Setting up an Account-based Marketing (ABM) program that can make measurable contributions to your business is possible with the right pieces in place from the beginning. Learn from marketing leaders who started ABM programs over five years ago–avoid challenges and set yourself up for success.
Why would you want an account-based marketing program?
When we ask marketers who have been at ABM for a while, there are a variety of business challenges or opportunities that led them to start the process.
1) ABM brings teams and functions together in a methodological way.
ABM has the ability to bring teams and functions together by following a specific methodology. Essentially it’s about jointly planning around accounts, between sales, account planning and marketing insights to create an account based marketing plan that can be deployed against top tier customers.
2) ABM provides deeper insight for business expansion
Once you start gathering deeper insights in one part of your business, you can take those learnings and expand them to other related industries. The deeper insight also can be used by marketing for better, more tailored program development—not only for ABM accounts, but for all customers and prospects.
What sets a company on the path to setting up an account-based marketing program?
1) You are losing business to a perception problem, being seen as a vendor, not a partner.
As your clients’ businesses change, you want to be in a position to meet their evolving needs. Without close relationships with your top tier accounts, staying agile and integral to your client’s businesses can be challenging. Getting started with ABM takes commitment to the long-term vision. When you combine ABM implementation with a corporate strategic shift to become more of a partner to your clients vs. just a supplier or vendor, you gain the necessary focus and momentum to see it through. The partnership that will develop between sales and marketing as a part of your ABM program can lead to dramatic turn-around for your company in short amount of time.
2) You want a more rigorous approach to growing sales that is account focused.
The nature of ABM is that it is account centric. When you see that some accounts are growing faster or staying loyal longer than others, it’s natural to want to dive deeper into understanding how and why so you can replicate that success. ABM instills a methodology into your business for gathering insight and planning for growth account by account.
3) You are seeing great success within certain industries or verticals that you’d like to grow.
Many of the companies we speak to start down the ABM path because they see great success with their solutions within certain industries or verticals. Going deep on a vertical can pay off in the long run, and adding the structure of an ABM program to your vertical focus has the potential to help you reach success sooner.
4) You recognize that the customer is at the center of everything that your company does.
The nature of ABM is that it’s very much focused on your best customers, their needs, their future plans, and more. If your business strategically places the customer at the center, ABM can be a natural extension of that focus while also contributing processes, alignment across functions and insight about your customers that can benefit the entire business.
What are the top tips for getting started?
1) Do a pilot.
The best way to dive into ABM is with a pilot. Expect to get mixed results in certain areas and good results in other areas. Take the best practices of the pilot and create a centralized program with training, knowledge transfer processes and skill development.
2) Start narrow.
One approach commonly used is to start with a vertical or industry. Then, scale that approach to other large customers within that vertical, and then began expanding to other verticals after the first vertical is established.
What kind of data should you collect in your ABM program?
ABM assumes that from your sales team’s perspective, you know your customers well—you know who the decision makers are, you know their main areas of interest and concern.
The data you’re looking for in an ABM program is primarily around making sure that when you are targeting individuals within the accounts, that the content and messaging you’re putting together in marketing is going to resonate.
So with an ABM program, it’s about collecting research and insight that is shared across the business, by the marketing teams, the account planning teams, the ABM team, and the sales team to validate the assumptions they already have based on what they know.
In terms of the kind of information you want to collect, it can be about the business or the targeted individuals themselves. If you’re looking to find out, for an example, about an executive account, are they speaking at an event? What are they speaking about? Do we have that content as a part of our plan if that’s important to them? These kinds of insights at the individual level are really what drive an ABM program to success. With this approach, you can be more certain that the content that you’re targeting with very specific people is correct.
So, overall, you’re looking for the information that helps you confirm you’re talking to the right people, focused on the right topics, and able to demonstrate how your solutions and vision aligns to theirs.
What kind of returns can you expect from ABM vs. traditional marketing approaches?
The returns that companies see from ABM programs are often substantially higher than any other single investment made across marketing globally. This is why companies who start down the path of ABM continue to shift resources and investments, head count, OPEX spend over to ABM.
The key is finding the right mix of how much you spend on that deep dive strategic ABM and how much of that you can leverage across your broader business to benefit marketing and sales programs overall. In this way, every dollar you spend on ABM has a trickle-down effect and benefits every other part of the business.
One caveat is that the topic of metrics is a tough one. Getting to a point where you can measure the business in a way that everybody feels good about takes commitment. If you think about how companies traditionally measure marketing effectiveness and marketing tactics, we tend to be volume based—number of leads, number of downloads, number of new names added, pipeline attribution, pipeline creation. None of these metrics really apply to account-based marketing, at least at the strategic level with the bigger accounts.
So, it’s not about volume or adding names. It’s about moving the needle forward when it comes to the perception and actions of the people that matter. It’s about accelerating pipeline.
Measuring returns on your ABM program may even require that you invent your own metric system.
For example, one company we spoke to for writing this article takes a look at the people that matter within the account such as decision makers and influencers. They give them an annual score for each key project that they are attributed to. The goal, then, of the account based marketer is to get those contacts to engage over the next year, with the goal of trying got raise their score on each project that they’re aligned with. For them, it’s a very simple process of doing an annual score and then tracking and driving engagements with those specific people throughout the year.
However you track your metrics and progress toward your goals, it’s important to have metrics that everyone internally can get their arms around, that make sense, and that actually align with what people are actually doing.
Finally, once you have metrics that work for your business, you can start to correlate the increased mind share scores to increased probability to close. You can start to track the impact of your ABM program in terms of how much acceleration you are getting in your pipeline.
Expect to spend two or more years establishing your baseline once you have your new approach in place.
Ready to start your ABM program?
Our best advice to starting on this journey is to really talk to people that have been down this path and try to get the goals of the program, structure of the program, and the metrics right as soon as possible. Taking the right steps in the beginning will improve your chances of proving the effectiveness of the program early on, and therefore increasing your overall ABM success.
If you would like help with starting your ABM program, contact us for a complimentary consultation, or attend our Marketing Impact 2020: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange taking place in San Diego, CA in July every year.