Account Based Marketing (ABM) is not a Tactic nor a Technology.
This cardinal marketing rule goes all the way back to when ABM first appeared on the landscape. It was the undoing of ABM back then, and it will be the undoing of many ABM efforts now.
The goal with ABM is to ultimately deliver more profitable customers that stay with the brand longer. If I have to make additional investments in skill set, human bandwidth, and technology, then I better have a more profitable and happier customer as a result vs my current demand generation efforts. Therefore, if you treat an ABM prospect account in the exact same way that you do managing a general prospect inquiry, you will have the same conversion rate and time-to-value as your current demand management process, but now with greater costs associated with the deal.
To ensure ABM success it is best to view the program as a distinct process or framework as it relies on dedicated technology, coordination, and support across the organization in order to make it a success. Equally important is to support that framework with sufficient technology so that efficient scalability can be achieved across the ABM execution effort.
In this installment of the ABM series we will look at key elements of an ABM process and what technology should be considered in supporting this process.
The ABM Process
While there are many process and framework models associated with ABM most will revolve around these general principles:
I. Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)-Your ABM efforts will start with the need to define specific target accounts based on an Ideal Customer Profile: Those accounts that garner key characteristics that yield a higher propensity for to successful engagement outcome. A Successful ABM is all about strategy, and strategy is ultimately about sacrifice. The ICP amounts to your strategic “fishing net” that is cast into a sea of potential target accounts to help find those accounts in which to focus your ABM efforts on.
The ICP can be developed through several approaches but it is important that marketing and sales are intimately aligned as to the ICP. Marketing can add significant value in helping to define an ICP, but sales must also be involved as only they can bring other strategic criteria into account which also define the ICP. Your ICP profile should be a strategic document as well and engrained in the sales and marketing culture. ICPs can be defined by the following:
- Account Propensity Criteria-Analysis of What (Accounts) have purchased in the past?
- Firmographic Data-employee size, revenue, vertical industry, revenue,
- Deal size
- Time to sale
- Share of Wallet Expansion Opportunity
- Advocacy Opportunity- Desired marquee brands and the potential of developing brand advocates and references.
- Buyer and Influencer Roles-Who do we need to target within the account?
- Economic buyer roles and engagement within the buying cycle
- Technical buyer roles and engagement within the buying cycle
- User buyer roles and engagement within the buying cycle
- Influencers roles and engagement within the buying cycle
- Customer Role Personas-Development of detailed insights of key roles related to your buying cycles and the emotional triggers that are impactful in driving effective messaging
II. Insight Driven Engagement-ABM is ultimately outside-in insight driven engagement. To support greater personalization in account communications insights across industry, technology, hot topics/trends, and the account itself will need to be analyzed for potential engagement opportunities and value proposition development. Key areas to focus on include:
- Relevant Context: market trends and, hot topics, technology developments, regulatory and compliance issues
- Account Level Research-Would include financials, annual reports, news releases, organizational structures and developments etc.
- Account-Contact-Engagement- Need to see who at the account has engaged with the brand and how.
- Real-time Account Intelligence-Real-time information and social feeds into your CRM that enable event driven marketing and sales engagements.
III. Buyer Centric Content-Generating the right content at the right time for the right roles.
- Adopting a Buyer Centric Model-A standardized view and understanding of how the prospect buys, and what their information needs are at each stage of the buying process
- Relevant and Contextual Content-Content delivered to prospects with the goal of moving the prospect along to the next stage within their buying process
- Role/industry Enhanced-Content enhanced and differentiated by industry and role based needs
IV. Personalized and Timely-Engagement with the brand is personalized and timely
- Coordinated and structured communications-all touches need to be orchestrated from the brand outward and across all internal departments.
- Customized Operating Engagement (sales, marketing, service and support)-What is the unique engagement model with the target account?
- Online & Offline Personalization-From web personalization and pixelation to personal 1-1 relationship building activities.
- Defined and Custom “playbook” Development-What are the relevant sales scenarios that will resonate with the account.
V. Data Driven
- Predictive Analytics-Who else is in a buying process that you may not know about?
- Attribution & Reporting-What contact, at what account, consumed what content, and when.
- Segmentable-Firmographic and buyer centric criteria (in addition to firmographic criteria the ability to segment on buyer roles and stage in the buying process are advantageous)
- Contact enrichment-real time enrichment of account contact level information and account level intelligence
To ensure success It is key that both sales and marketing (and other functions such as customer success, services etc) agree to a specific ABM demand management process and engagement model that will give your organization the prioritized, personalized, and insightful touches it needs to increase conversion close rates with greater velocity.
