Data sets and common sense: The cure for ABM overload
Columnist Erik Matlick says it's time to focus on the data that's driving ABM and promote collaboration between sales and marketing to drive organizational change.
Have we reached Account-Based Marketing (ABM) overload? Scroll through LinkedIn, Medium or the inbox of anyone working in enterprise sales, and the answer is “yes.”
Listicles promote articles along the lines of the “Top 5 Tactics to Streamline your ABM Strategy” while newsletters push stories akin to “Three New Tools that Will Turbocharge your ABM Strategy.”
Imagine the B2B sales or marketing leader anxiously asking questions about the extent to which their organization has effectively embraced ABM: “Do we need a new set of KPIs?” “Can our sales and marketing teams collaborate more effectively?” “What are the gaps in our martech stack?” “Are we even actually doing ABM?”
The answers to these questions, surprisingly, shouldn’t be tied to a specific tool or tactic related to ABM. That’s because there’s a major fact about ABM that can’t be promoted enough: ABM is not new. It’s just smart B2B marketing, which today requires a combination of data, technology and common sense.
What is new is the scale and breadth of data available and the technology to leverage it.
The acronym is new, but we’ve been doing ABM for decades
The sales process at most large and medium-sized B2B companies has typically revolved around a target list. Using criteria like company size and industry, a specific vendor might pull together a list of 20,000 potential in-market companies, create marketing plans to drive leads, and then work that list down into a subset of actual buyers.
That’s the basic premise of account-based marketing, and it’s what B2B companies have been doing all along. So technically, everyone already has an ABM strategy.
Data drives ABM from idea to execution
What’s changed and is causing today’s ABM “frenzy” is the massive wave of data. More specifically, it’s the rise of platforms that allow B2B marketers to use that data to align their sales and marketing teams to target the right groups of people across multiple channels.
An IT vendor, for example, can now take a prospect list created with standard firmographics, layer that with market research data on the types of servers those companies already have installed, cut by functional area, title and seniority, and then add behavioral data that identifies people at those companies that have been consuming more and more content on “data protection” and “server security.”
Take that data and plug it into a platform like Salesforce, Marketo or a DSP (demand side platform) or DMP (data management platform), and the original list becomes a much more refined target for a variety of sales and marketing efforts.
ABM’s biggest impact is on the organization itself
That’s how this new wave of data-driven ABM is actually decreasing waste and increasing sales. It’s about identifying the companies that are actually wanting to engage and finding the group of individuals within said company that influence that specific purchase decision.
But ABM can’t decide which channels to use to reach those influencers, or create the marketing copy that helps prep them for an initial sales call or actually call the right companies on the list. That’s where the marketing and sales teams come in, and the companies that have seen the strongest results with ABM have fostered deep collaboration between the sales and marketing teams (whether intentionally or by accident).
By forcing sales and marketing teams to work together in ways they haven’t in the past, the growth of data-driven ABM is driving organizational change — and that creates an impact that goes far beyond hype around new vendors, tools or so-called best practices.
What comes next? Aligning measurement to eliminate the idea that these are siloed functions — including compensation and individual objectives. Stay tuned.