Most executives are familiar with the terms account-based marketing and account-based sales; some have even implemented successful account-based strategies.
But as it turns out, most companies only get part of the way towards full implementation. For example, marketing might designate a few people to “help sales” and Sales Development teams receive a more focused client list. Voila – we now have ABM, right?
Sort of. When silos still exist between teams most organizations never really see the full potential of what a complete account-based strategy could or should be.
Why can’t we get there?
What would good look like?
Let’s tackle each of these questions to give you better insight into what you’ll take away from our workshop Optimizing Your Account-Based Strategy and Playbook at Rainmaker 2018:
What’s stopping us?
Depends on who you ask. When you talk to marketing, they’ll say it’s sales, but when you ask sales…it’s marketing. To further complicate matters, let’s also blame sales and marketing operations.
In reality, there are three bottlenecks that stop us from getting to full ABM:
- Legacy and deeply embedded experiences and behaviors
- Technology development that has outpaced most leaders’ abilities to keep up
- We don’t really want to go account-based, we just want to generate more leads with high-value companies
Thing is, Sales and Marketing leaders have mostly grown up working in silos. Sure, CMOs and CROs are in the same meetings, but once you go down one or two layers, the strategies immediately start to diverge.
Change management and understanding decades of legacy experiences is critical if you want to optimize your ABM strategy. To make the strategy actually stick you need to build a clear path for each layer; how you plan to implement the ABM strategy, and how to make sure groups don’t digress into familiar habits.
In my experience, once sales and marketing leaders see fewer leads and activity, they panic and commonly fall back on “more activity”. What they don’t realize, is what you lose in quantity you make up in quality – many times over. The good news is that when you move to ABM you’ll have both new and familiar metrics to help with the change management process and ensure as little anxiety as possible.
Here’s something else to consider: most of your sales and marketing operations teams have worked with only 1 or 2 companies within a specific sales or marketing tech category. With 700+ sales acceleration tools on the market (up from a few hundred just a four years ago) chances are, most of your ops teams have experience with 4-5 max. What this means, is that you’re still using systems designed for teams working in silos and non-complex workflows, even though tech and vendors have evolved.
What’s more, tech has the potential to make the whole process seamless to your sales and marketing organizations…but do you even know what’s possible?
The key is to first get clear on the new processes, so you can make the most of technology and automate or aggregate activities instead of using valuable human-hours or manual work, which ultimately is the key to making ABM work at scale.
Another roadblock to full ABM for most companies is starting down the path but stopping once they see the current process has been approved. They’ve named accounts for SDRs, content becomes more personalized, and marketing is hopping in to help with a few campaigns – great, this is certainly better than hitting “send all”.
But stopping here means you haven’t really embedded marketing in sales to create sales plays that encourage multithreading in accounts. Needless to say, results will be marginal. Yes, by creating more personalized content you can increase your conversions, but what if you could increase conversions by 10% if you keep going and really change your marketing and sales alignment?
In other words, don’t stop at the top of funnel. True ABM goes throughout the entire funnel — and that’s where companies start to see incredible results.
What does good look like?
For most companies, ABM is an And strategy, not an Or strategy, so you still have people dedicated to nurturing or running highly custom outreach to second-tier accounts. Even if these accounts almost match your ideal customer profile, most of your time should be spent on leads the data identifies as your top ideal customers or prospects. Yes, ABM should also be used by AM teams to pick accounts to focus on for growth; not all current customers are created equally, even if they’re in the same bucket.
A highly functioning ABM team has the following components:
- There’s alignment at all levels with a clear focus on ideal customer accounts
- Technology is used to augment or automate as much as possible so complexities from sales and marketing teams are eliminated
- A clear reporting and optimization plan is in place for continuous analysis and improvement over time
Everyone in your sales and marketing org should know your ideal customer profile, inside and out. Alignment starts when everyone knows who your business sells to, what your customers care about, how they make decisions, and what the typical buying path looks like. Your team should easily know the answer to questions such as; how do people actually buy our product; who is involved, and at what points?
Keep in mind that sales teams always want to understand the “why” behind something, and when you start alignment based on the customer journey, it’s easier to change workflow behaviors. So, don’t just tell the team “we are going ABM.” Help all levels understand who your buyers are, and how they actually buy. Then you’ll notice the transition towards a complete ABM strategy become much smoother.
As I mentioned before, your ops team or consulting partner have to be up to date with all the latest technology; the landscape is changing rapidly with no sign of slowing down. The APIs available now are different than the APIs from the same vendor six months ago, so how you connect the factory is becoming easier and easier. A good ABM process is grounded in the buyer journey and made possible through technology.
Once you start tracking various tactics, plays, and strategies, how can you use this information to improve?
A good ABM strategy considers the important KPIs and puts easy-to-understand metrics in place at every level. Many organizations are now moving away from using total emails and calls as a metric and focusing instead on outcomes at each level. The key is to define what success looks like for each component of your ABM strategy. This way, each group understands when they are successful or not, and you can create a plan to optimize each layer over time.
At our session Optimizing Your Account-Based Strategy and Playbook on March 5th, from 1:30 – 3:30 pm, we will answer all of the questions covered above and more. Our goal is to move past the hype and fluff to focus on what actually makes a successful ABM organization.
This session is designed for senior leaders who want to go beyond using ABM for incremental increases in top and mid-funnel engagement, and instead understand how organizations can use ABM throughout their sales and AM process to drive huge gains. Hope to see you there.