ABM as Growth Engine: Insights and tips for optimizing Account-Based Marketing

By Chuck Leddy

Account Based Marketing, or ABM, is a B2B marketing strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources onto a defined set of target accounts and leverages personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account. ABM is one of the biggest marketing trends of the last few years, leveraging strategic focus and personalization to drive marketing ROI. SiriusDecisions explained the what, why, and how of ABM in a recent webinar, “The State of ABM 2019,” which provided insights and tips based on SiriusDecisions own research.

Matt Senatore, Service Director of ABM, SiriusDecisions, began “The State of ABM 2019” by explaining the positive impacts ABM has on revenues: it achieved 19% faster revenue growth and 15% higher profitability compared to non-ABM marketing efforts. Nicky Briggs, Research Director of ABM, SiriusDecisions, added that “ABM is an accelerator because it yields better results and facilitates alignment” of marketing, sales, and other business areas.

Setting up an ABM program: 5 key factors

Senatore and Briggs explored 5 key factors related to setting up and effectively running an ABM program, including: (1) defining program strategy, goals, and alignment; (2) program planning and execution; (3) measuring results; (4) ABM team design and skill development; (5) infrastructure (including technology).

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to ABM, and “organizations deploy multiple ABM models, including large-account marketing, named-account marketing, and industry ABM,” said Senator. In addition, an organization’s access to data and its existing systems/tech stack may impact what it can do in terms of ABM strategy and execution. Many organizations will run ABM pilots at small scale, and then take “lessons learned” and enhanced capabilities to implement scaled-up ABM programs down the road.

What content and channels drive ABM effectiveness?

Briggs cited research showing that the most effective and widely-used content types for ABM programs are: (1) case studies; (2) whitepapers; (3) sales presentations; (4) webinars; and (5) video. So it appears that the best ABM content educates your prospects and provides them with information they can use to drive their internal buying process. In terms of the most effective sales/marketing channels, Senatore noted that face-to-face appeals were most effective in influencing buying decisions, including executive briefings, in-person selling, and live events hosted by the organization applying an ABM approach.

ABM programs “need to incorporate relevance and personalization in order to drive effectiveness,” said Senatore. “When you’re able to do high-touch or face-to-face engagement, it has profound impacts on the buyer.” Of course, every ABM program needs to evaluate content and channel effectiveness through analyzing its own data. “Use your ABM wins and losses to evaluate what works best for you,” suggests Senatore, and then do more of what’s working based on ongoing, data-enabled measurement.

Measurement matters a lot, but isn’t done enough

Perhaps the most eye-opening insight revealed by the SiriusDecisions research relates to the importance of measuring ABM effectiveness, and the widespread failure of organizations to actually do it. As Briggs noted, “between 40 and 60% of companies are not tracking critical ABM metrics.” This damages your program, notes Briggs, in two big ways: first, you won’t be able to drive improvement/optimization if you don’t know what’s working or not, and second, you can’t make a business case for expanding your ABM program if you have no relevant metrics/results to show your C-suite leadership team.

“The future of ABM depends upon accurate measurement of results,” said Senatore. “If you can’t show ROI, you can’t gain buy-in from leadership and your own marketing career may be in trouble.” That’s the bad news, but there’s a lot of ABM-related good news. Turns out that organizations that can measure their ABM-related metrics see terrific results.

The average increase in customer engagement with ABM programs, compared to non-ABM efforts, was an impressive plus 20%. Senatore referenced “higher ROI, bigger deals, and increased win rates” for ABM programs. Compared to non-ABM programs, ABM programs “won 13% more deals and those deals were also 21% larger in size,” said Senatore. “So when you do actually measure ABM metrics, you can prove better results for ABM compared to non-ABM.” Here’s what doesn’t work, according to Senatore: a marketing manager telling the C-suite, “we think, based on anecdotal evidence and good guesses, that our ABM program is working.” You need to prove ROI.

ABM goes way beyond martech

Setting up an effective ABM program will require integrating your systems and smashing data silos. As Briggs puts it, “you’ll need to begin by analyzing your existing tech stack and understanding your gaps to setting up an ABM roadmap. ABM is a strategy, not a technology.” Getting help from outside can be a key step in understanding your gaps, especially around your data capabilities, and improving your readiness to implement ABM. “Once you know your gaps, go out and talk with potential vendors about available technology, training your people, and driving ABM adoption,” Briggs noted.

Another key component of ABM, designing and developing your team, will also take time and effort. And the leaders of those ABM teams need a strong skill set that includes strategic thinking, knowledge of marketing and sales practices, reporting and analytics capabilities, and understanding of technology. As Senatore explains, ABM managers “should be developing themselves while encouraging their team members to pursue skills development.” ABM takes infrastructure and alignment, especially with sales, but it’s also a skill set and a mindset change for all involved.

Conclusion: ABM works, more measurement needed

The key takeaway from the SiriusDecisions research is clear: ABM works to boost marketing ROI, but too many organizations are setting up programs without being able to measure results/KPIs. Because of this failure to measure, they’re not optimizing what they’re doing through ABM nor convincing leadership to scale up ABM programs through higher budgets. ABM’s effectiveness is loud-and-clear when it’s measured, but if you can’t measure ABM results, you’re asking leadership to take your word for it (which they won’t do for long). “Trust me” might work initially, but “show me the ROI” works best in a business world where ROI rules.

Many of our customers struggle with where to begin in regards to ABM. As the SiriusDecisions research states, analyzing your existing tech stack and understanding your gaps – especially around data – are both critical to success. We can help with you both and more! Contact us to get the conversation started.  

P.S. The SiriusDecisions Summit 2019 is May 5-8 in Austin, Texas! If you’re attending, please visit us at booth K25 to learn more about how we can help you and your marketing organization to run at peak performance.

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