By Sarah Mead
Account-based marketing (ABM) is no new phrase for B2B marketers, and there is a rapidly growing demand as the race to focus on personalized marketing is more prevalent than ever. The number of companies choosing to implement ABM and the shifting of marketing budgets to support this strategy are both on the rise, with 48 percent of growth leaders ranking ABM as a top five priority, according to ITSMA.
The great thing about product-first organizations is they are notoriously innovative, vision-driven, and poised to scale, because rather than gathering research from potential customers and building a product to meet their needs, a product-first company will attract customers that need the product—this is where marketing comes into play and why marketing investments must be made before building a sales team.
As with inbound and any other marketing strategy, it is important to think through your company’s strategy carefully and follow key steps in order for a successful ABM implementation to happen.
Why ABM Can Be Such an Effective Strategy for Organizations
ABM provides B2B companies with the ability to hone in on the right leads for the organization, rather than chasing too many leads who simply aren’t the right fit. This shift in strategy allows the team to devote their time to the accounts that matter most, which saves time, money, and manpower over the long term.
A 2017 state of marketing report, published by Sirius Decisions, surveyed more than 200 account-based marketing leaders. In this report, 91 percent of respondents shared that deal sizes were consistently larger with ABM accounts—with one in four reporting that ABM deals are on average 50 percent larger than non-ABM accounts. Ninety-two percent of respondents also shared that they saw an increase in closed deals from qualified opportunities associated with ABM accounts.
B2B organizations across different industries are seeing similar success with implementing ABM strategy. ABM has the ability to improve processes and shortened sales cycles, while also increasing closed opportunities and cutting costs—if it’s done right.
Why ABM Can Fail
ABM isn’t a foolproof, set-it-and-forget-it strategy. As with any other marketing tactic, this approach needs to be well thought out prior to implementation or the effort may fall flat.
Common mistakes with ABM include:
Lack of understanding about the buying team you’re targeting
Lack of content customization for your target audience
Use of incomplete or inaccurate data
Lack of buy-in from stakeholders in the organization
No alignment between sales and marketing
Do any of the above resonate with you? Not to worry—there are easy ways to avoid these common pitfalls. The steps below are outlined to help ensure that your team is set up to build the data needed for ABM success:
7 Steps to Build Data for ABM Success
1. Determine Your Goal
Goal setting is a crucial starting point for any ABM strategy. Are you looking to improve lead generation? Do you see an opportunity to accelerate the pipeline? Or is this a means to more closely align sales and marketing in your organization? Each of these goals will yield very different KPIs and tactics. With this in mind, make sure your team agrees on the overarching goal so you can collectively use this as a compass moving forward.
2. Define Your Market of Target Accounts
Naturally, this will look different based on your organization’s goals, your industry, and the types of buying teams you want to be targeting. When considering who you want to be targeting, be sure to keep your target personas in mind so you are consistent with inbound and ABM efforts.
HubSpot Academy "Prof Tip""One of the first steps for an ABM campaign is deciding which accounts to target and which metrics you'll use to measure success. However, while it's easy to talk about metrics like deal velocity, it can be extremely difficult to pull together the right data to calculate such metrics. If there's a metric you're interested in but don't have the data to measure it, then your account plans need to include information about how that data will be gathered."- Kyle Jepson, Senior Inbound Sales Professor
3. Align Sales and Marketing
As with anything, buy-in can make or break your ABM strategy. You’ll want to make sure all key sales and marketing stakeholders are working closely together when implementing this strategy. This will keep you on the same page in terms of vision and will set expectations regarding expected returns, workflows, and roles in the process.
4. Identify the Data Needed to Get Started
Now comes the fun part—selecting which type of data you’ll want to collect that will be most beneficial for your specific ABM needs. This will take some thorough research, but it is time well spent to ensure you are getting high-quality, relevant data.
Some types of data you will want to consider:
Firmographics: Variables include industry, location, size, structure, and performance
Engagement data: Measures how engaged a prospect has been with your brand
Intent data: Identifies behaviors associated with those closer to a purchasing stage
Technographic data: Types of technologies the company uses
Individual/persona data: Specific information about individuals in an organization
Predictive modeling: Identifies how accounts may behave in the future
5. Determine How to Gather Data
Although some of the above can be gathered internally from team members and existing data in your CRM, it’s important to also identify areas where you need more information and fill in those gaps by partnering with companies who have access to quality data.
Be sure to choose your third-party vendors wisely to ensure that data is well-informed and accurate—and remember that data can change very rapidly. Although no set of data is perfect, quality control is still key, so take your time in this process and be sure to do your due diligence.
6. Set Up Your CRM to Support ABM
It is important that you have a technology stack that supports your ABM strategy, especially your CRM. This should be a reliable hub for all of your sales and marketing needs. If your CRM is not robust in its current form, you can always look at integrations that cover other aspects of ABM, such as ad targeting, account mapping, data enrichment, and predictive analytics.
7. Measure, Adjust, Test, Repeat
As with any campaign or marketing strategy, testing is a key part of the iteration process—and no campaign is ever perfect the first time around. Your ABM workflow should factor in a QA process that allows you to analyze the data and make adjustments as needed. The more engaged your team is with this process, the better the outcomes will be.
The decision to pursue an ABM strategy should not be taken lightly—it is important that you consider all of the above steps as you embark on this journey. The more time you spend up front ensuring quality data and aligned efforts, the more successful your team will be in practice.