A Quick Guide to Taking a Balanced Approach (Job Security PSA): It has become quite clear that hordes of b2b marketers are running to catch the ABM train, all bags packed, leaving their worries behind. Billboards picturing smiling men and women in their beach chairs cheersing to their awesome move to ABM; problems solved – pipeline filled — ROI #cray. But what you may be missing is that ABM is not a one-size-fit-all strategy nor is it the only strategy for b2b marketers. While ABM appears to be a new, flashy, and proven strategy guaranteed to win you the 2016 Marketing Hero Award, there are important factors to consider. Before you go “All In” on ABM, let’s talk about this.
ABM PROS & CONS:
First of all, for transparency purposes, NetLine Corporation is the top b2b content syndication lead generation provider that includes comprehensive ABM solutions — needless to say, I fully support and understand the power of ABM. In the 2015 State of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Study, SiriusDecisions reported “92% of companies recognize the value in ABM and 60% plan to invest in technology to implement ABM to better align sales and marketing,” bringing even more validity to the hype. ABM is a recognized and vetted tactic for companies to consider — but let’s get back to the “All In” move starting with the pros and cons of ABM:
- Sales & Marketing Alliance: The ongoing love/hate relationship of Sales and Marketing is a huge factor in ABM. The only way to execute ABM is with complete Sales and Marketing alignment, start to finish. If there was ever a time to force a truce, kiss and make-up, this is it…which could become a game changer for your entire organization.
- Increased ROI: Narrowing your focus and budgets to a comprehensive all-hands-on-deck approach to target significantly fewer prospects with many touchpoints will increase conversion rates and decrease costs — BOOM, higher ROI.
- Client/Prospect Satisfaction: If you’re doing ABM right, the wined and dined, personalized, fully baked strategy of account targeting and marketing will knock the socks off your prospects. This 5-star approach will have your target accounts feeling very VIP.
- Narrowed Pool & Slowed Funnel: Best practices in quality lead generation include professional filters (ie. job function and company size); however, by inserting target account filters the opportunity pool instantly reduces by roughly 99%. For small to mid-level companies this could really burst your funnel bubble. Additionally, targeting fewer and more specific accounts takes time. Not only will there be fewer top of funnel hits, the hits will also come slower [Sales twiddling their thumbs].
- Technology & Data Investment: MarTech has brought new life to ABM; however, without the right data and technology Marketers will not find the audience targeting, scale, and automation needed to be successful. The price of ABM can be steep for companies with low new client lifetime values.
- Prospect & Client Alienation: Developing deeper target personas and personalizing all marketing for these profiles will quickly alienate current clients and prospects that do not fall into these segments. This can present a significant risk for prospect discovery and client retention.
There are very clear company-wide wins with ABM, followed by obvious risks. So now ask yourself, “Does account-based marketing align with my company’s needs?” For enterprise level companies the answer will most likely be an overwhelming “YES”, for small to mid-level companies deeper thought and evaluation will be critical to your approach.
Taking a Balanced Approach:
Account-based anything is not a new concept. Sales and Marketing Teams have been utilizing different levels of this approach for decades; Don Draper — big ABM fan. But just like the 80/20 rule, structuring a diversified and proportional strategy will reduce risk for your company while enabling opportunities for calculated testing with ABM. As b2b marketers, the pressure to fill the sales funnel with “good” leads is massive and when flashy new tools labeled as the year’s top trend become available of course you want IN; however, ABM is not a one-size-fits-all strategy, not all companies should be IN. Without careful review the ABM train could blow your budget and fill the funnel with 5% of your goal lead count. But then again you already know that. We all make perfect decisions on marketing strategy and budget allocation, nothing new here – right?
For those ready to buy your ABM train tickets to paradise, I’ve list four key steps to focus on when developing your company’s approach to account-based marketing:
Alignment: “Account-based marketing (ABM) cannot exist and succeed separate from your sales department.” – Heinz Marketing
Prior to making a commitment to ABM, Marketers need to recognize that they cannot go into this alone. Matt Heinz positioned this perfectly as a “Full Funnel Marketing.” Sales and Marketing alignment will not only ensure optimized ABM efforts, it will likely improve all demand generation efforts for your organization.
Identify Opportunity or Lack Thereof: In your discovery and planning phases with Sales, look very specifically at the identified target account list, individual professional counts, and total opportunity pool. How does this number look to you? Running quick numbers will help set expectations and guide budget allocation between ABM and other quality lead generation tactics.
Content: The key to ABM is a personalized approach. Review your content library against the newly identified ABM personas’ needs, you will find holes. Map out a content creation timeline to structure your go-to-market plans. While content creation can slow the process, this is a critical element to ABM success (a key reason to run alongside other demand generation campaigns).
Data & Technology: For most companies this is ‘pick your partner’ time. Investing in MarTech can be challenging — due diligence is essential when considering this type of investment. Ask questions like: where is the data coming from and what levels of scale can you provide? Ask for potential target account audience sizes and talk timelines. Even better, your existing demand generation partners may already offer ABM solutions for you to review and incorporate into your existing demand generation mix.
Like I said, account-based marketing has been around for decades as a proven approach. Today’s surge in MarTech is bringing the hype back to ABM with exponentially higher levels of data, insights, automation, and scale making ABM a very powerful tool…here comes the BUT…before every b2b marketer goes “All In” with today’s top trend, I encourage you to focus on evaluating this strategy as a cohesive Sales and Marketing Team, and move forward with an agreed upon balanced approach.
NetLine Corporation has been utilizing account-based marketing methods of demand generation for years alongside a diversified portfolio of quality improvement lead generation strategies. To learn more about NetLine’s most recent ABM expansion with first-party intent based data, click here.
Additional Extremely Helpful Account-Based Marketing Resources:
“If your company isn’t dedicated to making ABM work, your cost per new account acquisition could go through the roof.” – by Heinz Marketing (includes 7 step checklist to assess your organization’s readiness for ABM)
“Account-based marketing (ABM) cannot exist and succeed separate from your sales department.” – by Heinz Marketing