You know Account-Based Marketing (ABM) isn’t hype. According to Bob Peterson, Senior Research Director with Sirius Decisions, 91% of marketing professionals see ABM as a critical part of their marketing strategies.
ABM is the real deal and can help you to break into new markets, grow your customer base, and drive more revenue for your organization…in the long-term.
And that’s the challenge…those two dreaded words for a sales-driven organization: LONG-TERM.
Most of today’s Sales Executives aren’t focused so much on the long-term possibilities ABM brings. They are looking for new and quick selling opportunities… and they needed those opportunities yesterday. It’s the here and now that matters. After all, sales goals need to be achieved monthly and quarterly. If they aren’t, long-term prospects are meaningless. The idea of long-term doesn’t cut it with sales leaders who are obsessed with monthly and quarterly quotas.
That is perhaps one of your most immediate challenges: How do you balance your organization’s immediate sales needs with reconciling that in the long-term, data shows “almost 85% of B2B marketers who measure ROI agree that ABM delivers higher ROI than any other marketing approach (ITSMA)”?
I recently shared 8 Ways to Make Account Based Marketing Work for You. I continue to stand by this guide and encourage you to take some time to revisit it to help you to consider your long-term ABM strategy.
Building on this, I have three steps to help you create an opportunity for some quick wins, right now, using ABM to break into new markets.
1.) Map the Right People and Partner with Sales Leaders to Set ABM Goals and Strategy
According to Laura Ramos, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, establishing sales and marketing leadership alignment to create account plans that include connecting all of the stakeholders within the organization is “the hardest part of setting up a winning ABM strategy—and the part many marketing and sales teams gloss over. Whether it’s one or many accounts you’ve decided to pursue, you need a clear map of the right people in those buying committees that you want to engage, what they care about, and what problems they are trying to solve right now.”
It’s imperative that marketing and sales work together for account planning and mapping to identify the targeted accounts’ influencers and decision makers, understand their priorities, and the solutions they currently require. Without this initial planning, you open the door to your sales team just being disappointed with another hopeful lead generation program.
Sales partnership in this early step can transform you into a sought after trusted-advisor for your sales leaders. This is especially important when focusing on some quick wins as you break into new markets to expand your customer base—particularly if your solution offerings for the new market feels like your trying to put a square peg into a round hole.
Case: Cloud Migration Assessment
Case in point, I provide guidance to a client in the high-tech space that offers an IT assessment tool as an initial step in their engagement process to sell cloud-based infrastructure solutions to B2B and B2C customers. The tool—created by the client’s marketing team—has been available for over a year, but it’s seldom used by the sales teams responsible for selling the cloud solutions. In scoping out an ABM marketing strategy for increasing use of the assessment tool to create more customer engagements, we identified a large gap in understanding and alignment between the sales and marketing teams.
The assessment tool provides sales with a value-based offering that helps IT departments gain a better understanding of their overall environments and how quickly (or not) they may be able to move an application or two, or even their whole IT infrastructure to the cloud.
However, marketing’s lack of alignment with the sales team resulted in an assumption that such a tool would be easy to implement and that customers would jump at the opportunity for a ‘free assessment’.
The reality is that going to an IT department manager and suggesting that a potential vendor infiltrate their IT environment with a ‘free’ monitoring device is essentially an impossible sell… a challenge that even the savviest of sales teams would struggle to find a way to work around.
In providing an external audit of their marketing and sales integration – we determined that while the assessment tool seemed to be a good idea, it lacked the proper alignment between sales and marketing to determine all the stakeholders within a targeted account who would need to be involved in the engagement process—and if it was even an offering that a prospect would leverage.
At the simplest level, we knew that a senior IT executive, not the day-to-day IT manager, would need be approached upfront on the engagement to ensure approvals could take place quickly. Once that was realized, we looked at the whole sales process to properly plan and map the engagement from start to finish.
From an ABM planning perspective, scoping out the key stakeholders who are approvers and influencers helped to better frame the overall integrated and targeted marketing and sales approach.
