Account-based marketing (ABM) programs deliver huge results, but those results can sometimes be elusive. Over the past twelve months through my consulting practice, I’ve had an intimate view into over fifty ABM programs. More common than not, most marketers are telling me that their results are underwhelming.
So, what is the missing link? The answer lies in the disconnect between marketing-orchestrated experiences and buyer expectations.
If you’ve been reading about how successful ABM adopters are generating 208% more revenue for their effort, but your experience has been markedly underwhelming, you are not alone. Data shows, just 19% of B2B Organizations are confident in their ability to execute ABM.
Yet, as I begin my fourth year as an ABM technology practitioner and my eleventh year in Demand Generation, I can comfortably say that ABM is a gold mine. There is no issue finding material to read on the subject, the question is how do we effectively mine it?
Ask five marketers to define account-based marketing, you’ll get four different answers, plus one person who will tell you that account-based marketing is not marketing at all – and each of them could be right.
This is because ABM is not a thing, it is a method. The truth is that ABM is a label wrapped around a mix of best practices, strategies and tactics that aim to maximize the efficiency of B2B marketing. Depending on the organization’s unique challenges and maturity level, ABM does mean different things.
Instead of focusing on a universal definition of ABM, let’s focus on why it matters: the evolution of the buyer’s journey and the significance of an exceptional buying experience.
Why ABM Matters
Not only do 80% of customers state that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, but 69% of those buyers expect the experience to anticipate their needs. Add to this the fact that up to 90% of the buyer’s journey is done before connecting with a brand, and you will find the genesis of the account-based go-to-market strategy.
B2B buyers want exceptional experiences that are personalized to their needs, and are largely facilitated sans-human interaction. The account-based marketing methodology gives marketers the tools they need to make this happen, at scale.
Data Drives ABM
Underpinning an effective ABM strategy is the need for marketing teams to become account-centric, with a unified data strategy that creates a single source of truth. There are three categories of data that companies need to assemble to create this account-centric view:
- Data available across the third-party ecosystem
- Data captured from the new digital exhaust that customers leave
- Data captured when the sales and support teams interface directly with customers
When assembled, this single view of the customer creates visibility, accountability, and enables a holistic view of the target account. This is what unlocks the marketer’s ability to understand who to target, how to engage, and when to activate the sales team to convert opportunities into the funnel. And, at the end of the day, the better, faster, and more consistent view you have into your data, the stronger the foundation for scaling your ABM approach.
Consolidating the extensive amount of data available to marketers and processing it for tactical execution can be complicated and expensive (to say the least). Especially when done at speed, and at scale.
ABM is More than Technology
The challenge of executing ABM at scale is what drives the common misconception that ABM is a technology category, rather than a go-to-market strategy. With 44x growth in data over the past 10 years, few technology categories have evolved faster than those centered on data.
Hitting the mainstream as an independent technology category in 2016, ABM tech exists to help businesses efficiently leverage data to drive hyper-personalized, hyper-relevant buying experiences. At the same time, a hot topic among ABM technology practitioners is the conflicting analysis of the ABM technology landscape — a conflict that is largely driven by the wide variety of problems that businesses seek to solve with ABM.
A common debate is whether a marketer needs new technology to execute an ABM strategy. The first step in answering this question is understanding the problems that you need to solve with new technology. To do this, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have a problem understanding who to target, or building visibility into those targets?
- Do you have a problem successfully engaging those targets with your message?
- Do you have a problem activating your sales team with meaningful insights and timely actions?
- Can you effectively measure your program’s performance?
The answers to these questions can go a long way in defining your technology needs. The best tip given to me when I got started was, “look at what you’re currently doing, think about how you can apply an account-based methodology to it, and start there.”
ABM technology can certainly help marketers leverage data and speed to drive maximum efficiency. But delivering personalized experiences off the back of a holistic data-based understanding is just part of the equation.
Now that we’ve defined ABM and why it matters, stay tuned for part two in this series where we’ll discuss how you can leverage ABM to deliver the personalized experience your customers expect.