Account-Based Marketing: Don’t Start Until You Do These Five Things

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To complete a purchase, businesses require an estimated 6.8 stakeholders to approve — an increase from an average of  5.4 stakeholders in 2014, according to Harvard Business Review. That is why many companies must learn as much as possible about prospects in high-potential accounts and use the principles of account-based marketing (ABM) to target them accordingly. With ABM, you can begin much earlier in the sales cycle to provide the information your prospects need to make a purchase decision faster and explain their decision to others who are also engaged in the business-to-business (B2B) buying cycle.

What Is Account-Based Marketing?

Account-based marketing refers to an approach that focuses on target stakeholders among high-potential accounts. Because ABM identifies website activity from target stakeholders and practices immediate and customized follow-up, B2B marketers can shorten the buyer journey by weeks or even months. By customizing their interactions with these targeted individuals, the anonymous buyer’s journey has become highly focused and more effective. According to the report, ABM allows marketers to “jump ahead of the competition and immediately start to shape their purchase journeys.”

Five ABM Preparation Steps

With account-based marketing, it is always crucial to prepare the organization in advance. The highly energetic activity that ensues must be transparent to all your current stakeholders before you try to reach prospective stakeholders. As with any marketing program, metrics-based KPIs should be in place prior to program start. Here are the five ways you can ensure organizational readiness that allows you to practice ABM in a way that yields measurable results.

1. Ensure your sales team is ready.

If your sales organization already assigns accounts to different reps, has a target account list and organizes itself around accounts with different needs, it may be a relatively simple task to initiate ABM. One of the reported environmental signs of readiness the new report cites is the readiness of salespeople to jump in and nurture ABM leads and whether account-based objectives are already used in the sales organization. If they are not, you may want to begin to do so before embarking on ABM.

According to the report, if “marketing creates marketing automation campaigns by firmographics or purchase journey and customer success departments are asking for marketing help,” you may be ready for ABM. We concur since firmographics often point to the “low-hanging fruit” for ABM success. Firmographics are descriptive attributes of firms that indicate readiness to buy. Examples include size, location, industry types, propensity to use particular B2B products and services, preferences for channel, technologies used and so forth. Firmographics will differ from company to company and once your teams start ABM, these metrics will continue to provide the rocket fuel for your initiatives.

3. Leverage existing executive interaction.

If the executives in your organization are already interacting with customers during sales, then your ABM program already has senior-level people who are used to identifying what it takes to close specific kinds of prospects. The objective is to leverage the type of knowledge that can help the sales team achieve higher average selling price (ASP) and/or a shorter sales cycle. If that is the case, we suggest spending the time to ensure these executives’ experience is captured and documented to become part of the institutional knowledge upon which you can successfully base your ABM.

4. Communicate with customer-facing departments.

One of the most crucial ABM-ready departments will be your customer success team. Depending upon the communication flow between these interrelated departments — sales, customer service, customer success — whatever the proper names within your company, these groups must settle on an ideal customer profile (ICP), prior to beginning ABM activity. The changing nature of your prospects based on your product development stages and new offerings or changes in your markets require that customer-facing entities continue to fine-tune the ICP on a regular basis. If you do not possess a solid ICP, we suggest you begin at once.

5. Put strategic teams in place.  

Executives who are willing to take the time must supplement cross-functional customer-facing teams and resources to commit to the change that may cause cultural difficulties as sales and marketing to align for ABM. If sales and marketing do not already possess accountability with more traditional B2B marketing workflows for lead generation and customer nurturing, then you should change this prior to instituting an ABM program. You will not build a solid ABM approach on a catch-as-catch-can marketing foundation. With ABM, perhaps more than with any other strategy, accountability is everything.

Of course, account-based marketing will not take place in a vacuum. As with any marketing program, you will have to identify not only the metrics for success but also the moments in your ABM program when it makes sense to pivot to gain more results. We have a lot of information about the right metrics in the recently published, B2B Revenue Growth Playbook. ABM is only as healthy as your marketing department so ensure you diagnose and/or treat sales and marketing’s general “health” prior to embarking on ABM. Following the above five steps will ensure you are well on your way to instituting ABM that generates results.

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