Look Beyond Technology for ABM Success


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Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has been a widely touted means for winning and retaining high value accounts in recent years. ITSMA found that almost 85% of marketers that measured ROI said ABM outperformed other marketing investments. To meet this demand, there are multiple ABM vendor landscapes with new ones popping up each day. It was one of the most talked about sales and marketing topics of 2018, and there are even complete events now dedicated to ABM strategy.

Despite all the buzz around ABM, just 38% of respondents in a recent survey said ABM is part of their go-to-market strategy. The reality is that a lot of organizations are still behind on this evolution in marketing. This is partly because a move to ABM is rooted in more than a change in technology and strategy.

Rooted in Data
Quality data is a foundational requirement to any ABM program. The key to being able to target high value accounts effectively is to have both strong firmographic and demographic data on those accounts. In the B2B setting, it also becomes important to tie all data on individuals within an account to the overarching business in order to build a 360 view of the customer as a whole. Since there are often multiple people making buying decisions in B2B accounts, it’s imperative that sales and marketing teams are empowered with both individual and account-level data to make the most informed decisions. Being able to tie together customer data across platforms with a single, unique business identifier allows for more targeted campaigns and better campaign tracking, which is especially important for ABM programs.

Data powers many aspects of sales and marketing processes. In the same survey mentioned above, B2B sales and marketing teams say the top 5 ways they are using data are as follows: campaign execution, personalized content and messaging, sales prospecting and closing, generating customer insights with analytics, and lead qualification and scoring. You can see that there is as much of a need on the sales side for quality data as there is on the marketing side, and it’s important that those teams are getting the same view of that data at any given time.

Sales & Marketing Alignment
Alignment between sales and marketing is arguably one of the most critical factors in driving ABM success. Only by having teams work together, frequently sharing information and communicating across business silos will B2B companies see success from ABM.

One of the steps that is often missed when trying to drive sales and marketing alignment is simply ensuring sales and marketing teams are sharing the same view of the customer no matter which system they are using. By standardizing and sharing the data across all systems, it allows both sales and marketing to be seeing the same data at the same time about every customer and prospect. Further, by augmenting in-house first party data with trusted third-party data, both departments can get a more holistic view of the account – not only the individual within that account. This is critical in a B2B environment.

In addition to connecting teams with data, it’s also imperative to change the way teams are measured. Typically, an ABM approach requires a shift from leads-based thinking to a narrower engagement of key accounts. This might mean that the sales pipeline is reduced, sometimes significantly, while you focus on a few key accounts. You may also need to consider changes in resourcing, measurement, and compensation. ABM is a hyper-focused approach to sales and marketing and as such, it can require a significant restructuring of how these teams interact and work together to achieve common goals.

Going Digital
One of the aversions to starting ABM programs is the amount of individual attention each account requires- it’s time consuming and can be cost prohibitive if you don’t win that account. However, digital approaches like programmatic advertising have come a long way and can be helpful in scaling ABM programs. By using the persistent identifier we discussed earlier, you can connect online and offline activities to get a full picture of what actions are happening within your key accounts.

In addition, expanding beyond your strategic account list and including companies that are within their corporate hierarchy – parent companies and branches with decision-making authority – will allow you to build awareness among decision-making circles and turn influencers into new advocates. Finally, go beyond traditional firmographic attributes like company size and industry to find similar accounts that you can reach. When predictive and behavioral attributes are layered into the model, you’ll have better matches to your list by focusing on audiences that are likely to exhibit similar behaviors to the ones in your target account list.

If sales and marketing teams are going to ever reap the benefits of their ABM programs, they are going to have to first focus on their most important asset: their data. By starting with a solid data foundation, connecting sales and marketing teams across silos using that data, and applying the data in new ways to gain more economies of scale, sales and marketing teams can make the most of their ABM strategies.

Anudit Vikram
Anudit Vikram is Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer for Audience Solutions at Dun & Bradstreet. He is responsible for overseeing data-driven audience targeting, deterministic data and verification of audiences in programmatic advertising. Anudit joined Dun & Bradstreet in 2014 from Merkle, where he was VP, Digital Marketing Technologies. Prior to that, Anudit held positions at nPario, Yahoo!, Operative Media, Inc., The Digital Group and Microsoft. Anudit holds a degree in Electronics from University of Pune and a Master’s Degree in Management from Columbia University.


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