Account-Based Marketing as a Strategy to Grow your Business?

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse. You can learn more about the author, Sander Arts, here.

As many of you know, I am currently engaged with a variety of customers through my own consultancy and am absolutely loving it! I am involved with several clients and am helping them (amongst other things) strategize on how to sell more products to existing and new customers.

I introduced the concept of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) to a few of my customers, and what surprises me in all the initial conversations, is their traditional way of thinking around the topic of marketing (and sales). It essentially boils down to people thinking that the old ways of engagement and doing business will continue to reap benefits. I have been in numerous meetings where sales and product marketing managers claim they already know all of their customers and that marketing cannot help them grow their customer base. I 100% disagree. I know from experience, that there are ‘new’ ways that can help deepen existing relationships, nurture new ones and grow the pipeline in a significant way. ABM is one of them. Let me try and build the case for why it makes sense to start an ABM pilot and why it will be a win/win for sales and product managers to work with their marketing department.

First off, it may be helpful to explain what ABM actually is. According to Wikipedia, “Account-Based Marketing is a strategic approach to business marketing in which an organization considers and communicates with individual prospect or customer accounts as markets of one.”

There…that’s clear, I think. Now, let’s state some facts related to the B2B space and how buyers really behave these days (Sources: SiriusDecisions, Accenture, IDC).

• My friend Mike Noonen would always jokingly claim that, “the Internet is going to be big,” when we tried to convince traditional sales and BU managers to change their views around online marketing. To be clear: In this day and age, sales cycles happen PRIMARILY online.

• 93% of B2B purchases start with an internet search

• 75% of the buying is done anonymously

• There are 40% more stakeholders involved in decision making than 5 years ago

• 70% of the buying process is complete before prospects engage with a live sales rep

• 59% of buyers prefer online research to direct interaction with a sales rep

I would like to add that consumers increasingly require more and more personalized information. As a matter of fact, nearly 73% of online consumers get frustrated with websites that push content (e.g., offers, ads, promotions) that they’re not interested in. (Janrain & Harris Interactive, via The Marketing Blender).

“Of the top four most important reasons why respondents went with the winning vendor, 64% said the fact that the vendors ‘demonstrated a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs.’ Overall, it was the second most influential reason why buyers chose the winning vendor.” (B2B Buyer’s Survey Report – Demand Gen Report).

What does all of this mean in plain language? Your buyers are online; making decisions; all by themselves. They won’t engage with you and actually, they don’t want to unless they REALLY have to! They want a personalized, contextualized and localized experience on your website that guides them through their process in a meaningful way.

At my previous job, we successfully ran an extensive ABM program through Demandbase. As a matter of fact, we did a case study around it which can be found here so that you can read all about it yourself. The essence of the story is that we significantly boosted sales opportunities (by 156%, actually) in various market segments with web personalization for key verticals and re-targeting.

Now, why is it still hard to get this off the ground in some companies? Buying the technology and the service from a company like Demandbase is one thing. I found them to be a great partner with great people, a great solution. On top of that, they have a tremendous customer focus. That is not enough, though. The other key elements are ‘change management’ (because of the title of this blog post, for example) with the rest of the company, sales in particular. Then there is the building of the marketing technology stack, the maturity of the lead gen/demand gen engine. Successful implementation also requires global integrated marketing campaigns with personalized tracks for multiple markets, verticals (in language), and the capacity of a marketing team to run multiple campaigns (personalized) at the same time; in a collaborative fashion since it requires ALL marketing disciplines to run a successful program. KPI setting, non-traditional set up of the marketing team are all intrinsic elements that need to be taken into consideration here.

If you’d like to learn more about my experience with ABM, send me a note.