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2018 Planning Tips: Getting Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Results Ramped Up

ABM Is Much Harder Than Select, Target, Email: See What You Might Be Missing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is like email marketing was in the early 2000s and like inbound marketing was in 2010. Today, everyone and their brother wants to do account-based marketing, and they think (like all of the other options) this is finally the answer to their lead generation prayers. Guess again!

Yes, ABM is a highly effective tactic if planned, built and deployed correctly. No, ABM should not be your only approach to marketing. It needs to be orchestrated with a collection of other supporting and relevant marketing tactics if you’re expecting it to produce enough leads to drive your revenue goals.

But for most of you, ABM is something you’ve been talking about and are now finally ready to get serious about in 2018. Here are some planning tips to get your 2017 ABM program upgraded and set up your 2018 program for massive success.

It’s The Data, Silly

recent Marketo blog has some remarkable statistics when it comes to ABM. The blog notes SiriusDecisions found that 60% of marketers consider the overall health of their data unreliable. ... In Avention’s recent survey of B2B sales and marketing practitioners, [they] found just 31% of respondents feel that their organizations have the right data for sales, and just 24% feel that they have the right data for marketing. This isn’t good.

If your data is bad, then your messaging is going to be misaligned. One of the secrets to highly successful account-based marketing is creating highly personalized messages and then delivering them to individuals. If you get the names wrong, the titles wrong or miss people in key roles, your messaging is going to be a lot less effective than you originally planned.

One of the ways to make sure that’s not your challenge in 2018 is to focus on the data before you start executing messaging, outreach or any tactical part of your ABM program. Either get your data cleaned up, append additional data to it or start fresh with new data.

If you’re feeding old or inaccurate data to the sales team and asking them to follow up, they’re going to quickly realize their info is not making them look good, and you’ll lose the required sales and marketing alignment you need to successfully execute any future ABM initiatives.

You Need To Have Something Disruptive To Say

Since I’m on the receiving end of horrible ABM campaigns every day, I see how this is an epidemic in our industry. The people you’re going after are not looking for you, your company, your product, your service or your category. They don’t usually know they have a challenge and they don’t know you have a solution.

When you do attempt to connect with them, there’s no incentive or reason for them to connect, reply or engage with you unless you give them one. Asking people to try your software, see a demo or, even worse, request an appointment or call — forget it. Ignoring you is so much easier than even thinking about your “dirty water” message.

If you want their attention (and you do), you had better rock their world, you had better swing for the fences and you had better disrupt their status quo so that they can’t sleep at night without worrying or thinking about what you had to say. This won’t come easy. This is where marketing and sales need to work together. Sales helps marketing understand the challenges and the situation within the prospect’s business, and marketing then comes up with the message, story and content that delivers the disruption.

Let’s not underestimate the heavy lifting here. This probably won’t be achieved in one email or one connect attempt. This is likely to take multiple attempts. That means you have to plan a series of disruptive messages for both email and social outreach. The more you can create, the more likely you are to drive those numbers. Once you find one that works better than the others, lean in on that and create variations of that theme. The better your team is at disruption, the better your ABM program will perform.

Nurture, Nurture And Nurture More

This isn’t a one-and-done tactic. Even if you get a target contact to connect, you must get them to engage and stay engaged. These people are not in active purchase cycles (at least not usually). This means you need ongoing nurture campaigns. Once they engage, at least you’re in the door. They’re telling you it’s OK to say in touch. That’s a great first step, but if you don’t continue to add value to the conversation, you’ll be in the recycle bin or trash folder faster than you can say “please stop emailing me.”

Instead, build out your nurture campaigns in advance. Plan to test different assets within the campaign and make sure your campaign length matches a typical sales cycle. For example, if your normal sales cycle is 30 days, consider a weekly campaign for three weeks. If your sales cycle is six months, consider a longer campaign with more distance between campaign touches (for instance, twice a month for five months).

Most importantly, when looking at ways to improve performance next year, don’t set up nurture campaigns and let them run without oversight, data and constant iteration. These are an important part of your ABM strategy and they should be getting opened, read and clicked on. They should be moving people from connect to engaged and from engaged into active sales opportunities. If they’re not producing those results, they need to be reworked and re-launched.

Content Drives Engagement

People have an attention span of eight seconds these days. That’s less than the attention span of a goldfish. What this means is your nurture emails can’t be too long. You also have to provide your targets with an opportunity to take action and get more information. This is good for you because it’s easy to see what’s working and what’s not, but it does put pressure on your content marketing efforts. If your content is not getting prospects to engage with that content, to read it, to download it, to share it and to request more of it, then you need to look at what you’re publishing and consider your options.

You might have a media misalignment. This means your target prospects love watching and you’re making them read. You might be creating content that is too long. They might prefer a checklist or a tip guide and you’re creating 30-page e-books.

You might have a titling issue. I’ve seen some wonderful content with the most boring title and no one ever downloads it. You might be missing the visualization of the content offer, meaning people want to see what they’re getting before they download it. If your e-book looks like it’s a pamphlet and your audience loves meaty content, again, you have a content strategy misalignment.

All of these issues are easily fixed with data and with testing, but if your content is not working prospects down and into the funnel, I’d be looking to upgrade that in 2018.

Know Your Numbers

It’s all about the numbers these days. Every single aspect of sales and marketing now comes with a metric. ABM is no different. From the Bizible blog and according to Engagio, total minutes responding to marketing activities and engaging with the product or sales team is the metric that should be used to measure ABM and middle-of-funnel performance.

Click-through rates, product page visits, content downloads, answer rates to sales calls, call durations and email reply rates are also ways to measure engagement. The key is to set up tracking correctly for your ABM campaigns. The article goes on to say that pipeline velocity is also a metric worth tracking and that your ABM program should be shortening your overall sales cycle, which most CRM systems should be adept at helping you track.

If you want to know how your ABM program is doing and whether it’s doing better this month vs. last month, set goals and create expected performance metrics for all or at least some of the numbers mentioned above. Now you have a baseline or benchmark to measure from, and then sales and marketing should be working together to improve those numbers month over month.

I can’t emphasize enough that ABM on its own rarely produces the kind of funnel metrics successful sales and marketing execs crow about. Even if you only target 100 of the biggest companies in the world, and in each of those companies you want to talk to five people, putting all of your eggs in the ABM basket and going after those 500 people is risky. You would still need to run email marketing campaigns, publish content regularly, make sure your website is killer, create emotional messages, optimize landing pages and plan regular outreach to those 500 people. The list goes on and on.

Not to mention the metrics on small targeted list sizes, like the example here. It might take months to break through to even 10 of those 500 people and get them engaged in a sales cycle with your team. In the meantime, you simply can’t sit around waiting. While ABM works wonders when it’s planned, built and executed effectively, it still needs to be one piece of a well-orchestrated revenue generation program. 

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Posted By Author Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.