For B2B companies, the journey to identifying the right targets for your product and earning their attention can be tricky. A “spray and pray” approach to lead generation isn’t effective and certainly doesn’t deliver a great return on your marketing investment. You realize the best ROI when you take a more surgical approach.
How can you speak directly to those companies who would benefit from your solution and avoid wasting time, energy, and money on businesses that aren’t a good fit? If someone is allergic to tomatoes, you certainly wouldn’t waste your energy trying to sell them ketchup.
The solution is Account-Based Marketing (ABM). It the simplest terms, ABM consists of identifying a company and treating it as its own market. You create a strategy and content specifically for the different touch points and decision makers within that prospect.
According to research from ITSMA, Account-Based Marketing offers the highest return on investment of any B2B strategy or tactic. Not only does implementing ABM help to improve pipeline, but it also can also help to increase average deal size, decrease sales cycle length, and improve close rates.
Using ABM can also help keep sales and marketing teams on the same page. Traditionally, marketing teams focused on volume. Quantity plays tend to create vague brand recognition for the largest possible population. In this scenario, the likelihood of finding the needle in the growing haystack that will eventually convert into a closed-won customer is slim.
ABM offers teams the opportunity to stop wasting their marketing budget talking to people who will never become customers. It allows the focus to be on providing real value to the audience that can truly benefit from your offering.
Shari Johnston, a partner at Winning By Design who specializes in account-based strategy, spoke about this at Rainmaker earlier this year. She outlined a path for B2B firms to identify and target accounts while maximizing their return on marketing investment.
Identify and Target the Right Accounts
The first step, she says, is selecting a killer target account list. If you aren’t choosing the correct accounts to go after, you waste your efforts. Marketing and sales teams need to keep in constant conversation to ensure that they target the right players. This is the first – and maybe the best – example of the importance of ABM spanning across departments to achieve goals.
An easy way to align your sales and marketing teams and begin to identify the correct accounts to pursue is to look at existing closed-won accounts. If you can determine the best examples of successful customers, you can start to duplicate their journeys and create real value for your organization.
By focusing intently on past successes, you can also begin to eliminate the uncertainty of the right person is within a target account to focus your attention on. Starting with a sales team’s ‘little black book’ of prospects, you can compare the key attributes of those prospects to valuable customers. It’s helpful to pull details out of your closed-won deals that will help you determine which personas were involved and how many touchpoints occurred across departments during the process.
With those learnings, you can begin to replicate winning customer journeys. Information about your success stories gives your organization a roadmap for how to engage target accounts.
Once marketing and sales have agreed on a list of target accounts, the next step to a successful ABM strategy is to have a plan to continue driving alignment between marketing and sales. There needs to be an ongoing conversation between departments to make sure that everyone is marching towards the same goals.
Establish regular intervals to check in on key accounts where you track activities. This is beneficial in keeping everyone on the same page while ensuring that tasks are distributed logically and the ownership of the sales journey isn’t lost. Basically, it breaks down to everyone asking: “Are we getting the contacts we want? If not, what are we doing about it?”
At this point, it’s important to note that ABM may be slower to show results based on traditional marketing key performance indicators. It can be disappointing if there’s no pipeline in the first month. Gain confidence by looking for early signs such as contact acquisition and engagement by key accounts. Seeing those early stirrings is an excellent indicator that this model will soon lead to pipeline and revenue.
Now that we know who we’re targeting and how we want to talk to them, the next step is to choose the plays to run against these accounts. According to Shari, the ABM framework breaks down into five different levels of engagement. Activities at each level will depend on your resources and the needs of the target account.
5 Levels of Engagement
- Level 1: Send a personal email to a persona within a key account.
- Level 2: Build on Level 1 by creating and sending a personalized series of emails.
- Level 3: Marketing will provide air cover to the account with a series of social ads targeted to the recipients of your email campaign, as well as making phone calls to the key players.
- Level 4: Add additional personas within the account. Instead of targeting one key account figurehead, an ABM strategy will target influencers such as champions, user-buyers, and financial decision makers.
- Level 5: Incorporate touches from additional members of your team. For instance, if one of the key account personas is the CMO, it might be helpful to pull your CMO into the cadence. Sometimes that extra touch can push a prospect over the finish line.
When orchestrating a series of ABM plays, it’s important to keep your content personalized and relevant. Make sure you’ve done your research to figure out what types of resources will help to establish your solution as the right one. Also, make sure you know who within the account should see it. Storytelling is the “secret sauce” of your ABM strategy. Take the opportunity to highlight the pain points a prospect is experiencing, and share examples of similar customers who have found relief with your solution.
Depending on your ABM strategy, you may have the opportunity to tell your solution’s story from many different angles. Get excited. This is your chance to dig in and prove yourself to multiple personas from the outset.
Account-based marketing, especially high-level ABM, can be daunting. If your organization has experimented with light ABM plays that haven’t turned into revenue, it’s time to troubleshoot. Get a little more sophisticated and begin to incorporate multiple touches into your strategy. Not all ABM is created equal. Experimenting and A/B testing will help you refine your unique approach.
Whether you are a seasoned veteran or new to the ABM process, a successful account-based strategy includes targeting strategic accounts, personalizing your efforts, and engaging consistently. Include both sales and marketing when identifying target accounts and coordinate resources accordingly. Show your customer the impact your solution can have on their success with storytelling. Lastly, stay engaged by having multiple conversations that move prospects through the buying journey. Listen carefully to understand the nuances of what they’re looking for and use that to show how you can uniquely provide a solution.
By focusing intentionally on target accounts and engaging deeply on a personal level, you can create lasting partnerships to drive sustainable growth in your organization.
Sales engagement with SalesLoft helps the world’s best sales organizations deliver value and create trust by connecting with their customers in an authentic, human way, at scale. Learn more about how we do this in our Sales Engagement Buyer’s Guide.