Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a simple, logical idea. Rather than fish the whole ocean, focus on the most likely prospects for your business. Identify the key players, usually in a B2B setting, engage them across channels using both sales and marketing resources, close them and retain them.
ABM holds the promise that a finite number of people in a fixed number of companies can be contacted and persuaded productively and economically. But it’s not a pure software fire-and-forget exercise. Effective ABM requires serious management involvement and direction.
ABM is becoming a buzzword reflecting software suites promising everything from “we’ll do it all for you” to we’ll empower you to do it yourself” and everything in-between. Measuring the productivity and value of these investments is not particularly clear, partly because of the general antipathy between sales and marketing and partly because there is no consensus on which measures matter.
A recent survey of 255 B2B marketers conducted by LeanData & Vidyard found that roughly half of those surveyed were satisfied if their ABM program “influenced the pipeline.” Forty percent looked to see if the targeted account moved from some level of engagement into a genuine sales opportunity. And a third of responders looked at the gross number of engaged accounts and/or the number of marketing qualified leads.
Measuring ABM ought to be easier. It ought to be a joint effort of sales and marketing working hand-in-hand against a discrete target list. Measuring value should be as simple as answering 4 questions.
Are we talking to the right guys? Have we identified the decisionmakers, the influencers, the budget holders, the SMEs, the validators, the researchers and the junior players? B2B selling is a team sport. We need to be prepared to play at each position. Have we crafted role-based communications? Have. We identified budget cycles, business strategies, power relationships and have we factored this data into our thinking, our content and our systems?
Are we sharing useful or compelling information? Typically, B2B prospects want to know what it does, how it works, where it fits, how much it costs, how hard will it be to learn or transition and what is the ultimate benefit. Frequently these questions are sequential and correspond to cycles of down selection. Often the answers need to be parsed to people with different levels of knowledge, access or technical sophistication and socialized or sold internally.
Are we orchestrating interactions and answering questions that produce buying signals? Responsiveness counts. The automation of sales and marketing interactions has to correspond to prospects’ needs and timing. The software should be able to personalize and schedule the messaging to reflect on-going interactions and intelligence gathering. Knowing where you stand in the process and relative to the competition are critical data points that demand agile handoffs between marketing and sales teams.
Did we make the finals and/or close a sale? The ultimate measure of value is a sale. Was the ABM process worth it? Did the program yield a sale? And is the value of the sale a multiple of the resources, time and money invested in gaining the business?
ABM is not a silver bullet. But ABM provides a framework and a toolset which can enhance marketing and sales productivity, focus targeting, foster internal cooperation and spark innovation. The trick is to ask the critical questions to focus energy and attention on the targets and the outcomes.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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