You’ve seen hundreds of articles and hours of conference sessions on why B2B marketers need to add an account-based approach (ABM) to their integrated strategy, and with new technology platforms touting an ability to transform marketing with ABM, it can give the impression that ABM is the latest passing fad.
But it isn’t.
ABM is simply a way of focusing your marketing activities on the accounts that matter most to you and using your martech, adtech, CRM, and content in support of that effort—it’s a way you can do more with less.
It can seem overwhelming to launch your company’s ABM play. But you’re probably already halfway there.
The first thing you need is a documented integrated strategy. If you haven’t got yours mapped out, use our strategy template to get it down.
The next thing to understand is that your sales team probably is already doing it—they know how many decision makers it takes to sell your solution, and if they don’t already have a target list, they know what a good potential account looks like—so you’ve already got a ready partner.
And, pivoting from a demand-generation strategy to an ABM strategy isn’t that difficult because, if you’ve got a good partnership with sales, you can count on them to give you good supporting information you can use to augment your own data.
The result is an account-based approach that is more targeted and wastes fewer marketing dollars while putting more leads in your pipeline.
The data supports it. The ABM Leadership Alliance in its “State of the Market” report found:
- ABM is more effective than non-account-focused strategies across major KPIs—opportunity creation, cross-sell and upsell, and customer retention.
- Average opportunity values are 171% higher.
- ABM drives better sales and marketing collaboration.
At Yesler, we’ve been using a model to build, test, iterate, and scale ABM so that we first achieve success in a few key areas before scaling to build larger, more comprehensive marketing programs. Here are few things we’ve learned that might help you plan.
Your key metric is revenue
If you’ve been reading about ABM even a little bit, you’ve heard the term “flip the funnel.” It means that rather than starting at the top of the funnel and applying conversion rates to arrive at an estimate of revenue production or influence, ABM strategy begins by figuring out the percentage of the total addressable market you can expect to capture and then translating it into a likely estimate of revenue per account. With this number in mind, you can set goals and measure against them.
When you select a goal for your ABM program, think obsessively about the kind of revenue you can drive, even if your sales cycle is 12 months or longer. Other metrics matter (like the number of contacts you can interact with or reach in a targeted account), but they shouldn’t be your key metric. Instead, work with your sales team to choose a revenue goal—maybe adopt a goal they already have—and go from there.
ABM is an integrated effort
Whether your company is ready for ABM could hinge on how much you know about what your revenue teams are doing. Ask yourself: Do you know the big sales initiatives for the quarter? Can you name your sales team’s goals? Do you know the road map for your martech stack? Do you understand how your CRM integrations help enable your sales team?
If your sales, marketing, and operations teams are running cohesively, you’re probably in good shape to start ABM. But if you’re feeling like your own marketing island without a lot of support from those teams, you’ll have to get everyone—sales, marketing, and operations—working together toward the same goals first.
ABM is a journey, not a destination
Again, we’ve had success starting with a pilot ABM program for a specific set of target accounts, and we recommend you try that approach, too.
A good place to begin is with your existing customers. Think about designing your pilot to help your account managers cross-sell and upsell an offering or new product. You’ll have the best and most relevant data on your existing customer set, so it’s a good place to try tactics like direct mail or retargeting that might be new to you.
If you’ve set revenue goals for the pilot, you’ll measure against it throughout the program. If you meet those goals, you can work on iterating and scaling. If you don’t meet them or learn partway through that your goals are unattainable, take a step back and change tactics—don’t abandon ABM altogether.
Buy tech, don’t build it
You’re out of the pilot when ABM is a part of your overall strategy, and then it’s time to scale. That means, it’s time to think about technology.
The introduction of new technology to support ABM is one of the big reasons it gets talked about so much. There are nearly 5,000 martech vendors in the market today, up from 150 just 6 years ago. It’s hard to imagine any aspect of demand generation that isn’t served by technology, including specific platforms that will help scale your ABM program. The opportunities for rapidly deploying new capabilities have never been greater, and in general, you’ll want to acquire new tech rather than building it in house. Some scenarios still exist where custom applications are the best choice, but they are the exception. More often, taking a custom path puts you behind the competition.
Buying tech fuels shiny-object syndrome, so tread carefully. Understand where you’re lacking in tech and start there. For example, predictive analytics solutions claim to be able to help with ABM by better analyzing your data, but unless you’ve got at least 100 companies on your target account list (and preferably more), you don’t need a predictive analytics platform.
ABM tactics are similar to those you’re already doing. But because ABM is more focused on revenue and customer experience, and needs both organizational and technical support to be successful, it requires a much more holistic and coordinated approach than traditional demand generation did. But the payoffs are worth it.