Account-based marketing (ABM) has been the hottest topic in B2B marketing for the past few years. According to 2017 research from SiriusDecisions, 62% of B2B companies now have an ABM program in place, which is an increase of more than 20% from the year prior. The rapid adoption of ABM is seen as a positive and necessary trend among industry analysts.
ITSMA, an association for B2B marketers in the tech and professional services sectors, has defined successful ABM marketers as those “working closely with sales to develop plays and integrated campaigns.” However, while this seems like an obvious area of alignment, the reality is many companies still struggle to build a cohesive approach around which accounts to target, and then how to engage the right buyers within those accounts in relevant ways, over extended periods of time.
For scalable long-term success with ABM and ABS, industry experts point out that there must be top-down buy-in on the approach, as well as agreement and definition of ABM and ABS methodology.
Defining ABM and ABS
Account-Based Marketing: Account-based marketing (ABM) is a B2B strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market and employs personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account. (source: Marketo)
Account-Based Selling: Account based selling complements account-based marketing and supports the progressive activities of the sales process. This strategy is all about collaboration, with the end goal that a decision maker is never lacking the information needed to either make a decision or gain internal consensus on the decision they want made.
Some of the more specific steps companies take to avoid confusion or disconnects between the marketing and sales teams include: formal service level agreements (SLAs) documented and signed by cross-functional stakeholders outlining common goals, how and when accounts will be engaged, and metrics tracked to gauge success.
Where marketing may have previously reported on Marketing Qualified Leads or other activity-based metrics prior to ABM, most organizations shift their focus to Marketing Qualified Accounts or the number of Accounts Engaged.
Ashly Hughes, Director of Demand Generation for Televerde, comments, “With top-down agreement and alignment, buyers and sellers progress together down what is ideally a single, innovative, and compelling experience. […] The goal here is that it is all about collaboration. Buyers and sellers are sharing information; exchanging needs, wants, and value; and having a conversation across the sales cycle.”
Moving from ABM or ABS to ABE (Account-Based Everything)
Analyst firm, TOPO, recently introduced its Account-Based Everything Framework to address the reality that “organizations that struggle with account-based programs tend to lack cross-functional alignment across marketing, sales, sales development, and customer success.”
TOPO recommends the “coordination of personalised marketing, sales development, sales, and customer success efforts to drive engagement with, and conversion of, a targeted set of accounts,” or Account Based Everything.
With an Account Based Everything approach, firms are more likely to see the buyer journey as everyone’s responsibility and truly nurture every lead as the valued, individual prospect that it is.
Jon Miller, former founder of Marketo and more recent founder and CEO of Engagio, an account-based orchestration platform, is an active advocate of the Account-Based Everything Framework. In a recent blog post, he wrote: “There is a limit to how deeply you can connect with target accounts using only marketing channels, such as ABM advertising, direct mail and nurturing. Sometimes you need a one-to-one human connection and that’s the realm of Sales and Sales Development.”
With an integrated model, not only will a company see more engagement, but also a better overall buying experience. By focusing on a unified strategy and creating support positions to bridge the gap between marketing and sales, companies can see a more successful implementation of an Account Based approach.