Is ABM all hype or the next big thing? Columnist Rachel Balik takes a look at the elements you need to start building an account-based marketing strategy.
If you follow the B2B marketing gossip, you probably know that Account-Based Marketing (ABM), which used to be a strategy employed by only a few big companies to target a few big accounts, is allegedly having its breakout moment. SiriusDecisions recently released its State of Account-Based Marketing survey, which stated that over 90 percent of marketers recognize the value of ABM.
There’s no shortage of reasons why ABM is attractive to B2B companies. Companies practicing ABM have better alignment with sales, often close bigger deals with target accounts, and increase pipeline velocity.
All this sounds good enough, which is probably why so many marketers have identified ABM as a valuable strategy. However, digging into the SiriusDecisions data reveals some gaps between what marketers think and what they’re doing.
At the time of the survey, over half of the companies polled had ABM pilots in place, but only 20 percent had a full ABM program in place. More interestingly, 47 percent expressed concern about lacking the talent to execute an ABM program. And yet 60 percent of those same marketers say they’ll invest in ABM this year.
At first glance, it might be hard to determine from this data whether ABM is a hype or major movement on the brink of getting big. To make a more educated guess about that, it’s worth looking into what’s actually required to start doing ABM and what ABM means today versus what it meant in the past.
To many of us, ABM means big enterprise companies targeting a few standout key accounts with a high-touch, expensive, siloed process. Today, ABM has the potential to be much bigger than that, thanks to technology that helps us automate and scale. But more than that, it’s a simple documented process that can be easily piloted and replicated across the organization.
Once you understand the key fundamentals of AMB across the funnel, getting started, making progress, and measuring results become an attainable endeavor — and a gateway to broader, more successful ABM programs. Although there are a number of touch points across the funnel where ABM will play a big part, before you can execute on these things, you need a plan to identify, market and measure your target account list.
Identify Your Target Accounts
The first step to implementing an account-based marketing strategy is to build your target account list — the companies you want to be your customers. This is a shift for many marketers, who typically think in terms of buyer personas.
At first, it might seem that coming up with buyer personas is a lot easier than trying to figure who your future customers are. The truth is, when it comes to customers in B2B, you actually can make a pretty accurate guess about what accounts will close.
This list can be as small as 50 accounts, and you can develop it using a number of strategies depending on your level of ABM readiness. For example, you can evaluate your current customers and discover common attributes, leverage predictive analytics, or simple go to sales and ask for a list from them.
Crawl, Walk, Run
Depending on your organization, you may use one, two or all of these strategies. You may also end up with different types of lists depending on your organization. You could end up with one or more of the following:
- A named account list;
- A target segment (defined by attributes such as industry or revenue);
- A list of strategic accounts;
- A customer list;
- A list of customers up for renewal.
While it’s ideal to adopt a complete ABM strategy, you can also start with one segment and build your program out from there. The success of smaller ABM initiatives can drive conversations about broader ABM programs.
Market To Your Target Accounts
Once you have a list of accounts, it’s time to build marketing programs that target those accounts and move them through the funnel. The first step to developing your marketing strategy is segmenting your target account list.
You’re likely already doing persona-based marketing, so you’re familiar with idea of tailoring your demand gen and outbound marketing to a particular group. The target account approach is similar, but enables you to reach multiple people at a company.
The “Crawl, Walk, Run” methodology applies here, too. Maybe your ABM starts with one advertising campaign or a section of your website. The key is being able to reach stakeholders at your target accounts and measure results.
No matter the size and scope of your pilot, the final step is measuring your results. The customer lifecycle is a continuous circle, and so is your ABM marketing strategy. As you go through the various stages, your measurement will impact decisions — including iterations and tweaks to both your outbound efforts and content.
You may also find yourself adjusting your lists and segments depending on your results.
Especially if you’re starting small with an ABM approach, measurement is a critical element of building out your ABM strategy. If you can demonstrate success with a specific segment or list of named accounts, you can use what you learned to target additional segments and replicate your efforts at scale.
Ultimately, it’s the innovation and demonstrated success of these pilots that will enable the 92 percent of marketers who see the value of ABM in theory to make it a reality at their organizations.
by Rachel Balik