When sales and marketing combine their expertise, ABM can be remarkably effective. For example, my company, ZoomInfo, implemented an ABM campaign that expanded the pipeline for a product by 114 percent and enlarged its customer base by 30 percent in a mere 90 days. Research from industry analysts shows other companies have seen similar success. Organizations have achieved 200 percent sales pipeline growth and a 20 percent jump in average deal size with ABM programs, says Bob Peterson, the Research Director the Account Based Marketing category at SiriusDecisions.
But just because ABM works doesn’t mean it’s easy. Peterson points out that “the departmental collaboration, commitment and discipline the strategy requires cannot be overstated.” And it’s not all about tools. Forrester Research wrote in a report titled Retro Yet Revolutionary: Demystifying Account-Based Marketing, “ABM requires a new mindset, not just a technology overhaul.”
So what does it take to achieve ABM success? These four steps will help you establish a lucrative pilot ABM program:
1. Gain C-suite buy-in. Make sure top executives commit to ABM as a long-haul approach and secure support from functional groups across the company.
2. Synchronize Sales and Marketing. Once these functions are coordinated, working together has a way of reinforcing collaboration. Seventy percent of companies with ABM strategies said their sales and marketing teams were mostly or completely aligned, versus 51 percent of companies that reported not using ABM, according to a 2015 Heinz Marketing report on Account-Based Marketing Adoption. With ABM, marketing supports sales throughout the acquisition cycle, drawing up account and contact lists based on sales insights.
3. Precisely target accounts and contacts. While top-of-mind tactics created by marketing are essential for building awareness, a longstanding sales tenet still holds: Companies buy, but people decide. That elevates the importance of sales professionals in using their prospecting acumen to help marketing precisely define company attributes that serve as entrance for an ABM program, as well as who the ideal buyer personas are within targeted accounts.
Go beyond such broad criteria as revenue, industry and total headcount. Consider finer firmographic factors related to your company’s value proposition and product portfolio. Look at technology platforms used, number of marketing employees, office locations, and even whether a business has a distribution center.
Then within an account, identify all individuals involved in purchasing decisions. The number is growing; it averages seven in a company with 100 to 150 employees, according to Gartner. These contacts may include stakeholders, gatekeepers and influencers, each of whom needs to be approached differently. You may define them by such criteria as job title, job function, management level or location.
4. Select and capitalize on the best market intelligence for your situation. Once you’ve created an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), choose a specialized vendor to enhance your data to match it. In a September 2016 report titled Brief: Find The Right Sales Efficiency-Effectiveness Balance, Forrester Research describes market intelligence technologies as tools that “transform raw data about individuals, companies, and markets into meaningful information that sales reps can use to drive tactical and strategic sales activities.”
Quality data is the bedrock of ABM. A solid program requires accurate, consistent, complete information – not always easy to come by. MarketingSherpa reports that B2B contact data decays at a rate of 22.5 percent annually.
A top-notch provider will develop an account universe to match your ideal customer profile (ICP)to help you identify and connect with target accounts and potential buyers. Besides your total addressable market (TAM), you need comprehensive contact profiles (e.g., with email addresses and direct phone numbers), along with prospecting insights about buyer personas (think academic and employment history, industry honors, professional certifications, and media coverage).
Choose market intelligence solutions that integrate with other elements of your sales and marketing technology stack, including CRM, marketing automation software, and sales automation tools.
ABM success won’t develop overnight, but these steps will help your company join the increasing ranks of businesses profiting from the strategy. And as a bonus, the ABM program will strengthen the bonds between your sales and marketing teams.
Hila Nir is vice president of marketing & product at ZoomInfo, an Inc. 5000 company whose Growth Acceleration Platformcombines the most comprehensive and actionable marketintelligence database with integrated tools to help B2B companies optimize sales and marketing effectiveness, jump-start growth and maximize profitability. You may contact her at email@example.com.