Get started with your first ABM program
ABM is a strategy that directs marketing resources to engage a specific set of target accounts. ABM doesn’t just call for alignment between sales and marketing teams – it forces teams to align because personalization at the account level requires sales and marketing to be in sync on account-specific messaging.
The motivation? Higher revenues in a shorter time frame.
Instead of casting a wide net with their lead-generation efforts, marketers using ABM work closely with sales to identify key potential customers and then determine how to develop the best approach for reaching them. The campaign isn’t just focused on one company, but rather on a cluster of companies that share high-priority characteristics. Rather than using many tools, ABM relies on a limited set of marketing technology to communicate individually with each targeted account. Instead of relying on one salesperson to land a big account, ABM uses multiple reps to feed leads through a centralized system – a workflow that ensures all critical activities are completed in the right order and at the right time.
Marketers who want to be involved in an account-based sales approach must keep up with their knowledge of ABM technology, and work closely with their business development team to understand what’s working (and what isn’t). If a marketer does this, they can benefit by contributing to lead-nurturing and nurturing activities that support the sales team’s larger account plans.
Knowledge gaps are common among marketers who use ABM, and these fall into three buckets:
- First, marketers need to understand how to track value deployments. Marketers need to know how to connect ABM’s activities back to directly measure lead-to-customer value.
- Second, marketing needs to track what is working and what isn’t. Marketers need a way to aggregate data in real-time, see what has worked on which account (or accounts), then change tactics or pick up new ones as the campaign progresses.
- Finally, a more informal knowledge gap arises from marketers’ tendency to assume that sales understand best how to reach prospects. Marketers need to understand how ABM will help their sales teams, and how they can be part of the larger selling conversation in order to own the account from start-to-finish.
ABM isn’t for everyone. Not all organizations can pull it off. The main challenge is integrating the efforts of sales and marketing teams around a single segment of customers, rather than the broader prospects they pursue. ABM works when you have a clear target universe, and your strategy is to sell to that universe on a go-to-market basis.
It also helps for organizations to have already established account relationships with top prospects in that target segment. For ABM to work, you have to have credibility with the target accounts, and ideally, they’ll want to do business with you already.
Marketers need to think carefully about the customers they are targeting. ABM can be effective where customers aren’t cheap to acquire and aren’t easy for competitors to steal away.
Another common challenge for ABM is expanding beyond the account-based sales (ABS) group. ABM is about aligning efforts around a specific target segment and making those accounts a priority, but it’s also about building strong relationships with those customers, If executives don’t support that strategy, it becomes difficult to execute. You won’t have enough of an investment from the marketing organization to make it successful.
Some companies have also failed to integrate ABM with other marketing initiatives because marketers’ efforts are disconnected. To succeed, you need to align your ABM efforts with other areas of marketing such as content and social media. You also have to connect it with your product development process.
Marketers also need to understand the sales process. They also need to embrace a more collaborative mindset. ABM is not a one-time project, it requires ongoing work, and it can be difficult for marketers to be prepared to make that commitment. ABM reveals whether you are a traditional marketer, or if you are ready for a more collaborative culture.
Another obstacle is leading the agenda when the sales team isn’t in alignment with marketing. Talent and time constraints also make it difficult to bring everyone on board. For that reason, branching out can be done with a few select customers who have an ongoing need and are willing to accept the learning curve involved.
ABM is a discipline that companies need to embrace if they want to have a more collaborative culture. Companies such as Adobe and Intuit have all adopted it successfully. For now, this model is still niche. ABM will become mainstream once marketers integrate it successfully with other marketing approaches and build the right customer relationships with a common audience.
A common theme in the ABM process is that marketing needs to position itself as an equal partner in the sales conversation. To move beyond simple list-building, you have to create an account-based approach to your sales and marketing efforts.
But there’s more to it than that. You also need the right tools to help you track your ABM program’s value. Your marketing automation platform should tie into your sales data in real-time, so you can get a better picture of what’s working and what isn’t with the various ABM programs you have running.
Most importantly, you need a real-time dashboard that helps you see the big picture of your ABM efforts. Have you been building a long-term plan for your ABM program? Have you been sticking to it? If not, it’s time to re-look at what you’re doing and make sure that the strategy is working.
