Every successful sales rep knows the best recipe for closing the deal has only two ingredients: exceptional products or services and exceptional customer service. The rise of account-based marketing (ABM) reflects this tenet. ABM is a new phrase for a long-standing approach to sales and marketing in which integrated teams prove they care about the needs and pain points of their most strategic accounts, and they speak specifically to those accounts in a tailored way.
It’s awesome and straightforward—in theory. ABM execution, however, can be challenging without the right relationships, strategy, and tools in place.
The longevity and customization involved in ABM mean that instead of speaking to one sector with company-agnostic messages, marketers must treat every key account as a sector unto itself. The marketer’s job as they practice ABM is no longer to capture and qualify a lead, then pass it off to sales. Instead, teams must sustain a dialogue throughout the entire customer lifecycle, stay aligned with sales, continually deliver assets that support account expansion—and do it all for multiple customers. ABM changes the challenge for marketers. We might have been the fraternal twin to our peers in sales before, but with ABM, we are conjoined.
In this blog, I’ll cover the steps necessary to set yourself up for success as you deploy an ABM strategy.
Marketing Fundamentals and New Approaches
The transformative results companies expect from ABM require two critical elements. First, marketers must have their timeless fundamentals in place. As with any marketing strategy, ABM-oriented teams need to determine their value propositions, optimize their websites, glean insights from their customers and have fundamental alignment with their sales teams. If you’re having challenges with these foundational building blocks, hit the pause button before you dive into ABM and start customizing programs for every strategic account.
Assuming the foundation is sound, the second critical element is how teams approach project management and execution. Endurance is crucial to ABM success, and marketers constantly need to reassess whether they’re targeting the right people and ensuring their needs are met. Most teams aren’t used to ABM-level intensity, especially for an extended period of time. The phrase, “feed the beast” comes to mind, and the beast is always hungry. It’s not realistic to expect marketing teams to “feed” customized, personalized campaigns to multiple strategic accounts without increasing headcount or sacrificing attention for higher-value work. Something has to give.
Save the Marketing Brain Trust for Strategic Work
As organizations consider the best ways to efficiently and economically handle the demands of ABM strategy, more of them are embracing marketing process outsourcing to meet their ABM deliverables and reap the benefits of strategic account selling. The strategic brain trust inside the organization is best suited for high-value tasks, like fostering one-on-one relationships with clients and devising segmenting and targeting strategies. Everything else—creative, research, and data-driven work—can be handled by ancillary parties.
Don’t distract your ABM team with tasks an outsourced partner can successfully execute. Things like daily competitive reports, asset library management, data visualizations, email design, and whiteboard animations can all be handled offsite. The same is true for CRM and database management, persona development, and print and digital asset creation. Whether through technology tools, external vendors, or both, account-based marketers need the resources and workflows to manage more constant, high-volume, personalized campaigns.
There are plenty of challenges to making ABM work. Teams need senior-level advocates from sales, marketing, and finance to get on board. They need IT to help integrate and coordinate communication to clients. They need sales reps and marketers to stand in the same line and look at true north together, as partners. And they need to give the knowledge workers who understand the company DNA the bandwidth to do strategic-level work, without slowing the stream of customized outreach that makes ABM worthwhile. All of this is doable. To make ABM work, marketers need to plan, execute, evaluate, breathe, and repeat.
How have you incorporated ABM into your marketing strategy? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Tell me about it in the comments!