By Chuck Leddy
See post 4 in our MOPs Maturity Benchmarking series: Improving processes for data and lead management: Post 4 (of 6).
Account-based marketing focuses marketing resources (people, processes, and technology) onto a limited number of key accounts, and it may be the hottest trend in B2B marketing over the past few years. Matt Senatore, Service Director of ABM, SiriusDecisions, explains that ABM programs are gaining traction because they boost marketing return on investment (ROI), “achieving 19% faster revenue growth and 15% higher profitability compared to non-ABM programs.”
This fifth post in our 6-post MOPs Maturity Benchmarking Series will explore the opportunities and challenges of ABM: when implemented properly, ABM programs achieve amazing results and ROI, but proper ABM implementation is often quite difficult or impossible for too many B2B companies right now. We’ll describe the key obstacles to getting ABM right, and offer suggestions for overcoming them.
ABM works, but is woefully underutilized
According to our 2019 Marketing Operations Maturity Benchmarking Report, less than 1 in 5 (18%) of mainstream companies have an ABM program in place. This woeful number doesn’t reflect the clear effectiveness of ABM (when done right) in generating revenues, but instead shows a lack of MOPs maturity.
Even among the top-performing B2B companies we surveyed, those with higher levels of MOPs maturity, less than half are using ABM. But those that do have ABM programs are seeing strong positive impacts on revenues. The average increase in customer engagement with ABM programs, compared to non-ABM, was an impressive plus 20%, according to SiriusDecisions. ABM programs “result in higher ROI, bigger deals, and increased win rates,” compared to non-ABM approaches, says Matt Senatore.
Obstacles to implementing ABM
While we know that ABM programs work, a big question looms: why aren’t more companies launching them? As Dan Vawter, managing director of Sojourn Solutions, explains, “setting up an effective ABM program takes maturity in selecting the right accounts, getting the right people involved, pulling the right systems together, deciding how to message those key accounts, and through which channels, and then being able to measure results. ABM isn’t just about marketing, but requires aligning and coordinating people and systems from sales, IT, and other departments.”
Among the biggest obstacles for B2B companies in implementing ABM, beyond integrating technology and systems across departments, is coordinating people who don’t traditionally work together: “that’s a key reason why so few companies do ABM,” says Vawter, “because it requires people to actually talk to each other who aren’t in the same departments, and they’re all using different systems, and all that coordination is very hard to pull off inside a big company.”
ABM is NOT a technology, but a marketing approach that requires focusing often-disjointed resources onto a few key accounts. “It makes complete sense to talk to a handful of accounts about what’s super-relevant to them,” Vawter says, “but it’s also very difficult for B2B companies to do ABM well. There are platforms out there today that help, but companies need to customize their own ABM programs, coordinating their people, processes, and technology around the chosen accounts. They aren’t usually set up to do this ‘ABM groundwork’ well.” Understanding what is working or not is critical in ABM programs where lots of funds are being spent on a small number of accounts.
ABM requires a more holistic approach
To get ABM right, B2B companies must effectively coordinate cross-channel and interdepartmental communications to deploy their resources and messaging within fewer accounts. Among the biggest hurdles to ABM is enabling personalization through the full buyer journey. Getting the relevant message to each contact within an account to help them decide to purchase your product is quite difficult but essential for ABM success.“Most companies don’t have the ability to look at all of those different account touchpoints holistically,” explains Vawter. “If they have a marketing automation platform, maybe they can look at the email channel in a silo, and maybe they can look at their web traffic in a silo. Maybe they can look at offline separately. Maybe they can look at their sales activity, separately. But they’re not looking at everything in one place, which ABM demands.”
According to our MOPs Maturity Benchmarking report, a mere 14% of mainstream companies can gain insights from data in order to help them drive ABM program effectiveness. That’s a massive visibility problem that can render ABM programs a no-go from the beginning. “If you don’t look at account data holistically,” says Vawter, “then you’re going to make mistakes because you’re looking with tunnel vision at this very narrow piece of the entire customer journey that includes all of those different contacts across that account. You won’t be able to accurately measure and attribute results to specific marketing actions.”
Without this necessary visibility into the customer journey on each account, an ABM program becomes a useless game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, leading B2B marketers nowhere as they flail around to connect their many actions to specific outcomes. You can’t “do” ABM wearing a blindfold.
Measurement matters too
While setting up an ABM program is difficult, compelling you to resolve challenges around disjointed systems and departments, another big obstacle is gaining visibility into your customer’s journey and measuring results. If you can’t track key ABM metrics, ABM becomes impossible to scale, which is likely why most companies simply don’t launch or scale up ABM programs.
A lack of capacity to measure ABM effectiveness damages you in two existential ways: first, you won’t be able to drive ABM improvement or optimization if you don’t have visibility into 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. You might be driving success with a small-scale, pilot ABM program, but you won’t be able to explain why it’s working — which is frankly embarrassing and makes it impossible to gain leadership buy-in for scaling up ABM success.
Getting help from outside advisors with experience implementing ABM (and measuring its success) can be a key step in overcoming challenges, especially around coordinating your people and processes, as well as enhancing your data capabilities to support ABM. “It takes a lot of MOPs maturity to do ABM well,” notes Vawter, “but the B2B companies that are mature enough to do ABM are seeing superior results in accelerating their revenues.” Gaining sufficient MOPs maturity to implement ABM may be the fastest way available to achieve competitive advantage.
Many of our customers struggle with where to begin in regards to ABM. Analyzing your existing tech stack and understanding your gaps – especially around data – are both critical to success. We can help – contact us to get the conversation started. To learn more about how to take your MOPs maturity to the next level, download our 2019 Marketing Operations Maturity Benchmarking Report.
Note: The next and final post (of six) in our MOPs Maturity Benchmarking series will focus on why it’s important for B2B companies and MOPs to have processes in place for: (1) identifying technology gaps (2) choosing the right martech for their needs (3) getting the “right” people to support the tech and (4) knowing HOW to work effectively with vendors.