The ABM Maturity Model: 4 Keys To High-Performing Account-Based Marketing
Whether you're just getting started with Account-Based Marketing or are well underway with your strategy, columnist Peter Isaacson outlines four areas you should focus on to find ABM success.
“Account-Based Marketing is the new black.”
“Account-Based Marketing is on fire.”
“Account-Based Marketing is the hottest marketing trend since inbound.”
“Account-Based Marketing will solve global warming.”
Okay, the last one was a stretch, but the first three lines are actual quotes from recent articles discussing Account-Based Marketing, or ABM. It’s undeniable that ABM is exploding — and for good reason.
More and more B2B marketers have grown weary of the shotgun approach to demand generation, hoping to get a few valuable hand raises out of thousands of inquiries. ABM offers an efficient, targeted way to reach the specific companies that can have the greatest impact on your business.
A survey published by ITSMA in October showed that 84 percent of marketers using ABM thought it delivered higher ROI (return on investment) than any other marketing approach.
Like any newly formed category, ABM has a full spectrum of practitioners, from early adopters to late majority tire-kickers. One of the questions I get at almost every meeting and event that I attend is, “What’s the path from entry-level ABM to advanced ABM implementation?”
The reality is that there isn’t one single path that companies take as they implement ABM. Every company is different — with varying business challenges, technology stacks, skill sets and internal politics.
But there are certain mileposts that companies pass as they adopt more advanced ABM strategies.
Although there are plenty of sophisticated models and charts that outline the various components of ABM, there are generally four key areas that are critical to successful ABM implementation:
- Sales and marketing alignment
- Target account selection
- Marketing programs
We created the ABM Maturity Model based on the experiences and growth we’ve seen from hundreds of B2B companies that have adopted ABM.
It outlines the levels of sophistication by tier across these components:
Now let’s dig deeper into these four steps:
Sales And Marketing Alignment
Alignment across your sales and marketing teams is the first critical step to successful ABM. ABM helps get the teams on the same page by focusing them on the same set of accounts.
But it doesn’t work if it becomes a unilateral exercise by the marketing team. It needs to start with “philosophical alignment” — a shared belief in a focus on accounts and a commitment to collaboration.
With that shared belief and commitment, sales and marketing teams can move toward operational alignment so that planning, execution, metrics and goals are all aligned. The alignment of metrics and goals is sales and marketing nirvana, meaning that the sales and marketing teams actually share KPIs (key performance indicators).
When that happens, you no longer have those corrosive moments when the marketing team is celebrating that they crushed their MQL (marketing qualified lead) goal, while the sales team is bitter that they missed their quota targets for the quarter.
There are several ways to select target accounts. When it comes to the type of accounts on which to focus, the most common way is to simply target by company size — e.g., enterprise, mid-market, SMB (small and medium-sized businesses) — or by industry, or both.
This approach provides a straightforward, easy-to-implement lens for choosing target accounts.
As companies become more sophisticated with their targeting, many focus on sales cycle — differentiating between prospects, customers or even late-stage pipeline.
Some companies select target accounts based on their positioning or the set of attributes they have. Examples of this include the type of tech footprint an account has or regulatory issues they face.
Wrapped in the target account selection is the actual messaging for each group of accounts. It doesn’t do a lot for your business if you target specific accounts but deliver a generic message to each.
A deep understanding of the challenges addressed within each segment of accounts is critical to your messaging and to the success of your ABM strategy.
Account-Based Marketing programs can extend across the full funnel, from awareness to conversion and lead generation.
Additionally, robust ABM strategies include both digital and analog programs. In other words, ABM programs are not limited to advertising and marketing technologies.
High-performing ABM plans put an account-based lens on all programs, including trade shows, field events and other activities.
During the past decade, B2B marketers have found religion when it comes to data and measurement. But while there are now mountains of data and thousands of ways to measure our performance, we need to do a better job of focusing measurement on business impact.
Too often we report on campaign metrics, which are helpful at diagnosing program performance but too far removed from revenue to reflect business impact.
B2B marketers should move beyond campaign performance to revenue performance metrics such as pipeline contribution, funnel velocity and lift. More and more companies are beginning to measure the impact of their ABM programs by close rates, retention and/or upsell and annual contract value.
Many marketers complain that they don’t have full control over these metrics and don’t want to judge their performance on them. Hey, ABM is a team sport!
Success comes from collaboration across teams, and the only way to measure true business impact is to grade your performance on metrics that are tightly aligned with your business goals.
It’s an exciting time for B2B marketers. We have a treasure chest of new technologies to help us do our jobs more effectively. With new categories like ABM emerging, we have a toolset that can help us transform the business impact we are making.
Account-based marketing: A snapshot
What it is. Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a B2B marketing strategy that aligns sales and marketing efforts to focus on high-value accounts.
This customer acquisition strategy focuses on delivering promotions — advertising, direct mail, content syndication, etc. — to targeted accounts. Individuals who may be involved in the purchase decision are targeted in a variety of ways, in order to soften the earth for the sales organization.
Why it’s hot. Account-based marketing addresses changes in B2B buyer behavior. Buyers now do extensive online research before contacting sales, a trend that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of marketing’s tasks in an ABM strategy is to make certain it’s company’s message is reaching potential customers while they are doing their research.
Why we care. Account engagement, win rate, average deal size, and ROI increase after implementing account-based marketing, according to a recent Forrester/SiriusDecisions survey. While B2B marketers benefit from that win rate, ABM vendors are also reaping the benefits as B2B marketers invest in these technologies and apply them to their channels.