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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistMon, Oct 16, 2017 10 min read

To ABM Or Not To ABM: Is Account-Based Marketing Right For You?

ABM Is Hot, But It’s Not Right For All Types Of Companies

ABM ProgramsA lot of people are attracted to the newest shiny object. Account-based marketing (ABM) is one of those for people in marketing and sales. It’s white hot right now. Several successful technology companies are promoting ABM, and a lot of marketing experts are talking about how ABM is the only way to market your company these days.

While we agree that ABM does offer marketing and sales leaders an innovative approach to driving awareness at targeted companies, we also believe it needs to be used strategically and that it’s not right for everyone. In this article today, we’ll look closely at who should be considering ABM as one of the tactics in their marketing portfolio, and who should consider leaving it off their list for now.

Here’s how we help our clients decide if ABM is right for them.

You Know Who ALL Of Your Prospects Are Already

We recently met a prospect who said, “There are 50 companies in the U.S. that we want to work with and we know exactly who they are.” This is a company for which account-based marketing makes sense. They might not be ready to execute, but they fit one of the profiles for companies that would benefit from a more targeted, proactive approach to marketing, as opposed to a more reactive, inbound approach.

Knowing the companies you want to do business with and having a tight, targeted market like the prospect I’m describing is only the first step. You also need to know who the people are at those 50 companies. ABM is not a B2B exercise; it’s a person-to-person, one-to-one exercise. Your salespeople are reaching out to your targeted contacts. This aligns nicely with the way people want to buy today. Most people respond better to more personal outreach as opposed to more general, one-to-many marketing campaigns.

You Have A Clear Persona Profile Defined, Tested And Proven

ABM Prospect TargetingABM can also work when you have a clear definition of your target prospect profile. You don’t need a small number of target companies like the example above, but you do need to have detailed and specific profiles of the companies and the individuals in those companies.

Yes, you can use ABM to test these profiles, but it would be better if those profiles were tested and proven. For example, if you already have a track record of successful revenue generation with this profiled company (even if it’s on a small scale), this is going to help with the messaging, content and social proof most people will be looking for. Few people want to be “the first.” Most companies are going to ask, Who have you worked with that’s similar to us? If you have stories that support your messaging and real examples of successful delivery, your engaged prospects are going to feel a lot safer and close a lot faster.

You’ve Successfully Aligned Sales And Marketing

You can’t run a successful ABM program if you don’t have buy-in and alignment between sales and marketing. This is good news. Sales and marketing must be aligned in 2018 and beyond. Your prospects are expecting a seamless experience from the first time they land on your website all the way through the final signature.

Running an account-based marketing tactic is a great reason to create this alignment. This type of tactic requires marketing to create messages, content and plays for sales to execute. Sales must provide feedback to marketing, and then some of these assets are going to need to be adjusted based on that feedback. If the feedback loop is broken or compromised in some way, you might have a highly dysfunctional program on your hands.

You Have Clean And Accurate Targeting Data

The quality of your data is critical. If you start reaching out, serving up ads or attempting to get targeted prospects to engage and your data is wrong, you’ll look silly and waste any opportunity to drive revenue with these strategically targeted prospect companies.

At a recent event, a gentleman from GE shared a story (from the target’s perspective). He was the subject of an ABM program and the people reaching out to him didn’t know a deal was already in place through another department. It made him feel like they didn’t have their act together. Bad or poor-quality data also means youre spending valuable time and money sending messages, ads or content to the wrong people or people who have left the company.

This delays results, but worse, it wastes precious marketing dollars. Do your best to invest early in making sure you have high-quality, clean and accurate data before you start any ABM outreach.  

You Have The Playbooks, Messaging And Content To Sustain An ABM Program

ABM PlaybooksIf you think you can wing it once you get a connection or engaged prospect, think again. This is your only chance to start delivering an experience that gets them to feel safe enough to hire your company. Any missteps and you’re done. You need every message, every asset, every piece of content and every workflow or sequence to be mapped out and available.

Your sales reps need to be trained on how to personalize messages and email communication. They need to be trained on the CRM or any ABM software tools you might be using. They need to know how to push feedback, track successes and record progress so marketing and the executive team have insights into how well the program is working.

We’d even go so far as to consider running a pilot program first with a smaller, more committed group of sales reps before rolling this out to the entire sales team. This allows you the chance to stumble once or twice, make course corrections and bring a few initial successes to the sales team so they get excited, buy in and want to make it successful.

This might not be everything you need before you get started with your account-based marketing program, but it’s a good start. Companies and technologies are available to help with all or most of these steps. Here at Square 2 Marketing, almost all of our ABM programs include support on the targeting side, the acquisition of names, data cleansing and the successful development of playbooks. We also help clients fill gaps in areas where they need extra support or expertise. Knowing everything involved before you start counting on leads, engaged sales opportunities and new revenue from account-based marketing is key.

Wanting to do ABM and having the expertise to do it successfully are two different things. For example, how are you measuring success? Yes, revenue from targeted accounts is one way, but that might take months, especially if you have a long sales cycle (which a lot of companies using ABM do). What are your benchmarks for successful connect rates and engagement rates? How long should it take to go from connect to close? It might be difficult to compare your company to general industry averages and best practices data. Instead, work with experts to set your own goals, and then measure constantly against those goals. 

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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.