Account-based marketing: The three things that matter
PK recently hosted a roundtable with Senior Marketing Executives across high-tech and software industries. The attending brands ran the gamut from considering targeted account-based marketing pilots to deploying ABM at scale in the enterprise, but a number of commonalities and shared concerns became obvious throughout the conversation.
There was no hesitation among any of the attendees when it came to the biggest issue to resolve: alignment with sales. Account-based marketing can, to the ear of a sales leader, sound a lot like “what we’ve always been doing.” It falls on marketing leadership to explain the shift to their peers in sales, and frame the discussion along the lines of shared goals and accountabilities, rather than strict sales enablement.
“Last year, we soft-launched an ad-hoc ABM pilot without much input from Sales leadership and became a glorified sales enablement machine. This year, we’ve re-launched with much tighter collaboration with sales, and we’ve seen a much higher impact.”
What tactics have been successful in driving this alignment?
- Account planning: Agreement on which accounts to target is central to launching ABM, but even as you scale down to ‘the masses,’ collaboration with Sales on who, how, and when to target accounts is crucial. The Marketing-Sales teammates should be working together to answer: what is the customer trying to achieve?
- Distinct Roles & Responsibilities: As ABM takes hold, the line between Marketing and Sales can become increasingly blurred. The smaller the launch, the less this seems to matter. “Bootstrapping” the effort can feel like it’s the best approach for quick execution, but ABM programs are the most successful when constructed from the ground-up with scalability in mind.
- Targeted buy-in: An ABM effort without Sales’ cooperation is destined to fail. But an ABM effort sold too broadly often fails to live up to myriad expectations—especially during the launch-and-learn phase. Multiple executives noted that the key was to get whole-hearted buy-in from one or two well-respected sales leaders to ensure their team could focus appropriately and get the correct level of sales support and patience—while still being held accountable for executing.
Understanding what the technical requirements are to launch and execute an effective ABM program was top of mind for our group. With most attendees coming from the High Tech sector, each had a strong perspective on what was helpful and what was mostly noise. So, what does it take?
- Core technology: There was universal agreement that the backbone of an ABM program is a well-utilized CRM system, fully-integrated marketing automation software, and a data cleansing and matching infrastructure that can successfully tie the two together. It’s also crucial to track attribution methodically to ensure you are effectively measuring lift, and catching any issues with attribution as early as possible.
- Hunting and gathering: To adopt account-based marketing, brands must understand who within each account they need to speak with, capture their information, and develop an approach. Contact acquisition services and tools can also play a major role in serving up the right contacts within known accounts.
- Account engagement: Once we understand who the contacts are at the accounts that matter, IP and ad retargeting tools can support focused ad buys, while robust content hubs can empower users to ‘binge’ on your content while self-selecting their own nurture, up to the point of form capture. Down-funnel, tactics like automated 3D mailers and account-focused nurture streams can help push buyers over the finish line.
- Measurement: It’s not enough to run an account-based program, you must measure your activities in a meaningful way. Companies have sprung up to help firms define and track key metrics, while more sophisticated brands are leveraging data management platforms to track individual contact behavior across accounts to support truly personalized experiences, often leveraging predictive analytics to leverage their behavior and anticipate needs.
The last key point made—time and again—was the complexity posed by the time horizon of an ABM program. Account-based marketing is, after all, a strategic shift in how we approach our most valuable customers—not a fun new tactic. There is no silver bullet for handling the expectations of stakeholders, but there are a few key things that have helped:
- Limited stakeholders: again, ensuring that those who matter to the effort are kept informed and are bought-in throughout all stages of the process are crucial. ABM is not about quick wins, it’s about big, meaningful, hyper-targeted wins.
Quick wins: but, wait, didn’t you just …yes. ABM is not about quick wins, but when you get a win, it is crucial to publicize that internally. A few quick anecdotes can help win over stakeholders—and, perhaps more importantly, your stakeholders’ stakeholders, whose concerns you may never be exposed to. Equipping your team with the right data points and stories to explain how and why ABM is working will pay dividends.
To learn more about implementing ABM, download the Pilot Guide to Account-Based Marketing.