I recently returned from the B2B Marketing Exchange, where I hosted a three-hour workshop on operationalizing ABM. During the workshop and subsequent conversations, I received a lot of great input on where marketers are struggling with ABM.
It’s clear that 2018 will be a big year for ABM. According to #FlipMyFunnel’s 2017 State of ABM Survey, 81% of respondents adopted ABM in 2017, up from only 49% from the previous year. But it’s also clear that many marketers encounter roadblocks in transforming their ABM plans into successful realities. So I thought I’d share some perspective on account-based marketing tactics and technology to help you align your focus.
Although some elements of ABM feel very similar to key account strategies from years past, the emergence of new account-based marketing software has changed the game. With that said, regardless of the account-based marketing tools in your arsenal, there are a few key principles to keep in mind for ABM success.
1. Account-based marketing is a team sport.
Though account-based marketing is the term we’ve all embraced, it’s a bit of a misnomer. To be truly successful, ABM must go beyond the marketing team to involve other departments, from the sales team to the product and service teams. If your organization doesn’t have effective sales and marketing alignment, then your ABM program is going nowhere fast. If your sales and marketing teams aren’t aligned, it’s time to change the mindset in your organization and get on the same page to ensure you can win together.
It’s also time to acknowledge that traditional sales and marketing roles are changing. The way sales and marketing teams work together needs to change too. To create a best-in-class customer experience, there should no longer be a formal demarcation point for lead hand-offs from marketing to sales. Instead, marketing participation should continue through the close, tapering off as sales ramps up but supporting the full journey.
2. You can’t buy ABM.
Account-based marketing tools have come a long way. From providing intent data to using predictive modeling to identify target accounts, there are many tools out there to help you step up your ABM game. ABM tools can help with target account identification and prioritization, automate personalization, and supercharge sales outreach. But with so many tools available, it can be difficult to figure out what you need. And many marketers who are just starting out with ABM need to prove the potential before making an investment. Don’t despair — there’s plenty of potential for successful ABM without making a huge technology investment.
Even if account-based marketing software is in your budget, you can’t guarantee ABM success no matter how many license agreements you sign. Successful ABM starts with solid strategy. So if you’re swimming in tech soup or worried about finding budget for more SaaS this year, it’s time to get back to basics. Understand that ABM is a shift in discipline and set a solid strategy first. And before you add ABM technology, make sure you have the most basic element in place: an account-based view in your CRM and marketing automation platform.
3. Account-based marketing benefits from high-tech AND high-touch approaches.
ABM is in danger of the same thing that happened with content marketing — everyone got on the bandwagon, resulting in a proliferation of downright bad marketing. Even in the new territory of account-based marketing, you can’t lose sight of a core marketing principle: delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. You may be focused on accounts, but you’re still selling to people. Be careful not to send the exact right contact at the most coveted account the ABM equivalent of spam. To be truly effective, you need to ensure you’re delivering relevant, personalized messages in the right medium.
In some cases, this means understanding that your account-based marketing tactics need to expand beyond digital. One great option to explore is dimensional direct mail. While we know that much of the buyer’s journey is happening online, your ABM targets are suffering from a flooded email inbox just like you are. Dimensional direct mail can be a great way to break through and deliver a truly meaningful message and experience to your prospect. This low-tech, high-touch dimensional direct mail piece was highly successful at opening the door for great conversations with ideal targets.
4. It’s okay to start small.
Let’s be real. Account-based marketing can be overwhelming. So if you’re just getting started, you need to set achievable goals. It’s okay to start small with a pilot program and a small group of accounts. This will help you test the waters to make sure your teams are aligned, put measurement in place, and reach consensus on goals and resources.
Begin by breaking the process into steps you can tackle. You might want to check out our ABM roadmap and review the “crawl” level for ideas on how to get started. Define what you can manage with your current team and resources. Then go for it! Test and measure, then expand and iterate. Getting some wins and building momentum (and street cred with your sales team) can help you build a solid foundation for expansion. (And it might even help you make the argument to add headcount to support your awesome ABM program!)
P.S. We’re working on some fresh ABM content and webinars coming soon. Want to make sure you don’t miss out? Subscribe to our blog, or shoot me an email and we’ll let you know when new assets are published!