Account-based marketing is a hot topic right now, capturing prime-time real estate at marketing conferences, b2b forums and social networks. But while ABM is a trending subject, it’s not necessarily a new idea. ABM is more a convergence of a number of different factors that has made it a central component of any B2B go to market strategy.
In a constantly changing landscape these factors have forced an evolution of the B2B market proposition and as such paved way for this emerging account-based approach:
- There has been a maturation of new technologies that allow B2B marketers to identify companies with a higher propensity to buy.
- The recognition that growth through existing accounts may be an easier approach.
- The emergence of a more powerful, knowledgeable and independent buyer that demands more personalised and customised interactions across the entire lifecycle.
is marketing becoming sales?
As marketing goals become ever closely tied to revenue and traditional demand generation programmes become embedded within legacy process, B2B marketers are steadily increasing their involvement in mid to later stage cycle activities. In doing so marketers find themselves deeper in the sales funnel and begin to occupy the same space as sellers as they jointly engage in activities which used to be siloed.
(In walks ABM…) offering an opportunity for marketing and sales to fully align, it facilitates the growth of a company whilst enhancing the engagement experience for customers. We have seen a significant shift in momentum towards account-based marketing in B2B and this has allowed companies to take resources and apply them against the accounts that matter most. Through ABM, companies are given the freedom to focus on where growth is expected to come from. This frees up time to build specific messaging centred around the engagement of buyer needs and in a more prescriptive and relevant fashion. This synonymous relationship between both ends of the cycle is underpinned by a clear programme structure built up by these key priorities.
1. set the stage.
In order to establish an ABM strategy that includes goals and builds alignment, campaigns need to set clear objectives, set the right scope and assign responsibilities for the ABM – partnering sales teams with marketing leadership. This process galvanises the organisation around an ABM methodology and defines clear target account criteria across all touch points. What do you want your ABM campaign to achieve? Typically, ABM works to secure quality account relationships with those set target accounts and as a result increase quality DMU contact and revenue expansion. There’s no surprise that 93% of clients say that ABM is extremely or very important to overall organisational success and they are using it to drive more efficient pipelines, close bigger deals and vastly improve sales and marketing alignment.
2. process structure.
ABM leaders need to identify, leverage and secure data and technology to operationalise and optimise all types of account-based marketing. From a small number of accounts, 1-1 treatment to a larger set of grouped accounts, organisations need to analyse any existing internal tools that can be leveraged in the program; they also need to explore new tech categories and service providers to build out an ABM road map.
While 92% of companies recognise the value in ABM, going far as calling it a B2B marketing must-have, only 20% have had full programs in place for more than one year. Of these, 60% of organisations plan to invest more or significantly more in ABM during the next 12months and this includes investment in technology and data.
3. programme planning and execution.
Before you can begin a campaign, you need to have the right technology in place. Advancements in tech have allowed marketers to develop and execute insight based, omnichannel engagement plans. These plans can specifically target large strategic accounts that are critical to the business or groups of accounts which are assembled together based on similarities. With this approach to planning and execution with ABM, companies make a commitment to take granular level research and to that end ABM increases your closed-deal percentages by targeting specific account business challenge, opportunity goals, persona needs and buying stages all of which are used for personalisation.
4. measurement and analysis.
When you think about ABM and how you measure success, you really think about it at a macro level. B2B companies need to look at a host of short, mid-term and long-term metrics to enable the diagnosis of programmes and course correct where necessary. This means moving away from the strict focus on volumetrics such as leads and contributions to the pipeline in favour of those around account health and depth of engagements with key stakeholders of a business. By taking this approach companies can understand the long-term impact that ABM has had on business goals.
5. optimise and develop.
As with any business strategy, you’ll need to accurately measure your ABM campaigns and optimise when necessary. This step of a successful ABM campaign can be complex but by assessing the positive impact the campaign has had on your bottom line is an accurate indicator as to where there needs to be improvements.
Conversion metrics: Is your target audience taking the desired action? Whether your goal is to have them click your ad to fill out a form, request a product demo, or visit your website, this is a crucial metric to track. Your conversion metrics can help pinpoint important areas for optimisation. For instance, if you your click through rates are high but your conversion rates are low, your messaging may not accurately reflect the offer presented on your landing page or on your website.
Overall engagement: The goal of an account-based marketing campaign is to increase engagement with your brand (and ultimately with your sales team) with target accounts. Measuring prospect activity levels and engagement with your website can help determine whether or not your campaigns are really reaching their mark.
Sales cycle length: By exposing your target audience to personalised messages that are targeted by account, you can shorten the awareness and research phase of the buyer’s journey, thereby reducing the length of the sales cycle. Keep an eye on your sales cycle length to gauge the impact of your ABM campaign.
Customer retention: Account-based marketing isn’t only for generating new business. It can also be an important tool for customer retention (and even for up-selling and cross-selling). Monitor retention rates among the accounts that are being targeted with account-based messaging to track the percentage of customer that churn.
what does the future hold for ABM?
In this fast moving B2B landscape, we’re selling in an era when buyers hold the reins and customer experience reigns supreme. With many positioning ABM as the way to better align sales and marketing. The reality, is that you need to align marketing with sales first, in order to make ABM work. You also need to re-evaluate (and likely retool) your existing sales and marketing processes. At Sherpa, we’re constantly looking to develop our understanding of the B2B marketplace and delving into innovative new practices at the forefront of the industry. To further that vision, Sherpa has sponsored “The B2B Marketing conference 2018, ABM: Getting it right and making it happen“. The event is being held in London, 8th November with tickets still available.
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