"Companies Don’t Buy, People Do”
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is all the rage as organizations increasingly deploy strategies to focus on individual companies that are the best fit for their solutions and services. “Single-lead generation” –acquiring one contact at a time from various companies to create an opportunity – is no longer efficient or effective for many marketing orgs. This is especially true in B2B markets where purchases often involve multiple decision-makers and require lengthy vetting processes.
Historically, this account-focused effort has been led by sales. Today, armed with modern tools and robust data to bring more intelligence to this effort, marketers need to:
- Integrate processes and share data with their sales siblings to drive more predictable customer acquisition strategies
- Close a much-needed ABM gap, moving beyond simple company-targeting to discovering, engaging and nurturing the individuals within the target accounts who are most likely to buy
After all, companies don’t really buy anything, people do. Herein lies one of the challenges to making ABM scale.
To level up on terms, Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is, generally speaking:
A strategic approach to business marketing in which an organization considers and communicates with specific businesses as markets of one.
“Communicates” is a key word, because rather than blasting the same message at numerous businesses that likely have differing needs, with ABM, marketing and sales work together to individually tailor dialogue to each target account.
I’ve been bantering with subject-matter experts at ABM-focused organizations like Terminus, Infer, Lean Data, MongoDB, Chiefmartec and SalesLoft as I prepare to speak at the upcoming #FlipMyFunnel event, an ABM-focused conference next month in Atlanta. The thought-leaders and practitioners I’ve spoken with agree ABM has tremendous potential, but only when delivered with a methodical approach. We also agree ABM isn’t just about targeted/retargeted ads, email blasting into key accounts, or having insides sales reps dial into your top 250 accounts every day, all day. These tactics are annoying and ineffective.
Here are 7 things you can do to increase your odds for ABM success, starting with setting the right goals and equipping talent with resources to make it happen:
1) Sit down with sales leadership to create an integrated game plan.
Ask: Why these accounts? What are the core characteristics of the target companies? Go beyond company size or industry. Reach out to key decision-makers at these companies and understand their world, needs and motivations, so your content and engagement is a value-add. It’s optimal if you, as the marketer, bring a list of companies to the ABM effort. This trust-building approach with sales will increase the likelihood of success as you execute your ABM plan.
2) Dedicate a person or two who will champion ABM strategy and execution.
Because ABM spans many disciplines, this skillset requires an integrated marketing mindset, a comfort with marketing technology, perseverance for personalization, curious intuition, and a proclivity for drawing upon data. And these characteristics must be guided by an integrated marketing-sales plan to optimize spend. If you’re not going to provide the resources, time and effort to get it right, don’t do it.
3) Make sure you can engage prospective buyers at your target companies.
The last thing you want to do is just blast messages at every persona in every department. This is a flawed strategy, and I see it regularly. For example, say American Express is on your ABM target list. Well, there are hundreds of thousands of employees at American Express (each with Amex IP addresses). You only want to reach individuals at the director level or above and only those in IT or procurement. It’s critical you go beyond ad messaging and be able to engage and create dialog with the right individuals. You can easily burn through budget and resources without having a plan to find and engage decision-makersthat are involved in purchasing your product or service.
4) Identify and evaluate ABM sales and marketing technology to bolster your capabilities.
The number of tools now available to both sales and marketing teams is awesome. From targeting to nurturing to personalization to tracking, there’s an excellent ABM resource aggregating a significant amount of useful information about all things ABM from Docurated. It has something for all – beginners, intermediates and the pros who are deep into ABM.
5) Set up a data-driven approach to gain insights continually.
A number of companies now offer advanced intelligence on company targeting. Engage with your data and media providers to understand third-party data, targeting and appending capabilities to see how they can aid in this effort. These companies range from data and intelligence providers to organizational and predictive analytics firms such as D&B, Social123, Lean Data, HG Data, DiscoverOrg, Lattice Engines, Mintingo, Infer, 6Sense and many others.
6) Personalize the experience.
This means knowing and using intelligent behavior you gather to create a personal experience on your website, via email or telephone outreach. For advanced efforts and highly coveted new customers, you can also create specialty landing pages, content, resources and even events for specific companies and decision makers. This obviously is much harder to scale, but picking a handful of accounts that make or break your year may be worth the investment.
7) Maximize outbound marketing initiatives.
One of the emerging ABM opportunities is to identify companies when they have a surge in activity around a specific topic. This “intent” data signals there may be research going on for a purchase at a given business. My company Integrate partners with predictive data companies to make this actionable at the company and individual level. You can use predictive data from across the web to identify companies that may show signs of activity; for example, engaging with content around malware security. You can then retarget specific personas at these companies or, working with Integrate, you can generate leads within specific companies that have specific titles, roles, etc. This company-to-prospect targeting has great promise in the ABM world.
I’m excited about the future of ABM. If there’s anything you think I should be asking or sharing at the #FlipMyFunnel conference, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ScottAVaughan.