Over the last half a decade, ABM has emerged as B2B marketers ‘Go-To’ tactic to drive measurable ROI, but even now in Q4 2022, there remains much confusion around the entire topic of Account Based marketing. Having directly helped dozens of companies to implement, action and succeed with ABM activity, here at FunnelFuel, we think we’re fairly well placed to share some direct feedback.
What is clear is that ABM done right works. Almost 85% of B2B marketers who measure ROI state that account-based marketing is demonstrably out-yielding all other forms of marketing, with half of those marketers citing significantly higher returns. There also seems to be a synergy between organisations who are implementing ABM, and those who have generally succeeding in the oft-illusive task of synergising their marketing channels. A Bizible, study found that “marketers doing ABM are about 40% more likely to report alignment with their sales team compared to marketers not doing ABM.” So not only does the fact that an organisation is leveraging ABM typically mean they are out competing their peers, it also indicates more generally that these organisations have generally got highly functioning B2B marketing functions, making these companies the ones to benchmark yourself against.
So how are the top achievers leveraging ABM in their marketing functions? ABM should be used throughout the funnel, to brand, demand and expand. This is not a silo’d tactic; its an all-encompassing marketing approach which scientifically identifies targets, from the earliest prospects to the longest standing customer segments, and then uses the best in class marketing automation technology to understand how B2B decisions are made, what pain points are researched and how best to engage each named account.
ABM also recognises one of the keenest distinctions between B2C marketing and B2B marketing. Corporate decisions are signed off on by a consensus of stakeholders, who collectively represent a ‘decision making universe’. According to the Harvard Business Journal story, CEB found that the usual number in this decision making universe is close to 5.4 decision-makers. This is 5.4 stakeholders on each account, each representing their organisations whims and wants from diametrically different perspectives; what engages a CMO can be markedly different to a CTO. So corporate decisions are defined by a decision making universe which represent specialist stakeholders with individual responsibilities, with timelines which align at different moments in the year. Compare this to your average B2C decision maker, signing off a whimsical purchase based on an Instagram advert, driven by emotion and able to transact with one tap of the screen, and without having to win over 4.4 colleagues with different priorities. In this light, the long sales cycle makes more sense. ABM campaigns, with laser targeted messaging that addresses different functions and pain points in the target organisation, leveraging advanced analytics to understand sales cycle stage, has demonstrably been shown to shorten sales cycles, and ABM’s ability to keep re-engaging these accounts as they mature as a customer, is a key reason why ABM is succeeding for our clients.
So having run hundreds of ABM campaigns across dozens of advertisers, what are FunnelFuel’s key takeaways for turning this buzzword into a cornerstone of your B2B marketing?
Your ABM Strategy Needs Buy-In From Your Whole Organisation
We already know that companies who ‘do ABM’ typically have more synergised marketing functions. But is this a byproduct of ABM or more of a reflection that the best marketers have ABM in that toolbox? Irrespective of the answer, its MBA 101 to state that Sales and marketing functions need to be closely aligned—a fact backed by research by MarketingProfs. They found that companies with aligned marketing and sales departments on average generate 208% more revenue for their marketing efforts. But alignment is essential in more than just those two groups. Buy-in from the C-suite is also necessary for setting the expectations and advantages of ABM across functional groups. CS teams need input to help ensure existing clients are nurtured through digital activity. Advertising and biddable media teams need to be optimising to the right metrics, sales teams need to be using the realtime data availability to engage prospects in the moment, content teams need to be delivering messaging that supports the funnel stages. The list goes on.
Build Your Tactics Scientifically
Data and insights are buzzwords thrown around the marketing world with abandon yet it is objectively true to state that data is at the centre of a productive and maximised ABM strategy. But what do we mean by data? Successful ABM activity relies heavily on a data feedback loop of accurate, high-value data about target accounts. However, many companies find that is an area that’s ripe for improvement. In fact, 64% of B2B organizations cite improving data quality is their most challenging obstacle. But there are ways to bridge that data gap with the right technology, which is why here at FunnelFuel, we built an enterprise class of B2B analytics specifically to collect this data.
