More companies are considering an account based marketing (ABM) approach, and for good reason. A 2019 survey by Digital Kungfu revealed that 47 percent of information communication technology companies have been successfully using ABM for at least a year. Further, 85 percent of marketers reported a higher return on investment with this approach over other marketing initiatives.
When ABM is driven by strong data, and it absolutely should be, the rewards can be huge. According to the “2018 ABM Benchmark Study” by ITSMA and the ABM Leadership Alliance, 45 percent of business leaders are seeing double the return on ABM compared to other efforts. However, it requires testing, learning and pivoting your approach. That steady stream of leads coming from demand gen efforts can keep business moving along while you hone your ABM approach.
To be successful with ABM, you have to practice patience. It’s about quality, not quantity. Your success will depend on a strong strategy. Here are six things to think about:
1. Become a data clean freak.
Targeting a smaller audience — putting more eggs in one basket, so to speak — means selecting accounts based on accurate data. According to an online survey by Forrester, 92 percent of respondents say better data and research are the secret to big wins in ABM.
You can’t expect to find customers with a promising lifetime value and an ideal customer profile without accurate data. Plus, putting in the time to research and evaluate data with a fine-tooth comb will also improve your demand gen campaigns. Suddenly, all of your outbound marketing will have the potential to be more personalized.
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2. Find the common threads.
Review your largest accounts and existing relationships to determine common characteristics. Then, use this information to outline your key account list. Consider using profiling and modeling tools to track down other prospects that are similar to your best customers. This could include a common set of characteristics like size, location and funding availability.
Once you examine account history for hints on hot button issues, information needs and winning customer service strategies, you can better segment your audience for account-based and demand-generation efforts. You can align your messages and offers so they speak loudly and clearly as you try to reach new customers.
3. Get marketing and sales on the same page.
Traditional demand gen marketing is more like a relay race. The marketing team initiates campaigns to generate leads that are then handed off to sales for conversion. But with ABM, the relationship between marketing and sales is more like a choreographed dance.
For the plan to be successful, both teams must be in sync. The strategy is agreed upon beforehand, messaging is ongoing and focused, content and offers are account-specific, and follow-up is immediate. The information that’s gathered from interactions with clients is given back to marketing to inform the next campaign, and the results from each campaign are given back to sales to help determine the best contacts.
If it all pans out, your sales and marketing teams will learn how to bob and weave together effectively. It should improve your campaign performance overall.
4. Don’t forget to set expectations.
Because marketing and sales work in tandem when using an account-based approach, it’s even more important that all departments participate in lead definition, goal-setting, and process flow. Think about your key performance indicators as a team. It seems fundamental, but this is a critical piece of the strategy that’s often overlooked.
Know how many accounts you’re targeting, what dollar spend you need to convert, and what you think your conversion rate might be so you can back into a plan. It will be tough at first. It can take time for companies to determine what success looks like for ABM. Traditional metrics, like the number of leads generated, for example, aren’t as important. KPIs change, and it’s hard to know upfront how many opportunities will be generated or how much pipeline is needed to fill the funnel.
Still, revenue goals are revenue goals. Put something on paper to set expectations. It’s okay if you have to change as you go; just keep benchmarking and goal-setting as you start to learn what works and what doesn’t.
5. Use your intel to create personalized experiences.
Because ABM pares your audience significantly, your content and message must be customized to the account you’re targeting. The highly personalized user experience is what makes account-based marketing effective, but it can benefit your demand gen efforts as well.
This is all about understanding your accounts. Firmographic and demographic data can provide insights. You need to know what clients are selling, who is buying, and what their sales cycles are. You should also know what their business goals are and how your offer supports them personally. The cold, hard intel can help you create an offer that’s so tailored to the prospect that it’s hard to pass up.
6. Don’t wait until the end to evaluate results.
Most studies show that within a year, you’ll realize an incremental increase in your return on investment in ABM, but don’t wait until the year is up to measure successes and failures. Constantly evaluate which accounts are engaging and which aren’t. If you’re not getting a response from one account, move on and choose a new focus. Just like your demand-generation campaigns, optimize, iterate, learn, change and say goodbye to non-responders.
Account-based marketing isn’t a complicated concept, but it does represent a shift in thinking. The synchronization of sales and marketing, the planning, and the dedicated resources needed to create a highly customized user experience require thought and investment. But the rewards are worth the effort, and you can always tap into demand gen efforts when you need them. Combining strategies gives you more tools to work with.