Keys to Optimizing ABM

ABM, as everyone knows by now, is a B2B marketing strategy which hones in on target accounts most likely to be interested in products and services, or accounts where a relationship already exists, and focuses on delivering targeted messaging to account stakeholders. 

I attended the ITSMA Account-Based Marketing Forum in  New York on  September 12.  The first session, delivered by Demandbase’s Vice President ABM Strategy & Field Marketing, Jessica Fewless, and ITSMA’s Senior Vice President, Rob Leavitt was “Optimizing ABM Investment: The Case for a Blended Approach.”

Based on the July 2017 ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance Account-Based Marketing Benchmarking Survey,  87% of marketers already agree that ABM is effective. The majority – 72% – also agree that the ABM approach has had an impact on “the way we do all our marketing today,” and 58% report that it makes the “entire company more customer-centric.” That jibes with what Scott Sobers, VP ABM, at Teradata said during his presentation: “Everything we do, we do with a lens around ABM.”

However, there are three types of ABM: one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many.  65% of those surveyed are only using it for one type, while 23% are applying it to two, and only 12% are taking a truly blended approach that encompasses all three types.

The three types can be illustrated as a pyramid, with the wide base labeled as the many, the middle the few, and the top triangle the one. The importance of including all three in a company’s ABM strategy was one of the common themes across all the presentations I heard.

Another theme that the presenters agreed on was the need to align marketing more closely with sales. For example, Rudy Dillenseger Director of Account Based Engagement at Microsoft said, the “road to success is redefining relationships between marketing and sales.” Likewise, Sobers referred to “leveraging modern practices and technology to evolve the role of marketing to reflect a stronger alignment with sales objectives and customer needs.”

Speakers also touched on the need to determine metrics for tracking and reporting results, as well as for planning new directions. This was the central point of the “Measuring and Presenting ABM Success” presentation by Erica Short and Tim Howell from CA Technologies. They touched on measurable results in areas like: quality pipeline, website traffic, user engagement, and lead conversions. To prove ABM’s effectiveness, the company has to start with a baseline to compare performance without and with the strategy in place.

Assessing what works and what doesn’t directs the next round of marketing efforts. Sobers talked about the need to both establish the expectations for the marketing programs and to “set up and then revisit the accounts” to determine “who to keep, who to rotate, and how to scale.” That sets up a cycle that Mat Rider, Global Director of Digital Marketing at MongoDB, depicted as an ellipse, with sales directing targeting, which in turn dictates content, which then generates reporting, and then returns to sales again.

As Leavitt had stated, the focus for marketing has to remain on positive outcomes in the 3 R’s: reputation, relationship, and revenue. Technology plays a major role in achieving those goals — though, as some pointed out, the plan has to determine the tech, not the other way around.

Here are the main elements of an approach to ABM, as outlined in the “Optimizing” session:

  • Infrastructure: How do you track and execute your ABM strategy?
  • Account Selection: How do you get the right list in place?
  • Engagement: How do you get a relevant message to your targets?
  • Sales Enablement: Marketing’s done its job, how do you make sure Sales gets it over the finish line?
  • Measurement: How do you know what’s working? What’s not? What’s next?

All on board with ABM agree to that, the trick is in getting the data to inform the direction for account selection, effective personalization, and meaningful metrics.

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