5 Steps to Kickstart Your Account-Based Marketing Program


Author: Hila Nir

The value of account-based marketing (ABM) is undeniable.

If you’re not familiar with the jarring statistics, here’s a recap: SiriusDecisions research shows that more than 90% of B2B marketers consider ABM “important” or “very important,” and 73% of B2B companies plan to increase their budgets for ABM initiatives in the next 12 months.

While ABM may not be new, the path to its implementation and execution certainly is. The scope of technologies that support ABM is growing, enabling organizations to scale their ABM strategy like never before. But how do you get your foot in the door? The truth is, many B2B companies have a wide gap between their ABM strategy and successful implementation. Organizational and operational issues, as well as poor data, pose unique challenges.

Here are five ways to overcome ABM challenges and kickstart your program:

1. Gain Full Company Support

Let’s start with the obvious: As with any successful B2B marketing strategy, close sales and marketing coordination is essential. According to MarketingProfs, companies that have aligned sales and marketing teams generate 208% more revenue.

The beauty of ABM is that it inherently eliminates what sales may deem as “noise” from marketing’s broad-reaching lead generation initiatives. Conversely, marketing is more involved in developing account lists and supporting the sales team throughout the entire customer lifecycle, as opposed to its traditional top-of-the-funnel focus.

But gaining support extends beyond the revenue team. You need concerted, long-term buy-in from the C-suite for an account-based model, supported by functional groups. Your leadership team needs to communicate department-specific expectations and benefits. For example, ABM could make your client services team’s job easier because it puts them on track to pursue accounts that mimic your best-existing customers. ABM also gives data analytics and product team members more consistent feedback.

2. Obtain and Use High-Quality Data

Good, clean data empowers people to be more productive. Almost all of the tools you’ll use for account-based marketing will rely on correct, consistent, and complete information about your target accounts. Unfortunately, industry statistics highlight a gap between the actual state of data quality and where marketers need to be to achieve ABM success and meet their goals.

In a recent ZoomInfo and Ascend2 study, only 33% of marketers rated their data-driven marketing strategies “very successful,” and 64% of these “very successful” marketers listed “improving data quality” as their top obstacle in personalizing the customer experience. What’s the specific problem? More than two-thirds of B2B organizations said that their chief challenge in maintaining data quality is old or outdated information. It’s no wonder; B2B contact data decays at a rate of 22.5% per year, according to Marketing Sherpa.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way, as vendors are becoming more responsive to market needs. To ensure the accuracy and currency of your information–and enable features within your marketing technologies–select a top-tier B2B contact database provider with real-time, comprehensive information, including direct phone numbers and email addresses. Sophisticated vendors also have predictive analytics capabilities to automatically identify new accounts and the contacts within them by matching characteristics of existing ideal customers.

3. Precisely Target Accounts

With account-based marketing, you’ll be focusing on fewer accounts (although they will be more strategic), so it’s critical that you focus on the right ones. Customize your ABM program by selecting company attributes tailored to your company’s value proposition and product and service offerings. While broad criteria such as revenue, industry, and headcount are commonly used, they may not lead to the best possible prospects.

In ABM, organizations often develop technology profiles to pinpoint key triggers that indicate if a company is a good account to target. For example, let’s pretend you launched a new solution that integrates with a certain marketing automation provider. To kick off an ABM strategy to support new customer acquisition, you should identify companies that use the specific marketing automation software and also meet other benchmarks that define your ideal customer profile (revenue, number of employees in a particular department, etc.).

Most market intelligence solutions, including a complete marketing automation platform with native ABM capabilities, can help your team quickly identify target accounts based on multiple layers of specific criteria, including the characteristics mentioned above. And if you need help determining what those triggers are, some solutions can analyze your existing customer data to highlight trends within your database and provide “look-a-like” accounts to target.

4. Engage All Key Decision-Makers in an Account

ABM is a contact-level sport. Thus, it’s imperative for your team to identify multiple contacts in an account, as participation in the purchasing process is increasing. Buying committees are no longer the exception; Gartner research shows that in a typical firm with 100 to 150 employees, an average of seven people are involved in buying decisions. Stakeholders, gatekeepers, and influencers all play key roles.

To reach them, consider supplementing your in-house database with data appending and enrichment services to gather intelligence on prospects within your target accounts (e.g. occupation and academic background, professional certifications, accolades, mentions across the news, and more). Once you have this rich contact information, use a multi-touch cadence across multiple channels to personalize your communications. Research and advisory firm TOPO recommends eight to 10 touches per prospect in a short timeframe, such as two to four weeks. Replacing email blasts with individualized dialogue can also make a striking difference.

5. Measure, Learn, and Improve

Because you’re targeting specific accounts in ABM, your metrics should measure your penetration into each account, as well as the content and tactics that are most effective for engagement.

So, where do you start? Along with rudimentary ROI metrics, such as qualified opportunity pipeline created and closed/won-lost ratio, examples of ABM-centric metrics may include:

Conversion rates based on channel to weigh effectiveness

Opportunities created from each channel to inform future investments

Number of contacts within each account who have engaged with your campaign to determine level of penetration

ABM is all about influence. Think quality over quantity, and account health over leads. For influence, gauge how ABM efforts are improving sales outcomes such as deal velocity, win rates, average contract values, retention, and net promoter scores.

Finally, use your learnings to refine future campaigns. With the right ABM solution that ties in your efforts across channels and campaigns, you can use these insights wisely to continually optimize.

The steps I’ve outlined will set you on the path toward ABM success. Enacting an ABM strategy takes time and thought, but revenue and efficiency improvements will make your efforts worthwhile.

What other recommendations do you have for ABM? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

5 Steps to Kickstart Your Account-Based Marketing Program was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | blog.marketo.com

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