Target & Personalize, But Don’t Obsess Over Job Role & Remember The Decision Making Universe Of 5.4
ABM strategies are by definition highly targeted, and as a result of advances in digital technology, they encourage B2B marketers to focus on strategic accounts and the decision makers within them, rather than a broader and more holistic approach. Marketers can customize their ABM programs to find specific account attributes tailored to their company’s differentiation points and value proposition. Once the account is targeted, B2B marketers can set out to develop the right content for the right decision maker at the right time. That presents a great opportunity to create the most impact; however, as pointed out earlier, each account often has more than one or two decision makers. The pain points that each represents, and their criteria for making a decision are typically highly varied. However just because they have a very siloed viewpoint doesn’t mean they can’t think laterally. A CFO doesn’t only care for the cheapest solution, CFO’s are capably of thinking widely about the solution and their companies needs. A mix of precision but also broader messaging can often work better in our experience, not least because we don’t always know each targets internal decision making universe, so leveraging tactics which target the wider organisation almost always works better then just targeting named individuals/roles. With the right platform, marketers can easily target and segment audiences based on customer profile or industry.
Have The Right Technology – A True B2B Specialist
The Mar-tech industry is dominated by platforms and technologies which were invented for B2C use cases. These technologies are built for scale (think about Coca Cola or Ford’s addressable market) and not for precision. The act of buying an advert may work the same (technicallY) but in almost every other way, these technologies are not fit for the B2B purpose. B2C needs scale, we need precision.
Ensuring the accuracy of organisation data sets requires the selection of a top-tier B2B contact database provider that can give comprehensive, live and fully up to date information. A lasting legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020-22, was a new found hybrid working culture meaning that data needs to include knowledge of organisations private VPNs as well as office based data.
The ability to take the genesis of a targeting account list, and to model it against rafts of firmographic data across all territories of interest for the client is also key. This form of lookalike modelling helps cure the ills of incomplete client data, whilst ensuring the full addressable market is understood and met.
This needs to be combined with the right on site analytics which can actually understand which target accounts have been online, what they have been doing, and give all stakeholders the chance to actually observe what these accounts were doing. Once again, B2B is precision where B2C is scale.
Finally the right media buying technology is needed, with the ability to leverage this unique data to target named accounts, bringing LinkedIn like targeting to the rest of the internet. Clients who only do ABM on LinkedIn have to work with limited data sets and sky high prices; ITDM’s exist outside of LinkedIn, often reading the content produced by the Worlds best subject-specific publishers as part of their research. The best marketing automation platforms like FunnelFuel can recognise the context of what they are reading, aligning the right message with the right moment of research to turbocharge performance.
It Starts By Measuring. It Ends With More Measuring!
ABM is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. It’s crucial to establish metrics for each account, measure the content and tactics for effectiveness against those metrics, and then reshape and adjust them as needed. B2B specific web analytics are few and far between (we didn’t build a B2B enterprise set of analytics for the fun of it!). Measuring has to be account specific, and it needs to be combined with realtime feedback loops (so sales can get on to that prospect when they’re actively researching you) and automated, synergising channels like email, retargeting and direct outreach to deliver moment marketing.
Marketing teams can measure engagement and other critical success factors through methods such as account scoring, which give them keen insight into account health. Changing direction quickly and refining future campaigns based on these types of data will allow for the highest level of ABM success.
ABM encourages B2B marketers to focus on quality over quantity—that is, better leads and overall account health over number of leads and accounts. The industry has been filled with low quality generic lead generation for eons, but these leads do not typically move the needle for the organisation buying them. Having full company buy-in, robust and largely unavailable [to rivals] data signals, the right technology, a scientifically constructed targeted account list, and effective metrics will set the path towards success. Enacting an impactful ABM strategy will take time, thought, and targeted efforts, but the revenue and overall efficiency improvements make it well worth the work.
Ready to implement an account-based marketing strategy into your current marketing plans? Book your sales call with FunnelFuel today to get started