The ABM Tech Stack
According to the Sirius Decisions 2016 ABM Study 58% of enterprises report that they are planning to increase their investment in related ABM technology and services. To do ABM efficiently and effectively requires a commitment to infrastructure investment. If your organization is not willing to invest in an ABM centric tech stack for sales and marketing than it may be in your best interest to maintain the status quo. Your competitors selling team (it’s a good chance they are doing ABM as well these days) velocity, fueled by these services, will leave you in the dust frankly. Here are some key areas to consider in regards to building an ABM technology stack.
I do not have any ties to any vendors mentioned, and only mention these vendor solutions as examples of evolving solutions that may be of assistance to your ABM efforts.
Segmentable Database-Strong Segmentable Data Management Processes and Taxonomy
The core of any ABM effort is to define an ideal customer profile, that will have a propensity to buy your goods and services, and then use this insight to target internal and external prospect accounts with your messaging. Therefore, your ability to segment your data across key areas becomes paramount to success (assumes all standard fields in place (address, email etc). Some segmentable criteria would include:
- Account Type (i.e customer, prospect, partner, etc.)
- Account Hierarchy (What is the parent company vs what is a subsidiary)
- Industry (requires a rationalized industry segment model)
- SIC code
- Account Size Criteria (1 or more of the following employee size, revenue, other criteria.
- Role (requires rationalized title-to-role model)
- Stage in Internal Demand Process (i.e Nurture, Inquiry, MQL, SQL,)
- Current Company Products and Services if a customer record
- Lead Sources
- Lead Status
Really Nice to Have
- Persona/Buyer Type (internal rationalized model i.e economic buyer, influencer, user etc)
- Account Level (not contact) Stage in Customer Buying Process (requires an internal buying model rationalized against offers consumed and engagement activity)
- Customer/Prospect Technology Deployed (i.e type of O/S, # Servers, #desktop, Software Applications-SAP ERP, Salesforce CRM)
- Competitive Solutions Deployed
- Account Classification (small, lower mid, mid, upper mid, large, very large-requires a rationalized account-segment model i.e what is small, what is large, etc.)
A successful ABM effort really begins and ends with strong database management, and quality data. To that end documented, standardized and rationalized data fields across sales and financial operations and pertaining to industry, company size, title/role, and account hierarchy are at the core of building a searchable, and segmentable database in support of ABM. In addition, periodic account and contact enrichment processes are vital in keeping data as complete, and as up to date as possible (B2B data decays at about 5%/month). While many of you will take some of these criteria for granted it’s been my experience that there are far more enterprises that lack basic rationalized and standardized data taxonomies and management practices than those that do not.
Today many companies provide enrichment support and many even provide an API interface so that you can enrich contact and account details in real time as a prospect converts on your offers. However; without agreed to taxonomies and standardized data classifications with sales and financial operations, efficient efforts to identify potential target lists could be hampered. Contact data that is old or inaccurate will also add to the challenge. When was the last time you cleaned out aging and unengaged prospects from your marketing database?
Often times your tele-vendors (i.e. ReachForce, Catapult, Televerde) are great resources in enriching data, and even in providing API’s for real-time contact-account level enrichment. In addition, there are several resources available for building and expanding target contact lists, not already active in your database (i.e. DemandBase, Kickfire, DiscoverOrg, Rainking, NetProspex, Insideview). These emerging services are now integrating real-time data enrichment and intelligence feeds along with predictive analytics to create “always-on” marketable data.
Marketing Automation is still a cornerstone of an efficient ABM infrastructure in order to manage personalized and multiple communication touches across various ABM prospect accounts. Your CRM and MAS should be viewed as your revenue management system holistically as both are required for successful ABM efforts. What is missing from a MAP and CRM is the account-to-contact context needed to drive insights, and personalized communications. Today more communication management and targeting solutions are being developed to support specific ABM processes, and many of these solutions are designed to integrate directly with your MAP (Marketing Automation Platform). Your MAP is also a core element in your personalization strategy and capabilities which is also a critical component of the ABM Tech Stack.
