Tactics to Improve Your Account-Based Marketing Results
Account-based marketing is a strategic tactic employed by business-to-business marketers to reach a defined universe of targeted business accounts. In other words, instead of focusing on sales and marketing strategies aimed at a large group of companies, your message is precisely and narrowly targeted to an individual account. It’s taking marketing from the traditional one-to-many approach and making it a more personal one-to-one approach, and it’s been adopted by many organizations, big and small.
There’s no shortage of reasons why account-based marketing (ABM) is attractive to business-to-business (B2B) companies. Companies practicing ABM have better alignment with sales, often close bigger deals with target accounts, and increase pipeline velocity with companies they may have never thought about going after in the past. Not surprisingly, 58% of B2B organizations currently employ an ABM strategy, and 28% plan on doing so in the next six months, according a recent Dun & Bradstreet study.
And even while account-based marketing has been one of the hottest concepts over the past few years, it is not entirely new. In the past, ABM has been viewed as a laborious and expensive strategy reserved for large corporations that concentrated on targeting just a handful of their biggest accounts. But with advancements in technology and the proliferation of data, ABM can be used at scale for any business. But that’s not to say it’s gotten any easier to execute.
Data is really the fuel for any successful account-based marketing program. And while having access to the most accurate data and the right tools to inform the type of decisions that help companies succeed with ABM, there are some other steps that need to be taken when starting to develop an ABM strategy.
Step 1) Connect Sales & Marketing for Account-Based Marketing
First, you absolutely must have alignment between sales and marketing. In fact, we need to stop focusing on the “M” in ABM; it really needs to be called account-based marketing and sales. Because, when it’s done well, you shouldn’t be able to tell where marketing ends and sales begins. To create that synergy between teams, you must have shared processes, shared data and insights, and shared measurements. At Dun & Bradstreet, we’ve even gone as far as measuring our marketing team against closed sales, not just pipeline, because pipeline doesn’t pay the bills, sales do.
Step 2) Combine Sales & Marketing Efforts
A second and related account-based marketing tactic is to change the way the organization thinks about accounts and the way teams are structured. Sales and marketing teams must be structured so they can easily work together to serve the target accounts. It’s important to break through traditional silos, encouraging comprehensive thinking and nimble actions across departments to drive the optimal customer experience. One way to achieve this is to develop cross functional teams dedicated to specific personas with joint metrics to ensure integrated experiences for every specific account.
There really is a culture shift that needs to happen when you move from traditional “batch and blast” and cold calling methods to a more account-based approach. And don’t worry, this does not have to happen overnight.
Step 3) Leverage Customer Data for Account-Based Marketing Results
Additionally, you need to use data and analytics to architect the most valuable engagement for each account. This requires leveraging data to understand what the real-time needs of the account are and what messages are relevant to it, and then deliver those through the proper channels. For this step, you must start with structured, connected, real-time data. You need to understand your current customer base to figure out who your best customers are and then identify more accounts like those.
Step 4) Prioritize with Predictive Analytics
Finally, another valuable account-based marketing tactic is predictive analytics, which can help you prioritize the highest revenue opportunities. This starts with collecting data on every customer touch point, both on and offline. It also requires implementing a data strategy so you can build a 360-degree view of the customer account across the organization. Once this data strategy is in place, you must determine how to surface the insights from that data to the right systems and people who can then act on the data in real time.
It’s important to recognize some of the biggest obstacles that typically arise when trying to implement an account-based marketing strategy. Always be prepared to tackle them before they become too big to overcome. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen is not knowing where to start, or not having buy-in from the executive team. While sales teams have basically been working in an account-based way for years, it’s only recently that ABM has become a company-wide effort that requires alignment, measurement, and more resources. I would suggest starting small, with just 5-10 accounts. Test, learn, and measure so you can prove the value and then get funding to scale your ABM programs.
The Biggest Challenge for Effective Account-Based Marketing
But by far the biggest challenge I’ve seen facing companies today is bad data. That will quickly put the brakes on any ABM plans you have in mind. Irrelevant, incorrect, and outdated data should be a warning sign for all organizations. Companies need to ensure the data they are feeding in to their system is structured, real-time, and connected across departments to allow for deep, relevant, and contextual insights. Don’t make the mistake of not enriching your customer data as this will lead to inaccurate or misleading profiles which can inhibit new business wins, stall the sales process, and obstruct growth.
Account-Based Marketing Examples
Let me offer some examples of companies doing ABM right.
One of our customers in the financial services industry was a small, regional bank looking to stay competitive. The company was essentially going against the big, national banks. One of the things that the company realized was that they wouldn’t be able to differentiate on scale and cost, but they could differentiate on customer experience. We pulled all the data together that gave this financial service company a differential understanding of the opportunity with certain customer groups. They were then able to target accounts that the larger banks may not focus on, and provide more tailored service. That was a game changer for them, thanks to a sound ABM strategy.
A few years ago, another customer, one of the largest document management and solutions companies, was challenged with data integrity issues. More than half of their accounts did not have contacts associated with them. Many accounts were duplicate records with different account IDs. There was no data integration between their CRM, marketing automation platforms, or other disparate systems. Needless to say, they lacked confidence in the accuracy of the data they did have, which made pursuing an effective ABM strategy impossible. We helped the company address their immediate data challenges, assessing, cleaning, and enriching their data to improve its accuracy and completeness. Today, they know their key industries and the critical firmographics within those industries by product, geography, and size of company. They understand their markets and personas down to the smallest common denominator. With clean data and valuable insight, committing to an ABM approach was much easier — and rewarding. Response rates have improved from 5% to 86% on average, and conversion rates have increased to 10% and more.
A third example is one of the most recognized brands in the B2C and B2B technology space. One of their key challenges was that the company’s marketing and sales teams had little visibility into how accounts were engaging across their web property. We helped them identify anonymous web traffic at a high scale, more than 75 million page visits a month. The Marketing Operations team set up dashboards to show not only which accounts were visiting the company’s web properties but also which specific pages those accounts were engaging with and when. With these insights, the Sales team was empowered to pursue the best opportunities and open highly relevant conversations. They were able to uncover otherwise missed opportunities and ensure they were competitive.
Again, it may seem daunting at first, but if you apply these account-based marketing tactics, best practices, and simple steps to your own strategy, I’m confident your organization will reap the benefits.
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