ABM has been high on the agenda for most B2B marketing teams for some time now and it’s easy to see why. There’s no shortage of positive commentary from trusted industry associations and plenty of advocacy amongst our industry’s biggest influencers. And if you’re looking for evidence… there are tonnes of ABM studies and reports out there with plenty of highly compelling stats to prove the might of ABM – demonstrating impressive ROI, increased deal size and accelerated pipelines.
It’s actually been several years now since the buzz around ABM started amongst the B2B marketing community. In the early days it seemed there was a lot of talk, but in reality there was relatively little action. Rather than jumping on the band-wagon, many businesses were exercising a more cautious approach – sitting tight to see how the early adopters would fare, and whether ABM was here to stay before climbing aboard.
Happily, Account Based Marketing has proven to be a powerful strategy for many businesses. In the last 12-18 months it feels that ABM is becoming a reality for many more B2B organisations. And slowly but surely, ABM is changing the way B2B organisations ‘do’ marketing and momentum is building.
The latest B2B Marketing ABM Census confirms this suspicion. Released in the latter part of last year, the census is the third annual insight report focusing on organisations actively using ABM. The 2020 report revealed a significantly greater number of early-stage ABM adopters than in any previous year with a huge 75% of respondents included in the study reporting to be either in the first year of operational deployment or still at the planning stage.
There are exciting times ahead for these organisations and many others like them as they put ABM to the test. But getting ABM right isn’t easy. We know that many teams experience set-backs, frustrations and often disillusionment when they first launch ABM programmes – so, we’ve put together five top tips to help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls.
1. Play to your strengths.
Despite the name, Account Based Marketing is about much more than marketing. ABM is a team game and requires skills from across your organisation. While it often falls to the marketing department to co-ordinate the programme, make sure you’ve got the right people in charge of the right things. Inevitably sales teams are going to be much better placed to take the lead on some of the most critical elements – account selection and prioritisation for example.
In fact, many experts believe that the name Account Based Marketing is unhelpful, as it puts too much emphasis on the marketing function. You may have heard other terms such as Account Based Engagement and even Account Based Everything. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you call it in your organisation, as long as everyone is using the same language and knows where they fit in.
2. Know your onions (by onions, we mean your target accounts).
The ABM census tells us that insight gathering is the most prolific challenge when it comes to executing ABM. An astonishing 83% of respondents struggle with gaining deep insight on target accounts (51% said that the absence of deep insight was a challenge with a further 32% stating it is their biggest challenge).
While uncovering detailed account-specific insight may be difficult, it’s also the most critical part of any ABM programme. Without insight it is impossible to create the highly relevant, tailored propositions and content that underpins the ABM methodology. Unfortunately, rather than addressing the challenge, many organisations will default to applying basic personalisation to generic content for their target ABM accounts. If you’re in this boat I’m sorry to say that you’re not doing ABM, and you simply won’t achieve the same level of traction that a true ABM programme will deliver.
You don’t need to be a trained researcher to uncover valuable information. Why not divide your target accounts among your team and task each member to compile a dossier of intelligence about their accounts? Press releases, investor news, and corporate reports can provide useful information about strategy, direction and business goals, while LinkedIn can reveal insights about individual stakeholders.
3. Close the loop.
As marketers we’re often a step removed from our audience. It’s the sales and customer success teams that are at the coalface. Because ABM means you’re putting a lot of eggs in a small number of ‘account baskets’ feedback is more critical than ever.
It’s natural that as the relationship develops between your business and your target accounts the communication requirements will shift. When they do you’ll need to know about it. You’ll also want to know what’s working and what’s not. If the content and collateral you’re creating isn’t quite hitting the spot for a particular account then you’ll need to take action.
Be sure to work with stakeholders across all departments to build feedback mechanisms into your ABM approach and foster a culture of continuous review and evolution.
4. Succeed now, scale later.
All too often, the first question we hear when it comes to ABM is ‘How can we scale it?” While it’s good to think ahead and have a plan to expand your ABM successes, don’t try to run before they can walk. If you scale up your ABM programme before you’ve proven it’s effectiveness you’ll be taking a big risk.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that ABM isn’t naturally an ‘at scale’ strategy. So, while there are many powerful tech platforms available that will help you to expand your ABM programme you shouldn’t expect scaled-up (or programmatic) ABM to deliver the same levels of effectiveness as one-to-one or one-to-few ABM.
5. Start simple.
If you’re just beginning your ABM journey, our top advice is start simple and get the basics right. It’s easy to think that you need a sophisticated tech stack to get started with ABM, but tech is no substitute for insight, collaboration, enthusiasm and great planning.