Not Every Company Is Going To See Results From ABM
It’s one of the hottest marketing tactics being discussed today. I was talking to a demand generation expert yesterday and her comment was, “Everyone is talking about it; software vendors are driving the conversation, but very few people have operational experience doing it.” It shows further proof that people in sales and marketing are looking for better, more effective tactics to drive leads, align sales with marketing and turn those leads into new customers.
But is ABM right for your company? It’s not right for everyone. It’s not search engine optimization, where I would tell you that everyone needs to be found on the search engines for the right set of keywords, phrases and questions. ABM is much different. Answering some key questions should help you decide whether ABM is the right choice for your company.
Here you go.
1) Do you have the data to drive an ABM program?
SiriusDecisions found 60% of marketers consider the overall health of their data unreliable. What does data have to do with ABM success? Everything. B2B organizations have access to massive amounts of data from their internal marketing and sales activities, prospect and customer behaviors, and customer service information.
Many also purchase data from external sources to augment existing data sets. But not all data is equal, and more often than not, data is dirty and incomplete. Avention’s recent survey of B2B sales and marketing practitioners found just 31% of respondents feel that their organizations have the right data for sales, and just 24% feel that they have the right data for marketing.
One of the keys to successful ABM execution is creating and delivering personalized messages. While the programmatic execution might be automated, the key is to have the prospects feel like the messages are personalized. If your data is inaccurate, old or flat out wrong, your personalization is going to be, well … embarrassing.
We’ll talk more about sales and marketing alignment later, but data is one of the ways you need to ensure alignment. Sales and marketing have to be looking at the same company information, the same targeted contact information and the same demographic and psychographic information. In some cases, you should be looking at scoring both customers and prospects to create tiers for your ABM execution. If the data is inaccurate, the entire segmentation model could collapse.
Finally, segmentation is a huge part of ABM. Your company data is going to be paired with predictive analytics and sales intelligence to look for specific behaviors that signal a prospect’s readiness to buy or to speak with a salesperson. Your team can also proactively go after targets that behave like your best customers, but only if your data allows for that type of advanced analytics. With the right data, your team can create custom and targeted campaigns to improve both connect and engage rates. Without good data, this is difficult to achieve.
2) Do you have tight alignment between sales and marketing?
Bringing these two teams together offers many benefits. The data is indisputable. Conversion rates improve when sales and marketing share ownership of lead nurturing and incubation. Companies with tightly aligned sales and marketing teams experience 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates. When sales and marketing teams are aligned, leads are 67% more likely to become clients.
For years, getting these two teams together has been impossible. But account-based marketing almost forces them to work together. You need marketing assets to execute ABM. Marketing creates messaging, scripts and other content offers, handing them off to sales with training. Sales then needs to use those assets and report back on the effectiveness of those assets.
Marketing will have other performance metrics from the analytics tools on the effectiveness of the content, but by blending the qualitative and quantitative data, they’ll quickly be able to make any adjustments required to drive more lift.
Targeted account selection is traditionally a shared responsibility, with marketing doing the high-level persona and client matching. Then sales does the actual account targeting, selection and assignment. Together, you have the targeting and selection process required to launch your account-based marketing program.
3) Do you have the right story to get these targeted prospects’ attention?
This might be the most important and the most missed element of an ABM program. Do you have anything interesting to say? It can’t be about your new software, product or service. It can’t be about you wanting an appointment or call. You need solid, strategic, emotional and disruptive stories that grab your target personas’ attention and pull them into your story.
Even more critical is that you have to sustain a string of communication and outreach, so you need not one but rather a series of strong, disruptive messages that work in concert with each other. Someone might ignore your first message and maybe your second message, but by the third message they are so interested that they connect and engage. This doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be strategically crafted and well written. Words matter.
4) Do you have the right content to drive engagement with them?
We mentioned content above and eluded to it being written, but that’s just a generalization. The key to the content side of ABM is to create a series of assets that fit your target personas’ content appetites. If they love video, you need video assets. If they love infographics, you need those to be part of your outreach, connect and engage strategy. Whatever they need, you have to deliver.
You might need different content at the beginning of the process. To disrupt their status quo, you might need independent third-party research data. You might need industry data that shows they’re falling behind the competition. You might need insight-oriented data that shows their actual performance is subpar. From there, the buyer journey kicks in and you can nurture them along the way based on questions and concerns you’ve already mapped while working with current customers.
5) Do you have the tech stack required to execute, analyze and optimize an ongoing ABM program?
Do you need software to run an account-based marketing program? No, but it sure does make it easier. If you asked me about needing software to run an inbound marketing campaign, I’d say the same thing, because HubSpot makes that much easier too.
If you’re planning an ABM program, consider the following set of technology tools:
- Engagio for creating engagement and measuring engagement across all targeted accounts
- EverString for accurate firmographic, technographic and intent data to help build pipeline and close deals faster
- Terminus for serving up and tracking ads across 50 ad networks and delivering the reach and coverage essential for ABM advertising
- InsideView for targeting intelligence, finding the right people and delivering the right message at the right time
- LinkedIn for its sheer number of prospective contact points
- Full Circle Insights for response management and campaign attribution
6) Do you have the experience (internal or external) for planning, building, executing, analyzing and optimizing an ABM program?
Can you tell? ABM comes with its fair share of complexity. Complex execution means risk, and if you want to mitigate the risk associated with running your first ABB program, you should look for people who have experience planning, executing and optimizing account-based marketing programs.
The technology adds an additional layer of complexity. You should consider bringing in a team of technology experts to ensure you get full ROI for the technology solutions you’re already using or those that you’re considering buying for your program. These need to be configured, tested and, in most cases, optimized over time as your program changes.
Aligning sales and marketing adds a third layer of complexity and even more risk. Look for people who have done sales and marketing alignment before and understand how to bring these two teams together. Using experts can shave months off your timeline, and it provides an even bigger lift when it comes to expected results.
7) Do you have the patience and budget to create and execute an ABM program?
Like any solid, scalable and results-oriented revenue generation program, it’s not likely to produce results in the first week. You should be patient and supportive while you work on the strategy. Strategy before tactics pays off big dividends when it comes to ABM. Invest the time and money to plan out your ABM strategy first.
Then systematically tackle the data, technology, alignment, play creation and asset development tasks. By having the high-level strategy or game plan in place, the rest is much easier. You also have to consider your own sales cycle. While you should expect to see early wins with connect rates and engagement rates, sales opportunities might take longer to materialize, and if you do have a long sales cycle, revenue is going to follow along a similar time frame.
If you answered “no” to even one of these questions, I’d suggest you hit the pause button at the very least. You might be good to go, but you have at least one missing element from your ABM effort and should consider fixing that before moving forward. If you answered “no” to more than one question, you should consider whether ABM is even right for your company, your target prospects and your sales effort. We’ve seen several companies waste a lot of money on misdirected ABM efforts.
Answering “no” to one or more of these questions doesn’t mean your company can’t ever use ABM to drive leads and new customers. It simply means you’re not ready or that required elements are not set up properly at your company. For example, if sales and marketing are not aligned, you’ll never pull off any traction with ABM. It requires 100% alignment between both sets of people. You can work to get your marketing and sales teams aligned and then reconsider ABM, but I would not recommend moving forward without that alignment.
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