October 15, 2020
Account Based Marketing: An ABM 101 Crash Course
What if you could focus your time selling directly to the companies and people who have the highest value to your business? Get right to the most important opportunities that trickle their way through traditional marketing and sales funnels? What kind of impact would that have on your business? Aligning your sales and marketing teams around a business strategy called account based marketing can make that kind of laser-focused buying experience happen. Wondering how? We’ll share with you what you need to decide if account based marketing is right for you and how to plan, build and launch a program in your organization.
Our friends at HubSpot define account based marketing as: a focused growth strategy in which Marketing and Sales collaborate to create personalized buying experiences for a mutually-identified set of high-value accounts.
Sangram Vajre and Eric Spett, the authors of ABM is B2B, expand the definition of ABM a bit. “Account-based marketing is an end-to-end go-to-market strategy design to focus a majority of marketing, sales, and successful effort on the pre-and post-sales accounts with the highest likelihood of closing, through data-driven targeting and personalization programs at scale.
Put simply what both are saying: Account based marketing flips the funnel with a more targeted approach to sales and marketing.
Watch our webinar on Getting to Know ABM. Presented to a group of Minneapolis Marketers.
The simplest reason to consider piloting an ABM program is the potential impact on revenue. Research from the ABM alliance finds that companies that have implemented account based strategies have seen a lift in average contract value of 171%.
Don’t trust data from a firm with ABM in the name? I hear that. Forrester found that sales and marketing teams taking an ABM approach can be up to 6% more likely to exceed revenue goals.
While ABM allows for a more targeted approach, which can bring with it the benefits we mentioned above, achieving those results can come with certain challenges. Knowing what those challenges are and getting ahead of them can make your ABM efforts that much more successful. So, what can you expect to face when it comes to obstacles in the account based marketing department?
CMSWire identified four global challenges all marketers face when it comes to ABM:
Sales and Marketing Alignment
Sales and marketing alignment as a challenge? Can I get an amen? We hear that.
Getting everyone on the same page of what we’re measuring, what the definitions of those measurements are and which accounts and roles are our targets and best fits can be a herculean effort. But it’s critical to any kind of marketing success and specifically for account based marketing, if there isn’t alignment – ABM will fail. Why is it so hard? Because historically sales and marketing have been siloed. The teams don’t talk to each other. Start breaking down those walls.
I get it, there’s a never-ending sea of options for building your marketing and sales tech stack. But technology isn’t a strategy and too often ABM tools are selected without a plan or the bandwidth to realize their full value. Make sure the technology you’re selecting fits your objectives.
Data can make or break any marketing initiative. When it comes to your ABM efforts it’s critical that you have the right information, target your ideal customers and bring them through their personalized journey, while getting the additional information your sales team needs to make a meaningful connection at the end. This gets back to number one: Get everyone on the same page about what you need at the beginning of the program and what expectations there are as you take buyers through their journey.
Not all ABM definitions are created equal. Jenn Steele in the Global Challenge article from CMS puts it best “By adopting an account-centric mindset and dedicating resources to closing those deals, you’re doing the ABM that works for you.” Just get everyone on the same page with what you’re trying to do.
Don’t let the section title fool you when it comes to inbound marketing and account based marketing, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. In fact, AMB and inbound strategies are complementary to each other in many ways. To start, here are a few ways they differ.
Targeting: Persona vs Account
Both inbound and account based marketing are extremely targeted methods. They both get to the nitty-gritty.
However, ABM takes it to the next level. Inbound begins with your persona. While your persona is created via research, interviews, industry knowledge, and experience, it is inherently fictional. It doesn’t necessarily go beyond much further than finding lookalike audiences. Inbound’s goal is to attract those personas, engage them, and move them through the funnel to close a sale.
ABM, on the other hand, begins with persona. That’s where it all starts. The persona ideals are then morphed into real accounts- actual connections. It’s not just “Jane is an executive at a medium-sized SaaS company.” AMB is “Jane Lastname is CEO of Saas XYZ, Inc.” Strategies then commence to talk to Jane Lastname specifically. You actually reach out to make the connection with her directly, where inbound would wait for Jane to come to you.
