ABM is not a replacement for your demand strategy
ABM is a critical tool, but it's not necessarily the whole tool-kit
The B2B buying and selling process is now digital. B2B buyers (and your most coveted accounts) are in control and driving the process. Gone are the days when a sales rep might ring to say, “I’ll be in New York in 2 weeks if you have time to meet…” B2B pros have spent the last year on video conferences, doing business online and making decisions remotely. They are developing new ways of doing business.
With this shift, B2B Marketers find themselves playing an even more crucial and expansive role in the buying and selling process. Many marketing teams reacted by racing to serve sales and fill the sales gaps.
This has created the question of the year for B2B marketing and sales teams: “Is shifting to an ABM strategy the right play for this buyer-driven, digital-first world?” Many B2B teams are finding that going all-in on ABM, in fact, is limiting their pipeline, leaving revenue on the table, and ignoring prospective customers simply because they’re not on a target account list. Note the emphasis on going all-in at the expense of other demand efforts.
To be clear, I’m a believer in account-based strategies. Our team both uses and sells ABM-focused solutions that revenue teams are thriving on. We believe ABM is foundational and should be part of your overall demand strategy. However, to maximize your revenue opportunities, B2B teams must be “open for business,” deploying a demand and revenue strategy that includes but is not exclusively ABM-focused. Sounds so obvious when you say it aloud.
One of the challenges is when teams turn to ABM as the savior. We experience every day how B2B teams confuse good B2B marketing with account-based everything. It is not unusual to see companies leave millions of dollars on the table because the marketing strategy, systems, processes and approach have shifted to focus solely on account-based execution.
I know it’s hard to believe, but your best opportunity accounts that match your ideal customer profile may not show up on your target account list, whether you develop the list with your sales partners, or your predictive tools generate it. And key buyers and influencers get ignored as your ABM model and systems have no way to identify, engage and activate conversations.
Let’s dive in deeper to explore why and how to deliver an account-based approach as part of your demand and revenue marketing strategy in today’s new B2B world.
Focus on the buyer’s buying process, not the seller’s sales process
With sales interaction and engagement limited and B2B buyers doing the bulk of their research and decision committee work online, there’s an urgent need to increase marketing’s role in identifying, engaging, educating and advancing the buying and the selling process. Successful B2B teams are architecting their demand and revenue marketing around the process that matters most – the buyer’s process. As one CMO succinctly put it, “sales is not our customer, our buyers are our customer.”
Based on learnings, teams should focus on being more precise by developing their revenue generation strategy around the right mix of ideal customers, target accounts and interested buyers. This does not mean everybody is a lead and we fall back to marketing being a lead factory. It simply means B2B organizations need to be always-on, using data and activating around buyer and account activity.
This is the level of precision required today to make the right connections at the right time with the right value information.
You shouldn’t have to choose between ABM and ideal demand strategies
In many use cases, ABM should be a powerful component of your overall demand marketing effort. However, rarely should ABM be exclusive. Marketing must be able to support all three demand marketing targeting strategies – accounts, buyers, and customers – based on the state of your business, how your markets operate and your product line’s target buyer.
It starts with proactively identifying, targeting and activating conversations with interested companies and personas that you have identified AND those that aren’t yet part of the strategy.
As we are learning six years into trying to “flip our funnel,” ABM can’t deliver results for every market segment you compete in. So, where does an ABM approach fall short and buyer-focused demand need to be in place?
- You offer a range of solutions to a variety of market segments in differing regions. For example, you may have a product line that targets small-to-medium businesses, which typically doesn’t align with the account model;
- You rely on your sales leaders to create the list of target accounts that determines your company’s fate and marketing’s impact. These are accounts that sales desires, but are they the best fit for your solution set?;
- You bank solely on technology to identify accounts. Most organizations are NOT sophisticated enough to identify all the right accounts at the right time they are in market.
We need to meet buyers and accounts where they are and when they want, in the right channels, with the right message, at the right time. This requires both agility and precision to adapt strategies and tactics to align with the buyers and buying groups you covet at accounts that are in market and right for your solutions.
How to think about generating demand, pipeline and revenue in 2021
Before B2B teams develop their strategy for a buyer-driven marketplace, there are four essential criteria to maximize marketing’s contribution to revenue:
- Understand and map your ideal customer profile buyers’ and accounts’ purchase process;
- Identify your total available market and reality (not just the accounts you, your sales or tech identifies);
- Collaborate with other critical functions within and across your organization;
- Establish clear roles, joint success metrics and regular optimization sessions.
The best path forward is to execute ABM and demand in one unified strategy with marketing, sales, customer teams and operations. B2B marketers are talking about this as precision demand marketing, a next evolution of B2B marketing at scale.
This strategy empowers B2B marketers to develop and deliver a demand strategy that increases marketing’s impact on the buying and selling process. It also provides marketers an agile account-based, and buyer-driven approach across all marketing channels to address your total available market.
ABM can be an efficient way to prioritize resources, not just a replacement for an existing demand generation strategy. With buyer’s needs and habits shifting, it’s a perfect time to determine what’s the right strategy for your business and the markets you serve. Your executive, your sales team and your buyers will thank you for it.