The term account-based marketing (ABM) seems to be popping up everywhere. In the past 12 months, it generated enough global search traffic to warrant its first appearance on Google Trends.
That’s because the promise of ABM is compelling. As marketing functions are increasingly challenged to do more with less, fill the pipeline with quality leads (vs. quantity) and accelerate existing pipeline deals, b-to-b marketers are exploring how an ABM approach can help (thus driving the popularity of the search term).
While ABM can help produce the aforementioned benefits, you can’t just “flip the switch” and begin doing ABM. Among other things, building a successful ABM practice requires proper planning, alignment, communication and a substantive change in mindset.
To that end, here are the five most critical requirements for successfully adopting an ABM approach:
- Commitment to customer insights. How can you determine which accounts will yield the highest returns if you don’t know anything about them? ABM requires a commitment to understand as much as possible about the account and contacts. The good news is that, today, there are many internal and external sources of customer information. It’s just a matter of identifying what information is needed, where to find it, and how trustworthy and actionable it is.
- Readiness to engage different customers uniquely. Leave the one-size-fits-all approach to traditional advertising – where the goal is to convey one message to as many people as possible. With ABM, it’s essential to engage customers in a differentiated, relevant way. Furthermore, since b-to-b marketing organizations don’t have endless resources, focus on where those limited resources can make the biggest impact. Develop and maintain a customer “value model” to determine which accounts to focus on. Your organization may have to be ok with doing nothing (or very little) to certain low-opportunity accounts where very little (if any) return is expected.
- Willingness to take a different approach to content development. Sales organizations often struggle to find customer-specific uses for the content that marketing has provided, citing that it’s too generic and not appropriate to the specific challenges their customers are facing. To engage in the relevant, differentiated relationships prescribed by an ABM model, you need to have something to say to the different types of customers, industries, challenges, buying stages, personas and contacts you will be addressing. Sales needs to be involved in the marketing content planning process! Which leads me to the next point…
- Pledge to interlock sales and marketing. ABM requires a cross-functional, collaborative approach, and the two functions that need to align most closely are sales and marketing. Marketing must be engaged as early as possible in the sales account planning process in order to produce insights, content, programs and initiatives with precision. Aligning marketing coverage to the sales go-to-market structure ensures that the two functions’ priorities are aligned. Establish a consistent cadence of communications between sales and marketing to ensure that any alteration in strategy, direction or account goals will result in timely changes to ABM activities.
- Willingness (and ability) to measure results differently. Marketers are measured on the number of leads (i.e. marketing qualified leads, sales accepted leads, sales qualified leads) they bring into the sales funnel. Additional metrics must be considered to reflect the different activities that marketing must conduct in support of specific ABM goals. Since some of these account goals involve long sales cycle times or are relationship focused (vs. growth focused), defining (and aligning sales to) short- and medium-term metrics is crucial to demonstrating ABM progress.
Customers and opportunities are not all created equal. It’s essential to allocate your resources to engage those most critical to your business in an appropriate manner. A cohesive, unified approach measured accurately can provide a competitive advantage – and ABM can help you get there.