Yesterday was B2B Marketing’s annual ABM conference here in London, UK. An annual gathering of over 500 B2B marketers discussing account based marketing (ABM). I presented on getting started with abm technology platforms. There is always plenty of healthy debate on the topic not least because of how broad account based marketing is.
That leads to plenty of opinions that are built on top of different foundations.
In our experience though most companies in the UK come at it from two approaches.
- A small number of companies (say 10) focused on each company individually or a small cluster of them.
- A larger number of companies (say 100-200) with a mix of all three ABM strategies (one to one, one to few, one to many).
Whichever one you choose though the upfront work remains the same:
- Sales and marketing alignment – ensuring the two teams are aligned and in agreement is critical to success.
- Definition of ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and personas (which eventually will need to translate into real people for your key prospects.
- Data – the quality of data is key to an ABM programme. Companies with really poor data quality will end up need to invest further in tools or providers to upgrade their capabilities.
Getting started with ABM technology
Most companies today have a CRM platform and marketing automation platform. For the most part, when you are starting out, many manage the overall programme in Word and Excel alongside making sure the CRM and marketing automation platform contain the key information for people on the ground.
Some of our clients go further and create dashboards inside their marketing automation and crm platforms that measure success of the programme over time. For all of them though, this is often a mix of automated and manual processes and the major benefit is the ability for others to be able to see the dashboard on an ongoing basis.
What you focus on beyond this though is dependent on the approach you chose above and how your company executes on its sales and marketing strategy today. In many ways, ABM is B2B marketing and that results in a myriad of options that allow you to use existing technology.
In the first scenario, with a small number of accounts. Targeting further down the pipeline is key. Many have started a pilot with a small number of net new accounts and seen failure because those companies were not in market and the investment was wasted. Instead by focusing further down the pipeline, you are working an active and large opportunity where you can tailor the buyer’s experience and show that you accelerated the deal and drove much more revenue as a result.
From a tech perspective, this can be achieved through manual creation of campaigns managed within CRM and marketing automation. But depending on your sales process you may want to layer in other platforms. For example, if you struggle to get in front of all stakeholders in a pitch using company targeted advertising allows you to reach them with persona specific messaging. Or if you need to manage communication between multiple levels of seniority across both companies, you can get by by just bccing an account specific email address or you could invest in an ABM orchestration platform,
In the second scenario, you are able to start earlier in the pipeline and target net new accounts. This approach is often taken by companies who are seeing noise in their market from competition and need a way to cut through to key accounts and bring them into the pipeline. It is this need which has driven a large amount of the growth in scaled account based marketing.
As a result, technology beyond just CRM and marketing automation is often required. Using company targeted advertising to place personalised messaging in front of target companies is an excellent way to identify which of them are in market today and build outsized awareness at other ideal prospects. This combined with third party intent data and tools to score companies visiting your website all help place larger opportunities into the sales pipeline.
At this point, based on the size of the opportunity, the account would then be promoted into either a one-to-one ABM programme or a one-to-few ABM programme. The tools and channels you use will be unique to each company and based on the sales process.
After the ABM pilot
Once you get started with account based marketing, you quickly realise how it changes your thinking of B2B marketing. There are also some parts of the programme that need to be maintained. Understanding accounts, selecting and prioritising accounts alongside continuous data cleansing become ongoing projects that require attention.
The final word
In simple terms you need minimal abm technology to get started with an ABM pilot. You can focus on bottom of the funnel activities that help bring key accounts to close faster. The ability of company targeted advertising allows you reach stakeholders you cannot get in front of and also increases performance across other channels.
But the problems affecting demand generation today due to the huge amounts of noise in the market from an avalanche of content and increasing costs of reaching prospects means that ABM projects targeting the early part of the funnel becomes a necessity for almost all companies today.
To succeed here though, personalisation is key to cut through the noise alongside an ability to identify companies entering the buying phase. Using advertising and third party data to identify them leads to an increase in the overall size of the pipeline and accounts that are more likely to close.
You can see the presentation slides here.