ABM Engagement & Management Add-Ons (Emerging)
Today we are seeing a rapidly expanding field of specific ABM applications and services designed to enhance your core CRM and MAP systems. These emerging solutions can enable you to automate requirements for increased contextual visibility across accounts and contacts while managing engagement activity and communications across marketing, sales and target account- contacts. For example, Demand Base’s Partnership with Oracle- Eloqua enables its users to accomplish multiple tasks including:
- Eliminating online form fields by dynamically appending records with more accurate and standardize account data
- Appending historical lead and contact data with standardized account data
- Use Demandbase’s Account Score to trigger an ABM campaign workflow at the account level
Enagio’s recently announced integration between its Playmaker application and Salesforce provides for more coordinated and automated communications with contacts, while simultaneously adding visibility across account specific contacts to show additional activity and brand engagement.
The key consideration is to ensure that you have a capability to match lead-contacts with their respective accounts. This will underpin your ability to gain visibility across account-contact engagements and ultimately serve as the platform of being able to measure and optimize channels and offers.
CRM is not inherently designed with marketing in mind, and will often lack key native capabilities to support marketing requirements in a multi-contact, multi-engagement and non-linear buying process, that is our marketing reality today. With the reemergence of ABM there are ever increasing new solutions emerging that can help make overcoming these challenges a little easier, especially if you’re on the Salesforce CRM platform. Notable vendors here would include Engagio, Brightfunnel, and Leandata to name just a few.
Efficient and effective website and email personalization is now at hand thanks to increasing “Marketing-by-IP” capabilities tools, and services now available to marketers. Vendors such as Marketo, Optimizely and Demandbase can help enable you to dynamically provide custom content and messaging to your targeted account contacts as they visit your web properties. Communication channels can be personalized beyond a salutation and include the visiting accounts logo and industry imagery. This level of personalization is vital to ensuring strong conversion effectiveness, and it’s safe to be that your competitors are or have deployed some level of personalization beyond the salutatory email.
Probably the most exciting capability at hand for marketers is the use of predictive analytics, not only for identifying ideal customer profiles, but also in being able to proactively identify accounts in active buying cycles for your solutions that are not in your demand management process or radar. These new predictive capabilities are true game changers and really underpin your ability to serve right content at the right time.
Predictive analytics shifts you away from reactive marketing to truly proactive marketing, and is the secret sauce to any successful modern ABM program. The field of vendors and technologies is growing rapidly, and some notable vendors would include 6sense, Bombara, Lattice Engines and Everstring to just name a few.
Retargeting is an essential ingredient in any ABM program as it keeps your brand and messaging in front of your key targeted prospects. 68% of B2B enterprises are dedicating budget to these efforts in 2016-2017. (Sirius Decisions ABM 2016) You can enable retargeting automatically to those prospects that visit your, and your media partner websites as well as enable a proactive outreach to potential accounts based on your ideal account profile. In this effort a relationship with a media agency such as Just Media or direct retargeting platform providers such as Demandbase, and Retargeter are essential.
ABM Reporting and Analytics
What Are We Measuring For? Jeffrey Sands, VP Account-Based Marketing Practice ITSMA suggests that “When executed correctly, ABM enables a company to change the perception of the value they can bring to the target account.” Sirius Decision’s Megan Heuer suggests that the true desired outcomes of ABM are target account churn rate, average order size, and cross-sell-up sell.
In short our ABM efforts should deliver a superior brand experience to targeted accounts that result in longer term, more profitable customers, with a greater overall usage of our technology portfolio. This end goal now provides the context of what KPI’s and metrics we should identify to help us measure effectiveness and efficiency of our ABM effort.
Other ABM Technology Support: Social Selling Services
Social Selling is pivotal to ABM sales success as it enhances your ability to find and connect with targeted account prospects much more efficiently and effectively. Sales engagement is driven by insight and in the ability to position the company representative as a subject matter expert by sharing relevant industry content, commenting on breaking news, and of course building brand reputation as 62% of B2B buyers report responding to a sales representative that connects with relevant insights and opportunities (Linked-In). Linked-In also reports that companies with strong social selling capabilities generate 45% more sales opportunities, with more than half hitting sales quotas.
As we are in the era of social selling, one would want to make sure that the ABM infrastructure has some sort of real-time social and account intelligence services in place. From social media monitoring, keyword tracking, brand sentiment, and real-time market news will all be key in optimizing your sales and marketing performance. Inputs along these lines enable more personal and real-time communications to fuel that insight driven engagement. Prospects identified by a sales trigger event are 8x more likely to buy. So think of these services as enabling “sales-by-event” within your ABM program. Examples would be Mention.com, Discover.org, and Avention. Note that many of these solutions also bring database enhancements as well.
In Part IV we will look at the steps required to building an ABM Program, what considerations should be given in determining marketing’s objectives, KPIs and metrics.