In an ideal world, inbound marketing is a collaborative and iterative process between sales and marketing. The term smarketing was coined within the inbound methodology to explain this dynamic. Sales offers persona insights and info on what would be helpful for their sales process to Marketing. Marketing then creates those assets, pulls levers to attract people into the sales funnel, and enables Sales with material to close the deals.
However, this often isn’t the case. Most of the time, inbound marketers plow ahead with their inbound marketing and Sales sells from separate, distinct lanes. This wouldn’t be possible with ABM.
Collaboration is a requirement in account based marketing. Everything from strategy development to outreach to each account is a joint effort. Platforms like HubSpot have evolved to enable orchestrating ABM alongside your inbound program.
Results and Impact
Inbound marketing takes time. Results typically start sprouting up around 6 months. SEO, content creation, traffic to landing pages: it all takes time. However, the impact of inbound will continue even after you stop. Well-optimized blogs can continue to rank and generate traffic; landing pages with highly relevant content with continue to convert visitors. Things will slow when content isn’t being newly published, but results won’t simply cease if you do.
The opposite is true for ABM. Results from account based marketing are able to be realized as quickly as your sales cycle needs to run. Build your strategy, launch, nurture leads, close deals. As quickly as you can make a connection, you can start seeing an impact. Also, unlike inbound, if you aren’t actively pursuing your strategy, it won’t actively produce results.
As mentioned at the top of the section, inbound and account based marketing can play extremely well together. One of the biggest reasons for this is because the assets created for inbound lead generation can often be used for ABM.
Is every business cut out to deploy an ABM strategy? Not really. Because of the highly targeted, resource-intense nature of ABM there are certain businesses that stand to gain more from this strategy than others.
B2B – ABM generally fits B2B better than B2C. B2C transactions are usually less of a considered purchase and more transactional
Complex – products and services that are complex to sell and carry a large price tag fit well in ABM
Long Sales Cycle – because of the complexity of the product or service, they usually drive a long sales cycle. ABM can often shorten that and increase pipeline velocity.
Lots of Buyers – again, because of the complexity of the purchase, multiple buyers are usually involved in the purchase.
You’ll find a lot of content on the roadmap for building an ABM framework. We focus on 6 key areas with our clients as they build, launch, and optimize their account based marketing initiatives.
Build a Team: At least one salesperson and one marketer
Make sure this team is well-aligned on the goals of the program, what is being measured, and the data and technology needed to support it. It’s also good to include an executive sponsor, especially when doing your pilot. As we’ve mentioned in this guide, a lack of alignment is one of the most common challenges to a successful program.
Identify Accounts: Identify a set list of high-value companies to pursue
Once your team is assembled, get to work on identifying your highest value accounts to pursue. How do you do that? It could be accounts you already have a relationship with, in one division that you want to expand to others. It could be accounts that are stuck in the pipeline and you’re trying to “grease the wheels” it could be look-alike accounts to high margin – good fit accounts you’ve identified.
Create Account Plan: Align between sales and marketing on goals, content, and channels
Once your account list is assembled, begin documenting your account plan. Who are the individuals in the accounts you’re trying to engage with? What channels will you use? What key messages will be used as you develop the personal buying journey. What is the goal of the program – a meeting, a call, a demo?
Attract Contacts: Share personalized content across designated channels
With the plan documented – start getting your contacts engaged with highly personalized content distributed through the channels you identified in your account plan. Are you leveraging personalized ads like LinkedIN, personalized email, personalized landing pages, and website experiences?
Forge Relationships: Build relationships with buyers within an account over time
As contacts begin to engage, establish the relationship based on their role, need, and fit.
Measure & Iterate: Continually monitor KPIs (deal creation, buyer role assignment, deal velocity, company engagement score
ABM – always be measuring. How are your efforts performing? Are you growing contacts in an account? Are deals flowing easier through the pipeline? Are you attracting the right buying roles? Return to your account plan and see if what you set out for goals is still accurate. It’s okay to adjust.
Ready to get started with ABM or kick your current program up a notch? Let’s chat.