A Business’s Top Challenge..
Account-based marketing (ABM) is an alternative B2B strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market and employs personalised campaigns designed to resonate with each account.
In this short article, you can learn about the critical factors needed to build a successful account-based marketing program.
But first, let me set the scene, and take you back to 1998. Tony Blair was PM. Johnny Vaughan and Denise van Outen were presenting the Big Breakfast. Most people were driving a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra. In Corrie, Deirdre is jailed for mortgage and credit card fraud. And, in real life, the DVD format is released onto the UK market for the first time. And some businesses were using an early version of account-based marketing (ABM).
In ’98, I had a client that manufactured industrial tape. The business was successful because it had a reasonably priced dependable product, four exceptional salespeople and a part-time marketing manager who were arguably, if not knowingly, pioneering ABM.
The part-time marketing manager had worked above and beyond his remit to acquire an intimate understanding of each customer, as well as a close relationship with two salespeople to ensure they were always representing customers accurately with every marketing interaction. They knew each customer inside out. And there was no technology then. They had to rely on analog collateral and tools to take their fantastic, if not basic, industrial product and solution experiences they had already built, and deliver those to right customers at the right time. It was pre-digital ABM.
Three decades later and at-scale delivery of ABM is much more complicated and more digital than most people understand. Simple things you can do, like audience suppression, or messaging to existing customers, is one thing. But true personalisation is a minimum six month build, sometimes longer, depending on the size of the customer base.
At the highest level, account-based marketing is about creating exceptional alignment between marketing and sales. It’s a far cry from traditional industry-based approaches to marketing, where broad-brush tactics speak to common industry pain points and fill sales pipelines with loosely qualified leads. In ABM, every message and interaction is tailored to address the specific needs of prospective customers, down to the company-specific level.
While this degree of personalisation can drive the highest quality leads, it only works when marketing and sales are in 100% alignment and share the same objectives.
Most promising companies have identified their market, found an area where the competition is minimal or disrupt-able, and have a service or product that is unique and cannot be easily delivered by others. The tricky part is maximising the sales channel to more effectively pursue and win clients, especially large enterprise deals, and aligning marketing and sales. However, as most of us who work in marketing and sales know, this is not always the case.
Too many businesses still operate in silos, meaning the sales and marketing people don’t know what each other are capable of doing. A symbiotic collaboration also exists with sales and marketing people i.e. they live (in the same company) together, but the relationship is not necessarily beneficial to both, which is crazy when you consider their objectives are complementary.
I wrote about this in an article called “Heard The One About The Sales Director Who Tripped And Fell Into A Marketing Silo?” I’ve put the link at end of this article.
Anyway, whether a company has a market cap of £10 million or £100 million — and no matter what the company’s end market, service or product — sales and account-based marketing execution is one of the biggest challenges a business will face.
Early use cases of ABM favour existing customers, because, in building out the personalised strategy, it’s about personalisation across all touch-points and channels including product and/or service offerings over time.
But ABM is only effective if your sales team has an account-based sales strategy, and one that scales and is also fully aligned with marketing efforts. So marketing teams need to know who to target with customised content, and sales teams need to know how those prospects are responding to early touch points so they can tailor their approach even further.
In my experience as a marketer, businesses who involve their sales teams in messaging and content selection, and use technology (marketing software) to execute can create a fully customised content experience that scales.
Marketing teams also need to consider partnering with sales on territory and target account selection, for instance, a fully data-driven process based on intent and engagement data. If your teams are aligned and drive value to sales even in the account selection process, the partnership will strengthen even further, and be much more effective.
Alignment with sales is not the only thing required to make the ABM vision a possibility. You’ve also got to figure out how to execute personalised marketing at scale – for instance, managing 1:1 campaigns across hundreds or thousands of prospective customers, which can be complex. But if you get the basics right, learn how to use the technology and have true alignment between marketing and sales, then scaling up is entirely doable.
So don’t be afraid of executing your own sales and account-based marketing strategy and give it the time and attention it deserves. It can bring and build great relationships, is the key to maximising the sales channel, winning clients and ultimately business success.
If you want to find out more about Sales And Account-Based Marketing Execution feel free to get in touch with me for a chat.
If you want to learn more about why you should get your marketing and sales team on the same page read this. “Heard The One About The Sales Director Who Tripped And Fell Into A Marketing Silo?”