How has 2020 been for you and your business? The answer will yield a bewildering cascade of opinion. For most, we would rather forget 2020 before it is even over but for some it has been a year of triumph or discovery. New venture? New products and services? Growth outstripping expectations? A tough start followed by success? Wherever you are on your journey, Account Based Marketing (or ABM) is back in vogue. Read on to find out why.
Why now for ABM?
Where B2C marketers are preoccupied with volume of ‘eyes’ and visits, B2B marketers have a very different journey. A consumer may see something they like, click and buy. A business may not even realise they have a need that you can help them with, not to mention the journey to onboarding and implementation. Right product now versus right partner later. The time difference is so stark that ‘pipeline’ barely enters the vocabulary in b2c. Enter ABM…
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Account Based Marketing treats your key accounts (or all in small numbers) as a market of one. Rather than communicating with hundreds or thousands of prospective b2b buyers, the marketing and sales effort focuses down on a specific account. Given the challenge with building pipeline in a downturn, ABM is a powerful tool to keep leads active.
Coming to the fore in a crisis
With every good crisis comes an army of accountants eager to impress the boss and find savings. Brand awareness campaigns? Cut. Corporate rebranding? Postponed. Online advertising spend? Gone. Account Based Marketing programme? Invest. Linking marketing effort to sales success through ABM is one strategy to demonstrate the ‘value add’ from marketing.
A marketing team without a budget is like a band that only plays covers. You have a group of people going through the motions without the creative flair, the excitement of creating something new and unique. As b2b marketers wake up to the realities of a sales team starved of leads and increased expectations on marketing to deliver a clear return, ABM comes to the fore.
ABM makes a difference
The difference ABM makes can be significant. From increased order values to impressive return on investment, ABM outshines many other marketing programmes in b2b marketing. With 97% of b2b marketers using ABM seeing a higher ROI than other approaches, it is easy to see why.
Where cold-calling and spammy emails fail, the tailored approach of ABM is more relevant to today’s clients. Where your account contact ignores blanket emails and opportunistic cold calls, you may be missing the combination to enter. An analogy would be knocking on the door of a bank vault and hoping the prospect not only hears you but trusts you to open the door and let you help them count.
We want ABM now vs we tried it before
Anyone who tried ABM and didn’t see the full benefit knows, it takes more than a few personalised emails. Understanding, alignment and personalisation require new skills, support and maybe systems to manage. A half-hearted approach thrust onto marketing or the latest fad from the marketing team won’t cut it. As many ABM programmes succeed as fail and there is room for improvement even in those that appear successful.
For those looking to ABM as a ‘quick fix’ think again. While the benefits are huge for successful implementations, the journey should begin now to even pilot in 2021. The major hurdles to adoption are confidence, targeting and alignment with sales. The latter makes ABM a non-starter if both teams are pulling in opposite directions and it takes a certain type of marketing leader to make it happen.
Best to start brushing up on those stakeholder management skills to get the best result from your ABM initiative. You are going to need them to convince the board and sales that marketing is up to the challenge.
ABM is old hat, what’s next?
Assuming your ABM programme is in full flow or mature and highly successful, you may be wondering how to go further. Many will assume that headcount to support more activity comes next. After all, the day-to-day activities of the marketing team didn’t just disappear, right? Not necessarily.
Automation is a key investment to truly scale ABM beyond a handful of key accounts. More success means more accounts and more activity to speed up the buying cycle. In some ways, ABM can make marketing a victim of its own success with a seemingly overwhelming increase in activity to support sales. Canny marketing leaders will have considered automation from the start or following a successful pilot. This leads nicely onto Opportunity Based Marketing.
Opportunity Based Marketing (or OBM) is level 2 for ABM. Where you geared your activity to treat each key account as a market of one, this one goes a level further and treats each opportunity this way. Yes, that means understanding and personalisation at opportunity level with each key contact on each account. Mind blowing? Yes, but the rewards are even greater and potentially in multiples of your ABM programme if done right with full alignment.
It goes without saying that even closer alignment is required between sales and marketing with OBM. There is a step up in the level of activity required and data management needed that leans heavily towards specialist help and automation. It is manageable in a small number of accounts but once the benefits appear the scalability becomes more challenging for large organisations.
ABM and OBM at the forefront for growth
When it comes to justifying b2b marketing to finance and sales, ABM and OBM are sophisticated approaches with success stories across b2b. Neither are instant fixes for leads today, something many businesses need right now, but the long-term benefits are worth it. Sales teams that benefit from a steady flow of MQLs, shorter sales cycles and bigger order values want more. Finance teams that see activity generating a return want to put more eggs in the same basket.
The challenge for marketers is keeping this knowledge to themselves. Once the cat is out of the bag, the pressure will come externally to the marketing team. Doesn’t it make sense to start planning now?