New tech makes account based marketing more achievable

Account based marketing is like sport fishing. Traditional marketing is casting a net. You get more fish. But in sport fishing, you go after specific fish — big fish. You need special gear and you need to travel — by plane and then by boat — to where your target fish are. 

It’s a lot of work. As a marketer, I’ve come across folks who believe in account based marketing, and those who are skeptics. To succeed with it means a lot of work and coordination across departments — not just marketing and sales, but operations, customer success, and finance. 

The marketing landscape is shifting in this new decade, thanks to marketers finally implementing martech (including AI) to adapt to customer demands and expectations. The same agility and intelligence we can utilize for hyper-personalization can be applied to account based marketing. 

Greater business outcomes with ABM 

Is ABM still worth considering? Yes. And many businesses agree. According to ITSMA, the B2B marketing community and ABM pioneer, their third annual study revealed a projected average 21% increase in companies’ ABM budgets in 2020. 

ABM continues to grow, and companies that have already utilized an ABM strategy now allocate 29% of their entire marketing budget to ABM. Of these companies, 73% are planning to spend more on ABM in 2020. 

Overall, ABM spending shows an average increase of 15% this year, cementing ABM’s place as a foundational B2B strategy for marketing. And why not? In the same study from ITSMA, 71% of the companies that invested in ABM reported a somewhat or significantly higher return than from traditional marketing programs. 

This is made possible by martech tools that track key metrics at the core of developing the data necessary to refine a program — so that it’s just right for an organization and its campaigns.

Just like with everything, patience matters, as does being deliberate. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Transitioning to and implementing ABM strategies

Most marketing teams and their tools are trained and built for quantity-based lead generation. Compared to the non-linear approach of content creation, driving traffic, lead capture, nurture and scoring, ABM is more precise and targeted — its quality over quantity. 

So it’s not surprising that there will be growing pains when you shift to and implement ABM. 

Start with a pilot first. Break it down into steps. You don’t have to do it overnight. 

I’m not going to agree with the Martech Today article that it’s not complicated, but they gave good tips that can help you work your way through the process. The strategic KPIs will be different. To achieve them, it takes an involved process that requires your teams to set a game plan and work together to start, implement, and track how things go. 

See what works, see what doesn’t, and then scale from there. 

Patience is part of the master plan. ABM implementation can deliver good results fast, but it gets better as it matures, generating more substantial impact across your organization’s teams over time.

Decide on the account list to target. 

You and your teams should align on your target account, its size, your target close rates, among other factors. 

  1. Understand what and how much your sales reps can handle.  
  2. Fill that account list intelligently, with qualified leads ready to engage with you. 

Get insights from your sales teams about the qualified leads and ideal customer profiles. 

Set up strategies and action points for each key success indicator:

  • Speed: faster close rates
  • Engagement: increased and longer page views 
  • Revenue/Conversion volume: Increased average contract value
  • Revenue/Upsells: Larger lifetime contract value

Setting up strategies for the above metrics means strengthening your support for your sales team, with your marketers supporting inside sales. Which brings us to the next item. 

Master multichannel and blended strategies: Your outreach needs to be robust. 

The mix of warm, relevant communication and personalization is perhaps even more important in ABM than in lead gen. Every SMS, email and phone call should be strategic. 

  • Enable your marketing and sales teams to work together through tools and platforms. 
  • Employ multiple approaches to nurture each account: one-to-one, one-to-few, one-to-many. 

Companies are going digital, yes, and you should use martech tools for customer insight and streamlined tasks, but ABM success hinges on online and offline sales and marketing techniques. 

Use AI and personalization for intelligent marketing. 

This is where new tech makes ABM easier… and cheaper. The more your teams utilize and train AI tools for personalization, the more intelligent they get in anticipating and effectively nurturing, closing, and renewing/upselling to accounts on your account list and achieve the metrics I listed above: faster sales, bigger deals.  

That’s not to say your budget for ABM will go way down. You should dedicate a budget to nurture your target accounts. Because focusing on target accounts saves you money in the sense that current customers are less expensive to cross-sell/upsell to.

Which brings us to another part of intelligent marketing: campaign and segment prioritization. 

Martech tools can help your marketing teams keep their segments and campaigns streamlined and organized, with each account getting the right messaging at the right time, all the time, wherever they are in the buyer’s journey — and can keep your teams from not getting their fingers in each other’s pies. 

Combine established ABM tactics and new technology 

Aside from the culture shift and smooth collaboration between your teams, you also need someone whose primary focus is to manage an ABM initiative, track results, and create a knowledge base of what works and what doesn’t. 

Because of all the details and workflows involved, innovative marketing technology can help launch, scale, and run an ABM approach faster and more effectively than ever. 

Quick example: The weather forecast triggers a bunch of coffee gift certificates to your target accounts who go out during their workday, and the ones who stay in get coffees delivered: a charming blend of online and offline nurturing. 

And it’s made possible by technology. Account insights are at play there: you know your target people so you can answer their needs. 

The same study from ITSMA highlights the foundations of effective ABM programs. Companies that saw ROI and revenue growth from their ABM strategies were found to have invested in: 

  • Analytics tools (69%)
  • Account insights (67%)
  • Engagement insights (56%)
  • Predictive martech (27%)

22% also plan to add predictive technology to their ABM stack in 2020 to 2021. 

New technology will help you pilot an ABM strategy, then help you organize and test the insights you got from your pilot, and finally turn your team into an ABM team. 

Just as AI and martech continues to break silos, ABM has the potential to unite your sales, operations, customer success, finance and marketing teams into one powerful ABM engine.  

Dan Baird

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