Slow adoption shows marketers fear ABM when they shouldn’t
If you think adopting account-based marketing requires a major overhaul, you're not alone. But contributor Meredith Brown says you can take advantage of this valuable approach with your existing resources.
In recent years, account-based marketing (ABM) has become the buzzword du jour among B2B marketers. The approach — which involves targeting specific, high-value companies with personalized campaigns — has been around for years. But a growing crop of marketing technology vendors focused on ABM have built up hype around the strategy.
The buzz is well-founded because it works. Compared to broad-based marketing strategies, ABM initiatives are not only cost-effective, but they also drive results. Marketers who implement ABM see average annual contract values increase by more than 170 percent, and 27 percent report a shorter sales cycle, according to an ABM Leadership Alliance survey fielded by TOPO. The reason? ABM allows marketers to deploy resources more efficiently by focusing on key accounts that drive revenue, speeding up the buyer’s journey, and integrating sales and marketing efforts.
Despite the many articles written about ABM and its benefits, adoption has been slow. Only one-third of marketers reported investing in ABM in 2016, according to a Kapost survey of 286 B2B marketers.
Many are daunted by the message that their existing marketing system is “broken” and requires a complete overhaul. Others are slowed down by challenges in getting buy-in from executives, making the case for investing in yet another marketing technology solution, or aligning previously siloed marketing and sales teams. The rest don’t know where to start in making sense of their data, transitioning to personalized campaigns, or overcoming the inertia of the status quo.
Implementing ABM isn’t as scary as it sounds. Marketers can reap the benefits of ABM by relying on many of their existing tools and skills — it just takes a shift in focus and strategy.
Here are five simple steps to getting ABM right:
1. Start with a clean CRM
The first step to identifying the right accounts to pursue is getting your customer data in tip-top shape and all in one place. Take time to clean up your CRM tool by destroying duplicates, confirming that required fields are filled in, and ensuring information is accurate and up-to-date. A good CRM will have robust built-in features to help you weed out duplicates and other errors.
If you don’t have enough quality prospects in your contact list, bring them in by gathering data from trusted third parties or doing the legwork internally. Cleaning up your CRM can take time, but working with quality data is a critical foundation for a successful account-based strategy.
2. Identify your ideal customers
Drawing on analytics, identify key attributes of the accounts you want to target. Don’t do this in isolation — alignment between marketing and sales is key.
Divide prospects into segments based on patterns you identify, such as geography, type of company or upsell opportunities. Also consider where you would like to increase your popularity or break into a new market.
Organize your contacts accordingly, or seek out new contacts that fit the bill. If you have few major accounts, a segment could be as specific as a single company. Otherwise, a segment could be broader, such as “technology companies in San Francisco.”
3. Target accounts with personalized engagement across channels
As a marketer, you already know how to target prospects across channels like email, social, direct mail and digital ads. The key to ABM is deploying campaigns with a specific focus on your target accounts so that you can reach the right audience with the right message at the right time.
Leveraging the data you have about high-value accounts is key to delivering personalized messages that resonate with target companies, and even specific people within those companies. For example, having your ideal customer in mind might lead you to retool your landing page or the content and frequency of emails.
4. Draw on artificial intelligence
Some marketers are daunted by moving from broad-based to personalized campaigns because they assume it will require more time and resources. The key to effective personalization at scale is artificial intelligence. B2B marketing platforms that incorporate machine learning tools analyze the behavior of your target customers to generate predictive insights and automate the next step in the buyer’s journey. That allows marketers to focus on the strategic and creative elements they do best.
Additionally, AI solutions can help identify new segments that may have flown under the radar. A good AI tool can easily tell you as a marketer that a growing number of prospects are engaging with your campaigns in the Pacific Northwest, for example. And that most of your prospects respond to social advertising, and that interest in your emerging product line is at an all-time high.
Armed with these insights, you’re ready to go after accounts in Oregon and Washington with a highly targeted message about this product line using a social channel like Facebook.
5. Become the marketer sales teams love
The success of ABM relies on true alignment between marketing and sales execution. AI can automate the next step in the marketing process, but ultimately, a sales representative needs to close the deal. For ABM to deliver value, marketers must bring sales teams actionable insights from engagement to deals won.
Once target accounts begin interacting with your marketing efforts, passing on timely information about a prospect’s behavior can help sales reps have smarter, laser-focused conversations that echo marketing messages and eventually close deals. Ultimately, everybody wins: 17 percent of ABM marketers reported improved efficiency across both sales and marketing thanks to improved collaboration, the ABM Leadership Alliance survey found.
So, in short, effective ABM doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your marketing processes, or even new technologies in many cases. You likely have everything you need already to get the job done. By shifting your focus from a broad-based strategy to an account-focused one and aligning your sales and marketing teams, you can use your existing tools and expertise to deliver more effective B2B marketing, and drive more new business.