Your Account-Based Marketing Starter-Kit
Account-based marketing is having somewhat of a renaissance at the moment and the momentum is running strong. The new world of predictive technologies, digital identification, intent and behavioral data is driving a surge of interest. For all the hype, there is a foundational element that still needs to be right. Marketing must be working for and driving value for sales.
A common theme from marketers is that sales is revenue-obsessed and just wants leads. Though this may be true in some cases, when sales departments tackle large account management, there is much more happening; more depth and relationship-building taking place, and much more support is needed to ensure messages are consistent across the spectrum of decision-makers, influencers and users, alike.
A common voice is important, but it is extremely difficult for sales to have the bandwidth to keep up with the content, data, insights and technologies required to stay on top of the task.
Narrowing the Scope
Unlike a lot of marketing activities, account-based marketing (ABM) is designed to be very narrow and deep. The fewer larger and more strategic accounts supported, the better. Engaging as part of the broader account team becomes a necessity, and understanding its plans, goals, contacts, wins and losses becomes integral to integration success. Flexibility with success KPIs for the marketing team is also important, as all accounts are in different stages of their lifecycles.
Start small, prove value and grow the practice.
All too often, sales and marketing teams start to treat ABM campaigns as if they are demand generation — starting with MQLs as a primary KPI. This should never be the case. In fact, when dealing with very large accounts, demand generation can stall the path to delivering value. Supporting the account team in areas that need support day-to-day should be the primary objective. The initial goal is to increase engagement with the brand and to have a specific offering defined by the account team. In these large accounts, it is generally safer to assume the key decision-makers are known and are engaged at some level vs. not.
Taking the above a little further, if we assume that sales can handle a small number of key decision-makers, then marketing can step in to fill the void for the remaining influencers and users. Generating content, identifying influencers/users, and determining ways in which to reach them — equally suppressing them and others from conflicting messaging that could create confusion or churn.
The last component is the desire to scale. Of course, ABM can scale with the components of data mining, research, content development and personalization that can be programmed leveraging first- and third-party data, predictive engines and personalization tools. In these instances, marketing teams are deploying lighter capabilities for a broader audience, typically aligned to named accounts or industry/verticals. The broader the scale that is applied, the less this becomes true account-based marketing and is more aligned with targeted marketing practices. These are a critical part of the marketing mix, though they may have less of the critical elements needed for a true ABM program.
How to Implement Account-based Marketing
- Build Your ‘Tiger Team’ — Starting an ABM program requires mutual engagement from sales and marketing. It will not work without one or the other.
- Engage Leaders and Pioneer — Ensure your team consists of sales leaders and marketing leaders and that you have sponsorship, not just permission to take a new approach. This means that leaders are engaged in frequent statuses and helping drive the program.
- Don’t Boil the Ocean — It is recommended to start small, on your top accounts, in a manual fashion, to build up the process, internal relationships, and understanding of goals and objectives.
- Proceed Carefully — Avoid the temptation to jump straight to opportunity generation. ABM is about engaging broader audiences with the right message at the right time and aligned to sales plans.
- Personalize — Consider the value of influencer and end-user engagement, personalizing the message to those audiences aligned with conversations your sales leaders are having with decision-makers.
- Scale It — Scaling will require data and technology. Plan early for the required investment and corresponding business cases.