If you are a B2B marketer, chances are you’ve heard of ABM – Account-Based Marketing. Prior to joining Demandbase, I worked at companies that were executing on traditional B2B programs. But as ABM started to become a larger conversation, we started thinking through what it could look like in our organization. Building out the small ABM pilot at my past company allowed me an inside look into what works and what doesn’t when growing an ABM program.
In my first 6 months at Demandbase, I have seen first hand how impactful ABM can be when your whole company is aligned. At Demandbase, we practice what we preach and try to set the gold standard when it comes to Account-Based Marketing, finding those best practices and executing on them internally. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with Marketers from different size companies and differing levels of ABM maturity. To say I’ve learned a lot is an understatement! There are so many learnings I can share but that would probably fill a ABM book. Below you will find a few important considerations as you approach Account-Based Marketing, along with tips on where to start within your department to make sure your strategy is successful.
Marketing on Marketing Alignment
First and foremost when starting your journey to ABM, you need to define what Account-Based Marketing is at your company, decide on a steering committee, and communicate the plan internally.
In order for an ABM pilot to be successful, it needs to be a priority for all stakeholders involved. We suggest creating an ABM leadership team with members from marketing, sales, and operations. When thinking of alignment on the marketing team, Demand Generation and Field Marketing is a dream combination for ABM! Demand Gen helps create marketing programs that support the top and middle of the funnel while Field Marketing brings the regional knowledge, end of funnel expertise and strong sales relationship. Alignment between these two marketing functions is key in making the buyer’s journey a cohesive, integrated experience. I’ve seen what happens when people work in silos and don’t align on an ABM strategy. It damages the trust between organizations and makes it even harder to get ABM off the ground. Marketing team alignment is crucial for ABM success. If not, it’s going to be difficult to get entirely different departments in lockstep.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
In addition to alignment within your marketing team, you’ll need to make sure that you (marketing) are aligned with your sales team. We know that the relationship between sales and marketing isn’t perfect, but ABM can actually help that conflict turn to collaboration. ABM doesn’t start and stop with marketing. ABM is a team sport and requires collaboration from every function, including sales.
When starting with ABM, don’t bite off more than you can chew. You can implement a crawl, walk, run approach. Have your Field Marketing Manager recruit one or two sales reps (preferably your top sales reps) to work on the pilot. Collaborate with them to decide on the size of the pilot, the target account list, and the strategy for attracting and engaging those accounts. Sales know their accounts better than anyone, and marketing can benefit from that knowledge to help better understand where accounts are in the buyer’s journey., With the sales inside scoop on accounts, marketing can create personalized content to grab buyers attention, highlight how you can help solve their problems over your competitors.
In a previous company, we started by creating a 1:1 ABM pilot. I was tapped to help with creating an internal steering committee (ABM leadership team) and help build our Target Account List. While the pilot wasn’t a screaming success (as they usually aren’t), I’m glad I was involved. Our organization was working on mending the relationship between sales and marketing. In my role as Field Marketing Manager, I already had sales’ trust because my whole job was to impact pipeline in their region with targeted marketing programs. Our demand generation team was project managing and executing the pilot but the account executives and I were getting into the weeds on the account history, figuring out how we could engage the accounts, which champions we had internally, how they could help and how we could expand into other LOBs. We had a couple of hours a week carved out to work on the ABM pilot. If Field Marketing was not involved, I don’t think sales would have paid the same level of attention to our ABM pilot likely resulting in a fail and waste of company money.
Metrics that Matter
The last thing that I’ll highlight when it comes to ABM and running a successful pilot is measurement. In traditional B2B marketing, the marketing team often do not look at the same metrics and KPIs as sales. In marketing, we like to focus on MQLs, SQLs, opens, click-through rates, etc. While these are important metrics to continue to measure, they are not the most important when measuring the success of an Account-Based marketing program. When deciding on metrics to measure, imagine you are a field marketer. In a perfect world, a field marketer is responsible for supporting their sales team by running campaigns to help generate, influence, accelerate and close pipeline. We are measured on pipeline influence and deal velocity. These are key metrics to track when measuring the impact of an account-based marketing campaign. I’ve seen companies fail to change their measurements and write off the pilot as unsuccessful because they weren’t looking at the right metrics. Traditional marketing measurements may look lower than normal due to the fact that ABM brings more quality leads into the pipeline over quantity. This results in less going in at the top of the funnel but higher close rates at the end of the funnel. In addition to changing the way you measure, we suggest setting a baseline. This will be a little more work but again important in the long run. If you don’t have a clear picture of how your campaigns performed with these new metrics in the past, how will you know if the pilot or program is a success?
When it comes to B2B marketing in general, ABM can help in so many ways but it is important that you take it seriously, dedicate the appropriate resources and get your teams aligned. This is all I’ll share for now! If you want more information on Account-Based Marketing, where to start and creating a pilot, check out our ABM certification! We dive into some of the things I highlighted above and much much more!