2.) Become a Trusted Advisor: Create Your Own Success Stories and Case Studies with Small, Targeted Accounts
Ideally, our high-tech client expects their sales community of partners to sell cloud solutions into Fortune 500 accounts. The challenge they faced was that the current use of the cloud assessment tool had been minimal and some proven successes were still needed before even thinking about beginning a lengthy engagement process with a large enterprise account.
This is where a marketing professional in any type of business could fall into that trap of looking at the long-term ROI benefits of an ABM strategy discussed earlier.
Instead of falling into that trap, this is the ideal time for the marketing professional to put on that ‘Trusted Advisor’ hat.
In cases like this one, there’s the opportunity to proactively engage with the sales team to propose the value of identifying smaller targeted accounts. This is not just applicable for the example of the cloud assessment tool – this tactic can work for any ABM account planning session.
Smaller, targeted accounts can have a shorter sales cycle with fewer obstacles to overcome, especially when it comes to implementation approvals. The better news is, these types of accounts will usually be open to letting you use their experience as a reference or success story—in exchange for some extra attention from your team.
Consider this…your sales team may want to target a big named prospect in the retail industry, such as Walmart (Fortune 1) or Costco (Fortune 16). While you aim high and don’t want to disappoint your sales leaders, you know that to even get in the door at this level you need proven successes focused on the ROI of your offering, coupled with a complete engagement plan that identifies influencers and decision makers.
This is easier when you start to identify accounts at the bottom—or middle—of the Fortune 500 or 1000 list. You can still find the Fortune known companies in the retail industry, but they will most likely have fewer obstacles than the larger enterprises at the top of the list. Your sales team may even have direct contacts at these accounts and be able to jump right in.
By prescribing some focus to identify a few quick wins in new markets to prove your solution’s value, it would be critical to identify smaller accounts, with fewer obstacles such as lengthy approval processes. After a few wins with smaller end users, newly created success stories and references make it easier to target the larger, more profitable sales deals that require a longer selling process.
In addition, by focusing on these smaller, targeted accounts the content generated from your reference-able successes provide credibility to ultimately target larger accounts and new market segments.
In taking a traditional approach to growing a new market, your sales leadership can become quickly disengaged and frustrated with you by what seems to be a long-term process. Instead, by targeting smaller opportunities, the learnings by both the sales and marketing teams, in turn, provide more specific and compelling content based on interactions via ABM. This most likely couldn’t be achieved with a focus on only one large account.
Thus, the opportunity to close a few smaller deals to create reference-able wins removes that ‘what have you done for me lately?’ question that marketing teams always feel the need to justify to their sales leaders. Small and quick new wins keep the sales team engaged and motivated, while you can continue to focus on the long-term goals of customer engagement, satisfaction and retention that your ABM strategy will generate.
3.) Extend Your Marketing Team and Tools – Ask for Help!
Experts ask for help. We know that you “get it” and are a sought after trusted advisor to the sales leadership in your organization. You’re also likely to be a ‘trusted advisor’ to other leadership teams in your organization, such as the finance organization and even your IT organization. The advisory role you fill is because you know that ABM will bring great benefit to your organization, but you’re concerned about your marketing resources, your budget and have the strong need to provide immediate ROI to your organization. These are all valid concerns.
While you have your ABM strategy in place, you may find challenges to fulfill the tactical execution in a few different areas:
Technology: Are your current marketing tools suitable to fully execute your ABM strategy? How about your CRM tools – are the sales tools integrated with the marketing tools? Will IT support be needed to better track ABM learnings and success?
Culture: Acquiring and installing software is one thing. Having your team—and your company—adopt them is another thing entirely. Do you have processes and training in place to make sure that users are adopting and using technology properly?
Staffing: Is your staff already maxed to capacity with little time to learn new marketing techniques? Are they open-minded to try new techniques? How much training will be needed to get your marketing team to better partner and advise the sales leadership in your organization?
