If you’re new to account-based marketing (ABM), getting off to a strong start is critical—especially if you’ve had to lobby to gain internal support and funding. The current hype around ABM can cause teams to set expectations that exceed what’s realistic, and inevitably, create pressure to hurry and “get something launched.”
But the hype is real. According to SiriusDecisions’ 2017 State of ABM Study, marketers are allocating a greater percentage of their marketing budgets toward ABM deployment:
- 34 percent of marketers are allocating 31–50 percent of their marketing budget.
- 18 percent are allocating over half of their budget.
- 93 percent of marketers state that ABM is “important” or “extremely important.”
But why? It’s simple: Account-based marketing increases closed deals, average deal size, and target account and C-level engagement. There’s a lot to like.
While you’re no doubt doing your best to manage internal expectations, there are a few things you need to get right in order to build trust with sales and gain support for ongoing ABM initiatives. You’ve got to prove that marketing “gets it.” Here are some areas where an initial time investment goes a long way toward setting a solid foundation, making success more likely.
Select the right accounts for an ABM strategy
Don’t fall into the trap of blindly targeting a list of accounts because sales told you to. They may have tried and failed to make any progress, and now you’re their hail mary. Careful selection of target accounts that have higher propensity to engage is likely the single most important element of any ABM effort. You want to focus on your best-fit accounts that look a lot like your current best customers.
Account-based efforts begin by first understanding the attributes and commonalities within your best customers, and then defining your ideal customer profile (ICP).
Ideally, account-based initiatives take aim at a specific and carefully selected subset of a larger target universe. Accounts with high revenue potential and a higher propensity to convert are most worthy of additional marketing investment.
To start, gather all the data that’s available via your internal systems and sales and marketing databases. You can then supplement and expand account knowledge by doing additional research, account profiling, and/or purchasing external sales intelligence data to enhance what you have.
Here are some questions you should be asking at this stage:
- Who are our “best” customers, really? What makes them better than others?
- What attributes or traits do our best customers have in common? Do they fall into natural segment groupings or verticals?
- What exactly should we be looking for in our accounts and how do we find it?
- How can we use available data to identify our top 10 to 50 accounts?
Finally, review this data with sales to get their feedback and gather additional sales intelligence. Data isn’t always accurate, and sales reps can share anecdotal details that can be very helpful in validating, correcting, or expanding upon account information and making prioritization decisions. Collaborate with sales to jointly select accounts that are “best fit” targets for your company’s solution. Keep the list small initially—ideally less than 50 accounts.
Personalize content for higher engagement
What differentiates ABM campaigns from typical demand generation efforts is that content (messages and offers) is carefully customized for specific individuals at specific companies. Think high value content. This isn’t just a “batch and blast” of the same content to a smaller list of accounts. And while personalization via marketing automation capabilities is nice, successful ABM campaigns must move way beyond “Hi [insert name]” tricks.
If you’ve conducted your research well, you should have useful insights into each account, like:
- Installed technologies.
- Business priorities.
- Why your solution would help solve their business problem.
But you also need to understand what your targets would find most valuable given the buying stage they’re presently in.
Industry research, technology trends, or other account-specific insights that help them understand how they compare versus peers in their industry can be a good baseline to create content they’ll find valuable, making them significantly more likely to respond and engage than they might otherwise with generic content.
And don’t forget about the importance of A/B testing. With the smaller audiences in ABM campaigns, it’s important to continuously try new approaches to messaging, headlines, design, etc. Even if audience sizes are too small to derive statistically significant test results, A/B testing allows you to hedge your bets in case a favored approach unexpectedly underperforms.
Set proper expectations
There’s no question account-based marketing initiatives take longer to develop and execute; they’re more complex, with more moving pieces that could create any combination of potential ABM pitfalls. It’s important that internal stakeholders understand this up front, since the more thought, research, and strategizing done at the start will serve to make success much more likely.
ABM done right gives marketers serious ROI. Per a 2017 DemandGen report, 74 percent of marketers say its meeting or exceeding expectations.
But beyond getting initial campaigns off the ground, ABM should become part of your sales and marketing company culture; it isn’t a one-off campaign that begins and ends, but rather an “always on” mentality.
Be patient, take the time to get the critical pieces right, and set realistic expectations to keep your sales organization apprised every step of the way. You’ll be on the right ABM path.