B2B marketers know that, often, there are more hurdles to a marketing strategy’s success than ways to win. Challenges like measurement, brand engagement, effective target marketing, and lead gen all come to mind.
Likewise, the tension between brand building and demand generation is still a struggle for even the savviest B2B marketers. While these two crucial marketing functions have been pitted against one another for ages, the pendulum has swung in favor of demand in the past decade — and not because demand is that much more important.
In a world where C-suites and board are focused on numbers and data, demand has proven much easier to measure and track, leaving brand marketers underfunded and out in the cold. Welcome to the world of, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t fund it.”
Luckily, there is a way to bridge the gap between brand marketing and demand: account-based marketing (ABM). ABM is a focused approach to B2B marketing in which marketing and sales teams work together to target a few best-fit accounts and turn them into customers. These strategies enable a more holistic approach to measurement, linking brand and demand together.
By marrying these two functions, marketers can measure further up the funnel and across an entire account, tying specific customer actions back to brand, too. Account-based marketing helps match brand and demand by allowing marketers to target and measure only their best-fit accounts that will help drive revenue.
Pramata Sharpens Focus on High-Level Buyers
In my book ABM is B2B, I share the story of Pramata that made a shift to ABM and how it transformed their business. Pramata is a company that helps large B2B enterprises maximize customer lifetime value has been blasting its message widely to potential customers. This was before the marketing team discovered that the buying center at their best-fit accounts consisted of the operational and financial executives at large B2B enterprises.
Despite Pramata’s robust marketing program, these critical decision-makers were unaware that a solution like Pramata’s even existed. Pramata took a step back, focusing only on their high-level buyers and communicating a highly personalized message. As a result, they achieved more leads, more pipeline, and faster time to close. Specifically, the company saw a 60 percent reduction in customer acquisition cost compared to traditional inbound, and a 32 percent reduction in average deal time.
To be successful, it required a shift in how B2B marketers approach targeting and measurement. Let’s look at three ways ABM can help brands rethink their marketing strategies, and dive into what B2B marketers need to cut from their playbook to more effectively tie brand and demand together, and ultimately, drive more revenue.
1. Stop Trying to Boil the Ocean
When your target audience is much smaller and niche, as it is in most B2B scenarios, you can’t just throw your marketing campaigns against the wall like a string of spaghetti and see what sticks.
Instead, you need to approach marketing with the mindset that you only want to reach and measure the accounts that have the right attributes and needs of your target customers. In the B2B world, we have a completely different demand cycle, and therefore need to rethink how we approach demand generation — by focusing on only the accounts that matter. When we think about it this way, ABM really is B2B.
With an ABM strategy, campaigns, ads and messaging need to be personalized, contextual and targeted to the specific pain points of your audience. With this approach, marketers may see less traffic and click-throughs, but they gain much better ROI on campaigns because the engagements are with the exact right prospects, who are much more likely to take action and convert.
2. Stop Relying on Vanity Metrics
While we all like to see that marketing downloads or click-through rates (CTRs) for our latest online ads are through the roof, as B2B marketers, we need to rethink how we measure success.
What works for our B2C cohorts doesn’t necessarily make sense in the B2B world. We’re dealing with a lower volume of buyers, less impulsive decision-makers and multiple stakeholders for any given targeted account. Thousands of CTRs on your marketing report may look impressive, but is it making an impact on the bottom line if only a handful of those clicks came from highly qualified potential customers?
It’s time to start expanding our measurement universe to better understand conversions. We’re not just talking about which clicks on an ad led to conversions, we need to look further up the funnel. If someone saw an ad for your brand and didn’t click, but then later down the line visits the website, fills out a form and ultimately converts to a customer — how do we track that?
Marketers need to think about how they are mapping customers’ digital identifiers, and how their engagement with the brand over a period of time led them to become a customer. In the B2B sales cycle, it’s rarely one click or form fill that leads to conversions. It’s time we stop measuring like we’re B2C marketers and start matching brand with demand.
3. Stop Treating All Customers Equally
It may seem harsh, but not all customers/leads are created equal — at least, not in the eyes of a B2B marketer. It’s perfectly acceptable, encouraged even, to roll out the red carpet for higher-value customers, giving them the personalized experience and attention they need to remain happy, paying customers.
In fact, each account should have its own personalized approach based on their needs and preferences. No two accounts are alike, so why should we treat them with a blanket approach? With ABM, marketers can assign tiers to accounts and create experiences tailored to their needs, and also to how valuable they are to your bottom line.
ABM isn’t just a technology or a platform. It’s a mindset that can help brand and demand marketers come together for the greater good of the company. It can be challenging to shift how we approach marketing, especially when things like MQLs and CTRs have been so ingrained in us as metrics we need to improve in order to win.
But by focusing on what matters most — the best-fit accounts — B2B marketing doesn’t have to be so challenging, and we can work to improve ROI on every campaign. As we get ready to plan for 2020, marketers need to consider an ABM approach, and remember that it’s no longer brand vs. demand in B2B marketing — it’s brand AND demand, working together to attract the right targets and close deals.
Note: ABM is B2B: Why B2B Marketing and Sales is Broken and How to Fix It is available in trade paperback and ebook format at bookstores nationwide and online retailers such as Amazon.