ABM can help companies take their marketing efforts to the next level. But it also takes a deep commitment from marketing and sales teams, and collaboration across the organization. If you’re ready to get started with ABM, you’ll want to invest in a marketing automation platform that not only offers the effectiveness and efficiency you need but also helps you track your ABM program’s value more accurately.
8 steps to jump-start your ABM program
Over the course of this guide, we’ve shown you how ABM can help you increase sales and grow your business. But before you dive in, it’s important to have a clear plan for how to begin. Here are the steps you should take:
- Define your target audience
First, it’s important to understand your target audience. Are you looking to grow your existing customers? Maybe you want to find new prospects. Whatever the case, define who you’re going after.
- Determine your buyer personas
Once your audience is clear, it’s time to create buyer personas for each segment of buyers you plan to target. Personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers; they include information such as demographic data, industry experience, and job title. You’ll use your personas throughout the rest of your ABM strategy, so spend some time really getting to know your ideal customers.
- It’s all about Accounts now
Once your plan is finished, it’s time to put that plan into action. Each of the personas are now Accounts in your CRM system; you can now track their activity and contact information so you can later follow up with them. Let your team know to begin following up!
- Demand Units
Demand Units essentially keeps a track of the level of engagement from your target accounts. You can use Sirius Decision’s Demand Unit Waterfall Model to understand this in detail. By tracking the Demand Units over time, you can easily understand the level of engagement from your prospects towards your product.
Once you have a better understanding of the demand units, you can set your CRM up to measure this metric. For example, if you measure engagement each time someone clicks on your online banner ad, sells your product, recommends your product to their friends, or otherwise engages with you, this data will provide a great baseline for measuring the success and failure of your promotion to that particular category of the target accounts. It will also help you understand how to increase engagement by optimizing your promotions.
Intent Data is also an important factor when measuring engagement. Intent Data helps your team understand what the customer is looking for by measuring their online behavior. For example, if your company sells clothing for children, tracking Intent Data will help you understand what types of clothing the visitor is looking for, so you can offer a more customized and relevant experience.
- Set up account scoring
Account scoring takes into perspective a number of things- it measures the level of engagement and intent (to buy) shown by the account as a whole which includes all the engaged stakeholders who are involved in the buying committee of the account. Defining ideal contact roles on your CRM is essential to be considered while designing your scoring mechanism.
A good scoring mechanism will help you to prioritize accounts and increase efficiency by assigning the right person to each account.
- Set up account-nurturing campaigns
Once your demand units are identified, the next step is to set up account nurturing campaigns for each of them. Depending upon the industry, there are a couple of strategies that can be used to set up the campaign. If it’s an enterprise B2B company, you can conduct a personalized demo call. If you’re in a more customer-facing industry, such as travel, you may want to conduct personalized retargeting ads and messaging. The key is to make sure that you are staying relevant and have a personalized approach to get your customers’ attention.
- Optimize your Tech Stack
Having the right set of tools to jump-start and sustain your ABM strategy is very essential. There are numerous useful tools in the market and this market is only growing. It is easy to get confused as to what to buy. However, every ABM program is unique in some way or another and there is no one-stop-shop for everything ABM. One important way to choose your ‘weapons’ is by looking at the ideal KPIs or metrics that would help you measure the success of your ABM strategy. Walk back from there and study if the tool helps you measure it accurately. There are a lot of nuances which you may uncover and would want to test out with a demo or a POC.
Here’s a great guide on how to choose your ABM tech stack
- Measure your success
Once you’ve started hitting your goals, you’ll have metrics to help keep you on track. This is the easy part: just note how many accounts you’re sending to the sales team and which ones are resulting in new customers. Once you figure these out, adjust your tactics and keep doing what works.
This is how ABM works: it takes repeated action overtime to make it a sustainable strategy for growth. On average, an ABM strategy tends to show results only 4-5 months after its implementation.
ABM is an evolving approach to sales and marketing that combines the best of both worlds. By aligning your efforts personally and professionally around a target segment of customers, you can achieve more cohesiveness in your sales and marketing efforts. You’ll be able to build a deeper connection with your customers, making the expansion of your business easier.
ABM is an account-based sales approach that integrates both sales and marketing strategies, and it’s an effective way to increase your lead generation and revenue.