Back in the day, marketing was simpler. Everything was ruled by the four Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Marketing teams would define it all, and watch the sales roll in, or not.
But over time, the four Ps have been separated. Product marketing became responsible for product. Finance took on pricing. Sales looked after, you guessed it, sales. And customer support became its own dedicated team. Marketing was then left with promotions and public relations.
But times are changing. With technology becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated, analytics and automation on the rise, and the emergence of social channels that enable one-to-one communications with customers, sales and marketing are once more working hand-in-hand.
Account-based marketing (ABM) has been one of the drivers of this renewed collaboration between sales and marketing. This becomes crucial when targeting named accounts. By targeting specific companies and stakeholders inside specific brands, marketers and sales can develop multi-threaded, multi-channel, and multi-touch campaigns that build long-lasting relationships.
In a recent study we conducted with 250 B2B decision makers based in the UK, over five people are involved in a B2B purchase decision and over half of all decision makers were under 35.
You might say that sending an email, attending or inviting a customer to attend an event is nothing new. It’s not. But the need to ensure the content is carefully tailored and specific is now imperative. The days of a few core messages being sent to all targets is gone – end-users now expect to be ‘understood’. Targets will soon be even more demanding: ‘If they want my business, they have to really understand me and my needs.’
This means more types of content, more understanding of buying personas, and greater analytics capabilities in order to make every interaction more personal. ABM is not new, but it’s got more sophisticated. Consequently, sales and marketing must work together for the simple common goal: business growth.
The beauty of ABM is that there are no hard-and-fast rules; in fact, a regimented, one-size-fits-all approach is its very antithesis. Nevertheless, there are certain steps that every marketer must follow to ensure their campaigns are successful.
With ABM, Pareto’s Law applies: 80% of revenue comes from the top 20% of accounts. You should therefore choose your targets carefully, and identify the customers who will add the most long-term value – including opportunities for upsell.
Success depends on knowing everything about these accounts, the market they operate in, and the individuals you are targeting. The research phase can be gruelling, involving interviews, desk research, trawling through industry whitepapers, social media analysis on your top targets, and grilling the sales team on their relationships and industry knowledge. The work you put in will be rewarded when it comes to crafting compelling, individualised messaging.
Traditional marketing relies on repetition to hammer the message home – see ‘strong and stable’. With ABM, you usually only have one shot to generate the attention, interest and desire that turns into a sale. If you’ve done a thorough job on the research phase, you should be able to craft compelling content that directly addresses the needs and concerns of your “audience of one”. As with other forms of marketing, you should aim to be creative and to elicit an emotional response. The best way to do this is to show that you truly understand the issues affecting that person and their business.
The medium is just as important as the message, so consider carefully how you will reach each individual. You’ll need to produce a mix of communications, from social posts and videos to longer-form content like whitepapers – as well as messages for salespeople meeting prospects at events. The more you research your audience, the better understanding you’ll have of how to communicate your message in the most compelling way.
Forget about ephemeral, top-of-the-funnel metrics – ABM is about concrete results. It is not about vanity metrics, like Opportunity To See (OTS), clicks and likes, but rather generating and nurturing definitive leads. Crucially, ABM moves marketing from measuring business outputs to measuring business outcomes – bringing the field in-line with other business processes.
Time is of the essence. If you want to generate better leads by targeting specific companies, stakeholders and brands, then siloed sales and marketing won’t cut it anymore – ABM is the new frontier.
Giles Peddy, SVP EMEA at LEWIS Global Communications