Tough Talks Made Easy: Beyond the Hype: what to tell your Marketing VP about ABM
Written by Trent Cross
Account-based marketing (ABM) took the B2B world by storm several years ago, gaining recognition for its potential to land deals with high ROI. That’s a naturally exciting prospect for any business, but ABM gets results by execution; not magic.
In this Tough Talks Made Easy, we’ll help you talk to your Marketing leadership about ABM. You’ll learn to explain how it really works, the circumstances in which it succeeds, and the preparation ABM takes to pull off.
Flipping the funnel
ABM is a strategy for producing marketing campaigns that target particular accounts. In doing so, ABM flips the traditional marketing funnel on its head—rather than distributing your content and messaging far and wide to attract as many leads as possible, your first port of call is to narrow down a subset of customers and prospects to focus on with personalized campaigns.
The rationale is that dedication to certain accounts, with specific personalization, yields more highly qualified leads and lucrative deals than a scattergun approach. If your broader-based marketing efforts are resulting in limited growth, ABM offers a fresh alternative with a trade-off: it takes work to choose the best accounts to target and find the most effective methods of engaging them.
Various models exist for targeting accounts and personas, with just one universal truth to the process: Marketing and Sales need to be deeply integrated together. A more traditional campaign might see the Marketing and Sales work as separate islands; with ABM, the focus on specific accounts demands joint strategic input. Although each Sales rep would love Marketing to increase their personal list of existing and new business, your team simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to support everyone with targeted campaigns.
Therefore, ABM really begins with a conversation between your Marketing and Sales leaders. Your VP needs to sit with their Sales counterpart and agree on a set of accounts to prioritize. A strong mutual directive is the first spark of life for any ABM campaign; from there, both teams should work together on more in-depth targeting.
A personal touch
In planning the finer details of an ABM campaign, the idea is to replicate past successes with a fresh twist. To do this, Marketing needs to determine how existing personas, content, and tactics can apply to each chosen account.
As with the selection of accounts, the types of people you target each account should share characteristics (e.g. job role, region, vertical) with stakeholders who responded positively to past campaigns and brought in business. This means sharing data between Marketing and Sales to help you identify the decision makers at each account, any individuals who’ve previously interacted with your brand, and the campaigns that got similar personas to sign on the dotted line.
That insight is your guiding light for the best tactics to try. Whether that involves a personalized web experience or a custom event invite, knowledge of what worked for comparable personas puts you in a good position to engage your chosen stakeholders. Your past campaigns provide a good basis to repurpose content, but the real task is to customize pieces to show understanding of each individual’s interests and pain points.
Underlying these steps is commitment, data maturity, and inter-team communication. For ABM to really work, Marketing and Sales need to collaborate closely on various campaign pieces, invest time and effort to research and develop your audience, and share insights with each other about past account success.
So your Marketing VP understands, here’s what your team needs to execute ABM: sufficient time resourced to do the work within their bandwidth, clear synchronicity with Sales, and a wealth of historical data available to cite points of success with similar companies. When these things are in place, consider your business ready to give ABM a try.
Report and refine
One thing that ABM has in common with more traditional campaigns; you want to go the distance. For all your calculated targeting efforts, doing ABM for the first time is still an experiment. To manage your VP’s expectations: the results are unlikely to be instant, but instead a product of gradual discoveries and tweaks based on feedback from your campaign performance.
For that reason, frame your first outing with ABM as a proof of concept. Your personas, tactics, content, and criteria for targeting accounts are all elements to refine as reports come in from your activity. For continuous success, everyone involved in your ABM campaign—from Sales to your Marketing VP—needs to share and respond proactively to feedback and make strategic changes to chase opportunities.
Both your Marketing and Sales leaders want growth. If the results from your traditional campaigns are tapering off, ABM can help you net those “white whale” accounts, but your leadership should facilitate the things ABM needs; joint investment from Sales and Marketing, accessible historical data, and the will to keep refining it until you strike gold.
For any guidance you need with ABM, Revenue Pulse is here to help.