Advertisements and mass-marketing emails can take a business only so far in today’s self-educated, hyper-personalized market. To adapt, many companies began implementing more targeted account-centric marketing practices.
Account-Based Marketing, or ABM, is an alternative B2B strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market and employs personalized campaigns and touch points designed to resonate with specific personas within each account.
For several years, ABM was the hot new marketing trend that every marketer wanted to try – whether it was a good fit for their business or not. For that reason, many marketers – including myself – failed miserably at an ABM initiative at one point or another.
But at this year’s #FlipMyFunnel event, the concept of account-based marketing no longer felt “new.” The most frequent question was not, “What is ABM?” but instead, “How do I put ABM into practice?” The answer: authenticity.
The New Definition of Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
ABM focuses on humanizing prospects and treating potential buyers as real people instead of numbers in a spreadsheet. During the keynote, Sangram Vajre pushed the definition even farther, defining ABM as “the business philosophy of expressing courage and empathy.”
While modern sales tools may help with convenience and efficiency, no automated marketing strategy can replace the human ability to express courage and empathy. Even with the rise of tools that “specialize” in ABM, the personalization offered at the account level teeters on useless, or at least mildly annoying.
In a time when 53% of customer loyalty stems from the sales experience, there is no room to frustrate prospects. Account-based marketing gives businesses a chance to authenticate their marketing practices.
The Value of ABM is Defined by Sales
Before you get started with account-based practices, you have to make sure the sales team is on board. According to Sangram, the brutal truth in B2B is that the value of marketing is defined by sales.
While this statement may have felt like a punch in the gut to the marketers in the room, he pointed out that no marketing team’s budget has ever gone higher when sales numbers are going down. No matter how hard it is to hear, it’s true: sales measures the success of your marketing efforts.
So before you get too far into the process, here are six steps that help establish a foundational ABM structure:
- Step 1: Get the sales team on board with the new account-centric approach.
- Step 2: Outline the new strategy and the impact it will have on processes and methodologies. Brace yourself — you may be scrapping everything and starting anew.
- Step 3: Implement or adapt fundamental systems of record to support the new approach. Without having systems that support the new strategy, you likely won’t be able to measure its success.
- Step 4: Identify your Ideal Company Profile (ICP) with the sales team. This is not an account wishlist, but an exercise in examining what your sales team might have previously considered good opportunities and taking a look at your existing good customers and finding the common, identifiable traits and criteria shared between the two.
- Step 5: Build the account list. If it’s too long, segment it with the sales team. They know what criteria is more telling of a good fit than others to help tier — and you know (or should know) total addressable market (TAM). These two factors should help you quickly agree on how to segment the account list.
- Step 6: Identify the right buyer personas. Keep in mind that these might be different depending on the segment. At a minimum, it’s likely that you’ve got 6.8 people, of different personas, in the buying center. Identify their profiles to help the sales team know the appropriate contacts to pull into each account and the challenges and goals applicable to each persona.
Humanizing Your Account-Based Approach: ABM Best Practices
Once you have a strong foundation, you’re ready to move forward with ABM. At the #FlipMyFunnel event, ABM was broken down into three levels of basic activities that your teams may use to support account-based efforts. They also gave suggestions on how other companies have improved upon these efforts by adding a layer of authenticity to them.
Level 1: Transactions Leads (Volume)
When looking at Transactions’ practices with leads, you can quickly see the benefit of offering account-based content rather than generic, one-size-fits-all pieces.
Tips for authenticity include having authenticated form fills that then go on to provide personalized “streams” of content that optimize the prospect;s time on their site. Another recommendation is to authenticate your social media platforms by taking the time to do personalized videos.
Level 2: Allbound Accounts (Engagement)
Allbounds’ focus is on engaging accounts through sales pipelines and customer marketing. Companies practicing Allbound authenticate their advertisements by creating account-based ads focused on specific customers instead of mass markets. They also send handwritten notes through the mail and offer more believable, conversational website chat bots. These personalized touches offer a significantly higher engagement rate than traditional methods of engagement — upwards of 50%.
Level 3: One Team – Customer-Centric
One Team takes a customer-centric approach that truly knocks it out of the park. At this level, companies measure conversion through the account-based funnel, allowing them to see how and when accounts are being engaged. When there is not enough engagement, they can quickly assess how to fix it.
One Team even authenticates the experience when customers leave. They send personalized videos apologizing for information that was not helpful, letting the customer know that they have been unsubscribed from all mailing lists and then asking what could have been better for the customer. One Team focuses on creating authentic engagements that could turn into long-term relationships that pay over time.
What the “A” Really Stands For in ABM
The truth is that successful account-based marketing is not all about marketing. To be successful in an account-based approach, you have to reimagine the way you do marketing and sales by centering them both around authenticity.
Doing this well requires complete alignment between your sales and marketing teams. Without the two working together, a truly authentic sales experience is nearly impossible.
Because of this, sales enablement is the missing piece that ties your account-based approach together. Putting “AB” in front of your marketing strategy doesn’t change the fact that if your teams are not aligned, they will not succeed. Sales enablement allows you to align all of your teams, giving them a united platform to communicate, share content and best practices, and analyze the effectiveness of engagement within the target accounts. Sales enablement can save companies time, money, and energy without sacrificing the authentic, account-based practices you are looking to establish.
To learn more about the positive impact of aligning your sales and marketing teams around content to support your account-based approach, read further in this eBook, Content: Your Ticket to High-Performing ABM.