Marketing isn’t getting easier, it’s getting more complicated. What used to be two clear and obvious differences — inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing — are now blending and devolving into one giant mess.
What appears to be making it even more challenging is the champions of inbound marketing are leaning into and investing in account-based marketing, which means there’s a spot in your inbound marketing campaign for outbound marketing tactics, if executed correctly.
Taking revenue generation, which today has never been more complicated, and making it simple is something we’ve been trying to do for our clients since we started the company. Our mantra of “give clients the right advice” is based on boiling all of the opinions down and then creating a simple revenue growth strategy built for your business.
Is Your Data Correct?
Before you even start thinking about ABM, make sure all of the data in your CRM system is 100% accurate. The last thing you want is to invest time and money in ABM only to find out you’re targeting people who are gone, not the right people or at the wrong companies. Do you even have the data you need? If your CRM isn’t up to 2017 standards, then ABM might be challenging. It requires a highly coordinated sales and marketing effort. You’ll need to know if targeted people visit key pages on your website. Do you get that data and insight today? If not, you need it.
Before we even start an account-based marketing program for clients, we often do a data audit with our technology practice. This identifies the gaps, strengths and weaknesses of the current underlying technology along with the cleanliness of the data you’ll be using to drive the program. This potentially mitigates most of the risk associated with bad data or a legacy tech stack.
Once you have the right technology platform and your data is clean and accurate, now you’re ready to do targeting. Again, a poor targeting strategy produces bad results, plus a lot of wasted time and money. You should look for a targeting methodology to apply. Either create this on your own or work with a partner that has one that’s been tested and proven to work at other companies. You won’t use it “out of the box,” but find a partner that is going to tailor it to your company, goals and business outcomes.
Consider a tiered approach where your best target companies get one ABM treatment while your second tier gets a different, less personal approach. Keep in mind that within each tier you’re going to have company-specific targets and, more importantly, people-specific targets. ABM is not about targeted companies; it’s about targeted people. You should be able to see that this can get complicated quickly. Most top-tiered target accounts might have eight to 10 people you’ll be targeting. Each of those people is going to need role-, pain- and insight-specific messages. Remember, I said this wasn’t going to be easy if you do it right.
Start With The Right Message For The Right Person
OK, now that you know who you want to talk to at what types of companies, you can’t simply send a LinkedIn InMail and consider that ABM. Sorry! I know I just ruined the day for about 95% of the people who think this is ABM. How do I know that? Just take a look at your LinkedIn feed. If it’s like mine, it’s filled up with emails from people trying to sell you something. I won’t even connect with people anymore unless I know them.
If you want results from ABM, you have to strategically understand their pains and challenges, and then craft a disruptive, emotional and compelling reason for them to even consider talking to or connecting with you.
ABM needs more than one story. It needs a series of stories personalized by role, pain or industry (or all three).
The more personalized and disruptive your message, the better your results. If you’re getting poor results now, look at what you’re saying. If it’s not as described here, I can guarantee it’s why you’re not meeting your performance expectations.
Build Out The Experience Before You Start Your Engines
If it feels like these recommendations are making ABM harder and more complicated, you’re correct. The reason is because in addition to the targeting and the messaging, you also have to create a remarkable experience for your targeted prospects. I’m talking Disney-level experiences. Why is that important?
ABM is for people who are not actively looking for you. It’s for people who are not engaged in a search and not engaged in an active buyer journey. They’re going to be tougher to convince than those people who are searching for you, talking about what you do, and already aware of your solutions and your company. If you don’t wow these people, if you don’t provide dramatic insight and if you can’t cause them to rethink their current status quo, you’ll never move them to engage with you and connect with your sales team. Your program will fail.
Let me be more direct. The better the experience, the higher the connect rate. The higher the conversion rate from new connection to sales opportunity, the higher the close rate on all of the sales opportunities. The higher the average value of all the new clients, the shorter the sales cycle. How does that sound? Is that worth the extra effort or the investment to help a professional create this amazing experience? It should, and it’s critical to a high-performing ABM program.
Set Quantitative Metrics And Goals
If your ABM initiative doesn’t have quantitative goals and key performance indicators, it’s not a complete program. You’re going to want to set contact goals, connect targets, funnel metrics, conversion rate goals and new client revenue metrics.
You should also set time-based goals. How long is it going to take to hit these numbers? It’s going to take time. ABM is not a quick fix. Anyone telling you that has never planned, built or implemented an ABM program. When you’re talking about connecting with people not in search mode, time is not on your side. If you think ABM is going to save your quarter and it’s May, think again. This should be a 12-month initiative. You don’t want to do this halfway; you want to do this right.
I was on a webinar for conversion rate optimization and the topic of best practices came up. The speaker responded with a giggle and mentioned, “There are no best practices.” He’s right. Every company, every industry and every prospect base is going to respond slightly differently to your marketing. In the case of account-based marketing, you should not expect your experience to be the same as anyone else’s experience. Just because it worked at Company A doesn’t mean it’s going to work the same way at your place. Just because it didn’t work at Company B doesn’t mean the same type of deployment won’t work at your place. I tell you this to set proper expectations.
Too many variables are specific to your company, people, leadership, culture and budget to create turnkey programs or best practices. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not being completely honest with you.
But there are lessons from 14 years of inbound marketing that make the way we think about account-based marketing more relevant in today’s highly cluttered world where you’re trying to push your way into a prospect’s communication stream. With a few of these suggestions above, you can take your ABM program from good to great.
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