Answer These Questions To Help You Decide If You’re Ready For Account-Based Marketing
Lately, we’ve been involved in several conversations with companies that are deciding which approach is right for them — inbound marketing or account-based marketing. Everything being equal, my advice is that you probably want to consider both, but inbound marketing is definitely better for companies with broader offerings and when you’re sure there are people in active buying cycles today.
Account-based marketing works beautifully when a number of conditions are in play, and my desire today is to help you identify those conditions, assess your company’s current state and then make a sound decision about whether ABM is right for your company or not.
The good news is these conditions can be easily processed into six questions you can ask yourself, your executive team or your sales/marketing organization. Here are the key questions to help you decide if ABM is right for you.
Question #1: Do We Know The Top Accounts That We Want To Target?
The first step in ABM is knowing who you want to target. This isn’t about personas; this is about actual businesses and the people in those businesses who would participate in a purchase decision around your product or service. These targets represent the companies you can service and make anchor accounts for your business.
This is the top tier, so you want to keep this number low. For example, 10 target accounts per sales rep, with the understanding that there might be between five and 10 (or even more) people at these companies who you’ll need to identify and target for your account-based marketing outreach. It’s not the 10 accounts, but rather the 100 people this rep will be working to connect with as part of the campaign.
Engagio recently published a study highlighting research from the 2014 IDG Enterprise Role & Influence of the Technology Decision-Maker survey. The findings show that up to 17 people within the organization influence most enterprise-level purchases, up from 10 people in 2011. That means 10 target accounts might have 170 people that need to be targeted.
Question #2: Do We Have The Plays, Messages And Sequences Set Up To Get Their Attention?
The outreach to these 100 to 200 people needs to be well-crafted, well-written, strategically created and perfectly sequenced to emotionally connect, disrupt the status quo and engage these people in conversation with your company.
Remember, these individuals are not looking for you since they’re in the pre-awareness stage. They fit the bill for needing what you do but are not likely actively engaged in any buyer journey. How you cut through the clutter is going to be a big part of whether you’re successful or not. Do not underestimate the importance of this.
We’ve all seen the horrible sales emails flowing into our email boxes these days. Most of them are vanilla and generic at best, and horrible at worst. If you don’t have anything remarkable, insightful and interesting to say, please don’t say anything at all.
I shouldn’t have to remind you that these are your best-potential, high-value, targeted prospects. You have just as much chance of pissing them off and ruining their perception of your brand as you do at engaging them in a sales conversation. Spend 80% of your time, money and energy on getting this part of the ABM program right.
Question #3: Do We Have The Analytics, Metrics And Tech Stack To Manage, Monitor And Optimize An ABM Effort?
ABM, just like inbound marketing, requires metrics and analytics to ensure it is working as designed. Access to data on the performance of the program also allows you to optimize the effort in real time, further supporting the delivery of business results.
Do you have the technology to manage an ABM campaign? You can do ABM without technology, just like you can do inbound without technology, but there are certain elements of both that are much easier when you’re supported by the right tools and the right people who know how to leverage the tools.
Do you have the right marketing automation and CRM technology? Do you have the ability to create assets, reuse those assets and track the performance of the assets? Can you track engagement levels and attribution metrics around what’s resonating vs. what’s not? Some of the tasks can be automated to make it easier for sales and marketing to deploy campaigns within an ABM effort. It’s a complicated program and software tools make it easier.
Question #4: Are Our Sales And Marketing Teams Aligned Enough To Work On This Together?
This probably should have been the first question, because if your sales and marketing teams are not aligned, I would not consider account-based marketing as an option. First, there’s some discussion about whether ABM is a marketing activity or a sales activity. The answer is both. Sales executes it because sales owns the target account relationship, no question. But in our opinion, it’s a marketing campaign, and marketing creates the messaging, assets and sequences required to get targeted people engaged.
The bottom line is sales and marketing must work together. You need a closed-loop feedback system that provides marketing with field-level insights on the performance of its messages, assets and workflow emails. Sales and marketing should collaborate on the creation of those to begin with, but this is one of the best ways to get sales and marketing working together under the revenue model that we originally wrote about in our book, Fire Your Sales Team Today!
Take advantage of this opportunity if your teams are progressive enough to tackle the challenges.
Question #5: Is Our Data Clean Enough To Start An ABM Effort?
I’ve spoken to a lot of CMOs who would love the opportunity to do ABM but recognize that they don’t have the data to do it effectively. If you have disparate databases with prospect data in varying sources, if your customer data is not updated and if you have multiple records for a single company, it’s going to make targeting very sloppy and the experience for the prospect underwhelming. Remember, you have one chance to get someone’s attention.
If you’re even questioning the quality of your data, then you’re probably not ready. But it’s not all bad news. Make your first move to clean up your data. You’re going to want to do this anyway eventually, and now you have a good reason. There’s more good news. Tools are available to help you clean and consolidate complicated data streams and sources, so you get the clean data you need to do the targeting effectively and efficiently.
The next thing you know, you’ll be ready to start planning your ABM campaigns, and you’ll be confident the data is there to support the effort.
Question #6: Do We Have The Content To Support An ABM Program?
I think a lot of marketers underestimate the content marketing requirements in an ABM program. I’ll break it down for you. If you have one vertical you’re targeting (for example, manufacturing), it’s likely that within those large manufacturing companies you’ll have targets in the marketing, operations, finance, sales, executive and maybe even IT departments. That’s six different functional roles you’re going after in the single vertical, and those six departments might have a variety of challenges.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you want to message to just two challenges within each department. You now need a minimum of 12 different pieces of content, but that’s not nearly enough to sustain the conversation — that’s just to get you started. You’re probably looking at three to four times that to sustain interest over a three- to four-month sales cycle, which might be too short for most enterprise-level sales.
Do you have the content available to get started? How are you going to create the content to fuel the program? How are you going to keep up with demand for new content? How do you know what content to create? And this is just for a single vertical. What if you’re planning to target two or three verticals? A lot of heavy lifting is required to get ready, to support and to monitor the performance of all this content.
If you can answer “yes” to all six of these questions, you should be able to green-light your ABM initiative and you should be able to see positive results. If you had to answer “no” to any of the questions, you might have work to do before you’re ready to launch your ABM program. You might be able to create the content you need, align your sales and marketing teams or work to create the targeted list of accounts, but you might also need outside help to fix one or more of the challenges identified by the questions.
Bringing in an outside agency or hiring a resource that has executed ABM before is just like having an inbound agency help you with your inbound marketing program. They’ve done it before. They’ll know where the pitfalls are and how to maneuver around them. They’ll know how to set up the analytics up front so you can evaluate the effort out of the gate. In short, they’ll fast-track the program and help produce better results faster.
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