Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has become a “must have” line item for 2016. And this enthusiasm isn’t just a fleeting trend. More than just a highly targeted engagement tactic, a full-fledged ABM program supports the post-sale customer lifecycle, using marketing's toolkit to contribute to the overall customer experience at the most profitable accounts.
Thus, ABM represents more than just targeting – it’s a transformation in the way B2B marketing, sales and customer support are perceived and executed.
Yet, ABM is only a smart strategy when executed well. Its promises of efficiency and effectiveness can’t payoff unless marketers have the know-how and ability to reach the decision-makers at accounts showing buy signals. Unfortunately, several common B2B marketing challenges stand in the way of successful execution.
A Big Problem: B2B Marketing Organizations Aren’t Optimized for ABM
The Database Dilemma
ABM strategies are only as good as the data that informs them (whether such data is interpreted by predictive analytics or sales and marketing teams). And unfortunately, most marketing databases aren’t refined to requisite levels.
Studies show that B2B marketing databases contain high percentages of outdated and inaccurate information. SiriusDecisions found that 60% of marketers consider the overall health of their data as unreliable.
This lack of database confidence is unsurprising when you consider that an Integrate’s prospect data quality report found 40% of B2B leads contain incorrect, duplicate or missing data. Meanwhile, according to an Ascend2 survey, 54% of B2B marketers believe that “lack of data quality/completeness” was the most challenging obstacle to marketing success.
Poor database integrity (customer and prospect info) affects ABM programs in several important ways. Targeted company lists compiled to match current customer accounts or high-converting lead characteristics won’t reflect the best chances of winning new accounts or upselling current customers. Databases must be accurate, complete and up-to-date if ABM strategies are to pay off.
MarTech Systems and Demand Marketing Processes Remain Disconnected
When it comes to demand marketing, processes, systems, data and even people are still very much disconnected from one another. Specifically, top-funnel prospect engagement activities (owned by demand generation teams) and lower-funnel data management and analytics activities (owned by marketing operations teams) are often greatly misaligned – yet they depend on each other extensively.
The polarization of top- and lower-funnel priorities in effect compromises:
Data integrity – manual demand gen activities can’t ensure the accuracy of all the prospect data it sends to marketing automation and/or CRM systems.
Lead velocity – the disconnect causes delays in the speed with which prospect data can be nurtured, decreasing conversion rates.
Team resources – demand marketers spend excessive amounts of time managing campaigns and dealing with decentralized data sources; marketing operations wastes just has much time with manual data processing tasks, such as lead scrubbing, deduping, normalization and uploading.
Program transparency and predictability – manual processes coupled with the delayed transmission of ungoverned data isn’t conducive to clear program reporting, undermining the marketing ops team’s ability to understand and predict the future performance of various sources, account types, content and channels.
All of these elements are vital to the success of ABM strategies. And until marketing systems and processes are properly integrated and aligned, these issues will continue to restrict the value of ABM programs.
ABM Execution Isn’t Understood…Yet
Marketers are still very much enamored with the idea of ABM. But there’s no clear “best practice” for acting on target account lists. ABM targeting is only informing engagement in theory – not in action.
Execution – that is to say, identifying, engaging and obtaining info on decision-makers at target accounts – must become a top focus if the promise of ABM is to payoff. And once firmly committed to execution, marketers will need to ensure they have the right environment to act on their ABM strategies.