Account Based Marketing (ABM) – Just another marketing buzz or shows promise?

Do you remember the famous quote from the sci-fi movie The Day the earth stood still. In the film a space ship lands in Washington and an alien messenger named ‘Klaatu’ – played by Reeves – assumes a human body and meets up with a Nobel Laureate – a ‘Professor Barnhardt’ – played by Cleese. Klaatu warns the Professor that barring a major reversal in our behavior we will be eliminated from planet earth because of our destructive nature.

Pointing to the similarity of the alien civilization’s history where they had evolved because of a threat against their planet, the professor says to the visiting alien, “You say we’re on the brink of destruction and you’re right. But it’s only on the brink that people find the will to change. Only at the precipice do we evolve….”

Something similar happened in the year 2008, when the markets crashed. People lost jobs and organizations cut all operations and business development budgets. That was the time marketing went through a major evolution. Amongst many other evolutionary innovations, Account Based Marketing (ABM) made a lot of sense, of course the term ABM wasn’t coined that time! Although we had the budgets, but clearly wasn’t enough to follow the traditional methods. We desperately needed to get results, leads and most importantly conversions but at almost one-fourth the costs.

After months of planning my entire team came up with something called targeted messaging. Our idea was to shorten the sales cycle by delivering the exact messages our prospects wanted to hear. The change that also considered the market crash led to tweaked messaging reflecting cost optimization benefits from our offerings, faster go-to-market benefits etc. Overall, it aimed at increasing the end user’s revenue along with time control costs. These were the only two things companies were concerned about anyways at that time!

Customization and personalization are the catchwords when it comes to marketing in the present era. Whilst we have many examples of this in B2C marketing organizations, doing away with the ‘one-size-fits-all approach’, in B2B, ABM is enabling a whole a dimension to targeted marketing.

It’s been a trending topic of discussion at all marketing workshops and business strategy meetings. But, it’s still a fairly new concept for many marketers when it comes to implementing it.

So, what exactly is this Account Based Marketing approach?

Simply stated, when an organization directs all its marketing and sales efforts to a particular client or account and uses a targeted approach to engage the client via personalized, timed communications; it is termed as Account Based Marketing. Marketers use research and analytics to zero down on the companies they want to reach out to and build strategic marketing campaigns to target them through various communication channels.

According to a survey conducted by ITSMA, more than 80% of marketers believe that investing in ABM has significantly resulted in an improved ROI for them and has outperformed all other marketing initiatives.

But how does one get started with an ABM strategy?

  • The first step towards building a robust ABM plan is to create a list of your ideal target accounts that are, or, will be most beneficial for your organization. This can be done be revisiting your current client base and evaluating it to list down the accounts that provide the highest value and are most likely to invest in your products or services.

  • It would then be good to categorize these accounts basis the level of engagement that you will be doing for each category. This is also known as Persona development. To help you define those categories, here are a few suggested personas:

  • Once this is done, the next thing to focus on would be content. Create personalized content that is targeted and often scalable and helps the buying group align their agendas around the solution. This content should basically be strategically placed on presentations, websites, email message etc. Apart from creating personas, ABM content should be able to facilitate the collective buying decision of the team it is being presented to. It is, thus, crucial that the content should help align buying team’s objectives around the solution.

Company size wise personas - Your offerings need to be structured according to the company size. This will help your marketing efforts to connect with your audience better.

  • Large Enterprise

  • Mid-Level Enterprise

  • Small Business

Job role wise personas – Every job role demands certain key information from vendors offering specific advantages to their organization, hence develop those USPs accordingly

  • CXOs

  • Directors & Vice Presidents

  • Managers

  • Entrylevel professionals

With the right content in place, the next step is to plan an integrated communication approach strategy utilizing various channels to reach your target accounts. However, simply blasting out your content through mailers, display ads, social media etc. would not solve the purpose. Explore new channels to deliver the right messaging to your key accounts. One could start by experimenting with bite-sized content through a few go-to channels and get them right, before expanding to other marketing channels.

All this planning is great! But, until and unless the ABM strategy does not have a tight alignment with sales, all this would fall flat. To be able to taste success with ABM, it is crucial that your organization also does account-based sales. And, thus, tying in with your sales team and ensuring everyone is on the same page, would go a long way in enhancing ROI on your account-based marketing plans. In fact, there are quite a few direct benefits of aligning sales with ABM. Here is a list of benefits:

  1. It offers a deeper understanding of marketing and sales strategies across departments

  2. Directly connects to customers

  3. Forms a stronger and fluid customer experience

Selling ABM to your sales team

For any ABM strategy to be successful, one will have to have the full support of the sales team, which needs to be involved right from the beginning and throughout the entire process. So, it is of utmost importance that before going external with your ABM approach, you must sell it internally first. And to get a nod from the sales team, marketers will need to explain how it will directly impact the actual sales team on-ground.

So you can talk about the importance of the right leads, and how ABM if done step-by-step in its truest form, will hit the chord just there, thereby resulting in good quality B2B leads, having a much greater rate of conversion.

Once you have buy-in from sales, what would really help progressing ahead smoothly would be defined KRAs for both Sales and Marketing teams. Areas such as deliverables, KPIs, lead transfer, referrals, etc. must be ironed out well in advance, so that there is minimum friction arising between the two teams. With these finer points kept in mind, one will have to measure how successful your ABM strategy has been.

How do we measure success?

To be able to report back the success of your ABM efforts, it is very important that you keep track of all the leads and how they are rolling back up to the specific accounts. And as the leads funnel through its lifecycle, ensure that the impact of marketing is being measured at each and every stage, vis-à-vis the sales results.

However, do not only focus on the quantity-based metrics such as the number of conversions. Quality-based metrics like the level of engagement your content is creating with your targeted accounts must also be considered to be able to see a clear picture of how successful your ABM has been.

But, don’t be disheartened if the results cannot be seen right away. It may take time for your organization to experience success out of ABM approach.

There is no doubt that there are numerous positive statistics and effective case studies that vouch for ABM. And, with more and more B2B organizations realizing its importance, they are quickly allocating higher percentages of their marketing budgets to this approach.

According to the latest research findings by Demandbase, ABM is fast becoming business-as-usual for a lot of organizations, with marketers reporting their ABM programs to be accounting for 28% of their overall marketing budget.2

ABM, is thus, no longer just a buzzword. It indeed represents a sure-shot way to enhance the efficacy of both marketing and sales efforts of an organization. Studies reveal that more than 52% of companies already have ABM pilot programs in place. Are you up to the speed, yet?




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