Marketing professionals have encountered our share of trends and buzzwords, but every idea that catches on does so for a reason. Many of the early adopters of recent marketing “trends” like inbound/content marketing or mobile got a serious competitive advantage out of the deal.
The businesses embracing account-based marketing are already starting to see some of that competitive advantage. More than 80% of companies that currently practice account-based marketing (ABM) say it outperforms all their other marketing investments in terms of ROI.
It’s easy to keep doing the same thing you’ve been doing and avoid taking a risk on a methodology that looks like a passing fad. But oftentimes, the businesses that take that risk and make the investment in a new approach early on are the ones that end up ahead.
What is Account Based Marketing?
We’ve been talking about ABM like it’s a new trend, but really it’s just an evolved version of something that’s been around for decades. The advertising companies of old centered their business around targeting and focusing on individual accounts. Their version of account-based marketing fell out of favor in part because it was difficult to scale.
Today’s ABM is able to overcome that particular concern with the help of marketing automation tools.
Essentially, the idea behind ABM is simply to focus your marketing efforts on specific accounts. Instead of sending out a broad message to a large audience, figure out who you want to work with and focus on them directly. With marketing technology, you can push out personalized messages based on what you know about each account and the people involved in it.
Measurement is Key to Account-Based Marketing
Scaling your account-based marketing effectively requires having a sophisticated system of measurement in place.
If you have established marketing analytics when you start out, then you can use them to identify and better understand your most valuable customers, which tells you what to look for in the accounts to target. Historical data on how your current customers behaved as prospects can provide a blueprint for how to attract and engage the accounts you most want to reach.
Once you have an account-based marketing program in place, engagement and effectiveness measurement becomes crucial.
You don’t just need a way to collect data as you go; you need marketing analytics that provide actionable insights so your team can use them on an ongoing basis to provide personalized, effective marketing to your accounts. If you can quickly see which campaigns resulted in better engagement within different sets of accounts, you can move faster.
Marketing Planning Makes ABM Stronger
The status quo for marketing organizations is often ad hoc marketing – try things out as you go, have each team operate independently based on their own data and ideas. While it’s possible to conduct some ‘light’ account-based marketing this way, you can count on much better results if you approach it within a larger marketing planning framework.
Marketing planning helps you ensure everything you do is connected, so that your various marketing teams are all doing work that’s in tune with what the other teams are doing. Everything works together in tandem to move your accounts through the pipeline and toward the point of sale.
If you take things one step further to real-time marketing planning, then you can follow how accounts are interacting with your brand as touch points occur and respond in real time to achieve the best results.
Steps to Prepare for Account-Based Marketing
Here are a few steps you can take to make sure everything you need for marketing planning and measurement are in place in order to do account-based marketing right.
How do you view and share your data now? Is it in spreadsheets?
Most marketing organizations have a lot of data, but a hard time really seeing it in ways that are useful. Numbers in a spreadsheet don’t really show you what you need to know.
By getting your data into a marketing planning tool, you can start to see how all the activities you’ve planned for different sets of account will affect your business goals.
Shift your marketing department toward a data-driven approach.
Having the technology to see your marketing analytics in a more useful light is an important step to take. But to really make that technology work for you, you want to establish a marketing culture that puts the real-time insights that your data reveals at the center of your marketing planning.
You should prioritize having a marketing plan in place, but don’t feel like it’s set in stone. Your marketing department needs to have enough flexibility built in to shift as needed. With every bit of new information you receive on how a valued account is behaving, work to adapt and provide them with the right message for the moment.
Define your ABM waterfall and follow it.
One of the great benefits that comes with account-based marketing is that it naturally lends itself to better alignment between marketing and sales. If you haven’t already, taking some time as part of your marketing planning to clearly define your waterfall can further solidify the relationship between the two departments.
Make sure none of those valuable account leads that you did so much work to bring in fall through the cracks. You should know exactly what to send the sales team to help them do their job, and they should know what feedback you’re expecting. Your waterfall will bring everyone on the same page as to which funnel blockages need the most attention.
Then, always be refining.
ABM, when done well, produces results. The longer you collect data on how those accounts behave and what works best to get them through the pipeline, the bigger the results can be – but only if you keep doing the work of analyzing that data, refining your marketing planning as you go, and shifting your marketing efforts toward what’s working.
As with any other marketing trend, account-based marketing can fail. How well you pull it off has everything to do with the approach you take and your execution. When you bring the best possible tools and analysis to your planning and measurement, your odds of getting ABM right increase tenfold.