If you are doing B2B marketing you should take a hard look at account based marketing. ABM will change the way you think about marketing and sales alignment.
We all know that there has been a shift in the way we do B2B marketing. Broad reach, “shotgun” marketing has been giving way to inbound marketing where our content and websites are attractional to people who might be potential customers for our products.
Once we attract these semi-qualified leads we then evaluate, segment and nurture the good leads, hoping to move them from marketing qualified leads (MQL) to sales qualified leads (SQL).
But those who are attracted to your content may not really be prospective customers or even valuable influencers.
Account-based marketing is an entirely different way to think about marketing and segmentation.
Instead of casting a wide net, trying to be attractional to prospective customers hoping they will find us, we specifically target key companies and the influencers and decision-makers in those companies. Instead of trying to attract many leads into the top of the funnel, which are then segmented, nurtured and qualified, ABM starts with a small, focused set of companies and decision makers and then penetrates those accounts with collaborative marketing and sales activities. These activities are highly targeted to the needs of those specific companies and also the specific needs of individual influencers and decision makers in those companies.
When comparing traditional inbound marketing to account based marketing some have described ABM as an inverted marketing funnel with a narrowly focused starting point that expands as more gatekeepers, influencers, champions and decision makers are identified and then included in focused marketing and sales activities.
In this approach marketing and sales people work in much closer cooperation with a tight feedback loop between the various activities so that sales learning (product feedback, identifying key influencers) informs marketing messages and marketing learning (engagement data) informs sales activities.
This strategy almost always results in improved ROI for the marketing spend because marketing activities are narrowly focused on pre-selected accounts which means very little waste.
Keys to success with ABM
1. Select the right target accounts. Because ABM can be more time-intensive make sure your efforts are aimed at companies that will be a good fit for your products and solutions. Here, again, sales and marketing can work together to share information about likely targets.
2. Utilize a CRM or a specific ABM platform that makes it easy for all stakeholders to share information insights and measure results. All of the major CRMs are adding ABM capabilities and there are many ABM-specific platforms designed to help you manage and communicate.
3. Leverage an already good working relationship between the marketing and sales teams. ABM only works when there is trust and communication between the sales and marketing teams. ABM, done well, can create even more synergies and a sense of shared mission and purpose in the two teams.
ABM is a business strategy, not simply a marketing or sales strategy. If it is to succeed it must be embraced in the C-suite AND in the trenches.
Before considering implementing ABM in your company you need to make sure it is a good fit.
- Are there multiple decision makers, gatekeepers and influencers in your target customer? ABM can help you reach deeply into your targeted companies with customized communications for the various stakeholders.
- Are your products complex and capital intensive? ABM is a better fit when there is a longer and more complex selling cycle.
- Do you have buy-in from marketing, sales and business unit management? ABM fundamentally changes marketing and selling strategy and investments it must be a company decision/process and not a marketing overlay.
- Are you prepared to build results over time? ABM is not a quick-fix to your sales or revenue problems, depending on sales cycles and other factors, it may take time to see revenue growth, however other hard and soft metrics should see results in a short time.
Implementing one approach does not exclude the other
Inbound marketing and account based marketing can co-exist, and even thrive together.
- The attractional content that is at the heart of an effective inbound strategy can be re-purposed and hyper-personalized to be used in ABM campaigns.
- A successful inbound strategy can build overall awareness for your brand and products
- Successful management of both inbound and ABM requires a prioritization of resources and effective communications between the two teams
Want to learn more? Here are some industry resources that will help you learn more about ABM.