“My sales leaders are finally asking about ABM!” one of my clients recently exalted. “Isn’t that exciting?”
According to Terminus’ 2020 State of ABM Report, only 13% of marketers consider themselves to have a high level of Account-Based Marketing maturity. Most companies are still in the early or pilot stages.
In my opinion (and experience), however, ABM is nothing new — not to sales, not to marketing. What I think is happening is a general awakening that ABM is possible given the evolution of marketing and sales organizations (and also of data and technology). Not only is it possible, ABM is an absolute necessity for a large swath of our client base focused on distinct buying groups across a unique segment.
So, as more and more organizations contemplate finally embracing Account-Based Marketing, here are five things I’ve learned along the way that should help smooth the transition for other marketers:
1. Pilot before you jump in.
As tempting as it might be to want to go all in on ABM, the reality is that most companies aren’t built to shift quickly. This is where pilots are perfect. By its very nature, a pilot builds something that is inherently a learning experience. The key is to first identify the objectives of your ABM pilot. The objectives we see the most are Acquisition (new logo, new to the database) and Expansion (growth into current customer base). ABM for Expansion became a super-hot topic in 2020 as companies looked inward at their client base when new business paused for a period of time. If your goal is to focus on Demand Expansion, pilot an ABM for Expansion program to test the effectiveness of upsell and cross-sell campaigns to a particular a set of client accounts.
2. The technology is actually the easy part.
An early misconception was that you needed to go all in on a full-blown ABM technology platform to do Account-Based Marketing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the all-in-one platforms — such as Demandbase, 6sense, Terminus — but I believe you can run an effective pilot without them.
Fortunately, most marketers I meet, clients and peers alike, are used to doing the most with what they already have. The base level of technology that you need will vary based on your objective. Based on my experience, you only need a few core capabilities to get started:
- MA platform (for engagement, workflows, scoring, channel integration, and decision management)
- CRM (for account identification, sales activation, and engagement)
- Lead to account matching
- Account augmentation
- Some level of budget for paid media/programs
3. Identify what data you need early on.
Which data you’ll need for your ABM pilot should quickly become clear as you fine-tune your targeting and segmentation requirements, but here are a few considerations:
- Target account completeness
- Intent data signals
- Lead to account matching
- Target persona data completeness
Data is a common roadblock for ABM practitioners. Start small and don’t let it be an excuse for not being able to pilot your ABM initiative.
4. ABM has a different set of KPIs.
In our discussions with clients, one of the first topics we discuss is how they’re going to measure account programs differently than leads. When it comes to measurement, it’s best to keep it as simple as possible. We recommend keeping it aligned to your current revenue metrics as much as possible, but using a slightly different lens.
We think about account metrics across three general categories:
a. Relationships & Coverage: Delivering deeper account insights is one of the top benefits of an ABM strategy for sales.
Common examples: Personas added, account completion, and account/persona insights
b. Reputation & Engagement: Account engagement is the most common starting point for ABM practitioners. Given long sales cycles and the time necessary to ramp up ABM capabilities, we see engagement as an indicator of your targeting’s effectiveness and the ‘stickiness’ of your programs.
Common examples: Website visits by account, program engagement, human interactions, and meetings set
c. Revenue & Influence: This should be easiest if you already have standard pipeline reporting in place — with an account lens, of course.
Common examples: Opened opportunities, revenue and pipeline influenced, and revenue won
5. Do your engagement plan last.
It is human nature to want to talk early on about all the different ways you can reach an account, but I have found it is best to do this last. Yes, keep a running list of all the ways you can engage: the channels, ad programs, sales outreach, events, content programs, social, and others. The key here is to not let the channel dictate the strategy or the KPIs. We’ve noticed that when marketers have their minds set on a certain plan, mix, or cadence, it skews (and sometimes limits) the more important aspects of their ABM strategy. Do it last — it will be easier and more fun.
One of the best parts of my job is working with great minds in this business and becoming even better at what we do: engage high-value prospects and customers, push the envelope on innovation and technology, and drive more revenue opportunities. ABM is not new; frankly, it’s not even as difficult as it sounds. I am also excited about a lot of new things to come, such as improved targeting tools, better ways to align engagement plans to intent, easier way to expand account footprints, and more.
Ready to add Account-Based Marketing to the mix? This detailed guide walks you through what it is and how to get started. Or, DemandGen can help you develop and launch an effective ABM strategy with an approach that is tailored to your business. Learn more about our proven ABM Services and let’s get started!
Will Waugh is a consultant for DemandGen focused on helping clients with demand generation, lead management and leveraging marketing technology. He genuinely believes that data can change the world. Follow him on on Twitter. Other articles by Will Waugh: 7 Essential Marketing Technology Categories: How’s Your Stack Looking?