Michael Brenner on the Power of Aligning Sales and Marketing for ABM

The Power of Sales and Marketing Alignment in ABM

What happens when you combine the hottest trend in B2B marketing with sales and marketing alignment? An account-based marketing (ABM) plan that delights customers from first touch to close.

With ABM, marketing messages are based on the data insights of targeted accounts.

Sales and marketing resources are concentrated and then deployed together, yielding better-tailored marketing messaging and more productive sales engagement – and more account conversions.

Eighty percent of marketers who use ABM say it significantly outperforms other marketing strategies. Ninety-seven percent say it has at least a somewhat higher ROI than other initiatives.

The problem is that a lot of organizations are still behind on this evolution in marketing. This is partially because a move to ABM is rooted in more than a change in technology. It requires an organizational shift. Sales and marketing teams need to be aligned.

Sales and Marketing Roles in ABM

For account-based marketing to work, sales and marketing teams each need to play their parts. They have clearly defined roles that are supposed to support and synchronize with one another. This is what the roles look like for each team in effective account-based marketing:

Sales Roles in Account-Based Marketing

Who understands the accounts? Sales. They know which ones are the biggest, which need the most attention, and which fit the ideal buyer description. So, step one in account-based marketing – identifying the target accounts – is up to them.

Also, because of their on-the-front-lines level of insight, sales teams can offer the meaty details about current and targeted buyers to help marketing create dynamic buyer personas, which is step two for ABM.

Marketing Roles in Account-Based Marketing

Armed with this information from sales, it is up to the marketing team to choose the right content, the most appropriate channels, and the best times for delivery. 

Marketing launches their social, email, website, and in-person content, along with any advertising. Sales strategically responds to social engagement, follows up on marketing’s email campaigns, and takes other steps to guide buyers along the sales journey.

This means that marketing develops the multichannel strategy to be used for targeted accounts, and both marketing and sales follow it.

Here’s a tip for ABM success: Get input from sales before finalizing the marketing strategy.

Measuring and Optimizing ABM Initiatives

The alignment and concentration of data resources is important, not just for developing targeted multichannel strategies but also in measuring and optimizing them. This means both teams need to work together to define the key performance indicators (KPIs).

What you’ll find with ABM is that traditional marketing KPIs are too broad or simply miss the mark. There are several reasons for this.

For one thing, ABM alters the sales cycle – Forrester1 has found a 24 percent increase in cycle length for B2B businesses using account-based marketing. Another issue is that the priorities change under ABM.

The focus is no longer on new lead generation but rather on motivating identified target leads, so there will be a natural shift to more qualitative metrics.

Ultimately, the proper KPIs will depend on your industry and the unique needs of your organization. However, here are some of the most widely used ABM metrics you may decide to use:

  • Engagement rate – Your marketing automation platform likely will aggregate data (clicks on ads, social engagement, website visits, white paper downloads) to produce an engagement score for each account.
  • Marketing-qualified accounts (MQAs) – This is an evolution from marketing-qualified leads. MQAs offer a more holistic look at an entire account’s activity.
  • In-funnel conversion rates – Instead of looking at individual contact conversions at each stage, you’re tracking when the entire account converts. Possible goals would be email responses, booked meetings, and account conversions to customer.

Making Account-Based Marketing Work

When marketing and sales join forces, you have clearer, more complete information to work with. Which means it’s possible to make better-informed marketing and sales decisions, create richer buyer profiles, and establish more qualitative KPIs that will directly show the impact of your ABM initiatives.

But the key for this aligned approach is good communication between teams. How can two traditionally adjacent teams suddenly mesh well together?

  • Establish open communication channels right away and define what they are.
  • Designate an individual or small group from each team to be in charge of cross-team communications.
  • Develop a system for sharing data.
  • Involve sales in more than just account identification and developing buyer profiles, making them part of strategic decisions along with marketing.

Alignment doesn’t have to happen overnight. In fact, allowing the shift from “adjacent teams” to “strategic partners” to unfold organically can reduce some of the natural friction that such a change can bring. Those teams who can master inter-team communications have a lot to gain.

The richer insights and synchronized efforts are what make account-based marketing the powerful tool it has proven to be for revenue growth. Check out six simple steps to kick-start your ABM program.

1SiriusDecisions was acquired by Forrester in 2018.