ABM, account-based marketing, has been practiced by sales and marketing teams dating back to the 1960s. The difference today is the ability of technology to help run ABM efforts that feel high-touch, with better levels of scale and tracking.
With today’s tools, we’re able to speed up the feedback loop and use data to refine our efforts, with less manual work. Yet, as with any marketing strategy, it’s important to evaluate the people and process before making any technology decisions.
I typically recommend that you first begin to implement an account-based marketing strategy through a manual process before you make any technology decisions. This gives you a first-hand look at how the process will work, helps identify areas that can potentially be scaled through technology, and makes sure you understand what is needed before making any technology decisions.
ABM is a hot topic in modern marketing circles, yet it may not be right for all businesses. And remember, your ABM strategy doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can apply an ABM strategy for your largest, most profitable “whale” accounts to go after, and then apply a more traditional role-based marketing model to higher volume, lower dollar accounts.
As a B2B marketer, how do we know when ABM is right for our organization? Here are some practical evaluation criteria for you to consider when deciding if an ABM strategy is right for your company.
When ABM strategy is right for your organization:
- Your product or service includes complex buying decisions that involve multiple decision maker(s), influencers and users.
- Your product or service has a higher price point that requires sign-off beyond a credit card payment.
- The potential value of bringing on a new customer is strong, with a high lifetime value and a big ROI payoff over time.
- Your product or service requires a longer sales cycle, beyond several months or even a year.
- Your organization has (or can build) a meaningful content marketing strategy that can effectively engage key decision-makers at target accounts.
- Your company is (or can become) well-aligned across functions – including marketing, sales, product and success teams – all of which are required for a successful ABM strategy.
- Your company is tolerant of long-range ROIs, and willing to monitor short, medium and long-range metrics before making any rash decisions about the success of an ABM program. Many companies just don’t have enough tolerance for long-range strategies, and will abandon the program before it can truly be measured.
Indicators ABM may not be right for your business:
- Purchasing your product or service is self-serve – i.e., a customer can make a purchase online with relatively little sales intervention.
- Your product or service is available at a relatively low price point and does not require a purchase order (PO) or other sign-off inside of an organization.
- Your product or service frequently gets purchased within a quick sales cycle, specifically, less than three months.
- You sell to a high volume of accounts and customers, in the thousands or even tens of thousands. Realistically, an ABM strategy can only be applied to smaller volumes of accounts in the 10-250 range, depending on the level of intensity and high-touch attention as part of your ABM strategy.
- Your company is focused on quarterly results over annual gains, an ABM strategy may be a challenge to implement. For organizations with a culture of immediacy, it can be a challenge to get buy-in for an investment which may not produce results before 12-18 months.
As you evaluate ABM as a potential strategy for your organization, remember these guidelines. In general, ABM works especially well for B2B companies who sell to fewer, but larger accounts. If you’re selling into a high volume of accounts and/or at a lower price point, an ABM strategy may be unnecessary.
Often, I recommend a hybrid approach, first creating tiers of customers based on annual revenue or growth potential; then determining if you want to apply ABM to help upsell current customers, thereby growing the account.
You can also apply the ICP (ideal customer profile) metrics to help identify other, similar ideal prospects who you are trying to convert into ideal customers. You can apply ABM strategies for a share of wallet play within current customers, or as a market share play within key prospects in your ecosystem.
These tips were designed to help you determine if ABM is a fit for your business. For additional help planning your ABM strategy, I recommend Is ABM right for your business? from Heinz Marketing, and Scott Vaughan’s tips for optimizing account-based marketing.