Budget: Do you have a flexible and agile budget to implement your ABM Strategy? If not, how do you get to this point? Does it make sense to outsource your initial projects focused on ABM?
As you consider these questions, you will no doubt find many who will claim they are experts in ABM Strategy, Planning and Execution. Many research and analyst groups like Forrester and Sirius Decisions have new ABM practices to help guide organizations, like yours, along their journey.
The challenge is that within a few clicks while searching for guidance and information, your journey into the world of ABM can become overwhelming, resulting in a flurry of content and information that may or may not (probably not!) be helpful. There comes a point when you must be able to move beyond theory and take a little bit of a risk to put that theory into practice. You won’t be surprised to know that taking this step is incredibly difficult.
I’ve been there myself. As the founder of a digital marketing agency that focuses on digital strategy, there are always new marketing theories, tools, and techniques, as well as buzzwords and hype that I need to stay on top of – if not, stay a step ahead of.
Because of this, I recently made a commitment to learn from some experts and completed a certificate course on Disruptive Strategy at HBX/Harvard Business School. This experience really opened my eyes and helped me to become fluent in disruptive theory and Job to be Done methodology—especially in the context of strategic marketing strategies for business.
Opening my mind to learn from others’ experiences helps me to grow, personally and professionally. It also ensures that I’m always at the top of my game to be the best trusted advisor to my own clients. I believe the best marketers know it’s ok to ask for help and seek guidance from others in their field. It’s an important part of the learning process and helps grow knowledge and experience—and stay fresh.
Many marketing professionals whom I know have a solid background at a corporate marketing level—and are particularly skilled at either strategy or tactical execution, but many still struggle with aligning with the sales side of the house. For that reason, asking for support is critical. Consider developing a personal partnership with a savvy sales professional to better understand their focus—and sometimes frustration —with marketing.
On the other hand, maybe someone in your IT department can help guide you through the technology challenges you think you’ll face. Understanding how other areas of your company work and align to your team can make you a better partner and advisor, helping your marketing department to succeed – because when you succeed, the whole company sees increased and new market share, better customer retention, and outstanding customer service.
But, what happens when you’re in a small company and don’t have resources to such mentoring and corporate partnering and guidance? You know that all eyes are on YOU to help drive awareness and acquire new qualified prospects to enable your sales team to not only meet, but exceed their annual sales quotas and goals. You’re also expected to explain the benefits of ABM to your leadership teams and convince sales executives that you have a great idea.
But here’s a challenge you’ll most likely face. In a Q&A I recently read called Demystifying Account Based Marketing, “According to research by Forrester, 73% of B2B professionals think the term “ABM” lacks specificity.”
Laura Ramos, whom I cited earlier, explains there two reasons for this, “The first is that Account-Based Marketing is more of an approach than a specific process; it’s a strategy that you should align with your business goals. There are different ways to approach ABM, and no single strategy dominates, because there are different business reasons for taking an account-centric approach to pursuing business. Secondly, ABM is a hot technology space. A lot of vendors are talking about ABM, yet none have the majority of capabilities marketers need to execute an account-based strategy across the full spectrum of the market.”
That’s where experienced marketing talent can help to guide you. This is where you’ll need support from the beginning of your ABM journey with planning your strategy, all the way to following through with implementation and showing a true ROI.
You’re probably thinking, “we’re close to the end of the calendar year or fiscal year and I have to meet my annual goals, as well as submit my plans for the coming year. I don’t have the budget to bring such talent onboard, let alone have time to handle recruiting, onboarding, AND create a plan.”
This is where trusted advisors seek out the same for themselves. After reading this, you have some new ideas for how to begin your ABM journey, but you need that additional guidance to help you move forward. MESH Agency has the strategic experience, marketing solutions and technology to support you in getting your ABM activities started quickly.
We will help you and your sales team develop strategy, support you in tactical execution, and recommend proven tools that can start to nurture and capture qualified leads. Let us help you to become an even better trusted advisor to your organization, starting today.
Looking for more data to support your ABM strategy? Check out our Account-Based Marketing Infographic.