Account based marketing (ABM) is a high priority for many B2B marketers. Laura Ramos, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, offers her thoughts on the main issues surrounding successful implementation of ABM.
According to research by Forrester, 73% of B2B professionals think the term “ABM” lacks specificity. What do you think contributes to this high number?
RAMOS: There are two main reasons. The first is that account based marketing is more of an approach than a specific process; it’s a strategy that you should align with your business goals. There are different ways to approach ABM, and no single strategy dominates, because there are different business reasons for taking an account centric approach to pursuing business.
Secondly, ABM is a hot technology space. A lot of vendors are talking about ABM, yet none has a majority of capabilities marketers need to execute an account based strategy across the full spectrum of the market. If you are using ABM to pursue net-new or industry-specific accounts, or simply to upsell or cross-sell existing customers, there are many solutions trying to convince you they represent the “right” way to do account based marketing. These lofty claims just add to the confusion.
What technology and skillsets are needed to launch a successful ABM strategy?
RAMOS: Be very clear about what you want to achieve. How will using a more direct and personalized approach help you enter or expand in key, target accounts? How will executing ABM help your business achieve specific goals like “enter a new market” or “enrich business with premier accounts?” You must decide which universe of accounts you want to pursue and why that strategy makes sense.
The other essential building block is customer data management. You need the ability to understand what’s going on with your existing and potential customers. Only then is it possible to make the right decisions about which accounts to pursue, which people inside those accounts you should engage, and how to relate your communications to them in a way that makes them take notice.
How can sales and marketing leaders work together to establish their account universe and connect with all the appropriate stakeholders within those organizations?
RAMOS: This is the hardest part of setting up a winning ABM strategy—and the part many marketing and sales teams gloss over. Whether it’s one or many accounts you’ve decided to pursue, you need a clear map of the right people in those buying committees that you want to engage, what they care about, and what problems they are trying to solve right now.
From there, you should determine how to use the respective strengths and skills of marketing and sales to design and execute an engagement plan. How can marketing reach, create interest, educate and engage the decision-making team in a scalable but personal way? Then, marketing must seamlessly transition the relevant background information to the account team, who can use insights about buyer interests and considerations and create a buying conversation.
Anna Fisher is the senior director of marketing at ZoomInfo. Forrester’s Laura Ramos will discuss ways to develop effective ABM programs at ZoomInfo’s 2017 Growth Acceleration Summit in Boston, Sept. 13-14.