How Account-Based Marketing Works
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a hot topic right now. But what is it and how can it be used to optimise B2B companies’ sales results?
Is Account-Based Marketing for everyone?
Every now and then a trend comes that influences and affects more than you think. Is ABM such a trend? I think so, and we also see that more and more people see the benefit of it and are gearing global organisations towards this kind of marketing.
Then what is ABM? The organisation ITSMA defines it as ”when every company is a market in its own right”. ABM is advantageously used by B2B companies with long and complex sales cycles in which it is difficult to reach all the stakeholders and decisions makers that take part in the purchasing process. ABM is geared towards those account that are estimated to be the most profitable ones and their ”twins”, i.e. similar accounts.
Today the marketing budget often gets spread equally over all accounts – regardless of expected sales – which is very inefficient. According to ABM it is better to do an overview of which accounts should be prioritised, for example with the help of the old 80/20 rule, and thereafter, and together with sales, go through the chosen accounts and optimise the marketing resources towards these.
Suitable for long and complex sales processes
The basics for ABM are those sales processes that are long and complex and involve a lot of stakeholders. The bigger the deal the more change management needed, and the harder it is for sales to get access to the stakeholders with his or her message. Reaching the right people, or just getting to know who they are, is often hard and sometimes impossible. But with today’s digital technology you can not only be certain that the message gets across, you can also make sure it only gets across to the target account. Not shown to other companies that at that point might be totally irrelevant.
Some things to consider
If each account “is a market in its own right” then the communication with the account should also be specific and relevant. As an example that would mean that all Marketing Automation flows that are set up to include the potential and current customers also should be set up in a special way towards the prioritised accounts.
Few people in sales who work with this type of customers appreciate common mass mailings. Instead they want to be part of the planning of the communication. That also means that the communication you are involved in online, for example digital ABM, should be in line with the sales efforts around each particular customer.
The communication need to support what is discussed, whether it revolves around a specific event, a webinar, work around an RFP or something else. To show ads at the right time, towards the right account and the right department can also support the company’s own argumentation and disarm the competitor’s argumentation.
For those accounts that are prioritised marketing and sales should jointly go through the pains that you are looking to solve for the customer and how to communicate around these. If each account should be treated as a unique market, then you need relevancy per account. And of course what you communicate should be synchronized, whether it is sales or marketing doing it, and regardless of whether the communication is taking place offline and online.
This gives two big advantages, one that marketing and sales can jointly work towards the same goal, not always apparent in all companies. It also means that you put the resources where there is ROI. In a survey done by ITSMA 84% responded that ABM was the type of marketing that gave the best ROI.
Another thing to consider is the end goal – and that is not the largest amount of clicks possible. The end goal is to help the customer to develop its relation and its business. ABM is a way to reach as many stakeholders and decision makers as possible with a message and the content must be crafted so the message is as relevant and specific as possible. The higher up in the organisation the fewer will click.
First marketing and then over to sales? I think not.
57% of the buyer’s journey is done when sales come in to the discussion. The number comes from an article The End of Soultion Sales in the July-August 2012 edition of Harvard Business Review, and it includes a study done by the CEB writers Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon and Nicholas Toman.
The analytics company SiriusDecisions have also looked at this earlier and did a big survey approximately a year ago how buyers in B2B make their decisions. The answer was simple and, in my view, logical.
A big part of the sales process is digital, but it is not only done before sales join the dialog with a potential buyer rather it is a continuing process. And in a big purchase decision where there are many people involved they all follow their own buyer’s journey. As much as 57% of the buyer’s journey is done digital according to the studies done by SiriusDecisions.
With that also follow that the content shown must match each account and each department. Different purchase department have different pains, do research differently and take decisions on different grounds, and hence you must also switch content as you go.
What happens next?
A year ago we often got the question; what is ABM? Now we more often get the question; why should we hire you? In what way do you differ from other vendors. It is a pleasure to see this area develop so quickly.
At the same time almost everyone say that they are working with ABM so the confusion increases. One trend visible now is the dichotomy between companies trying to scale their ABM to include hundreds, even thousands of customers and prospects. On the other hand, there are companies that claim that strategic ABM is when you work account by account, with one plan for content, budget and time per account and that in this attempt to scale lies a misunderstanding around the actual definition of ABM. If you scale it to hundreds or thousands of companies then many claim it is no longer correct to call it ABM.
More and more companies do see a logic in the division of the term and match different vendors depending on their need. You apply one way of thinking for the strategic accounts and do a more List-Based Marketing on the other accounts. There is also a method by which you start with a broad choice and then measure the level of engagement between different companies and between different departments. You then down prioritise some companies and focus on other ones, so called Account-Based Trawling.
Author: Helena Sveding
Helena Sveding is the Marketing Director/Head of ABM at Vendemore.
This post originally appeared as a guest post at KNTNT