead” but rather about overall account penetration.
Is an ABM program right for your business?
If ABM sounds like a lot of work, it is. Because the level of effort required to execute an effective ABM is high, let’s start by making sure the strategy is a good fit for your team.
These five questions will help you assess whether ABM is right for your business, and your buyers.
- Decision by committee: Is more than one person involved in purchasing your product or service? Are they spread across different functional areas? The more complex the decision process, the more value an account-based approach can provide.
- Is a business or personal pain going to trigger a purchase of your offering? Not all business purchases are complex. If organizational triggers are your primary driver, an account-based approach will be most effective. If an individual’s pain will lead to an impulse purchase, an account-based program will be inefficient.
- Is your value proposition easy to explain to more than the primary user of your product or service? Have you found a way to articulate your value proposition to stakeholders across the organization? If not, you are not prepared to address the broader audience within your target accounts. Don’t set yourself up for failure, but rather invest resources in understanding your targets better, then consider rolling out an ABM program.
- Is your organization willing to change the core role of a “lead” and how you respond to it? ABM programs require a new way of scoring leads and assigning sales actions, one that is dependent on an account’s activity as a collective unit. If your extended team is not willing to measure marketing success in new ways, your ABM efforts will suffer.
- What’s the length of the buying process? ABM programs are well matched to complex buying processes where building relationships over time are important. If your sales cycle is measured in terms of days, a full ABM program may be more than you need. If, on the other hand, your average sales cycle takes weeks or months, building a system to measure and drive account activity over time is well worth the effort.
As you can see there is a lot to consider before jumping in to ABM. You will want to account for the purchasing process, triggers, your value proposition and your organization’s propensity for change.
How to get started with ABM strategy
Once you’ve decided ABM is right for your business it’s often best to start your journey with a pilot program. While you can jump right into a full ABM roll-out, the risks are higher.
A well-structured pilot should:
- Measure the impact account based marketing has on opportunities to validate if a full program rollout is justified
- Identify the triggers that most impact opportunity progression
- Document system & skill gaps that will limit scaling the program beyond pilot accounts
To be most effective you will want to run your pilot program through at least 2 full sales cycles — preferably 3. This means if your average sales process is 90 days, run your program for 3 quarters. This allows you to fully test the impact of programs.
Whether you decide to start with a pilot program, or jump all in on ABM you’ll want to follow these critical steps.
Define business goals
Identify ABM-related business KPIs that will be shared by the sales and marketing team. This will include revenue and pipeline metrics, but may also include strategic goals such as segment penetration, awareness within your targeted accounts (measured by email opt-ins, open rates and inbound inquiries) and the number of references secured that match your ideal customer profile.
Align the team around a list of target accounts that are most likely to deliver against agreed-upon KPIs. This selection and scoring process needs to go beyond simple segmentation like company size and industry. You need to consider intelligence you have on accounts — or add intelligence from third-party vendors. Consider what competitors they have and what is happening in the context of their business that makes them a good candidate for your offering.
Assess and refine key contact database
Identify all members of the buying committee who trigger, champion and influence the purchase process at each of your target accounts. Once you have identified all the contact roles you want to pursue, it’s likely you will have significant gaps in your database in both record completeness and coverage across all key roles.
Align content strategy and editorial calendar
Ensure you have appropriate messaging prepared for each member of the buying committee. You’ll want to leverage existing content, but seek opportunities to augment these assets with account-specific messages.
Develop a steady cadence of sales and marketing interactions targeting all relevant buyers within targeted accounts. These interactions can be activated based on agreed-upon triggers that will prompt both sales and marketing actions.
Whew! I know that was a lot to take in. Know you are not alone. Feel free to reach out with questions any time.
And, as a quick reference we've created an infographic for you. Please feel free to share the PDF if you find it helpful.
[Webinar] Jump-start Your Account Based Marketing Program Success
Like watching videos? We've got you covered. We invited Samantha Stone, founder of Marketing Advisory Network, and author of Unleash Possible to be our special guest instructor for our Crawford Group's Marketing Learning Series. In this webinar she discusses what is account based marketing, if an ABM program is right for your business, and the critical steps it takes to launch a high-impact ABM strategy.
Need help with your ABM program?
At Crawford Group, we love partnering with our clients to help jump-start their ABM programs. Our expertise in events, marketing, and communications helps us understand your needs and source the best people. Whether you need a marketing consultant, a project team, or a fully outsourced managed service, we can get you the marketing talent you need to drive results. Contact us today to get started.