Some evolutions of marketing seem to take come and go, but one approach that has proven its worth and stuck is account-based marketing (ABM). As highlighted in the fourth annual ABM benchmark study from Demand Gen Report, only 6% of survey respondents said they weren’t doing ABM in any form. With so many marketers experiencing gains from adopting ABM to some extent, isn’t it a good idea to assess its potential for your organization and ensure your ABM efforts are set up for success?
Before we dive into taking ABM to the next level for B2B organizations in 2020, lets revisit the foundational blog we published in 2019 for “Best Practices on Developing an Account-Based Marketing Strategy.” In this blog, we said:
“Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a B2B strategy in which businesses target a clearly defined set of targeted accounts and create personalized campaigns focused on key decision makers within those accounts.”
This post was also seminal in articulating tried-and-true ABM best practices that remain valid in 2020. Here, we provide B2B leaders with additional thoughts and strategies they should be employing in order to elevate their ABM efforts to new levels.
4 Essentials for Top-Tier ABM
Properly Align Sales and Marketing
For Oracle’s Kelvin Gee, there is no “marketing” in “account-based marketing.” While this may seem counterintuitive to the marketing-focused discussion we’re having, one of the biggest components to remember about ABM is that it isn’t possible without buy in and participation from sales. ABM centers around a holistic process – i.e., nurturing the account from start to finish – and the sales team is an integral part of it. ABM is also designed so that there isn’t a single attribution point or person that nurtured the lead to become a customer. With so many points in the buying journey, success here equates to the collective work of both teams and, ultimately, the entire organization.
Achieving sales and marketing alignment as a prerequisite to effective ABM is not easy. Leaders must first ensure that key stakeholders across the two teams are being listened to and that their needs are being addressed. Cohesion also comes by creating a plan that objectively works. This means using the sales and marketing data already at your disposal to actively inform the elements of your ABM plan. This replaces emotion with objectivity. It’s vital to also have system and processes that reliably deliver to both teams the collateral and content they need to tailor and optimize communications for each account.
Take Advantage of B2B Influencers
Success in account-based marketing also requires a clear picture of one’s buyer personas and ideal client (or customer) profiles. This too requires the combined objectivity of sales and marketing data as well as qualitative insights from sales and other key customer-facing stakeholders. Plus, an intimate understanding of one’s audiences also supports understanding the influencers that each audience segment follows and looks to for purchasing and industry advice.
Like ABM, influencer marketing has also steadily risen in popularity. Within 2019, 320 new influencer marketing-focused platforms and agencies came into existence to support it. Influencers act as an extended personal recommendation that carries weight with your audience when they seek recommendations, opinion confirmations, and alternatives. Identify the channels they engage in (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) and strategize how to leverage their reach and power. This could be targeted ads on these channels with needs-focused content or direct communications from your company branded social account.
Establish the Right Key Performance Indicators
When B2B marketing executives were asked what they saw as the top signs of success of ABM, 60% cited net-new accounts engaged, 52% chose number of qualified accounts, 50% pointed to contribution to pipeline revenue and 41% noted account engagement score. From these numbers, it could be construed that executives aren’t as concerned with the quality of account engagement so long as account growth and revenue is occurring. The main point is that executive teams are understandably more bottom-line focused while marketers and sales stakeholders are more “in the thick of it” as they look to deeper indicators that ABM efforts are moving in the right direction.
Ensure that your B2B ABM efforts are getting the necessary support from the C-suite by establishing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound) goals that link to broader business objectives. Communicate these numbers in recurring reports to sustain ABM alignment and buy in and to illuminate opportunities for further improvement.
Forge Stronger Relationships with Customers
Getting closer to your customers is now a key objective of ABM. Many organizations recognize the value of working with targeted and acquired accounts on a much more mutual basis. Rather than relying solely on data-driven conclusion on what these accounts are looking for, sales members are more actively asking and reaching out. Engaging with customers on a sincere, honest level fosters trust and leads to new and expanded business relationships as well as referrals for use with other targeted accounts.
While it may seem obvious, meeting with an account in person can be extremely valuable. For B2B businesses in particular, longer sales cycles, higher transactions values, and more business development complexity means these accounts expect to be courted and shown how invested you are with them beyond just acquiring them as a customer. Sales and marketing should also be coordinating with one another to ensure to review key themes that emerge from these customer touchpoints to further refine and optimize overall efforts.
Creating Your Own ABM Opportunities
If you haven’t explored the potential ABM has for elevating your business, now is a perfect time. And if you’ve established foundational ABM practices and processes in your business, take it to the next level. The ABM strategies shared in this blog are just the tip of the iceberg for what your team can do with account-based marketing.