CMO of Cymulate, VP Marketing, B2B Cyber Growth Strategist, Advisory Board, Entrepreneur, G-CMO Member.
When it comes to account-based marketing strategy, it’s important to lay the groundwork for all leadership members’ understanding—as the way to go about ABM is together. Here are some of the common questions I hear from executives:
• Do the majority of B2B marketers perform ABM initiatives? And what even is ABM?
• Do ABM programs outperform other marketing investments in terms of ROI? Why is it necessary?
• Does ABM function as a unifying function, breaking the silos between sales, customer success and marketing?
The answer to all of these is yes. Let’s take a closer look at how embarking on an ABM strategy can help with upselling, retention, new business and higher brand awareness.
What is ABM?
ABM is a customized strategy used to win a specific account or accounts. The metaphor often associated with it is fishing with a spear vs. fishing with a net. ABM requires a higher focus, higher budget, a personalized and holistic approach and content to fit the particular needs and attributes of the account. It requires more effort, but there’s also a higher chance of getting what you really want.
B2B buyers also increasingly expect this customized strategy. Forrester reports that in the coming year, “demand and account-based marketing (ABM) leaders will focus on building and maintaining pipeline momentum in a post-pandemic world where B2B buyers’ expectations of being heard, known, and understood are higher than ever before.”
Who uses ABM?
B2B and B2C companies are increasingly using ABM strategy across industries, technologies, audience segments and organization departments. ABM requires a coordinated plan with tactics that different members across teams know when to play and how to address different account stakeholders at the right time and in the right manner to fit into their needs and pains. As a result, 82% of B2B marketers said ABM greatly improves alignment between marketing and sales at their company.
Why is ABM necessary?
Assuming you are not a monopoly, you likely want more deals with bigger companies. You may want to improve the funnel conversion rate or close business faster and with higher annual recurring revenue. ABM can help with that. According to ITSMA, 87% of B2B companies engaged in ABM say the ROI is higher than for other types of marketing.
How do you build a winning ABM strategy?
The above outcomes require a collective effort across teams. It’s about relationship building. The more you know about the account, the better you can tailor your marketing to win the attention and business of said account. It’s also about analyzing your existing database (there are some tech stacks that can help, like Salesforce and Engagio) and understanding which accounts will drive the most revenue, less churn and more upsells, as well as which type of customers (size, maturity, industry, titles, etc.), will convert faster.
Here are eight tips to help you start—or improve—your ABM practice:
1. Drill down into the account selection process.
First, investigate your hot accounts—those that represent your gold logos, would be quick to convert, offer a high ARR, 100% retention rate, etc.
Then based on this information, decide how you want to approach. Do you go for the few, very large accounts or a bigger list of accounts with possibly less personalization? Do you go by a specific industry or segment?
Once you’ve decided, you can now select your target accounts, define the demographics and gather intelligence.
2. Tailor your messaging.
Customize your approach to fit your chosen profile account drivers and use cases.
3. Measure performance.
Define your metrics and goals, set up a monitoring dashboard that includes key performance indicators, such as higher account engagement, a higher win rate, a shorter close time, higher deal size, etc.
4. Define stages and qualifications.
The four stages to consider are unaware, aware, aware-ready and engaged. What does the customer experience look like in each of these four stages?
5. Choose the tactics you want to deploy.
Example tactics include physical events and sponsorships, website popup forms, remarketing, personalized landing pages, social media, paid media, direct mail and email campaigns and content syndication, Define the call to action for each tactic. For example, maybe you want clients to schedule a one-on-one demo or join a live demo, opt in to a free trial or participate in a survey to win a prize. People like to play, so include an experience marketing component when possible and remember that ABM is about creating relationships. I recommend utilizing business-to-human tactics, too.
6. Create the collateral pieces and assets to fit each stage.
In the funnel, there are five stages: attention, interest, desire, action and sales. Remember to examine each stage and your assets in the context of the industry. Lastly, don’t forget to A/B test your content.
7. Put together an ABM playbook.
Your playbook should define who all in your company plays a role and how. Think about all your departments, from events and digital marketing to your sales executive to your customer success team.
8. Invest in the right tools.
Spend time researching the right tech stack and third-party digital channels and tools to help you run and manage the campaign. There are tools for analytics and intelligence, for prospecting and engagement, for monitoring, scoring and automation.
As Gartner Inc., notes ABM can lead to “higher win rates, faster sales cycles, and increased deal sizes.” That said, to be successful, ABM must be a combined, well-coordinated, ongoing effort by sales and marketing.